This is kind of anticlimactic at this point considering we’re already well into 2010, but hear finally, is my top 10 albums of 2009.
10. Fiction Family – Fiction Family
Somewhere between fronting the band Switchfoot and releasing an ambitious solo project, Jon Foreman had time to write and record an album with Sean Watkins of Nickle Creek. The two call themselves Fiction Family and their self-titled album sounds like a striped down version of Switchfoot with little bits of country/bluegrass influence provided by Watkins. The two sounds meld together nicely, creating one of the more pleasant listens of the year.
9. Manners – Passion Pit
After the success of the 2008 Ep, Chunk of Change, Michael Angelakos decided to take his one off project, make it into a band and record a full length album. Like the Ep, Manners is synthesizor heavy, full of samples and features Angelakos’ piercing falsetto. The big difference is the addition of guitars and live drums which give it a fuller sound. Lyrically Manners is more melancholy, though the music is as poppy and fun as ever. If your a fan of Passion Pit you must check out Angelakos’ in studio performance at The Current. He performs three songs from Manners using only a piano. It’s pretty amazing.
8. Sainthood – Tegan & Sara
Sainthood picks up right where Tegan & Sara’s last album, The Con left off. It’s full of the catchy pop hooks, but has more of an edge, showing that these ladies know how to rock with the best of them. The guitars are fierce and the keyboards moody giving Sainthood both a modern sound and a sound hearkening back to the eighties.
7. Champagne Downtown – Halloween Alaska
Halloween Alaska are a local Twin Cities band and they seem to be content with just that. With Champagne Downtown they’ve perfected their brand of synth driven indie rock. The album as a whole is very chill, but on several songs the music turns on a dime, completely changing the dynamics, giving the album an unpredictability I find refreshing.
6. Monsters of Folk – Monster of Folk
When I first heard of this project I wasn’t expecting it to be very good. I figured a band with three frontmen simply couldn’t work. I couldn’t have been more wrong. M. Ward, Jim James, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis combine to create a powerhouse of sound. Their collaboration is nearly seamless and rarely sounds like a compilation featuring each of the artist’s individual songs. The influences are pretty much what you’d expect from the four guys involved. They each bring a little bit of what they’re know for. I was least familiar with Jim James’ work going in, but ended up really enjoying his vocal range and song writing.
5. Horehound – The Dead Weather
When The Dead Weather came on the scene everybody kept referring to them as “Jack White’s” new band. However, when listening to this album it becomes clear, this is very much Alison Mosshart’s band. She does most of the singing and is credited for writing 8 of the 10 original songs. Mosshart’s voice is rough and bold, but also distinctly feminine, which not many female vocalist pull off very well. Despite the fact that White doesn’t front this project his presence is still very much known. He sings on a few tracks, but the biggest surprise is that he serves as the band’s drummer. Who knew he could play the drums so well? Good pure rock albums are hard to find these days but Horehound hits the nail on the head.
4. Daisy – Brand New
Daisy was initially disappointing to me because it simple isn’t as good as their previous effort, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, which I happened to chose as the best album of the decade. But once I gave Daisy a chance I realized it holds up on it’s own and is one of 2009’s best. Daisy is very much in the vain of The Devil and God both in the weirdness and simplicity of the album art work and in the music. Brand New are as unpredictable as ever especially in the vocals which are laced with screaming and yelling. The opening track, “Vices” begins with an old recording of a woman singing a hymn. This plays for over a minute then is suddenly broken up by screeching guitars, followed by singer Jesse Lacey screaming “WE NEED VICES.” I’m not sure how long Brand New can keep this up, but I’ll keep taking it as long as their dishing it out.
3. Beggars – Thrice
As far as I’m concerned Thrice can do no wrong. They continue to release one solid album after another, while reinventing themselves each time. Beggars is the follow up to the band’s incredibly diverse double album, The Alchemy Index. This time around they decided to go with a more straight forward, upbeat rock album inspired by such genres as jazz, blues and roots music. One of the highlights of Beggars is the strong presence of the rhythm section. The bass grooves from start to finish while the drums are tight and loud. Lyrically singer Dustin Kensrue talks of the dark world we live in, while alluding to a better life beyond. Check out Thrice’s session they recently did for Daytrotter.
2. It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright – mewithoutYou
With their latest release mewithoutYou you have completely shred any evidence of their post-hardcore roots. The album is mostly acoustic guitar based, with accompaniment from horns, bells, organ, strings and many other instruments. The resulting sound is even more eclectic than the band’s past work. Singer Aaron Weiss’ spoken word style vocals are still present, but he also employs much more traditional singing, which suits him well. Lyrically many of the songs are based on children’s stories similar to Aesop’s fables telling of valuable life lessons, this in combination with Weiss’ faith inspired writing, provide some very thought provoking lyrics. It’s All Crazy is filled with charm and keeps you coming back for more.
1. Mean Everything To Nothing – Manchester Orchestra
In terms of straight up rock and roll it doesn’t get any better than Manchester Orchestra’s Mean Everything To Nothing. Musically this album is like a category 5 hurricane, full of cutting guitar riffs, pounding drums and shredding vocals. All these elements combined, perfectly capture Manchester Orchestra’s live sound, which is their biggest strength. Frontman Andy Hull has never been one to shy away from vulnerability and Mean Everything To Nothing finds him as open as ever. His lyrics are self-deprecating and honest as he strives to figure out his meaning in this life. Manchester Orchestra took a hug leap forward with this album and these guys are only in their early twenties. There is no doubt they’ll be on many a top 10 list in years to come.