2009: The Good, The Bad, And The BrokeNCYDE

31 Dec

For those who might not be aware, I listened to a shit-ton of music released this year, to the tune of 112 albums. I could condense that number to a selection of 10 to 20 that readers could actually use, but I would rather they join in the musical journey that was my 2009, so I will list every album I heard and attach a short synopsis of each for your convenience. The majority are snide and condescending, but that’s all part of the fun. Or at least that will be my story when the lawsuits roll in.

112. Brokencyde – I’m Not A Fan But The Kids Like It

I suppose, if the end of civilization as we know it is nigh, you might as well get get drunk and skeet skeet. But it’s kind of awkward to entice others to do it when you’re the one causing our destruction.

111. Bowling For Soup – Sorry For Partyin’

Has its heart in the right place, to be sure. But at the end of the day, it’s the aural equivalent of cheap beer. Hooray?

110. The Fray – The Fray

A cross between elevator music and Twilight. I don’t have anything more to say about this, and if I did, would you honestly be interested?

109. Our Lady Peace – Burn Burn

You don’t have to play CCM to be mediocre, but it helps.

108. Rihanna – Rated R

Proof that breaking up can be just as much a source of mediocrity as being in love.

107. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown

Their toothless mall-rock just got faceless. And obese.

106. Tori Amos – Abnormally Attracted To Sin

It’s a Tori Amos album. Where the hell else am I going to put it?

105. Eminem – Relapse

An old man trying desperately to frighten us with his profane dentures.

104. Volcano Choir – Unmap

Aimless progressive wank stopped being progressive in 1969.

103. Weezer – Raditude

Awful is great. I dig awful. But this is crushingly boring on top of it. Rivers Cuomo has painted himself into his dullest corner yet.

102. Wolfmother – Cosmic Egg

Being beaten over the head with a guitar was never so drab.

101. Kelly Clarkson – All I Ever Wanted

At least she stopped crying.

100. Antony And The Johnsons – The Crying Light

Great music for dentist offices, at least until Antony started singing over it.

99. Bruce Springsteen – Working On A Dream

There’s a song on this called Queen Of The Supermarket. If that’s the best he can do in the midst of an economic crisis, he really does need to pack it in.

98. Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King

It’s a fine enough effort, but it’s still Dave Matthews.

97. The Dead Weather – Horehound

Jack White vants to drink your blood. But first he’ll write some crappy, tuneless blues rock to get you on the ropes.

96. Kid Cudi – Man On The Moon: The End Of The Day

At least the guys rapping about destroying their foes with heavy artillery and fucking hos weren’t whiny about it.

95. Neil Young – Fork In The Road

It was great until Neil Young started singing about electric cars.

94. The Decemberists – Hazards Of Love

The Decemberists regaling us with Medieval folklore seems perfectly natural. But sucking as much as they do should only come natural to Lance’s mom.

93. Muse – The Resistance

I never thought I would miss Absolution, but there you go.

92. Future Of The Left – Travels With Myself And Another

A lot of screaming, fucking around, and miscellaneous non-sequitur irritations. Sorry, IYS.

91. Method Man & Redman – Blackout! 2

They’re still stuck in ’92. But who can blame them? They nearly took state.

90. Silversun Pickups – Swoon

Billy Corgan would be proud.

89. The Fall Of Troy – In The Unlikely Event

Kinda badass, until the only vocalist less badass than Antony finds his way off the floor and up to the microphone.

88. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

Derivative, soulless, and everything I hate about indie pop, but it’s sorta catchy.

87. Bob Dylan – Christmas In The Heart

Not as great as the Must Be Santa video, but what is?

86. Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslayer

Irritating vocals, music that didn’t change my life. But I’ll confess that I’m just padding this because I don’t remember a thing about it.

85. Eels – Hombre Lobo

Eels makes another breakup album.

84. Mount Eerie – Wind’s Poem

The soundtrack to a particularly wrathful coma.

