It's been a good one folks. The stars stepped up, and the newcomers dropped some gems. My list is slightly trend-less unfortunately. There's your usual smattering of Americana, and the traditional "indie" stalwarts. These things are hard to make people. The quantity of music out there is staggering. It's impossible to be perfect. What if you really LOVE an album, but don't think it's necessarily one of the best records of the year? What if you think a record is amazing, but only listen to it sparingly? There's a lot to consider. So, here you go. Enjoy.
BEST REISSUES/SHIT NOT RECORDED IN 2009.
Olof Arnalds - Við og Við (One Little Indian)
The Beatles Catalog (Capitol)
Tim Buckley - Live at the Folklore Center NYC (Tompkins Square)
Cazumbi: African Sixties Garage
The Feelies - Crazy Rhythms (Bar None)
Abner Jay - The True Story of Abner Jay (Mississippi)
Legends of Benin (Analog Africa)
Emitt Rhodes - The Emitt Rhodes Recordings 1969-73 (Hip-O Select)
Vaselines - Enter the Vaselines (Sub Pop)
ALBUMS - HONORABLE MENTION
AA Bondy - When The Devil's Loose (Fat Possum)
Dawes - North Hills (ATO)
The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love (Capitol)
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest (Warp)
Magnolia Electric Company - Josephine (Secretly Canadian)
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - Outer South (Merge)
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glass Note)
Phosphorescent - To Willie (Dead Oceans)
Wilco - Wilco (The Album) (Nonesuch)
XX - S/T (XL)
30. the bird and the bee - Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future (Blue Note)
29. The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You (Columbia)
28. Music Go Music - Expressions (Secretly Canadian)
27. Califone - All My Friends are Funeral Singers (Dead Oceans)
26. Fanfarlo - Reservoir (Atlantic)
25. The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa (Green Owl)
24. Cass McCombs - Catacombs (Domino)
23. White Denim - Fits (Downtown)
22. Dan Auerbach - Keep it Hid (Nonesuch)
21. Pains of Being Pure at Heart - S/T (Slumberland)
TOP 20 OF THE YEAR!!! AFTER THE JUMP!
20. Fever Ray - S/T (Mute)
19. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career (4AD)
18. Sebastian Schuller - Even Fall
17. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone (Anti)
16. Girls - Album (True Panther)
15. Atlas Sound - Logos (Kranky)
14. The Raveonettes -In and Out of Control (Vice)
13. Memory Tapes - Seek Magic
12. Elvis Perkins in Dearland - S/T (XL)
11. Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns (Saddle Creek)
10. Alela Dianne - To Be Still (Rough Trade)
9. Murry Hammond - I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm On My Way (Hummin'bird) [Actually a 2008 release, (thanks commenter) but I'm going to leave it on as it was new to me in 2009. Cheating? Probably. Deal with it.]
8. Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)
7. Bat for Lashes - Two Suns (Astralwerks)
6. The Roadside Graves My Son's Home (Autumn Tone Records)
5. Sharon Van Etten - Because I Was in Love (Drag City) - Quite simply put, this record is stunning. It moves beyond a simple collection of songs to something more, something grander that exists as a whole beautiful entity. The best albums capture feelings and moods rather than just songs. Because I was in Love will entrance and move you. It has announced Sharon Van Etten...She's the one to beat folks. The preeminent songwriter from New York. Good luck, you'll need it.
4. JJ - jj n° 2 (Sincerely Yours): Without being overly sentimental, this album is able to capture nostalgia tastefully and execute it perfectly. Maybe I'm jaded as all I have are positive memories of being at the beach this summer incessantly spinning this record. Nevertheless, it makes me happy to put on, and no matter what season, it contains fantastic music. That's all that matters sometimes.
3. Those Darlins - S/T (Oh Wow Dang): This album could have been merely a fun, kitschy exercise in tongue-in-cheek country music. Yet, INSTEAD, the Darlins put the emphasis in all the right places (the songwriting, playing and singing) and turned out one of the most surprisingly great records of the year. The silliest songs are the weakest, and they exist only to give the record the fun cheekiness one would expect from the Darlins. They are not the meat of the album. This was a great decision. Kudos to producer Jeff Curtin and the three women at the helm for capturing the perfect sound, drawing out the talent and fun this record had the potential for, and picking exactly the right covers and originals to make this startling debut succeed in unprecedented ways.
2. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca (Domino) : What can one say that hasn't already been said? This is a genius record. The "cool" debate of 2009 seems to be one of "cultural imperialism." To all the haters, you can see where I come down. I'll welcome any and all challenges. Let's go.
1. The Antlers Hospice (Frenchkiss) : Hospice is at once grand and intimate. It's sweeping in scale, sound, ambition, and passion; but close and direct in meaning, content, and feel. It's beautiful, heartbreaking, loud, soft, delicate and substantial. It's an album; it's a collection of songs; it's bold; it takes risks; it's melodic; it's immensely powerful. It's a step forward, and a step out; it's a gorgeous album. It's the album of the year.