2009 in review: albums

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Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

2009 in review: albums

i just wrapped up an ongoing series called 25 in the 2000s. if you want to catch up on the series, you can begin with the introduction here and the move to the following posts:

1. religious stories

10. things that shaped the aughts

i thought to round out the year, i would offer a couple quick lists of the best music of 2009, with best songs (which you can find here) and best albums. i usually do several best-of, end-of-the-year lists, but since the decade lists took over, i decided to pare down to these two. hope you enjoy.

[if you’d like to fill your ipod up with a sampling of songs from these albums, you can download a zipped file with all the tracks at the bottom.]

20. no line on the horizon. u2.

19. brea up. pete yorn & scarlet johansson.

18. hello hurricane. switchfoot.

17. mtv unplugged. katy perry.

16. the hazards of love. the decemberists.

15. jaydiohead. max tannone (jay-z & radiohead).

14. church music. david crowder band.

13. death won’t send a letter. cory chisel and the wandering sons.

12. middle cyclone. neko case.

11. the outsiders. needtobreathe.

10. dead man’s bones. dead man’s bones. when you hear about actors who decide to make music, what do you think? brilliant indie music? no, me either. but, someone has done it. ryan gosling and zach shields, along with the silverlake conservatory children’s choir, did it. and did it well. oh, and did it very ghoulishly. just take my word: it’s great. go listen to it.

09. draw the line. david gray. gray’s previous album, life in slow motion, is bar none, one of the most beautiful collections of songs i’ve ever heard. so, clearly, my standards for his follow-up were pretty high. and, admittedly, there was a bit of disappointment. but nevertheless, david gray can’t really make a bad album. his voice, his lyrics, his ability to weave together great songs are constant and this album’s no different.

08. hospice. the antlers. this is one of those albums that, even as i type this, i’m wondering if it should be higher. this is the ultimate concept album, but not in the contrived sense of the word. the concept is simple: the singer’s relationship with the woman he loves, who is a cancer patient in a cancer ward of a brooklyn hospital. to say this album is heavy would be an embarrassing understatement. from start to finish, it is breathtaking and often hard to bear. nevertheless, it never ceases to be beautifully crafted and geniusly constructed.

07. bitte orca. dirty projectors. of all the albums listed, this is the one that possibly most caught me off guard. despite the fact that they’ve been putting out great albums for awhile, i had never heard of them prior to picking up this album. with very low expectations, i was pleasantly surprised by its eclectic mix of indie, rock and even some r&b flavor.

06. sea sew. lisa hannigan. it’s virtually impossible (if unfair) to intro lisa hannigan without acknowledging her former musical partner and lost lover damien rice. after being cast aside a few years ago, hannigan moved on from the relationship and bleak tunes to create a fun, often bouncy album to land herself at the top of many year-end lists.

05. armistice. mute math. much like the aforementioned david gray album, i had tremendously high hopes for this album based on their previous album. and again, much like the david gray album, i was a bit disappointed. BUT, that’s like saying i only liked the sirloin after loving the ribeye… yes, mute math came back with another stellar album that continued in their quest to become the band-that-no-one-sounds-like. they’re a little bit of a lot of things, but ultimately, comparing mute math to another act is virtually impossible.

04. say it louder. sarah siskind. if we could rewind the clock to the moment before i listened to this album, you could have bet me a million dollars that this would end up #4 on my best-of-2009 list and i would have bet against you. and you would have won. this went from an eh-i’ll-give-it-a-listen kind of album to, obviously a #4 of the year kind of album. in the end, i probably listened to this album more than any other. it’s just the perfect-for-any-situation album. give her a listen. you won’t regret it.

03. curse your branches. david bazan. guy sings about god. guy becomes an alcoholic. guy becomes utterly skeptical about even the existence of a god. guy makes a album about it. those few words describe the album, but the actual depth and musical value of this album is indescribable. as a christian who is regularly put off and disappointed in the church, this is an album that i can relate to, can learn from and in some ways, my heart can break to. regardless of what it does, it’s truly a genius album.

02. stockholm syndrome. derek webb. oh derek, how did you slip to #2? well, we’ll get to that, but i must say that prior to the release of the #1 album, this was the clear leader. after one of the most incredibly inventive and genius marketing schemes surrounding this album, he delivered on the hype. and he delivered electronic music? when i first heard that bit of information, my heart sank a little. i love derek webb, his voice and a guitar. plain and simple. but when i heard it, i had one of those ‘aha!’ moments. it all made sense. the album is incredible, just as a derek webb fan would assume. just electronic incredible. 🙂

01. give up the ghost. brandi carlile. ah yes, brandi carlile: my lesbian folk rock music crush… her album, the story, was one of my favoritea of the decade and she came back with another album that ranks right up there with it. with this album, though, she fleshed out her sound quite a bit more, thanks to a little production from rick rubin and others. departing from the studio of t-bone burnett made me a little nervous, but the switch proved to take her to the next logical place in her musical development. it’s folk, it’s rock, it’s roots, it’s just beautiful and just right.

so there you have it. there’s the list. what do you think? i’ve certainly missed some albums. what are they? i’ve, no doubt, ranked some things too high or too low. what are they? help me to flesh out and “correct” my list.

wanna take this list home with you?? download the entire list here.