Cassie’s Top 20 Albums of 2009: Honorable Mentions and #20-16

28 Dec

After much delaying and procrastinating, in the name of hearing as many albums from 2009 before the year’s end, I finally have a list of 20 albums that, in my world, are the best from 2009.

First up, some honorable mentions, in no particular order:

Wavves – Wavvves

Even if lead singer Nathan Williams is kind of a douchebag who fights with his own drummer while on Ecstasy and Valium onstage and insults his own crowd, Wavves still makes some fantastic surf rock-inspired lo-fi. For a good month this spring, this album was streaming through my headphones often.

Key Song: “So Bored”

Roll Deep – Street Anthems

This is a compilation album of London-based grime collective Roll Deep’s greatest hits, as well as some unreleased tracks. Previous to listening to this, I’d never heard of the group, though I had listened to and enjoyed Dizzee Rascal’s work, who was a former member of the group. Heavy, heavy beats and tight rhymes all around, purely designed to make you move on the dancefloor.

Key Songs: “Babylon Burner” and “Shake a Leg”

The Dodos – Time to Die

I don’t have much to say about this one, as, like Ashley, nothing from the album sticks in my head after it’s finished, though while I’m listening to Time to Die, I think it’s fantastic. Just not as fantastic as Visitor and Beware of the Maniacs. Personally, I miss having the percussion standing at center stage, and it makes Time to Die blend together far more than The Dodos’ previous albums.

Key Songs: “Small Deaths,” “Fables,” and “Two Medicines”

Brother Ali – Us

It so happens that I wrote a review of this album at its release, so I’m going to be lazy and paste some highlights: “Propelled by Ant’s increasingly dense, nearly symphonic productions and Brother Ali’s bulldog-like delivery, the new record Us hits at the chest hard from beginning to end.

The beats from Ant use somewhat unconventional parts from both trumpets and electric guitars, giving the album its trademark Minneapolis and Rhymesayers Entertainment sound. Brother Ali captivates listeners with his vivid lyrics that focus on two overarching themes: toasting and boasting and triumphing over adversity. Both of these are ultimately celebratory, a sense that is evident from the first blasting trumpet on “The Preacher,” the second song on the album after the introduction, “Brothers and Sisters.”

It’s crystal clear that Brother Ali is in a good place right now, and Us is a fervent reflection of that.”

Key Songs: “Fresh Air” and “House Keys”

J.Period & K’naan – The Messengers

This is a 30+ song mixtape, reworking and re-imagining classic works from Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, and Bob Dylan. As potentially blasphemous as that may sound, J.Period does an amazing job with the remixing, and as always, K’naan spits fire. It’s offered as a free download from J.Period’s website, do yourself a favor and check it out:

20. BK-One w/ Benzilla – Rádio Do Canibal

DJ and producer BK-One teams up with Benzilla and a laundry list of hip-hop’s finest on his debut album for Rhymesayers, creating a Brazilian soundscape for the rappers to play in. Some of the MCs on the album include: Slug (of Atmosphere), Black Thought (of The Roots), Murs, Raekwon (of Wu-Tang Clan), Brother Ali, P.O.S., and so many more. Funnily enough, my favorite track, “Tema Do Canibal” (the second one of that title on the album), doesn’t include any of these guys and is just a swinging Brazilian beat that makes me want to dance every time I hear it.

19. Freddie Gibbs -midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik

Here’s another mixtape, this time from Freddie Gibbs, gangsta rapper extraordinaire from Gary, Indiana (of all places).

Gibbs has been featured in the New Yorker this year, gaining praise from Sasha Frere-Jones. After years of hearing nothing but Auto-Tune laced tracks from MCs, Gibbs is a return to the glory days of gangsta rap, reminding me of Tupac Shakur, in particular (minus the more socially conscious side that Tupac had). If you do a bit of Googling, midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik (I love the Outkast reference in the title, by the way) is easy to find as a free download as well.

18. Passion Pit – Manners

I like this album. A lot. But, only in small doses, which is why it ended up this low on my list. The best part is that Passion Pit re-insert, well, excuse the pun, but passion back into electro-pop. Michael Angelakos’ voice would be grating, if not for the fact that he makes you feel just as ecstatic or heartbroken or beaten down as he is. I still like their EP from last year, Chunk of Change, more though, as it feels a lot more cohesive than Manners.

17. Ganglians – Monster Head Room

I’m a sucker for some psychedelic lo-fi, and Ganglians, from the Woodsist label, bring some of the best this year. Not much else to say, other than it’s an exceptionally fun and beautiful album to listen to.

16. DOOM – Born Like This

DOOM rarely even raps himself on Born Like This, but when he does, he means it. The album also features production and beats from frequent MF DOOM collaborators, Madlib and the late J Dilla, as well as DOOM contributing quite a few of his own beats. And, of course, Born Like This contains plenty of MF DOOM’s trademark linguistic escapades.

That’s it for now, but I’ll be back with #15-11 soon enough.

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