Each year I seem to be a broken record (hey, check the metaphor), as I bitch about how there are fewer and fewer great albums being put out. Well, I really wonder if there will be one from 2009 that a decade from now I will want to listen to from beginning to end. This is the world of the MP3, where the most important thing is making good singles. There are no shortage of those, but the long player seems to be a thing of the past, like an LP is. Hall of Famers like U2 and Springsteen put out some of the worst recordings of their careers in 2009, despite the crazy rantings of what Rolling Stone says.
Unlike most professional reviewers who seem to base their lists on what low-fi band of slackers look the most like them, I try to choose the artists who I not only connect with when I hear them now, but who don’t have the feeling of being the musical version of acid-wash jeans. Remember when the Strokes were on every rock music cover and were going to be the new Stones? Uh yeah, how many times does anyone dial up their debut now? So here are my Top 10 releases of 2009.
1. Fun- Aim and Ignite
The top of this list will feature a couple of acts who have completely swung for the bombastic fences and connected more than not. Have you been looking for the new ELO, but with flourishes like they were hanging with Mercury, May, and Taylor? This new group features the lead singer from the band Format, who had some great singles you should check out, as well.
2. Muse- Uprising
When I first heard this recording, I thought it sounded like some great outtakes from their last, Black Holes and Revelations. And while I still think the last 3 songs are a bit of overkill on the Muse operatic tendencies, the first 8 songs are so great, I cut them a little slack. When Muse first came out, they were thrown into the Radiohead-clone group, but what we have discovered is that they wanted to be the new century’s Queen. Uprising takes that over the top feel and blends it with an OMD meets T-Rex feel which only Matthew Bellamy can make work.
3. Brother Ali- Us
So how many of you know the best rap scene is in the Twin Cities? The best MC of the second half of this decade has been a blind, white albino man who was born in Madison, WI and grew up in Minneapolis. While Us doesn’t have a track on the level of Forest Whitaker or Uncle Sam Goddamn, it is his most complete record. Ali embraces how life has become easier for him and how amazing it is to him. It’s a gospel rap record.
4. White Rabbits- It’s Frightening
As a big fan of Spoon’s Britt Daniel, I was interested in what kind of band he would want to produce. Well, the White Rabbits are similar to Spoon, except with a double-barreled drum-beat attack.
5. Ida Maria- Fortress Round My Heart
If you are young female singer, a good place to go for influences is Chrissie Hynde and PJ Harvey. Punkish pop blends with Maria’s great low vocal register to create something like I’ve never quite heard before.
6. The Thermals- Now We Can See
This decade has a had a lot of great power-punk bands, but in 2009 the best music of this genre was the Thermals. Kick-ass propulsion with great choruses are never a bad recipe.
7. Green Day- 21st Century Breakdown
When you make the best record of the decade, it is not easy to foll0w that up. The expectations are tough to work around, but if you can get past thinking of American Idiot. you realize Green Day’s latest is really an impressive achievement. They are right there with the White Stripes as being America’s best rock group.
8. The Avett Brothers- I and Love and You
Great jangly, country-tinged alternative rock. Check out the harmonies and stay for some great lyrics.
9. The XX
One of the few places in modern music which hasn’t been overexposed is the interplay between a male and female lead singers. Electronic flourishes embrace the icy, torch-song type vibe that this debut record offers.
10. Passion Pit- Manners
At the beginning of the new century, many rock scribes were touting how techno would rule the airwaves. Hey remember Prodigy? Well, that didn’t happen, but groups like Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem produced work that was of a high-quality. Passion Pit takes techno and adds a flourish of Flaming Lips psychedelica.