Cassie’s Top 20 Albums of 2009: #10-1

30 Dec

Alright, I’m sick of dragging this out, so I’m going to go ahead and just do the last 10 in one post…here we go:

10. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic

Coming from the band that recorded the majestically emotionally bipolar album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, in 2002, Embryonic is quite the shock. The Flaming Lips finally took all of that morbid subject matter that has been present in their lyrics for years and transferred it to the music as well; though a jarring move, it makes for (easily) the band’s best album since Yoshimi and a surprisingly pleasant listen.

9. P.O.S. – Never Better

Representing Minneapolis, Rhymesayers, and the Doomtree collective, P.O.S. brings some of the most percussive, hard-hitting, yet incredibly accessible hip-hop of the year. He manages to thread together politically conscious lyrics alongside of references from “The Big Lebowski” (the famous line, “The Dude abides,” as well as “You’re out of your element, Donnie, shut up,” appears in “Let It Rattle”). And it works beautifully. P.O.S. also contributes a large portion of his own beats to Never Better, just another personal touch that makes the album his and his alone.

8. The Antlers – Hospice

This is, quite simply, an emotionally devastating album, describing the trials and tribulations of taking care of a terminally ill person (who is, understandably, extremely difficult to deal with). I do have to be in the right mood to listen to it, but the cohesive, beautiful, and heart-shattering way in which Hospice comes together makes it well-worth the emotional trauma it can inflict upon me.

7. Animal Collective – Fall Be Kind (EP)

This is the second EP to make it on my list and for very good reason; Fall Be Kind is not the first, but second excellent release from Animal Collective this year. From the whispers to “Let me begin.” on “Graze” to the euphoric call and response “What would I want? Sky.” on the song of the same name (which includes the first licensed Grateful Dead sample) Fall Be Kind is 30 minutes of sheer ambient, autumnal bliss.

6. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast/Useless Creatures

Released as a double album, with Noble Beast including the more typical Andrew Bird songs and Useless Creatures containing only instrumental tracks, it showcases Bird at a very good place in his career. Noble Beast sees Bird playing with not only words now, but with the sounds of syllables, exemplified with “Anonanimal,” which is probably in my top 3 songs of the year. And, Useless Creatures doesn’t disappoint either, with the peak being, for me, “Hot Math,” a dizzying seven-minute violin piece recorded in Bird’s barn. Check out this incredible live version of “Anonanimal” (which is markedly different from the album version, just as a note) from Bird’s performance at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis this year:

5. Mos Def – The Ecstatic

Well, this is another album that I reviewed at its release, so I’m going to be lazy again and give some highlights from that:

“Ecstasy is a “poetic frenzy or rapture” and ecstatic describes an “exalted feeling” of an “intense” and “pleasurable” emotion. Aptly named, Mos Def’s The Ecstatic finds itself correlating to these two related words and definitions; throughout the record, a mix of emotions emerges-from joy to sorrow and from passive indifference to fiery passion-all of them expressed with a deep potency.

Even with its oddball moments, such as “No Hay Nada Mas,” a song completely rapped in Spanish, The Ecstatic is one of the best hip-hop albums of the year and an early contender for best album of the year. But, more than that, it is a return to form for one of hip-hop’s best, a return to form that fully showcases Mos Def’s talent and certainly keeps fans anxious for more that will inevitably come, hopefully sooner rather than later.”

4. The xx – xx

Considering I just heard this only a few weeks ago (at the recommendation of a co-worker), I think its placement this high up on the list should be a good enough indicator of what I think about the debut album from The xx. From start to finish, xx bonds together like no other album I’ve heard this year. It’s sleek, it’s sexy, and it was made by a few 20-year-olds (a few Brits that are my age?!?). Apparently, I need to get to work making something this awesome.

3. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

Is there anything that I can say about this album that hasn’t already been said? I don’t think so. It’s fantastic. Let’s move on.

2. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

Ah, so many memories with this album. Driving around Minneapolis with friends, blasting “Two Weeks” as we cruised away from Minnehaha Falls. Sitting at the river, enjoying the scenery. For months, Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest was the soundtrack to my life. And I still haven’t tired of it. Sure, it’s poppier and more accessible than 2006’s Yellow House, but is that such a bad thing? I certainly don’t think so, and songs like “Two Weeks” and “While You Wait for the Others” epitomize that fact for me. But, my absolute favorite on the album is “Foreground,” which is the video I opted for below.

1. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

Wow, what an album. Thank you, Dirty Projectors, just thank you for Bitte Orca. It’s a stunning display of avant-pop, complete with plenty of guitar wankery, out of key singing on Dave Longstreth’s part, and some of the most gorgeous female vocalists ever put to record. From the first listen, I was hooked. For days, Bitte Orca would finish, and I’d start it right back up again, making this my musical drug of the year. And, without a doubt, my favorite album of 2009 (an outstanding achievement, considering the competition it was up against in this fine year of music). Picking just one song to showcase isn’t fair to Bitte Orca, so here’s three:

Finally, my personal favorite, “Useful Chamber,” which includes the cathartic shout that gives the album its name, “Bitte Orca! Orca Bitte!,” a completely nonsensical remark when translated from German to “Please Orca! Orca Please!” But, it’s just so much fun to yell out that nobody cares.

And with that, I’m off. Happy New Year (and Decade!) all!

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