The Maldives ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
These are the albums that defined my 2009. Some I consider to be the strongest local albums of the year while others held my attention and memory in a special way such that I kept coming back to them. While many of these albums are admittedly made by bands whom I’ve also developed a strong affinity for over the past year, this is an albums list, and not simply a “my favorite bands who over the last year put out a record list.” Seven of the top ten are acts I was not familiar with at prior to the start of 2009. This includes the Ironclads. Man, a lot has happened this year.
Though the concept of the “album” may not be as relevant as it once was, I still consider myself to be an album person, for me such a group of songs is an important body of work for helping me come to relate to and really like a band. A single song usually just doesn’t do it for me. Simply put, these are the releases from this year that I listened to all the way through, over and over and over again.
1. Listen to the Thunder by The Maldives on Mt. Fuji Records
Listen: Download an mp3 of “Tequila Sunday” courtesy of Mt. Fuji Records
If any band conquered Seattle in 2009 it was the Maldives. For so many reasons, this record was the most important record in my life this year.
2. Curse Your Branches by David Bazan on Barsuk Records
Listen: Stream the entire record at Barsuk.com
David Bazan isn’t simply a musician. He is a religious philosopher. You might say this is “The Book of Dave.” A deeply personal record with very real ramifications for those who might have questions like he did about the consequences and realities of his long held beliefs. Though I don’t count myself particularly religious, I identified. To my mind this is the best album about religion and family that Bazan has ever done.
3. Apple’s Acre by Nurses on Dead Oceans
Listen: Download an mp3 of “Caterpillar Playground” courtesy of Dead Oceans
Through the power of the Internet I came into the possession of a 30-minute single-file live recording of Nurses. I can say without hyperbole that this recording is the most played “song” of the last year on my iTunes. They are playful, unique sounding, and completely DIY. This is the quintessential example of what everyone hopes a Portland band can and will be.
4. The Space Between the Maps by The Ironclads (self-released)
Listen: Download an mp3 of “Alamagordo” courtesy of the Ironclads
Advanced garage pop that’s well traveled and downright bombastic. Inventive lead guitar work and imaginative storytelling are this foursome’s forte and the record is a successful recreation of their live aesthetic.
5. Lust for Life by Girls on True Panther Sounds
Listen: Watch “Laura” on Youtube
Sad Bastard pop that doesn’t make me sad. Sign me up!
6. Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers by Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers (self-released)
Listen: Get an MP3 version via KEXP Song of the Day
I’m waiting for one (or three) of these songs to be covered by Dolly Parton. Another record like this and Nashville is gonna scoop her up, post haste.
7. A Strange Arrangement by Mayer Hawthorne on Stones Throw Records
Listen: Watch “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” on Vimeo
A DJ becomes a soul crooner, FTW. An album that you never want to turn off.
8. Keep it Hid by Dan Auerbach on Bloodshot Records
Listen: Download an mp3 of
What’s old is new again. More please. Other bands should take notes. The Blues are your friend, and mine.
9. Fanfarlo by Fanfarlo on Canvasback Music
Listen: Stream the record at Fanfarlo.com
Fronted by a clarinet playing choir boy, Fanfarlo take the cake for making this year’s most accessible orchestral pop record, and the best thing I heard out of the U.K. all year long.
10. I and Love and You by the Avett Brothers on Columbia
Listen: Stream via theavettbrothers.com
The Avett Brothers made a massive followup effort to Emotionalism, that drops the emo that marked it’s predecessor while striking a more hopeful and romantic note. This is another album that I feel wrong turning off in the middle.
11. In Dearland by Elvis Perkins on XL
Listen: Watch “Chains, Chains, Chains” Directed by Seattle’s Sean Pecknold
Elvis and his cohorts delve deep into old Americana and early rock for a record that is uniquely sad in it’s disposition, but overflowing with happy in the energy and passion of the full band performance.
12. Vecktamist by Grizzly Bear on Warp
Listen: Stream the Video for Two Weeks
Maybe this album should be higher on the list, but when I first got a hold of it I felt like it was just too much. Now, I’ve come to feel like this is a bold statement, and these guys are the vanguard of modern pop.
13. Year in the Kingdom by J Tillman on Bella Union/Western Vinyl
Listen: Download an mp3 of “Earthly Bodies” courtesy of Western Vinyl
Just when I thought J Tillman’s voice was an ideal, he goes to work for the Fleet Foxes and comes out the other side an even stronger singer.
14. Logos by Atlas Sound on Kranky
Listen: Get an mp3 of “Walkabout” via FADER
This was my official go-to chill record this year.
15. The Life of the Of the World to Come by the Mountain Goats on 4AD
Listen: Download mp3 of “Genesis 3:23″ courtesy of 4AD
As many of John Darnielle’s albums can be, this one is a grower, that really hooks you after you listen to it by yourself for a while. Seeing the songs performed live with a bit of Darnielle’s humor added in between songs for context allowed me to listen anew, and understand better than how the songs initially came off on the record.
1. Widower by Widower (self-released)
Listen: Stream at Myspace
2. VS. by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, (self-released free digital EP)
Listen: Download EP via Myspace
3. The Moondoggies by The Moondoggies on Hardly Art Records (for Record Store Day), Ltd. Ed.
Listen: Stream at Myspace
4. Don’t Piss into the Fire/Magic Mtn Single by Arthur & Yu for a Sub Pop Singles Club release for Record Store Day
Listen: Stream via Myspace
5. Fun & Laughter Land of Talk on Saddle Creek Records
Listen: Watch “The Man Who Breaks Things (Dark Shuffle)” at Vimeo
The ones I missed in 2008 and I banged the most in 2009:
Hometowns by The Rural Alberta Advantage (originally released 2008, digitally released with eMusic November 2008, then re-released by Saddle Creek Records in mid-2009).
We’re Still Here Missing You by Kaylee Cole (self-released in November of 2008)
The one from last year’s list that’s stood the test of time and stayed strong into this year
Caught In Trees by Damien Jurado, SOTS’s #20 Northwest album of 2008.
In retrospect, I should’ve probably lobbied for a top 10 spot for this album on that list.