January 4, 2010

Albums of the year

It's that time of year again. Yep: Year-end list season. We at the SadBear, along with a few compatriots, have taken it upon ourselves to compile lists of our favorite albums from 2009. Note that we are not exactly calling these the "best" albums of the year. These are simply a few albums released in 2009 that each of us found compelling. Top two, top five, top ten, whatever we thought was enough.

One thing is clear: We all have different tastes. There's not one album that appears on every notable list. Not surprising, considering our indidivual music tastes.

To see each person's lists and explanation of why we enjoyed the albums that we enjoyed, see after the jump.

Dan Silliman

Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard (and Jack Kerouac), One Fast Move and I'm Gone: Music from Kerouac's Big Sur - Especially the first song on the album, California Zephyr. I like the sweet optimism and resignation in the song. I like the use of the word "Zephyr," and the song really captures some great scenes of a cross-country trip and the whole spirit of Jack Keroauc's sense of being lost and at home at the same time.

-Steve Earle, Townes - I like Steve Earle. I probably like his versions of these songs better than the originals. I was also impressed by the way he did this whole project as a tribute that didn't tip over into hagiography or romanticization. At this point in my life I appreciate people who have and demonstrate a vision of art that's not about the Dionysian and self-destructive. I kind of felt Earle was rescuing this work from the stupid ravages of "look ma, I'm killing myself with art," and maybe this was his way of telling Townes and also Earle's own younger self that the music, actually, would have been better if he could have found away to settle down and be okay.

-Bob Dylan, Christmas in the Heart - Maybe I only like this because I'm an eternal Dylan devotee and also this album does a really good job at supporting the thesis of a piece I've been working on for way too long now about Dylan's religious development. But ... I actually think the album is hilarious and awesome. It sounds like a drunk uncle leading an egg nog sing-a-long, has the aesthetics of an AA meeting on Christmas Eve, and could easily be preformed by a Pentecostal Pastor caught up with the spirit of the season and crooning along to a "Season's Greetings" mix CD played on an oversized boom box in a store front church.

-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, "Home (single)" - I haven't heard the whole album and I am somewhat antagonistic towards anybody doing the faux-hippie thing, but I liked Home, the single from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. If I told you why I liked it, it'd sound like I was talking about what they have here in Germany at the "disco," like Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake or even Madonna, and it is all those things, catchy and poppy, fun and danceable, and also it's weird, with like the aesthetics and sound of a one-man-band in the park and also a commune at the same time, which is a contradiction, I know, but one that makes you want add some music while you listen. Which is pretty cool. As is the whistling intro.

Mark Perkins

1. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
2. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
3. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
4. Dan Deacon - Bromst
5. The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come
6. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
7. The Antlers - Hospice
8. Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
9. Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer
10. Wild Beasts - Two Dancers

Jon Oatess

These are my five favorite albums, in alphabetical order (by title).

Flaming Lips - Embryonic
Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come
Animal Colelctive - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures
Wilco - Wilco [The Album]

Jack Hittinger

I have a list that's not really in any order of 2009 albums**. I thought I had a "Top Ten List" in which all albums were in specific order. But it never works out that way, so I ditched it. I guess I'll do it alphabetically by band.

-Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion— Remamber the term "freak-folk"? Sounds so dated now, especially that the ultimate prognosticators of it are doing full-on psych rock.

-Arctic Monkeys, Humbug— Josh Homme forever and ever, amen. These blokes actually have some muscle behind their Kinks-wannabe story-songs, and it kicks some major ass.

-Boston Spaceships, The Planets Are Blasted - Bob is in full-fledged Who-mode here with his own personal power trio. It's the best thing he's put together, since, jeez... Universal Truths and Cycles? And even that had like 18 tracks. This is short(er) and has virtually no throwaways— a rarity in the GBVerse. Supposedly the other album he recorded with them this year is even better (on top of the two or three solo albums which aren't as good), but I have not heard it yet.

-Ha Ha Tonka, Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South— My greatest-ever under-the-radar find. They're from Springfield so I sort of like to consider them "my band." Anyway, the album: Lots of foot stompin', hand clappin' and good ol' hillbilly twang filtered through Uncle Tupelo grage/ country punk and a tinge of the Shins.

-Grizzly Bear, Veckatimist— A little boring, yes, but perfect mood music. Great dynamics: The musical highs hit just perfectly after lulls in songs to warrant repeat listens.

-Mos Def, The Ecstatic— "Magnetic, the flows are athletic..."

-Neon Indian, Psychic Chasms— 80's tape deck lo-fi psychedelic electronica. Nostalgia music.

-Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix— I have never been to Paris, or Versailles, but listening to this is what I imagine living in France would be like: Walking by in the morning, drinking coffee and having lunch at an outdoors cafe in the afternoon, and going clubbing by night. Idealistic, yes. But Phoenix are the Platonic form of French cool.

-Thermals, Now We Can See— Hutch Harris. The man knows how to write a fucking guitar hook. Billie Joe Armstrong obviously needs to be taking notes these days.

-Wavves, Wavves— Washed out harmonies on top of distorted fuzz guitar. Basically, my wet dream when it comes to music.

**Other than all of that, I mostly just listened to a bunch of Neil Young, R.E.M., and Uncle Tupelo/ Wilco. Whoopie.

Tony Gonzalez

"Turns out I don't really listen to new music without having Jack as my roommate. Here are the albums I most obsessively listened to in 2009, by year of release."

Yip/Jump Music, Daniel Johnston

More Songs About Buildings and Food, Talking Heads

69 Love Songs, Magnetic Fields

Albatross: How We Failed to Save the Lone Star State with The Power of Rock and Roll, Fishboy

Dragonslayer, Sunset Rubdown

Chase Purdy

It's Blitz! -- Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Dragonslayer -- Sunset Rubdown

Heartbeat Radio -- Sondre Lerche

Middle Cyclone -- Neko Case

Noble Beast -- Andrew Bird

Evan Moran

I've been listening to Dragonslayer and Merriweather Post Pavilion, and that's about it as far as current year releases go.


Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

The Thermals - Now We Can See

Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part 2

Handsome Furs - Face Control

The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer

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Blogger Tony said...

How dare you mention Wavves without linking to the greatest fan video ever.

Other thoughts: Ha Ha Tonka wins for band name. Thanks for the Billie Joe mention. And is it safe to assume that the Thermals bassist is one of a kind: a black, left-handed rock n' roll woman?

PS: When looking around for Neon Indian tracks, I found an amazing description attached to a YouTube video: "Neon Indian is the latest band out of Brooklyn and as of right now there identity is a mystery, there being compared to Mgmt and have put out one groovy tune "Deadbeat Summer" which will be a certified anthem during the upcoming hot months."

January 1, 2010 at 1:04 PM 
Blogger JHitts said...

Ha Ha Tonka is a state park in Camdenton, Missouri. Anyway, both HHT and Neon Indian have Daytrotter sessions one might want to check out for pretty good sound samples.

January 2, 2010 at 2:22 PM 
Blogger Daniel Silliman said...

Off topic, but this documentary trailer seemed to me to be very, very Sad Bear:


January 4, 2010 at 9:35 PM 
Blogger Margaret Anne said...

The Thermals bassist is one of a kind, not only for being a black, left-handed rock n' roll woman, but also for having some rockin' fuzzy armpits.

January 5, 2010 at 1:09 AM 

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