I’ve done a bunch of “best of” music lists over the years, but this was one of the hardest. I gave up on limiting it to ten almost right away and went right to 18. There was a ton of great music this year across a bunch of genres (as you can see by the list). I don’t have time to describe them all now, but you owe it to yourself to check them all out.
Again this year, there’s an appearance by some spectacular mashup work. Girl Talk gets all the press, but The Kleptones released the best album of the year with their double album. Uptime/Downtime is amazing, and while Uptime will keep you dancing, Downtime is the more impressive to me. It sounds like a complete album and you don’t feel like you’re listening to mashups. They’re just great songs. With most mashups, you’re totally aware that you’re listening to a bunch of stuff that wasn’t meant to go together. In the best ones, they’re all made to work and sometimes build an even better song out of the component parts. In the Kleptones’ case, even way back to A Night at the Hip-Hopera, they build great songs out of the pieces they find lying around to the point where you forget that these songs even existed in another form.
And I can’t leave without an honorable mention for new discovery: Lungs by Florence + The Machine – I think I’ve listened to this album more in the past few months than almost anything else in the top 20.
This is one of the sexiest things I have ever seen. You should see it too, and it’s safe for work!!! (The good stuff starts at 1:40):
For several weeks, I’ve had the phrase, “What do you want from me?” running around in my head and spontaneously coming out of my mouth, in song form. One day I actually paid attention while watching Nickelodeon with the kids and saw that it was from a song on Kidzbop 18.\
I decided if I heard the real version, maybe it would finally get out of my head. Google led me to this performance on The View by Adam Lambert, which I immediately LOVED. I had heard of Adam Lambert before, but since I don’t watch American Idol, he was basically unknown to me. Apparently he was also one of Barbara Walter’s Top 10 Fascinating People of last year, who knew? Oh, I also had a vague recollection of some controversy about it being ok for girls to kiss on stage but not guys. But for the most part, I didn’t know anything about him or his music.
One Youtube clip always yields another, yes? I ended up listening to a bunch of his stuff. Check out: Fever, If I Had You, Soaked, and Mad World. Soaked and Mad World completely blew me away. And if you don’t like them, keep that to yourself. Don’tcha like how helpful I am 🙂 but you should just go youtube the hell out of him yourself, especially the American Idol performances. And his new stuff. And some of his older stuff.
Though I am late to the party, I’m glad I am finally here! These songs are going on my “Music to dance to while doing chores so I don’t stab myself in the eye with a spork” playlist, which can never be large enough if you ask me. As famous as this guy is, he doesn’t need me pimping for him. But for those of you living in cave like me, you should definitely check him out.
This is a continuation of my list for the first half of the 00’s. This list is by release year according to my iTunes library, not by the year I “discovered” the album, and are in no particular order. Let’s get right into it:\
The Rosebuds – Birds Make Good Neighbors: Folk pop at its best. The songs are bouncy, fun and great for car trips. They’re a blast to sing along with.
Rogue Wave – Descended Like Vultures: Great alt-pop with killer melodies and infectious guitar riffs
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois: Sometimes he’s a little “precious”, but this album is full of immense songs, some of which bring me to tears. It’s gorgeous, rich and a great headphone album.
Holy F\^ck – LP: Analog techno. Lovely Allen alone makes this album, but there are three or four other songs on here almost as good. According to iTunes, I’ve listened to Lovely Allen 128 times… that should tell you what I think of it.
OK Go – Oh No: Known mostly for their awesome videos, this album is full of really fun pop songs. You can’t really go wrong with any of them.
Eels – Blinking Lights and Other Revelations: You can’t miss with an Eels album and this one’s no exception. Lovely songs, puncuated with some real butt kickers.
Fruit Bats – Spelled in Bones: Wow, 2005 was a great year for music. This is one of my all-time favorite albums. The songs are insanely catchy and I sing along pretty much whenever it comes on.
Sigur Ros – Takk…: This is their most “accessible” album, and you’ve probably heard a lot of these songs in various TV shows and movies in the past couple of years. Great atmospheric headphone rock.
The Constantines – Tournament of Hearts: Other than Kensington Heights, this is my favorite album by the band. Working Full-Time is one of my favorite songs ever, and Soon Enough is a classic. There are very few albums where all the songs on it are great, and this is one of them.
New Pornographers – Twin Cinemas: One of Canada’s many indie “supergroups”, these guys are the best. Great songs, awesome harmonies and catchy hooks… I love ’em. And at this rate, I might never get to 2006. Oh, no, look… there it is!\
Caribou – Up In Flames: I know the genre’s pretty much dead, but this reminds me of the too-short trip hop bloom in the late 90’s, especially Sneaker Pimps. You won’t be singing along with any of these, but you’ll be bouncing your head uncontrollably.
