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Friday, December 18, 2009

Eileen's Top 10 Albums of 2009

Throughout the month, we will each be bringing you our Top 10 favorite albums of 2009. Up first, Eileen:

10. Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest
This is an album which will no doubt be cropping up time and time again in lists such as this. It is clear from the off how meticulously executed this album is, how painstakingly the Brooklyn-based quartet have strived for perfection, in what appears to be largely a collection of love songs (certainly the case in ‘Two Weeks’, ‘I Live With You’ and ‘All We Ask’). But then, the album in places seems effortless, with something about it that seems to ooze nature- particularly apt, considering ‘Veckatimest’ is an uninhabited island off the coast of Massachusetts. The whole thing leaves me slightly confused, but in a very good way.
MP3: Southern Point

9. Grammatics- Grammatics
One of the most promising first albums I’ve heard in a long, long time. I think what makes this album a stand-out work for me is the sheer ambition- the soaring highs of ‘The Vague Archive’, the magnificently composed breakdown in ‘Relentless Fours’- which you simply don’t see in other fledging musical acts. A bit of a triumph.
MP3: The Vague Archive
8. dredg- The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion
And now for something totally different- some high-concept art/alt-rock, largely inspired by ‘A Letter to the Six Billionth Citizen’ by Salman Rushdie. Yes, I know- and it’s actually good! Although dredg are always a breath of fresh air, they’ve basically followed the same basic backbone as their previous El Cielo- soaring rock ballads interspersed with short, experimental ‘jousts’, as their bassist put it. Maybe not quite as successful as El Cielo (giving that it doesn’t feel that original anymore), but still a top record.
MP3: Ireland

7. Manchester Orchestra- Everything to Nothing
One of the only albums this year that I’ve genuinely been anticipating that has proved better than the act’s previous material. 'Mean Everything To Nothing' has the same triumphant melodies and quiet, introspective periods as 'I'm like A Virgin Losing a Child', but is bolder, better and carried out with a little more finesse. Andy Hull's vocals, in particular, have ripened considerably. Top stuff.
MP3: I've Got Friends

6. Animal Collective- Merriweather Post Pavilion
Ok, so you’re probably sick of hearing about this album by now, but how could I not? It is brilliant, afterall. Usually, experimental albums are musical marmite- some love them, some think they’re unbearably pretentious and just random noises that a child could’ve bashed out with a toy xylophone. But on the whole, MPP has received wide-spread praise; a fitting testament, I think you’ll agree.
MP3: Brothersport

5. Neko Case- Middle Cyclone
As I’m writing this, I’m smiling. Why? Because ‘Middle Cyclone’ is so much fun! A country album that never takes itself too seriously, but has moments of rare and brilliant beauty. Not my usual cup of tea, but I love it.
MP3: This Tornado Loves You

4. Bat for Lashes- Two Suns

Before you push the ‘play’ button on this one, get ready to be dragged by your heartstrings into Natasha Khan’s mystical world of surrealism and romance, all capped off by breathtaking vocals. Magnificent.
MP3: Glass

3. Alexisonfire- Old Crows/ Young Cardinals
I’d never really given hardcore/post-hardcore a chance before this year, but I’m so glad I warmed to it. It’s often considered to be a genre with little in the way of artistic accomplishment, but albums such as ‘Old Crows/ Young Cardinals’ explode such stereotypes. Principally based around the contradiction of beauty with violence within the modern world, Alexisonfire take us on a journey through the beautiful and the depraved- as well as a few chantable choruses thrown in for good measure.
MP3: The Northern

2. Patrick Watson- Wooden Arms

I probably use the word ‘beautiful’ too much. But when I call this album ‘beautiful’, I express the utmost admiration for the humble, the intricate and the heart-warming composition of ‘Wooden Arms’. It’s an album to fall in love with, time and time again, and I’m in complete disbelief that it hasn’t received more acclaim.
MP3: Wooden Arms

1. As Cities Burn- Hell or High Water
Yes, my album of the year is ‘Hell or High Water’. There’s something about the circularity of this album that beguiles me to no end- indeed, the rolling currents of the sea are a recurring motif, and several of the songs bear the lyrics ‘round and round we go’. But As Cities Burn definitely aren’t walking in circles- they’re headed firmly in the right direction. Although their last album, ‘Come Now, Sleep’ received considerable acclaim, for me there was something overdone about it- the introduction (‘Clouds’, in which we hear several people’s views of God set to music) and the finale (a 14-minute marathon, Timothy) in particular, seemed as though they could do with toning down. What follows, ‘Hell or High Water’, has all the same triumphant, guitar-swelling peaks, but the quieter moments are brooding, brilliant and just as enjoyable. Nothing here seems overworked- there’s just the right balanced of nature and nurture. It’s an album that takes my breath away every time I hear it. Truly, truly brilliant.
MP3: Pirate Blues


Isaac Ashe said...

Some great choices - Grizzly Bear made my own top 10, and Grammatics and Manchester Orchestra both got a lot of plays by me this year.

Anonymous said...

i love this blog :)

Mike said...

nice list. grizzly bear and bat for lashes are the only conventional ones on here, so i appreciate what you've done here... these are a bunch of albums that i haven't checked out that deserve it now, particularly as cities burn

if you have time, feel free to check out my best albums of '09 feature:

B.Held said...

awesome choices ;-)

duong said...

i like Wooden Arms
hip hop

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