83. Jay-Z – Blueprint 3

Sporadically entertaining, which I suppose is what hip-pop is all about.

82. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

There are SO many ways this could have been improved. But there was never a chance of this being the #2 album of the year.

81. A.C. Newman – Get Guilty

I have no idea what this sounds like anymore, but I sure feel indietastic knowing I’ve heard it.

80. Hockey – Mind Chaos

At least a dozen of the criticisms I’ve already made on this list apply to this as well, and the fact this album is that scattered is yet another flaw. Just the same, it has its moments.

79. Julian Casablancas – Phrazes For The Young

Julian Casablancas Sings Synth-Pop should have been the title, featuring Casablancas himself in a tuxedo, leaned over a synth as the front cover. It’s probably the least essential album on this list, but I didn’t mind it.

78. Dredg – The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion

Sorry, Axver.

77. Arctic Monkeys – Humbug

Josh Homme had the best of intentions: get the Arctic Monkeys stoned, make a hard rock classic. Unfortunately, Alex Turner has decided writing about topics people give a damn about simply isn’t oblique enough.

76. The Temper Trap – Conditions

I’m growing less and less tolerant o U2’s followers by the year. Their music was already ho-hum, but the vocalist for these guys makes me want to give Caleb Followill a loving punch in the nose instead of the usual kick to the nuts.
75. Various Artists – Dark Was The Night

I like it, but even I don’t enjoy indie this much.

74. Miike Snow – Miike Snow

Well, howdy hey, the 545453589353rd dance-pop album is also one of the more unremarkable. This new trend may have exhausted itself in the span of a single year.

73. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

This is what I expected MPP to sound like. But I probably would have taken my cardigan and gone home if this album received the unyielding fellation of its superior cousin.

72. Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures

Probably the best album by a supergroup since the mid-70s.

71. The Antlers – Hospice

This is probably the most well-meaning album of 2009. It’s also one of the more baffling: who creates a indie rock opera about a cancer cancer patient and mixes the vocals so low that it could be about buying the perfect pair of skinny jeans for all you can tell? Oh yeah, indie rockers.

70. Fever Ray – Fever Ray

More pleasant than the ranking leads on. Too pleasant to write anything more about.

69. The Lonely Island – Incredibad

It’s fairly inept as an album, like most of its ilk. But they managed to get Norah Jones to sing about Chex Mix, so what the hell.

68. The-Dream – Love Vs. Money

A contemporary R&B album that amounts to more than two obnoxious, omnipresent singles and scads of ghostwritten filler? Mostly.

67. Isis – Wavering Radiant

I remember this being badass. But I also need to fill my “sorry, Axver” quota. Thankfully, this album features deathgrowls, so I don’t need to overthink this.

66. Casiotone For The Painfully Alone – Vs. Children

It’s pretty much the definition of indie pop: homemade, overly emotional, quickly forgotten. But God, it does move me. Worth a listen, but know what you’re getting into: this is straightforward indie pop with beats provided by a Casio keyboard.

65. Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You

There are few artists on this list more obnoxious and arrogant than Lily Allen, but of that elite club, only U2 managed to make a superior album.

64. Sonic Youth – The Eternal

This is the sound of complacency itself: The Eternal is made from 100% recycled material. But the Green movement its worth its ubiquity once in a while.

63. Bell X1 – Blue Lights On The Runway

Terrible, terrible fun.

62. Mos Def – The Ecstatic

Entertaining snippets of potential greatness, but standouts are few and far between.

61. El Perro Del Mar – Love Is Not Pop

Peaks early and settles into a danceable stupor. Hardly awful, but not exactly essential.

60. Mastodon – Crack The Skye

Music for non-metalheads to grunt ironically to.

59. Pearl Jam – Backspacer

Shockingly good for a newer Pearl Jam album, but very few individual tracks stuck with me, least of all the singles.

58. DOOM – Born Like This

Honestly, this album reveals MF Doom’s laziness about as well as the shortening of his name does. On the other hand, the man is a genius, and I dig most of it.

57. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast

I was out before I could ask to be woken up when it was over. Real pretty though.

56. Mute Math – Armistice

Accomplished and occasionally thrilling, but utterly lacking in emotion and reasons why I should listen again.

55. Here We Go Magic – Here We Go Magic

Had my complete attention until it became a poor-man’s Merriweather Post Pavillion.

54. Woods – Songs Of Shame

The atypically loose krautrock of “September With Pete” highlights a set of harmless acid-folk.

53. The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You

The second best hick album of the year.

52. Girls – Album

A few overlong tracks and frustratingly poor vocals mire an otherwise stellar pop album.

51. Pure Reason Revolution – Amor Vincent Omnia

The album’s giddy highs are kept in check by its sterile, academic take on modern prog.

50. Real Estate – Real Estate

Pleasantly unremarkable, but has potential to grow on future listens.

49. Japandroids – Post-Nothing

Blends together a bit and clearly lacks a bit in ambition, but the sheer joy of the performances carry the record.

48. Why? – Eskimo Snow

Yet another album I barely remember. It’s sort of a vanity project, but I recall there being a few lovely tunes. Interesting change of pace if nothing else.

47. The XX – XX

It’s always a pleasant surprise when an artist can create a cohesive debut, but that may be what grounds this record. Remember to listen to it at night when it inevitably becomes the soundtrack to your mental state.

46. Bear In Heaven – Beast Rest Forth Mouth

One of the more skillful meshings of post-rock and electro that I’ve heard recently. Probably the only one though.

45. J Dilla – Jay Stay Paid

This posthumous collection of leftover beats actually manages to be more cohesive than a lot of albums on this list, simply because of its hazy atmosphere. The album’s few raps are kinda great too.

44. Röyksopp – Junior

Scattered as hell, but certainly accomplished, and sporadically awesome. Shame that Karin Van Whatthefuck is a horrible vocalist.

43. Black Lips – 200 Million Thousand

Raw as hell, and I would gladly take more. Has some unremarkable patches though, and the production is uniformly awful.

42. BrakesBrakesBrakes – Touchdown

When it’s on, this is fucking on. When it’s not, at least the songs are over quickly.

41. The Mountain Goats – The Life Of The World To Come

Inessential, and occasionally as dull as the female cardinals lead singer John Darnielle will probably one day write a concept album about, but it’s still the Mountain Goats; the lyrics are still clever and the music still lovely.

40. Built To Spill – There Is No Enemy

A fucking great band on autopilot is still worthwhile.

39. Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications

Foreplay is over, I guess; this record is balls-to-the-vaginal-wall rawk 90% of the time. The ballads work better though, with Jarvis’ choked, pervy vocals resonating every awkward pun in “Leftovers.”

38. Atlas Sound – Logos

With all the potential in the world to become trippy aural wallpaper, this record manages to mix it up enough to be nearly as worthy as singer Bradford Cox’s own 2008 Deerhunter releases. “Walkabout” fucking owns.

37. Dan Deacon – Bromst

A giddy array of samples, random electronic interjections, and the occasional awesome melody. Should succumb to novelty status, but doesn’t.

36. M. Ward – Hold Time

The Ned Flanders of indie folk. But we all know The Simpsons wouldn’t have been the same without him, don’t we?

35. Morrissey – Years Of Refusal

Some things never change: this album’s vitality took me off guard at first, and Mozzer is still writing about the same shit he was when he was 20. Whether or not you appreciate said shit will be a major contributing factor in you enjoying this album.

34. Neon Indian – Psychic Chasms

Brief, catchy, sloppy, and likely created in a converted hipster garage pad: it’s the original garage-synthpop album.

33. Porcupine Tree – The Incident

Steve Wilson, bless his blackened melodic metal heart, ignored all the maxims and cliches and decided more = more. Thankfully, the man is fucking talented, so this is really good.

32. Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II

Mindless braggadocio was acceptable in the 90s because the music was actually good. In that regard, this is an extremely retro album.

31. Karen O And The Kids – Where The Wild Things Are

There is no way this should be more than pleasant background music, but neglecting children is a crime.

30. Bob Dylan – Together Through Life

Uncle Bob could dance around in a Tom Petty wig singing Christmas carols at this point in his career and it would entertain me endlessly. Thankfully, though this clearly isn’t a monumental entry into his catalogue, it’s a lot of fun.

29. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

OK, so the song remains the same throughout: silence gives way to epic sonic swells, followed by yet another trough, followed by another musical climax, closing with a soft strum. Still the best, most passionate hick album of the year.

28. Brother Ali – Us

The man’s voice is slightly shill and his triumphant subject matter homogeneous, but it’s hard not to root for such a thrilling hip-hop album.

27. Annie – Don’t Stop

For the second album in a row, Anne Lilia Berge Strand proves she’s several dance steps ahead of her peers, though not without a few cracks this time around; I demand an explanation for “The Breakfast Song.”

26. Florence & The Machine – Lungs

In a sea of soulless, chirpy female vocalists crowding indie music, Florence Welch’s powerful, occasionally raspy voice is triumphant. The rest of the band is good too.

25. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)

A challenging, genuinely interesting start (tracks 1-4, I would argue) gives way to the exquisite dad-rock of their previous album Sky Blue Sky. Worth a listen, but don’t start here.

24. fun. – Aim And Ignite

All over the map, but it’s heady fun. No idea why this isn’t considered a Format album, since their lead singer penned these tracks and, outside of a slight boost to their already grand sound, it doesn’t sound like they ever broke up in the first place.

23. Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle

I am convinced there has to be at least one dark, cerebral folk album on any year-end list I make. I love that sound, and this record more than fits the bill. He’s no Bob Dylan; Uncle Bob at least knocked out some good vocals on Nashville Skyline, but he’s an excellent songwriter, and that’s what counts in his racket.

22. The Dodos – Time To Die

I couldn’t hum a song on this (although I would certainly make some shit up for the right price), but it’s undeniably gorgeous. I just hope they remember to crank the percussion up next time around; it was always my favorite part of their sound.

21. The Big Pink – A Brief History Of Love

If it wasn’t abundantly obvious already, the 80s are back, and not just in the strangely-coifed guise of new-wave: the proto-shoegaze of The Jesus And Mary Chain is getting some love too. The Big Pink are among the most recent additions to their flock, and I must say that they did their heroes proud.

20. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns

If pressed, I would compare this to Bjork and Tori Amos. I have no idea how the hell this ended up being good, but it’s somehow beyond that.

19. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career

This contains two of 2009s best indie-folk tracks in “The Sweetest Thing” and “French Navy” (the former incorporating a hint of Motown). The rest is pleasant, occasionally lovely, and, in spite of some sameness, wholly worth your time.

18. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Why There Are Mountains

I have no idea how to categorize this, but it surely isn’t experimental; right as it’s about to drone you into submission, it cranks in lovely horns. Right as it it’s about to melt your face off, it caresses your cheek with a killer melody. Whatever the hell this is, it’s among the best in its field.

17. Doves – Kingdom Of Rust

The ever-consistent Doves serves up another uniformly excellent set. It never makes the strong impression their first couple of albums do, but I can’t deny the quality songwriting at play here.

16. P.O.S. – Never Better

While I seldom classify any record as “frightening,” this one comes damn close. It’s ugly, it’s abrasive, it’s badass. Even the production cuts right through the listener, fusing hip-hop with nasty Minneapolis punk. By sheer brute force alone this album makes an impression, but the lyrics are searing and P.O.S.’s flow accomplished.

15. Franz Ferdinand – Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

It’s easy to initially consider this a step back for the group, but after a few listens, this album’s exceptional eye for detail and impeccable flow pays major dividends.

