And only 3 weeks late. But I’m excusing it as that I needed a 3 week buffer digestion and reflection time. And you were so fatigued from the decade end listnoise that this new list is like you’ve never seen a list before. And because this list is so important to your life. Yar. To me, 2009 was considerably less impressive than 2008. Mainly because 2009 didn’t produce Fleet Foxes, and Robin Pecknold’s voice is still the male lead in the musical of my brain.
10. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career – one gets transplanted to the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance a little bit, if a lady was singing Earth Angel. Like if Zooey Deschanel was actually good. Vintagey, some beautiful big band grandeur, young voices, and some nice Beach Boys throwbacks. Too bad the album gets a bit tired 4 songs through. Little dynamics and changes in mood, but the mood it has is a nice thing.
Camera Obscura – James
9. Dark Was The Night (Various Artists) – Kind of cheating as it’s a comp, but there’s too many great songs on this record. Organized by members of The National, this charity compilation boasted some true b-side gems. Jose Gonzalez covers one of Nick Drake’s best, Bon Iver offers one of his best songs, and The National utter some words that automatically come out brilliant. B-sides are b-sides for a reason, but it’s nice to know that bands still hide one or two nicely kept nuggets. I feel like Grizzly Bear takes after Radiohead in releasing this b-side single to compilations like Dark Was The Night – keep it simpler and poppier than your normal songs, and softly kill in 3 short minutes. Listen for the insane vocal syncopation and steel drum accompaniment on such a seemingly simple folk song.
Grizzly Bear – Deep Blue Sea
8. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest – haha. They’re pretty good. Not hipsterbloggerspeak – just a solid grower record, earth shattering arrangements, and about 3 groundbreaking songs. I love when bands know their best song, and that song is the first song. They love Brian Wilson, they love Radiohead, they want to pay tribute to American rock in their own architecture schooled, cowlicked way. Once you hear this song, you’ll wonder if Jason Reitman thought this was the perfect opening song to his new movie, or if it would just be too literal.
Grizzly Bear – Southern Point
7. Passion Pit - Manners -Detractors may say it’s just ecstasied MGMT of 2009. I see it as a slightly refreshing twist on electro rock. Perhaps more importantly, Passion Pit marks the end of irony and its stronghold on people like us. Their name, their aesthetic, what they want to do to you – it’s literal, it’s straight up, it’s honest, and there’s no dry punchline. To me it’s a breath of fresh air. I don’t have to try and act cool anymore, I can sound like a girl, have my chuckles, and try and tug back that lost infantile ignorance. If you haven’t heard their lead single “Sleepyhead”, focus for the first 60 seconds because it’s perfect. After that, meh. Here’s what Passion Pit would consider a ballad, Moth’s Wings.
Passion Pit – Moth’s Wings
6. Bruce Peninsula – A Mountain is a Mouth – Thank you Toronto. More literal lovely. OK so this album wasn’t the most earth shatteringly great record. However, they do have an eternally fun live show, undeniable smokered vocals with mandatory Tom Waits references, and the gift of bringing back good memories of your elementary school choir. I miss choir, and that’s why I love cliche Toronto singer collectives like Bruce Peninsula.
Bruce Peninsula – Steamroller
5. Malajube – Labyrinthes – If you know me, you know I have a soft skull spot for French rock music. It’s femmy, it’s piano minor chords, it’s often good mood music. Malajube beef up on their second major release. They don’t get enough love in the Anglopress. Lead single Porté Disparu is classic smooth French pop, and Christobald`s Wintersleepy meets Bloc Party instrumental always catches me off guard with that one extra chord, so I always refill my cup.
Malajube – Christobald
4. In-Flight Safety – We Are An Empire My Dear – So much Canadiana, I know. Don’t worry there will always be more. Since this band’s inception circa 2004, these four gentleman from Halifax have always made me jealous. They’ve always written the music I wish I had written, melted the bands I wish I had melted together. Their initial love of Sigur Ros, and now with their new record, a clear nod to Brooklyn’s The National. Not fair. Lyrically the band remains cheesy and weak, but so am I Lois. So am I.
In-Flight Safety – I Could Love You More
3. Metric – Fantasies – You hate me right now don’t you. Metric is good ok? This year I fully came to terms with my addiction to rock hooks. Thank you Metric. I feel like once Emily et al rid themselves of their record contract, they said to themselves, “Let’s make the hookiest stadium rock record we’ve ever made, on our own, and make some insane money doing it”. The new modus operandi for ex-major label starlings. Some of this record is full blown fluff. Some of it makes Brandon Flowers overdose on Xanax wishing he wrote 4 bars of Help I’m Alive. The record was destined for fist pumping from the first line (snort not song).
Metric – Satellite Mind
2. Ohbijou – Beacons – oh was 2009 the year of the female voice. It also marked the full return of earnest. Ohbijou is earnest. I almost felt sexist for how many male-centred bands and artists I listened to, but 2009 filled my quota and then some. Casey Mecjia’s voice is lullaby pablum. Often delicate, but upon request she can really wail in her own urgent, special way. Ohbijou makes beautiful folk pop music from Toronto. You should really listen to this record.
Ohbijou – Black Ice
1. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – Boy this was Phoenix’s year. On every late night show (twice), a Cadillac commercial, continuously overheard from teenage girls sharing both white headphones and frappuccinos right after school. And that’s what it is. This album is summer, it is freedom, it is open arms, it is looking at the sky, it is wind blown hair, it is greasy hair from three skinny dudes from Paris and a brown basher of a drummer. Like if Aziz Ansari and Animal from the muppets had a bebe. Phoenix was my favourite live show of 2009 where I saw the tirelessly hip proletariat of Toronto explode with vulnerable joy. This album is the definition of pop with brains, the goal of every musician of every stripe.
Phoenix – 1901
And anotha one.
Phoenix – Fences