Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Top 10 Albums of 2009!

I may do an honorable mentions post later sometime just to give some input on some other big albums. These right here, however, are the cream of the crop!
Just for clarification, I won't be putting grades by these albums. Honestly, their my top
10 of the year. I'm pretty sure they all A's in my book, I'm just ranking them in terms of
which ones are my favorites!

Top 10 Albums of 2009:


Circulatory System - Signal Morning
Genre: Psychedelic, Lo-Fi
Favorite Songs: "Rocks And Stones", "Solid Form Dissolving", "Gold Will Stay", "The Spinning Continuous"

If there's one thing you'll notice a lot of on this list, it's going to be very experimental, out-of-this-world kind of music. Apparently that's the next big thing on the horizon, as the psychedelic rock ensemble Circulatory System clearly demonstrates on their second full-length album, most of which is a unique meshing of acoustic, horn instruments, electronic, and up-tempo percussion tracks composed by the band's Will Cullen Hart. The most standout attribute of this album is just how well the flow of the whole CD is. The transitions are both well timed, and almost give you the sense and feel of a long elaborate psychedelic jam session. From the enchanting monotone motif established in the singles "Rocks and Stones"
and "Overjoyed", all the way to "The Spinning Continuous" which is essentially a song about how cyclical the world is. Signal Morning was a big step for Circulatory System to give themselves a very standout sound, and they just how powerful and effective a minimalistic style of music really can be.


Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
Genre: Shoegaze, Noise Rock
Favorite Songs: "And the Hazy Sea", "Cold Spring", "Share", "What Dogs See"

Next up is a group from Staten Island's first major album Why There Are Mountains. This self released project starts off with a bang, with a song entitled "And the Hazy Sea" which is one of the strongest opening songs of the year.
It starts off with a very calm atmosphere about it complemented with soothing bass, before eventually crescendo into an explosion of percussion and emotional vocals.
We then transition into "Some Trees" which is probably the catchiest of the record, really hooking you into the ride. For their first real project these four guys seem to know all the right moves and really understand how to keep you engaged in the music. "On the way home / The empty parkway wound its way back through charred black pine / Just like a wormhole / Hickory death rattles into stagnant tracts of sky." Just some of the imagery provided on Why There Are Mountains. The peaceful, resonating familiar wall of sound is brought into a new light with the seven minute long "Share". You can really feel as if this band is pouring out their soul to make this kind of music come to life. Expect these guys to be on the radar for years to come.


Between The Buried And Me - The Great Misdirect
Genre: Progressive Metal
Favorite Songs: "Obfuscation", "Fossil Genera - A Feed From Cloud Mountain", "Swim To The Moon"

Completely switching gears, Between The Buried And Me took everything they established from their 2007 release Colors, amped it up several volumes,
refined it to a tee, and came out with six intense and diverse tracks to make up The Great Misdirect. If you want heavy percussion, guitar riffs, and the sinister death metal-esque vocals, you are entitled plenty of that by Rogers and Richardson. If your looking for strange transitions in the form of keyboard intros that sound like something out of a early 20th century movie, Fossil Genera even delivers that. If you want acoustic breakdowns seething with just as much emotion as you'd expect out of a BTBAM record, look no further. Even xylophones come into play at one point!
Some portions of the long-time fan base of BTBAM may disagree, but Rogers was once quoted saying "this is some of the best material we've ever created."
This is the definition of progressive metal. They've already proven themselves to be one of the heaviest bands in their particular field. The potential
for the direction that was teased in Alaska, established in Colors, and perfected in The Great Misdirect is limitless.


This was posted up my last blog entry where you can read the review in full! It was "Exploding Head" by A Place To Bury Strangers!


Metric - Fantasies
Genre: Alternative Rock, Indie Rock
Favorite Songs: "Twilight Galaxy", "Stadium Love", "Gold Guns Girls", "Gimme Sympathy"

Emily Haines and the rest of the gang managed to come out with one of the catchiest albums I've heard in awhile with Fantasies.
Everything from start to finish has your attention, and you just can't help but feel the urge to dance or jam out to the majority of it! The soulful,
up-tempo, and unique vocals from Haines deliver such lyrics in one of their ballads "Did I ask you for attention when affection is what I need / Thinking sorrow is perfection, I'd wallow 'til you told me / There's no glitter in the gutter, there's no twilight galaxy". The synthesizers provided by Shaw lay down a very smooth foundation for Haines voice to really connect with. This record is simply infectious from beginning to end. Several songs could be successful singles, and "Gimme Sympathy" and "Help I'm Alive" have already proven that. Metric is quite energetic when performing the songs live, as well!


