To be honest, in 2009 I heard a lot of music I'd never heard before, but they were old albums I found in bargain bins. I noticed this when I looked back on the year and noticed that with a few shining exceptions, it was a rather tame year in terms of albums that came out that were really awesome. Yeah, there were quite a few standouts, but with the exception of Pearl Jam, nothing really blew my mind. So here's my 2009 rundown of music of note. If you think anything was left out, by all means, add to the list so we can share and share alike.
Pearl Jam - Backspacer
The single cd I've listened to the most from top to bottom in all of my life. When I say top to bottom, I mean starting on track one and finishing the entire album. If you want a guesstimate of just how many times I've listened to Backspacer in its entirety, if I said 90 times, I wouldn't be exagerating. This might have something to do with the 37 or so minute duration but it has a hell of a lot more to do with pacing and just sheer great music. I saw them live twice at the Spectrum in the last four shows ever in that venue and if you see footage from one of the nights, you're going to see me in front row jumping like some crazy madman. Putting my fandom to one side. Backspacer had the hype to get me riled up and for me it delivered on all fronts. A throwback cd with hints of 60's pop goodness and to be honest the first Pearl Jam album to be uptempo and happy. A full review will be offered on my other blog eventually, but suffice to say, expectations were high, and they delivered.
Key tracks - Got some, The Fixer, Breathe, Amongst The Waves, Speed of Sound and the End
Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue
How do you replace one of the best singers in modern rock after he's passed away? You don't. Unlike other bands that have tried to make up for their fallen comrades, Alice in Chains has revelled in accepting that there is no replacing Layne. As such, William Duvall has done his best to do Staley justice and the band are as tight as ever. True, this is no Dirt or Jar of Flies, but it's a hell of an album and there are more than a handful of tracks to keep you interested.
Key tracks - All Secrets Known, A Looking in View, Black Gives Way to Blue
Them Crooked Vultures - S/T
Some people insist on saying that TCV aren't as good as Queens of the Stoneage, Foo Fighters or Led Zeppelin. My reply to that? So what? This is a damn good album and it's so dirty and raunchy that you can't help but not mind them indulging. The music here is best served hard and loud so put the pedal to the medal and ignore the haters.
Key tracks - Elephant, New Fang, Caligulove
Franz Ferdinand - Tonight Franz Ferdinand
Tight, fun and a worthy follow-up to their ST hit album. If you liked what was on the first album, trust me, you won't be disappointed.
The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die
Some people are still not over Fat of the Land... and it's understandable, it's their most accesible album. But Invaders Must Die just begs you to shake that ass. This is the type of album you want to have in a night club when you want to warm that blood up and do some serious zipper shining.
Tori Amos - Midwinter Graces
One of two Tori releases for the year and one of two "more winter than christmas" albums of the year (the other one being Sting's). A very different and interesting musical experiment that has some really solid moments and offers a very different aspect of the artist that earlier in the year threw out some of her darker material in recent memory. To be honest, not all of the album is spectacular but it does hold enough tracks to be more than worthy to be mentioned on a best of list.
Key tracks - A Silent Night with you, Jeanette Isabella, Holly Ivy and Rose,
Tori Amos - Abnormally attracted to Sin
Sexy, dark and a lot more personal than some other more conceptual offerings from one of my favorite artists. Tori does it again in delivering a real earnest album with incredible lyrics and wonderful delivery. The only criticism is the same as some of her other recent releases, which would be the running time. It just seems as if the album runs a tad too long, but it's not like I can say there's any weak track. So by all means, keep bringing it long madame Amos.
Key tracks - Maybe California, Abnormally attracted to Sin, Welcome to England, and That Guy
Dave Matthews - Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King
Absent from many a best of list is this hell of an album by the Dave Matthews Band. After having lost one of their members, you'd think they'd put out an album full of sorrow, morose and whatnot... What you get in Groogrux is the most aggresive album the band has probably ever done just to show that you can celebrate someone's life while mourning their loss.
Mars Volta - Octahedron
The tamest Mars Volta offering yet. It's a different side to the band and probably something they needed to write after the mammoth Bedlam in Goliath. Regardless of its subdued nature, it still has enough bite to show why there's still hope for new rock bands.
