Best Albums and Songs of 2009

It was a great year for music, even for us indie kids. So many solid albums and even more stellar songs/singles. On my list, it was a good year for Bradford Cox, repeating his place at the top - this year as Atlas Sound and in 2008 with Deerhunter's 'Microcastle'. What can I say? This dude knows how to put together great tracks while keeping the cohesion necessary for a solid LP.

Soooo, without further ado-

Best Albums of 2009

1. Atlas Sound - Logos

Prior to it's release, Bradford said his second album under the Atlas Sound name would be more poppy and accessible than 'Let the Blind Lead Those...' - he was right. 'Logos' is a beautiful collection of bliss and pop-hooks, peaking with the sparkling 'Walkabout' ft. Noah Lennox. This song actually came about from a meeting between Cox and Lennox, a subsequent discussion about sampling and a Boss SP-303.

2. Flaming Lips - Embryonic

At least we can say that we won't hear any of these songs on a commercial. The Lips have managed to reinvent themselves once more, strongly venturing into an album full of electronic blips and acid-grooves. The blown-out speakers mixed with the simplistic layering of many of the tracks makes 'Embryonic' a true headphone album that is a pleasure to listen to again and again.

3. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion

These boys just keep getting better, eh? I did go on a bit of a rant about A.C. but, always maintained that these guys were genius' and this album definitely reflects that. Lush samples and inter-track, evolving loops provide a treat to active listeners. Coupled with the late quarter release of the 'Fall Be Kind' EP, solid activity has proven to be the best medicine for a group of hearty, soul-brained, sampling conductors.

4. Eels – Hombre Lobo

While the Eels tend to come and go from the radar screen, E certainly will be staying on it through the next release 'End Times' whose news has already started to leak out as the band has offered a free mp3 download from the album and some nice looking pre-orders on their site. 'Hombre Lobo', as with all the Eels releases, has plenty of the lonely man watching his dream girl from afar lyrics but, the songs are all presented with great variety - electronic, garage blues, delicate arpeggios and sharp distortion, as well.

5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It's Blitz

I'll be honest, I'm still not a fan of 'Zero' but, the album as a whole is brilliant. The return to 80's sounding synths was an excellent move. I think the heavy reverbed guitars as their complete sound had grown a bit old. Nick Zinner, the sonic architect gets a MicroKorg popped in front of him and told he needs to not play as much guitar and produces a masterpiece. Not too shabby :)

6. Girls - Album

A late-comer with their release, Girls skyrocketed up people's play lists after getting a nice boost from Pitchfork. While some of the depth of these songs gets lost in the live tracks I've seen, 'Album' delivers with 50's era harmonies and chord jangles fresh from a Kinks-era of pop perfection.

7. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

The early front runner behind the 'Two Weeks' single (even before it was a single), just re-established what we already know about Grizzly Bear - chamber pop is not dead and soft does not mean lacking.

8. Bat for Lashes – Two Suns

A beautiful, musical prodigy who pens all of her own songs, moulds the soundscape and has such an alluring, haunting voice too? I couldn't be happier - anything to flush out that negative female pop-star image that poisons people's brains with Hannah Montana and High School Musical. The darkness of a lot of the songs intrigues me yet, subtle fillers and bright chord rips reveal something new on every listen.

9. Mastodon – Crack the Skye

Ah, nothing like being able to put a metal album in a best of the year list - I cry black tears of joy. Seeming to be more of a prog-metal band, Mastodon's 'Crack the Skye' sounded more like Pink Floyd turning up to 10 on a Mesa Boogie triple-rectifier and eating a bunch of acid. If that doesn't sound appealing, throw away your headphones.

10. Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures

Supergroup is a dangerous word but, if it's composed of Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones, 'supergroup' is no longer the right term - I believe mega-coalition is more like it. Filled with Zeppelin-esque riffs, Grohl's ferocious drumming and just enough of that Desert sound sprinkled throughout, TCV kicked down the door and is still stomping on the panels. The smart and controlled marketing campaign of 'Follow What's Heard' dropped teasers and hints throughout various web pages and got everyone's mouths salivating at the prospect of what was to come - and come I, I mean, it did.

Honorable mention

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains

A new band whose sound is larger than their 3-piece set-up and said they learned how to make a record by listening to Wilco's 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot'. If there is any prerequisite for checking out a new band, following the Jeff Tweedy method is one of them. Early in their career, they've learned how to leave room to explode in songs and seamlessly flow into a different track. Expect big things from these guys, I do.

Spiral Stairs - The Real Feel

As the second guitarist in Pavement, Scott Kannberg held his own. In his first, proper solo release, his song writing is as good as anything Pavement put out and instead of a compilation of quirky b-sides, we get a complete album with strong structure and a nice journey of tracks.

Obits - I Blame You

Sub-Pop has been on a role these days with their signings and Obits was no different. I have a soft-spot in my heart for bands made up of grown-ups and not young kids so, I immediately was spinning this album non-stop. Garage pop with a solid helping of punk riffs and single coiled guitars made their rookie release a fresh listen and excellent palette cleanser when you are not quite sure what to throw on your iPod.

Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another

From the ashes of the band McLusky, singer/vocalist Andy "Falco" Falkous and drummer Jack Egglestone may have put together the most deceptive and aggressive dance-rock album of the year.

Best Songs

1. Atlas Sound ft. Noah Lennox - 'Walkabout'

As far as I'm concerned, this song is the pinnacle of all those chill-wave songs but with some bite. I don't really think much else needs to be said about this song except that it truly is pop-perfection and, I refuse to number any of the songs after this because, without the context of the albums it's not fair and well, this track pretty much transcends them all. It wasn't even close.

But, the rest...

Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes
Eels – In My Dreams
Cymbals Eat Guitars – ..And the Hazy Sea
No Age – You're a Target
Spiral Stairs – True Love
Bat for Lashes – Daniel
Thom Yorke – All For The Best
Deerhunter – Disappearing Ink
Mastodon – Oblivion
Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks
Dinosaur Jr. - Over It
Sonic Youth – Sacred Trickster
Sunset Rubdown - You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)
Wilco – Wilco (The Song)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Soft Shock
Girls – Laura
Built to Spill – Aisle 13
Monsters of Folk – Say Please
The Dead Weather – Hang You From the Heavens
Them Crooked Vulture – No One Loves Me (And Neither Do I)
The XX – vcr
The King Khan and BBQ Show – I'll Be Loving You
Arctic Monkeys – Crying Lightning
Future of the Left – Arming Eritrea
Small Black – Despicable Dogs

Best Album Concept

The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice - Moon Colony Bloodbath EP

All I need to say is that it's about organ harvesting colonies on the moon.

Top 5 Shows I Attended in 2009

1. The Flaming Lips @ The Greek Theatre
2. Them Crooked Vultures @ The Wiltern
3. Sunset Rubdown @ The Troubadour
4. Wilco @ The Wiltern
5. TV on the Radio @ The Ventura Theatre