14. Metric – Fantasies

From the occasionally shoddy, slightly profane lyricism, to Emily Haines’ vocal limitations, and on over to its lousy sequencing, Fantasies‘ flaws are up front and obvious. Take it for what it is — a fast-paced, passionate pop album featuring our good pal Synth — however, and you’ll find yourself surprised more often than not.

13. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Albums like this one — nerdy quartet creates pseudo-literate danceable rock music — are released every year. Vampire Weekend will be releasing 2010’s next month. But this one dares to challenge itself through ambitious tracks such as the “Love Like A Sunset” duo, and its opening duo of singles is masterful.

12. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion

There is no question that this album’s alleged greatness was overblown. But I will argue for the rest of my days that this album’s melodic treasures are worth a high level of praise.

11. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!

A few of the finest songs of the decade and loads of well-written bandwagon-hopping. Karen O manages to sell it all.

10. Mew – No More Stories…

Probably a sellout move on their part, but I don’t really care. It’s technically proficient as always, but also melodically-advanced, and, ultimately, a lot of fun.

9. St. Vincent – Actor

Its title implies deceit, and it is indeed quite difficult to pin down Actor‘s primary sound and influences. All I can say is that, in the span of a half hour and 11 tracks, this record manages to provide more sonic delights and disorienting musical trap doors than an album twice its length.

8. Super Furry Animals – Dark Days/Light Years

It’s a simplistic concept that often ends in epic fail: take established group, stretch their songs out, add in trippy effects. However, this is Super Furry Animals we’re talking about here. What could have been wanky sonic mush winds up being more filling than ear candy because of SFA’s songwriting talent.

7. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

I don’t have a lot to say about this one. Gorgeous vocals + wondrous country-rock songwriting = excellent album.

6. The Horrors – Primary Colours

Somewhere in that sea of poppy goodness I was wading in, this intense yet wholly entertaining album has always been a bleak, bleak island. There are a few excellent singles here, but the rush of the performances and intoxicating atmosphere provided by the guitars are the real stars here.

5. Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs

While Yo La Tengo has seldom been willfully difficult, this album offers what its title implies: YLT at their most accessible. Nearly every track up until the final three has a strong hook, and a few are even breezy. Ironically, they do become willfully difficult with those final three tracks, which knocked it down in my rankings slightly.

4. Passion Pit – Manners

In a world of music dominated by synth, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the innately cold, metallic sounds they provide. Passion Pit, however, live up to their name on their debut album, pouring their heart and soul into every note. The vocals are slightly shrill and the album itself rather haphazard, but few albums make me as happy as this one does.

3. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic

After fans felt they lacked focus with 2006’s At War With The Mystics, The Flaming Lips chose to indulge their wanderlust with this album. It would be 70+ minutes in length and center around existential and astrological themes. Thankfully, the primal force of the performances and production, as well as its crackling, distorted production and overall disturbing atmosphere give the album the weight it needs to become a very memorable entry into their catalogue.

2. U2 – No Line On The Horizon

Setting aside the handful of middling tracks in the center of the album, as well as what could have been — especially rumors of a more abstract, Moroccan-influenced direction — No Line On The Horizon is the closest U2 has come to a masterpiece for quite some time, and illustrates their creative resurgence. The production has more depth, the performances have more conviction, and Bono’s lyrics are considerably stronger, while “Moment Of Surrender” and “Breathe” are two of the best songs U2 has written in a good long while.

1. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

Though this is my favorite album of the year, I’m finding it rather difficult to discuss in length, especially without becoming hyperbolic. All I’ll say is that this album is generally calm indie folk-rock, building from dazzling, sonic soup to epic emotional swells, always remaining bewitchingly beautiful. “Two Weeks” is also my favorite song of the year, I think. It’s one of those perfect pop songs.

Hope you guys had fun with this. If nothing else, I hope this post is proof that my dislike of certain artists is based off of my lack of tolerance for their sucking, not my own ignorance.

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