(Click 'READ MORE' below to see our TOP TEN)
10- Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks
Another artist I regretfully under-represented on the list. Veckatimest was one of the year's best albums. 'Two Weeks' may have been the best of the bunch, but- okay... fine. I messed up. There should've been more Grizzly Bear.
9- The Antlers - Bear
From one bear to another. The Antlers' 'Bear' is another dreary morning song from Hospice, that decides to get up and go outside in spite of it all, finding bright rays of positivity shining through the fog. What's fantastic about this album, is that like a movie score, you'll find the same chords and vocal arrangements called back in later songs. Much to my delight, the beautiful melody of 'Bear' gets play in various other places through the album.
8- Them Crooked Vultures - No One Loves Me and Neither Do I
One of those rock super-bands so perfect, you can't imagine its pieces in bands before it. But then you realize that its members are responsible for Led Zepelin, Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age. If you're counting that's almost forty years of rock history all getting poured into the same bowl, and the concoction derived from the collaboration brings out the best in all of the previous flavors. 'No One Loves Me and Neither Do I' really kicks into another gear at 2:45 in, reminding us that rock n' roll is very much alive.
7- Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll
Karen O ices her rock-star status with this one, demonstrating her vocal range from soft and dreamy to the shrill screams of 'Off, off, off with head!' The year's best danceable rocker, 'Heads Will Roll' stands head and shoulders taller than its decapitated competition.
6- The Xx - Crystalized
Forget Taylor Swift. Not because Kanye says so, either. But because this is what real teen angst should sound like. The Xx have an understated lo-fi sound that's balanced with dark, angst-filled lyrics that take young love seriously. There's an echo of Billy Corgan from Siamese Dreams in the young voices of Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft, but there's an unexpected maturity as well.
5- Edward Sharpe and the Magnificent Zeroes - Home
Edward Sharpe is the name of a fictional character in a script written by the band's lead singer. In the script Edward Sharpe is a messiah-like character sent down from the heavens to save the world, but all he keeps doing is falling in love instead. On the album's center-piece 'Home' we're treated to a folksy, romantic dialogue that pits the vocals of Jade Castrinos and Alex Ebert together in an old-timey love duet.
4- Miike Snow - Cult Logic
There's a hidden moment, lost at the back-end of a Thom Yorke's 'The Eraser'. As the song starts to fade out, there's this echoing, hypnotic electronic sample. I'd listen to it over and over, fast-forwarding through the entire song to precisely 2:52 in just to hear that brief clip. All the while, I wished Yorke had made this little moment into a song of its own. Yorke may have moved on, but to my delight, 2009 brought along Miike Snow. The sample may not be exactly the same, but once you've listened to the break down at the end of 'The Eraser' listen to 'Cult Logic' and tell me that's not the same energy coursing through the song. While Radiohead was busy releasing Kid A, Amnesiac and In Rainbows, the minds behind Miike Snow were producing Brittney Spears singles, but in 'Cult Logic' the two mediums seem to meet somewhere in the middle.
3- Phoenix - Love Like a Sunset Pt 1
For my money, there's a song on the heralded Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix that stood out far beyond all the others. Serving as a sidestep from the playlist of beer and car commercial pop anthems is 'Love Like a Sunset Pt. 1'. The track has no lyrics but shows the group's range as they progress through an epically sprawling electro-rock journey. The song is a patient release- a reminder of Phoenix's ability to stand out in a crowded field of bland rock. (Check out the short 'Love Like a Sunset Pt 2' for the masterful continuation of the thought, a song filled with hope that may have been better named 'Love Like a Sunrise.'
2- Animal Collective - Brother Sport
The Baltimore-based trio isn't going to give you focus-grouped, audience-approved sound clips. Their music is intentionally designed to be a jarring juxtaposition set to disarm your musical expectations. Yet beneath the chaotic, schizophrenic noise, the patient consumer actually finds the rewarding harmonies amidst the samples, chaotic percussion and looping vocals. In 'Brother Sport' it's not long before medicine tastes like candy and the viral melody of "open up your... open up your... open up your throat..." is soon uncontrollably coursing through the channels of your brain. With Animal Collective the fulfillment comes in the aftertaste.
1- Deadmau5 - Ghosts N' Stuff (feat. Rob Swire)
Not so much the critically acclaimed track, as much as it's the song I responded to the most in 2009. 'Ghosts N Stuff' is an out of body experience set to a haunting synth beat. The track is so good (or maybe the remainder of the album is so mediocre) that there's a reprieve of the song with 'Moar Ghosts N' Stuff' which carries one the B-movie macabre with an opening sound clip from 'The Brain From Planet Arous'.