Black Moth Super Rainbow - Eating Us
Genre: Psychedelic, Experimental, Electronica
Favorite Songs: "Gold Splatter", "The Sticky", "Tooth Decay", and "Born on a Day the Sun Didn't Rise"

Of all of the literally thousands of bands and artists I discovered over the past year, the enigmatic Black Moth Super Rainbow is easily
the most bizarre and fascinating of all of them. It's as if you took the most psychedelic acid trip of the late 60's or late 70's, put
it through a few mystical and abstract filters, spiced it up with some vocoders and oldschool synthesizers, and produced is some of
the wildest music you could ever imagine. Eating Us continues the group's trend, proving itself to be both groundbreaking for the band's popularity and
success, but also a better produced sound compared to some of the older releases in their discography. For instance, Eating Us begins with the most accessible
song of BMSR's to date, "Born on a Day the Sun Didn't Rise" which relies on a consistent pop-esque melody, whereas tracks of the past tend to go out in several different directions. Some may call BMSR minimalistic and amateur lyrically, as they choose to usually only have a few repeating choruses throughout most of their songs. However, on the contrary, it is very effective. As demonstrated in both "Gold Splatter" and "Dark Bubbles", you are immediately transported to another world altogether. The wicked acoustics combined with the most wicked synthesized beats provide for quite the surrealistic experiance. You can't help but be enchanted by the baselines in songs like "Tooth Decay" and "The Sticky", or the opening keyboards in "Twin of Myself". Eating Us is one of those albums that I can put on and immediately immerse myself in.


Regina Spektor - Far
Genre: Anti-Folk, Singer-Songwriter
Favorite Songs: "Folding Chair", "Blue Lips", "Genius Next Store", "Wallet"

Probably the most successful mainstream album in my top 10 list, comes the newest release from
Regina Spektor, Far! Not only does Spektor show off some extraordinary talents over a variety of topics, often themes centered towards religion and monotony in society, but she also has quite a few notable producers along her side as well! Such as Jeff Lynne of ELO and Traveling Wilburys fame! This album received quite a bit of skepticism and mixed reviews, several critics acting as if some of the lyrics and antics are "childish" and "unbecoming". However, this is not the case. This is easily one of the most moving and inspirational albums I've heard in years. You can really feel the emotion out of her when she sings the final verse in "Blue Lips". She, the band, and the producers paint a picture of a dystopic and nihilistic future in "The Machine". You feel as if your having a relaxing time at the beach when you hear "Folding Chair". "Human of the Year" is a powerful story about spirituality misconceptions.
"Wallet" and "Genius Next Doors" are sung and performed as if they were folksy modern tales yet written ages ago. There's a down-to-earth and heartbreaking
feeling you often get from Regina Spektor that a lot of musicians simply do not know how to provide. Far is a perfect example of this!


Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Genre: Experimental, Psychedelic Pop
Favorite Songs: "My Girls", "Summertime Clothes", "No More Runnin'", "Brother Sport"

This is easily the most talked about album on several music sites, easily the most popular "indie" record of the year. The album leaked in December of 2008. The reception was shockingly huge. It is also one of the most hated records of the year from other sources. There seems to be quite the divide with Merriweather, and Animal Collective's music in general. You either hate it or you love it. I'm in the latter category! Furthermore, MPP is the record that opened the most doors for people to get into this group. It's widely agreed upon that it is the most accessible of all their work. As soon as singles like "My Girls" and "Brother Sport" picked up some momentum on college radio and indie sites country wide, it steam-rolled a wave of success. And as far as I'm concerned, it deserves every bit of the hype it gets. From the start of the album, "In The Flowers", you are immediately entranced by something that sounds like it came from some sort of underwater amusement park ride of instruments. From the build and mind-blowing crescendo, to one of the catchiest chorus of the year in "My Girls", the album is already off to a phenomenal start. The flow and transitioning is incredibly well executed.
By the time "Also Frightened"'s bass the vocals of Panda Bear and Avey Tare hit your eardrums, you imagine your on a ferris wheel of noise. Then comes the adventurous "Summertime Clothes" which features some of the best samples and
production values around. You are captured by the layers of beats, the whimsical lyrics such as "The restlessness calls us, that I cannot hide /
So much on my mind that it spills outside / Do you want to go stroll down the financial street? / Our clothes might get soaked, but the buildings sleep".
Just when you think you know where this journey is headed, they slow things down with a synthesized build-up and release of percussion ala "Daily Routine". The ambiance and vocals towards the end is one of the most awe-inspiring moments in music. These five tracks alone are some of the most well segwayed in recent years. The album continues through an amazing collection of songs, including the slow-tempo trippy "No More Runnin'", a playful almost love song in "Bluish", and finally comes to a close with one of the most chaotic tracks around, "Brother Sport". It makes the best use of repetition, and shows that timing is very key. Only one closing song of an album this year surpassed it. Regardless of your opinion on it, Merriweather Post Pavillion is going to be one of those albums that is associated with 2009.


