Material Things: My Favorite Albums of 2009, #10-1

Here we are! My Top 10 favorite albums of the year!  As usual, you can check out the other 40 HERE, but why wait any longer?

10. Young Fresh FellowsI Think This Is

Scott McCaughey‘s other band makes a long-overdue return with a smashing set of punky pop tunes.  I Think This Is is loud, fast and goofy, but shows off McCaughey’s unrefined side in a way that The Minus 5 rarely does anymore.  Who knows if the Fellows will record again, but this is one hell of a swan song/reunion/whatever.

9. Major LazerGuns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do

The DJ duo of Diplo and Switch, along with a cast of Jamaican and non-Jamaican personalities, created the persona of Major Lazer to release an energetic yet artsy album.  Guns Don’t Kill People melds dancehall with sound collage and hip-hop with electronica in a manic, exciting manner befitting of today’s genre-smashing scene.

8. Rock Plaza Central…At The Moment Of Our Most Needing

Rock Plaza Central‘s newest doesn’t follow the same ‘robotic horse’ storyline as the band’s previous few albums, but it is nonetheless a striking set of modern folk tunes.  The album has a collective, campfire quality that strengthens Chris Eaton‘s unusually personal songwriting.

7. Andrew BirdNoble Beast

Bird‘s signature stylings get a bit more subdued, despite the addition of a full band.  Still, the violin loops and intricate percussion sequences (courtesy of frequent sideman Martin Dosh) stand out alongside Bird’s classically esoteric lyrics.

6. Monsters Of FolkMonsters Of Folk

A dream of a collaboration for many indie-rock fans, Monsters Of Folk is an album strong enough to reinvigorate the admittedly waning output of the musicians behind the project.  Freewheeling as it may be, it’s not really a folk album, and we’re all the better off for it.  What it is, though, is a set of tunes so instantly likable that you might find yourself a fan of all three represented bands/artists once “His Master’s Voice” hums to an end.

5. Dirty ProjectorsBitte Orca

Jagged guitar lines, intertwining harmonies, songs about Gatorade?  Who knew that those weirdos behind the Rise Above experiment had a pop album in them?  Not to say that Bitte Orca is for everyone, but those who give it a chance will be handsomely rewarded with music so complex it’s a little hard to keep up with.  That push and pull is what makes the 9-song set anything but brief.

4. IslandsVapours

Reuniting with original member Jamie Thompson, Nick Diamonds and Islands created Vapours, a new wave-y, insanely catchy masterpiece.  With primitive synths and the occasional slick guitar line, Islands’ third album continues their eclectic evolution.  There’s no telling what Islands will do next, and that unpredictability makes Vapours even more fun.

3. Animal CollectiveMerriweather Post Pavilion

The “album of the year” might not really be that great, but it is an incredibly impressive effort.  Again, I never would have guessed that the oddballs had such an accessible album in them.  What’s great about Merriweather Post Pavilion is that it never sacrifices its weirdness in the name of pop convention.  While there are some moments that are still a bit too ‘out there,’ it’s an all-around solid crowd-pleaser.

2. Peter Bjorn And JohnLiving Thing

The Swedish trio’s fifth album wasn’t received very warmly by those expecting another “Young Folks” (which was pretty much everyone).  Instead of more of the same, Living Thing is a showcase for unconventional song structures and Bjorn Yttling‘s unique production style.  A dark album, for sure, but it’s plenty clever and poppy enough to keep things from turning overly odd.

1. The Bird And The BeeRay Guns Are Not Just The Future

Bringing their jazzy electronica into the spy-theme and torch-song world of the 1960s, Inara and Greg up the BPMs for an album of pop gems.  Culling some songs from a few past EPs, the duo’s preciousness and sass comes through with each playful track.  With a new album possibly slated for next year (not to mention Greg’s numerous production jobs and Inara’s solo experiments), The Bird And The Bee are winning hearts, together or apart.


~ by E. on December 25, 2009.

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