Sting - If on a Winter's Night
The other of those funky winter but not christmas albums of the year. In comparison to Tori's outing, I think Sting delivered a similar result in the sense that some songs are simply wonderful and others are just interesting exercises. Regardless, Sting's voice and the different musical arrangements bring a flavor to this album that makes it a very interesting listen indeed.
Key Tracks - There Is No Rose Of Such Virtue, The Snow It Melts The Soonest, Christmas at Sea, Cold Song, The hounds of Winter
The Eels - Hombre Lobo
If you like Eels you will like this CD. If you don't, you won't find anything to convince you otherwise. For me as a fan, it's another solid outing by Mr. E and company with a delicious array of fun little tracks to nibble on.
Key tracks - In my dreams, Tremendous Dynamite, Fresh Blood
The Black Crowes - Before the Frost
To put a spin on the recording process, The Black Crowes recorded this album live. By live I don't mean that this is a concert they recorded, I mean that instead of a studio they went to a friggin gig to record. How's THAT for awesome. Dirty blues, some almost disco goodness, and slow churning folk songs intermingle to bring yet another solid effort from a band I would love to see live.
Key Tracks - Been a long time, I ain't hiding, kept my soul, and the band played on
U2 - No line on the horizon
Expectations from U2 are something of an unjustice because for all efforts, this is a good album, but the hype behind it was so big that I felt short changed mainly because the guitar work and lyrics weren't that good. However, for the first time ever in a U2 album, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. are the stars in the sense that their contribution to the album truly brought the effort qutie a few bars higher than it would have been otherwise. It's not to say that Bono and The Edge sucked throughout the album, but in many tracks either one was the reason why I wasn't that enthused with a song, and to be honest, mainly Bono's lyrics in like three tracks. Regardless though, still a great album from a must see band.
Key tracks - No line on the horizon, Get on your boots, FEZ-being born, White as Snow, Breathe, Cedars of Lebanon
Porcupine Tree - The Incident
Consider this band a midpoint between Tool, Dream Theater and King Crimson but with their own brand of rock. Sound weird? Well it isn't. It's super solid actually and if you want great musicians showing you how to play prog with passion (though not as much as Rush) you best check these guys out.
Key tracks - The Entire incident track.
One Eskimo - One Eskimo
Mellow, fun, trippy and definitely an album your girlfriend can enjoy. Something I found randomly and I'm very happy that I did.
Key tracks - Hometime, Astronauts, Kandi, Giving up, Amazing
The Lonely Island - Incredibad
Funny albums rarely last the test of time... this is not your typical funny album. With the cooperation of so many artists you'd be amazed, The Lonely island get you spitting your drink from laughing while getting your hips a moving. Bring on the Santana Champ and let's get it on peopleeeeeee.
St. Vincent - Actor
Good, mellow, different in the Regina Spektor meets Imogen Heap vein. St. Vincent has more than a handful of tracks to keep you interested.
Wilco - The Album
Wilco apparently insists on putting out better music with every outing and though I still think Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is still their best, this eponymous delight definitely merits your listening attention. Click play and run the damn thing through.
Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band - Self Titled
One of those indie bands that sounds like a different version of Modest Mouse with enough twists to keep you interested. I was actually super surprised I'd never even heard of these guys because it's the type of band that's perfect for a surf vid. Stupid ass name if you ask me but hey, if they rock, who cares?
Key tracks - Who's asking, Masquerade
The Swell Season - Strict Joy
Once upon a time Marketa Irglova and Glen Hanssard fell in love while making an album and a movie, everyone fell in love, they won an Oscar and then they broke up... but that doesn't mean they stopped making great music together. Enter their sophomore effort. To be honest, it doesn't have the memorable tracks from the first outing, but as an ensemble they are definitely meshing a lot better musically and I like what they're putting out there. Keep it coming guys.
Key tracks - Two tongues, Low Rising, In these arms, Paper Cup, High Horses, The Verb, I have loved you wrong.
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Another indie band that put out a cd I thought was definitely worth mentioning. Good variety, interesting arrangements, and fans of reverb.
The Dodos - Time to Die
Acoustic, folksy, indie rock that is high on energy and definitely one of the more interesting listens I found from last year. I can easily imagine those one man bands with cymbals tied to their knees playing this music.
Key Tracks - Fables, the strums, this is a business, longform,