2009 was a great year for music. I was all over the map with my listening. Here's my year end list for top 5 albums...
1. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
It was obvious to me from the first listen that Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was destined for blog love, indie stardom and car commercials. The whole album is wrapped in a glossy sheen of candied production that makes it tough not to jump on board. Thomas Mars' "of Montreal-esque" croon soars above the crisp "Strokes-esque" pop structures like butter across a muffin. The boys hit the mark on this one, setting a new standard for indie pop records... "effortless" style with undeniably catchy melodies. Home run.
2. The Dear Hunter - Act III: Life and Death
Former The Receiving End of Sirens member Casey Crescenzo's current concept project makes The Decemberist's concept albums seem like elementary school book reports in comparison. Casey's Act III (of a 7 part series!) plays out like a broadway musical on steroids, combining rich classical compositions of strings, synths and bells with cutting edge rock riffs to create an experience that puts you in the driver's seat of a cruel story from ages past. The vocals are flawless in arrangement and performance. The songs are varied and fresh. This is a marvel in production and concept; technically jarring and emotionally stunning.
3. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
One of my favorite aspects of "My Maudlin Career" is its timelessness. Push play now and it sounds like a modern classic. Play it 40 years ago and it would have fit right in with the Doo Wop girl groups of the time. Tracy Anne Campbell's woeful tales of failed romance and longing hit home with anyone who's ever had a broken heart. The soundtrack of heart-wrenching strings, weeping guitar and warm brass lead Tracy's lovesick ballads along a path of sadness with glints of silver lining speckled among the clouds.
4. The Devil Wears Prada - With Roots Above and Branches Below
How did a trendy breakdown album of throat shredding screams, chugs and pinch harmonics sneak into my year end list? Simple. It permeated into my skin and fed the savage beast in me that wants to destroy. It's rare when I can get through a day without blasting through at least one track at high volume. The first minute of this album is so dissonant and horrifying that it hurts your heart to even listen. If you can stick it out, a gorgeous symphony of synths, strings and big choruses will reward you for enduring the violence that stabs its way across the album. The production on this opus dwarfs any post hardcore album this decade. The mathy chug patterns are infinitely fresh. The percussion is above and beyond that of its contemporaries with fills that are as swift as they are powerful. The guitars dance across the battlefield like two doves in love. The bar has been raised.
5. Passion Pit - Manners
This album made my list for one reason and one reason alone.... It makes me happy :). Nothing groundbreaking or innovative, just a collection of danceable and highly infectious tracks that makes you feel good all over. The vocals are ridiculous upon first listen, but once you realize that they are coming straight from the heart of frontman, Michael Angelakos, you will grab your balls and sing along convincingly, whether you match pitch or not. Michael certainly doesn't care... He flats notes all over the place and it just sounds charming. It's no wonder that these Boston kids are riding the buzz wave. Well-deserved.
Miniature Tigers - Tell It To The Volcano
Discovery - LP
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Islands - Vapours