**eastward movement is included

20091218

day 355.


Admittedly, the composition of the following lists are fairly predicable and I'm certain most 20-somethings who pay the slightest bit of attention to what's accessible and hip in modern music are thinking the same thing. Luckily, this no longer makes a difference to me. I should note that it took time for each album on this list to reveal its dynamic qualities, which is typically a good indicator. 2009 was certainly not 2007, but then again, maybe I was trying harder back then.

In an effort to restore equilibrium and offset my lack of effort, I'm writing a brief explanation for each album.

2009's Best Albums _

01. Actor . St. Vincent

Annie Clark is a smug, fragile, sarcastic, and occasionally desperate. She paints elaborate pictures of familial struggle, relationships, and self-loathing. Aside from a complex set of narratives that reflect the vacillating rhythms of life this album was surprisingly the most listenable to be released this year. Also, she's freaking beautiful.

02. Two Suns . Bat For Lashes

Natasha Khan's sincerity is a desperately needed addition to popular independent music. While so many artists remain satisfied in their commitment to keep sincerity at arm's length, she buries herself in her art, unafraid of the inevitable scrutiny. Until you see her perform live, it's difficult to understand how talented and genuine she actually is.

03. Merriweather Post Pavilion . Animal Collective

The layering and complexity of Animal Collective's sound is quite deceiving. Listen upon pleasurable listen reveals a fairly simple strategy; bathe life's simple truths in sounds that are joyous and exuberant. "I want to walk around with you" is by far the most prosaic of proclamations, but when juxtaposed against their elaborate landscape of booms, bursts and screams, seems tremendously profound.

04. Bitte Orca . Dirty Projectors

Two years ago I bought New Attitude on a whim, having heard that their sound was totally wack, but in a good way. Surely, this would be an endeavor would shore up my credibility. Upon the first few listens it obviously made no sense. The sounds were too angular, and the lack of discernible coherence left me feeling dissatisfied. Nevertheless, I knew this was the routine that often occurs when I've found a band that I'll end up loving. Now, I've begun to appreciate Dave Longstreth's ability to create these seemingly incomprehensible arrangements that somehow work. He helped his cause by letting Angel Deradoorian and
Amber Coffman just unleash their superb vocal talents.

05. Eskimo Snow . Why?

If Alopecia allowed people to see into Yoni Wolf's sick and twisted mind, Eskimo Snow illuminated his mature, but still perverted other half.
Alopecia's brilliance is a hard act to follow, but I got the sense the band was deliberately drifting in foreign waters by embracing more folk and pop, thus pushing the abrasive hip-hop arrangements aside. For now. Maybe. Also, awesome band live.

06. Fever Ray . Fever Ray

To fully appreciate this album, I had to listen to their performance on NPR's All Song's Considered. Even through the streaming internet feed I was able to visualize the distinct, haunting atmosphere Karin Dreyer so naturally creates. Compared to The Knife, Fever Ray's rhythms seem more carefully chosen, more poignant, and more tormented.

07. Middle Cyclone . Neko Case

I don't care how many New York Times interviews, NPR features and Pitchfork boner-fests that Neko is subjected to, I will forever worship the ground she walks on. Like every other artist on this list, her words create especially vibrant paintings. The cover is especially poignant, depicting a fiery Neko with saber in hand, crouched atop the hood of a Mercury Cougar, her posture and piercing gaze perfectly illustrating her tacit fearlessness.

08. Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle . Bill Callahan

I first saw Bill Callahan in 2006 when he opened for Joanna Newsom. I usually assume the opener is a respectable act since they're associated with the band with which I am primarily interested, but when the set is over I'm typically underwhelmed. In Callahan's case however, I was left with a positive impression. This is pretty much the only reason I even gave this album a chance. What began as background music for cooking or studying transformed into a staple.

09. Flashmob . Vialic

The beats on this album are tremendously propulsive, but don't feel completely unhinged. They're French, which explains the rubbery bass as well as the sexiness. This is definitely a good thing. Albums like these are far more enjoyable than other popular electronic acts like Ratatat or MSTRKRFT because it isn't nearly as monotonous - the peaks, valleys and swells are genuine and necessary. Above all, it's an electroclash album, and surprisingly, feels quite comfortable there.

10. There Is No Enemy . Built to Spill

You In Reverse had me filled with nameless dread. It was so ... ordinary. Luckily, Doug Martsh rediscovered the brilliant grunge and grandiosity that so many people have fallen in love with. Bottom line - thank god these guys still have it in them.

Note: Yep, The XX, Grizzly Bear, Handsome Firs, YACHT, Phoenix, Neon Indian, YYY's, The Dead Weather, Passion Pit, and Girls didn't make it. These either were really great and then became boring, or had one or two songs that were just stunning and the rest wasn't nearly as remarkable.

2009's Top Songs _

01. Summertime Clothes . Animal Collective
02. Stillness Is The Move . Dirty Projectors
03. Save Me From What I Want . St. Vincent
04. Against Me . Why?
05. Zero . Yeah Yeah Yeahs
06. Young Hearts Spark Fire . Japanroids
07. My Girls . Animal Collective
08. My Friend . Bill Callahan
09. Siren Song . Bat For Lashes
10. Oh Yea . Built to Spill
11. Sunlight - tUnE-yArDs

More songs _

Island, Is . Volcano Choir
Feel It All Around . Washed Out
Treat Me Like Your Mother . The Dead Weather
Laughing With A Mouth Of Blood . St. Vincent
Two Weeks . Grizzly Bear
Shelter . The xx
40 Day Dream . E. Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes
In Steps . Letting Up Despite Great Faults
Dimstore Diamond . Gossip
All The Kings Men . Wild Beasts
I'm In Love With A Ripper . YACHT
Little Secrets . Passion Pit
Poison Lips . Vitalic
Russia - Ramona Falls
Tightrope . Yeasayer
People Got a Lotta Nerve . Neko Case
Big Bad Mean Mother Fucker . Girls
Run This Town . Jay-Z {featuring Kanye West & Rihanna}
Sunlight . Harlem Shakes
It's Boring/You Can Live Anywhere You Want . YACHT
Talking Hotel Arbat Blues . Handsome Firs

On to 2010.

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New York, New York, United States
I take myself too seriously most of the time and I am trying to do that less. I remind some people of Woody Allen. I occationally indulge in the weekend camping trip. I adamantly support the Kansas City Royals baseball club. My identity is wrapped up in a few simple things, most of which are continuously displayed on this here blog.

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