Gotan Project – Lunatico: Tango music for the 2000’s… this album oozes sensuality and lust. You might sweat a little listening to it, and that’s OK. Embrace it.
Malajube – Trompe L’oeil: Quebecois rockers really know how to put together a rocking pop song. I like this album better than their most recent one – it’s tighter and more “fun”.
Phoenix – It’s Never Been Like This: If you like their 2009 album, you’ll love this one. More of the same… which is awesome.
Regina Spektor – Being to Hope: Yes, I know it’s cutesy, but these songs are really well written and a lot of fun. There’s nothing wrong with fun, you mopey hipsters.
Zero 7 – The Garden: If anyone’s taken up the mantle of trip hop, it’s these guys. Lovely downtempo hang out and chill music. Lovely melodies and artful production make for a great headphone or dinner (or headphones during dinner) album.\
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible: They’re little indie darlings, I know, but this album is really good. Listen to it again and forget all the stupid beefs and coverage. It’s so so well done.
Band of Horses – Cease to Begin: The first five songs on this album are spectacular, maybe the five best songs of the whole year. The other songs on the album are just great… you’ll have to forgive them.
The Decemberists – The Crane Wife: I think I may like this album more than Hazards of Love. Sons and Daughters will make you stand on your chair and sing along at the top of your lungs.
Great Lake Swimmers – Ongiara: This is on my short list for the best album of the decade. Masterful songwriting and just heart-breaking lyrics make this album unforgettable. It’s folksy and beautiful… it will haunt you for months.
Kaiser Chiefs – Yours Truly, The Angry Mob: The best sing-along album of the year, easy. We listened to this album about a dozen times on a road trip. You’ve never laughed until you’ve heard a three year old belting out “WOOBY, WOOBY, WOOBY, WOOBY!!” at the top of his lungs.
New Pornographers – Challengers: This album is even better than Twin Cinema, if that’s possible.
Polyphonic Spree – The Fragile Army: I like their first album better, but this one’s still really really good. It’s sort of alt-“Up With People” for grownups… but great.
The Shins – Wincing the Night Away: This is my favorite album by the band. It’s light and catchy alt-pop with a little melancholy thrown in.
Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga: Oh so poppy and delicious. The kids will sing along with this album any time it’s on too.
Wintersleep – Welcome to the Night Sky: For Weighty Ghost alone, but the rest of the songs on this album are solid rockers.\
Beach House – Devotion: Blissful atmospheric pop songs with some weird instrumentation. You really just have to go listen to it.
Doctor Horrible’s Sing-along Blog Soundtrack: Mock if you must, but the soundtrack is really good!
David Byrne and Brian Eno – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today: So gorgeous. Every track is lovely and this album contains some all-time great songs.
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes: Gorgeous folk harmonies and masterful songcraft… you need this album. You really really do.
Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords: Funny, yes, but these guys actually put together some great songs.
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago: A lot like Fleet Foxes… so what I said about them, is true for Bon Iver and this album.
Woodhands – Heart Attack: High enery analog techno, a lot like Holy F\^ck, but I think this album is better as a whole than HF’s LP.
Arkells – Jackson Square: These guys sit somewhere between Spoon and The Constantines, and that’s a mighty fine place to be.
The Constantines – Kensington Heights: They’re one of my all-time favorite bands, and this is easily their best album.
Sigur Ros – Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust: Another great album. It’s amazing to me that I haven’t gotten tired of their sound. Each album shows just enough progression to keep me wanting more.
Sloan – Parallel Play: Great alt pop. They sound a lot like Spoon, which isn’t bad at all.
Presidents of the United States of America – These Are The Good Times People: I thought these guys broke up, but nope… this album is amazing. Their sound has matured just enough so the songs don’t feel like toys anymore. They’re really well constructed power pop with some real emotion in them.\
Various – Dark Was the Night: A great compilation from charity, this album is full of great bands spreading out and experimenting a little. Usually, those kinds of albums would be tedious, but this is all good.
The Antlers – Hospice: Haunting and heartbreaking – they sound a little bit like if Sigur Ros and Radiohead had a really depressed teenager… but in a good way.
The Decemberists – Hazards of Love: This is a great album – and I don’t even care about the story. I think this is my favorite headphone album of the year – full of layers of masterful playing.
Eels – Hombre Lobo: The whole album tells a great story (what is it with rock operas this year?) and is filled with a great mix of ballads and butt kicking rockers.