HEALTH - Get Color
Genre: Noise Rock, Electronic
Favorite Songs: "Die Slow", "Before Tigers", "Nice Girls", "In Violet"

You'd think that'd be #1 after that write-up, right? Not quite! There are two albums that eventually surpassed MPP in my ears, for several reasons.
For starters, Get Color probably has my favorite opening and closings of any release this year. "In Heat" is a great prelude of percussion, feedback, and distorted guitars that leads into one of the most adrenaline pumping, mandatory jam out songs I've heard in years "Die Slow". HEALTH has been one of those bands that I've always considered to be pretty creative and cool at what they do, but I think they finally found their niche, and you can really tell when the opening of "Die Slow" begins. It immediately hooks you and doesn't let go till your begging for more.
They follow it up with "Nice Girls" which is a more typical HEALTH song, with Jupiter Keyes' intense drum skills shining through. Next up is the unusual glitchy intro to "Death", which sounds like a distorted alarm sound you'd hear in some fantasy setting like a video game or movie. This odd noise leads to a complete jam session of drums, very raw synthesizers, and eerie vocals.
As if this wasn't already an astounding record, we then are taken to "Before Triggers", which has some very innovative melodies and triggers, one in particular being the up-and-down beat of percussion and monotone synthesizers playing so well off one another. It's hard to describe the atmosphere that HEALTH creates in Get Color. It's like the ethereal style of a shoegaze project meets the most savage of
punk bands. The breakdowns of pedals, cymbals, and permeating vocals in "Eat Flesh" illustrates this even further. To top it all off, we have the almost hardcore disco-esque "We Are Water" which leads into one of the best endings to
an album, "In Violet". There's something about that one pulsating guitar riff that just leaves you with a feeling of wanting more of this raw, relentless, edgy style of music. If MPP was a breakthrough album for AC, than Get Color is this Los Angeles noise band's sleeper hit of the year.


Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
Genre: Experimental, Freak Folk
Favorite Songs: "Temecula Sunrise", "Two Doves", "Useful Chamber", "No Intention"

What a surprise this was to me! The David Longstreth fronted experimental pop group has made some incredible strides this year.
This album is the definition of the cliche line "Hard work does pay off." Bitte Orca is the best record of the year because every track seamlessly
flows into one another. It is a finely crafted, well-tuned piece that ventures off in several different directions musically. The passion of each and every band member shines through from "Cannibal Resource" all the way to "Fluorescent Half Dome." From the raspy Costello-esque vocals and rhythmic guitar riffs of Longstreth, McOmber's astonishing drum mechanics, to the angelic backing vocals of Coffman, Deradoorian, and other guest vocalists. Each role is vital to the album! This is very well represented in "Temecula Sunrise" which shows off the incredible harmonies this group can bring to the table. Not to mention some of the most peculiar lyrics, such as "I welcome the new construction roads
I see that my silhouette is golden, yeah / I know the horizon is bright and motionless / Like an EKG of a dying woman / Far away from the light of the high Temecula sunrise". The guitarmanship that Longstreth brings to the table all along the ride are unfathomably well executed. Every band member interacts and
plays off one another's strengths, as seen in the off-beat acoustic beginning of "The Bride" which eventually leads to an explosion of drums and a chorus of enchanting vocals from the likes of Haley Dekle.
Bitte Orca also features one of the strongest singles of the years, "Stillness is the Move", which features some of the incredible appearances by violinists, cellos. It is opened by one of the strongest, catchiest melodies of the record from Longstrength. Amber Coffman's passionate vocals are the focal point of this dancey hit track. It is followed by a slower tempo, melancholic, beautiful ballad sung by Angel Deradoorian entitled "Two Doves". It's the kind of song that leaves you with goosebumps. "Your hair is like an eagle / Your two eyes are like two doves / But our bed is like a failure / All day up in the family / At the waning of the light", Angel sings elegantly. As if this album wasn't already incredible, the Dirty Projectors follow this with a harmony of motifs and instruments lead by the distorted funkadelic guitar of Longstrength. The first half of this song is calm, tranquil, painting a gentle picture for your ears. At about the 2:43 minute mark, the whole pace is flipped upside down, an implosion of psychotic riffs and drum sticks flailing occurs. Then, the choir of fantastic female vocalists hits you unexpectedly, the pitches of their voice dictating the story for a little while, before Longstrength closes it with one HELL of a solo. This is followed by the remarkable "No Intention", which instantly is a song you'll almost immediately find yourself clapping along to. This is capitalized with a fantastic progressive guitar solo from the front man showing off his prowess, once more putting the proverbial cherry on top. "Remade Horizon" follows with even more whimsical harmonies, baselines, everything you'd want.
This record is off the charts from top to bottom. Words cannot describe what an outing this group has to offer here! Definitely do yourself a favor and check this out sometime!

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