I know, I know!...I've been slacking terribly and not posting much as of late, but I'm still listening to music and thought I'd recap the raddest-of-the-rad of the past twelve months. Overall, nothing as sonically ingenious like we heard in 2008 (Bon Iver's For Emma, MGMT's Oracular Spectacular, or Fleet Foxes), though certainly plenty remarkable music to keep our spirits alive through 2009.
*I've included a link to my favorite (the best) track from each album with almost every entry.
20: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below
Though I've heard their live show is the way to experience this 10-piece rag-tag ensemble, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros concocted an entertaining folk/hippie/rock revival debut album. "Home" is up there for song of the year.
19 --> ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead - The Century of Self
After a string of unfocused mish-mash albums, these indie-prog-rock veterans re-surface with their best full-length since Source Tags & Codes (2002). "Insatiable One" and its corresponding epilogue are powerful, heartfelt and simply stunning.
18. Modest Mouse - No One's First and You're Next
Isaac Brooks and company continue to do what they do best with a short collection of re-recorded new/old A- and B-sides dating as far back as 2005. Brooks' crusty, aggressive tone leads the affair, per usual; add a horn section and the band's rockin' backing arrangements and you've got 8 tracks that never cease to stimulate. "King Rat" rules, as does the accompanying video directed by the late Heath Ledger.
17 - Apostle of Hustle - Eats Darkness
An upbeat, quirky mix of indie-rock tracks intermittent with a sufficient dose of weird samples; all pioneered by Broken Social Scene's Andrew Whiteman. "Soul Unwind" makes me want to dance, even though I'm allergic, and I really dig the reggae dub in "Perfect Fit".
16 > Cotton Jones - Paranoid Cocoon
Warm and cozy, soft and poignant, folky and reverb-ridden. It's Michael Nau's project, but without Whitney McGraw's subtle vocal presence, I probably wouldn't have cared for this album much.
15 / Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Big words, catchy melodies, and whistling...I'm all about this.
14 = Beirut - March of the Zapotec/Realpeople Holland
TAO already went on a Zach Condon binge earlier this year...check it out here.
13 :: Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
This is simply Wilco being Wilco; nothing out of the ordinary for the legends, though there are some real extraordinary tracks on here ("Wilco (The Song)", "Bull Black Nova" and "You and I"), surrounded by some average ones. Not their best (hear: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), but good enough to earn a high spot on the list.
12 -- Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane and Sugarcane
Where did this come from?! Well, I guess I haven't listened to an Elvis Costello album since my dad gave me My Aim is True (amazing) in the 8th grade. And this is way different than that. Good bluegrass is always welcome from a Brit. "Wine and Spirits" makes me want to sit on the front porch and drink wine and spirits, and "Complicated Shadows" is an expert blend of bluegrass and Elvis' old rock sound. He even gives a shout-out to Bloomington, IN on "Sulphur to Sugarcane"!
11 ... Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3
Jay-Z continues to make powerful, near-perfectly constructed rap albums. Sharp flow and strong beats, in typical Jay-Z form, rarely disappoint. Glad he didn't really retire after The Black Album. ::"D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)"::
10 -> Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
Dave Longstreth's most accessible album to date, though he doesn't sacrifice any musical integrity by any means. He's been creating the most unique musical arrangements of any artist in our generation, and, accompanied by some virtuosic friends, does not fall short here.
9 _ Mos Def - The Ecstatic
Supposedly Mos had been touring around South America when he came across much of the material that influenced The Ecstatic. Mos cleverly blends afrobeat, jazz, Latin and a multitude of other sounds in an album of really, really good hip-hop front-to-back.
8; White Denim - Fits
The Austin, TX trio hold true to the intricate psychedelic-rock sound that made their 2008 debut so impressive. They build on that foundation with improved songwriting and studio prowess, creating another gem. I'm excited to see where these guys head in the future.
7 + Passion Pit - Manners
They're the MGMT of 2009; but, as a whole, better to throw a hipster dance party to.
6 * White Rabbits - It's Frightening
Brilliant arrangements, bangin' drums and cool bass lines. Also, it's produced by Britt Daniels of Spoon, so of course I like it.
5 ~ Vetiver - Tight Knit
So simple and so soothing. Vetiver's smooth psychedelic-folk sound could keep you calm during the apocalypse.
4 <-> The Dead Weather - Horehound
Another Jack White project landing another TAO Annual Best Of top 10 spot, though this time he's on drums and yields the spotlight to The Kills' Alison Mosshart. Her raucous delivery backed by some nefarious blues-laden rock makes for an incredible album, one that may help bring blues-rock back to life in today's popular music scene.
3. Girls - Album
Who would think an album blending shoegaze, 1950s pop and indie-rock would be so intoxicatingly stunning here in the 21st century? "Hellhole Ratrace" is one of the saddest and most compelling songs of the year. Also, you must read the totally insane story of frontman Christopher Owens' upbringing...check it out!
2 \ The Antlers - Hospice
Sonically beautiful and at the same time morbidly haunting. Songs about illness and sadness, though also reminders to appreciate the good times. "Kettering" knocks me out.
1! Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Four exceptionally talented musicians found their stride at last and composed the most awe-inspiring sounds of the year. Beautifully layered vocals, superb arrangements and not a single dull moment. Veckatimest will forever be remembered among the classics of our generation.