This is the first year since I’ve started doing a year-end best of list that I haven’t had to labor to narrow it down. Usually I have a top 20 but this year I couldn’t even come up with 15 new releases that I loved. That is a sad first…one that would normally make me say it was a bad year for music, but those albums that did make my list were absolutely fantastic, making my top 10 as good as or better than any in recent years. It just gets thin after that Top 10. I only had a few that were bubbling under. I think this is a sign of the times and the singles driven market spurred on by iTunes, mp3’s and downloading in general. I had no shortage of great singles, but whole CD’s worthy of my time were few and far between. However, if you’re looking for dark concept albums of a more serious and less hook-filled nature, check out Andre Salles’ latest column and year end-list: http://www.tm3am.com/ where the concept of whole albums and thematic records are alive and well.
I will also say that the release of the re-mastered Beatles box sets alone made this a great year for music. They really do sound that much better and I would recommend them to anybody. So now on to the best CDs of 09!
The Year-End Top Ten Rules:
It has to have been released in a physical format (CD or Vinyl) during the calendar year of 2009
Full studio albums only
No live albums
No cover albums
10. Tinted Windows – Tinted Windows
The power pop super group featuring members of Fountains of Wayne, Cheap Trick, Smashing Pumpkins and Hanson. Straight ahead power pop and a great listen!
9. Official Secrets Act – Understanding Electricity
New wave is alive and well! These UK wizards bring the sound of quirky alternative power pop with late 70’s new wave vocals ala David Byrne. This is the sound that I love. I want more!
8. Starlight Mints – Change Remains
Sorry Andre, you can’t describe this band without my oft’ overused adjective, “quirky,” This band is quirky and this album is especially so. The track “Gazeretti” is amazing.
7. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
I am pretty sure there’s never been a band or artist from France in my top ten until now. I have been hooked on Phoenix (pun intended) since their first album came out almost 10 years ago. With the humorously and aptly titled Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix they have hit an artistic high water mark. “Lisztomania” is not only a single, it’s a work of alt-pop genius.
6. Muse – The Resistance
I have been a huge fan since their first UK release, which happened to have been released the week I first visited London all those years ago. This is probably my favorite album from Muse where they turn up the Queen influence and let it rock.
5. Fun. – Aim and Ignite
A great new band, from the US this time, sporting influences from the Beatles to the Beach Boys. “All The Pretty Girls” is easily one of the best power pop songs of the year and the whole album is a hook-filled fun-fest.
4. Paper Route – Absence
Beautiful. That is the best word to describe this brilliant album of original and slightly alternative pop tunes. Where has this band been all my life? You’ve got to hear it to believe it. Start with “Carousel” and fall in love with this magnificent album.
3. Owl City – Ocean Eyes
This is the part where I get to say, “I told you so.” Jim Worthen and others can confirm that long before this release I said Owl City was great and would be the next big thing. Nailed it! This young lad from Owatona, Minnesota went all the way to number one and made the top 10 in 7 different countries. It’s an international smash and if you like super catchy keyboard pop this is your dream come true.
2. White Lies – To Lose My Life
The UK is apparently a breeding ground for great bands. There must be something in the water over there because the past few years my best of lists have been dominated by UK bands. White Lies come in at number 2 this year with a serious yet melodic album filled with songs about life and death and music that you’ll find hard not to love. They have a great sound that mixes the modern vibe of Coldplay and The Killers with 80’s music that would fit perfectly in a John Hughs movie like Pretty In Pink. The key ingredient here though is the amazing vocal performance of Harry McVeigh.
1. The Yeah You’s – Looking Through You
Yet another brilliant break-through band from the UK. You can’t get this one in the US yet, but it’s worth the import price if you like tons of layered vocals and plenty of hooks. This one is this year’s The Feeling. The best CD of the year for me!
Almost made it…
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Cheap Trick – The Latest
Richard Swift – The Atlantic Ocean
The Features – Some Kind of Salvation
Collective Soul – Collective Soul (Rabbit)
Best Live Concerts
Devo – SXSW – March 20, 2009, Austin, TX – Austin Music Hall
Zappa Plays Zappa - August 21, 2009, Minneapolis, MN - Orpheum Theatre
Fountains of Wayne – July 7, 2009, Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Center
Tinted Windows – SXSW – March 21, 2009, Austin, TX – Austin Convention Center
Best Album Packaging
Underoath – Lost in the Sound of Separation (Limited Edition Box Set), Designer: Jordan Butcher