The Dodos – Time to Die: Their first two albums almost made it to the lists for the years they came out. This is their third (I think) album and I think they’ve finally cracked it. Great pop songs all around.
Movits! – Äppelknyckarjazz: It’s mostly awesome for the sheer novelty of Swedish swing hip hop (yeah, I know!)… but the songs are actually really good.
Fruit Bats – The Ruminant Band: This is the band’s best album so far, and each of those has made one of these lists. The songs are so well put together and lovely, I can’t help but listen to it over and over and over again.
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix: I know, everyone’s talked this album to death, but it is amazing how these guys put together pretty much perfect pop songs.
Pomplamoose – Pomplamoose VideoSongs: You may have seen them on YouTube or any of the other places they’ve shown up recently, but Nataly and Jack are just awesome.
Morphine – At Your Service: This collection of mixes, rare and live cuts is the perfect thing for a devotee like me. Some of them are better than the album versions and it’s just good to hear new stuff from a band that ended too soon.
Zero 7 – Yeah Ghost: Their latest is just as good as their first, with a couple minor exceptions. There are two songs on this album just just don’t belong at all and kind of mess up the mood the rest of the album conveys.
Rodrigo y Gabriela – 11:11: You must listen to this album just to be completely blown away that such a rich sound can be created by two people playing just two instruments. It’s acoustic heavy metal flamenco music, and it’s brilliant.\
Whew, there you go! I’m done! I don’t think anything else is coming out in 2009 that’s going to make the list so I feel pretty secure putting this list to bed and looking forward to 2010!
Everyone and their mother-in-law seems to be covering Beyonce’s Single Ladies these days, but you can all stop now. Really. No more. It’s over. I’ve found the best cover of the song, and I really don’t think anyone’s going to top it. See?
Some folks on twitter (I saw Mark Trammell and Corey Denis do it) have started posting their top albums from the 2000’s. Now that’s an idea I can get behind! So, here are my top albums from the 2000-2004. I’m going to try to do just three albums per year, but I love my music, so we’ll see how it goes. I’ll post my favorites from the second half of the decade soon.
Eels – Daisies of the Galaxy: This is still my favorite Eels albums. It’s heartbreaking and gorgeous throughout, except for the awesome and funny I Like Birds.
The Crystal Method – Tweekend: Just for Name of the Game… that song is so awe-inspiringly awesome, there’s no reason for any other song to be on the album. The clean version, the explicit one, doesn’t matter. It’s ten tons of kickass in a two pound sack.
Amon Tobin – Supermodified: Unlike anything I’d heard before, or probably since. This album, a lot like Massive Attack‘s Mezzanine is still used in commercials, tv shows and movies to make you think something is futuristic or scary. I’ll bet you’ve heard Get Your Snack On and Four Ton Mantis dozens of times.
Zero 7 – Simple Things: When I need to calm down and take a break, this is the band, and the album I turn to. The vocals are gorgeous and the music is lovely. In the Waiting Line and Simple Things are my favorite tracks, but I can listen to the whole thing on repeat for hours.
Cake – Comfort Eagle: Yes, it’s commercial rock, but it’s infectious… oh so sweetly infectious. Short Skirt/Long Jacket is a fantastic song, and Comfort Eagle is great and not commercial at all. Give it up, this is just a great album.
The Constantines – umm, The Constantines: If you want rock, you can’t go wrong with this band. I’ve written about them several times before, and they just keep getting better. But, this album has some of their best all-out rockers, and one of my favorite ballads of all time: the haunting St. You.
Gotan Project – La Revancha Del Tango: Oops, we’ve already broken the rules. Here’s album number four from 2001, but I just couldn’t leave it out. It’s gorgeous latin tango with a trip hop twist and I still listen to this album all the time.
Lemon Jelly – Lost Horizons: Another album I can listen to on repeat for hours. This is the perfect coding music. It’s got great hooks but just flows from track to track. It’s not like anything else you’ll hear, but it lovely nonetheless.
Sigur Ros – ****: This is the first album I got by the band and I was hooked. If you don’t know who Sigur Ros is, shame on you. Second, go get this album. If you like it, then get Takk and everything else they’ve done.
Luna – Close Cover Before Striking and Romantica: Cheating again! But, since they released two albums in the same year, and I love them both, you get a two for one. This band writes great songs that kind of fall outside of genres. I think that puts them firmly in “Alternative Rock”, but that sells them short. They’re just great songs, masterfully played and produced.
2003 – I am totally going to cheat on this one. 2003 was an amazing year of music.
Fruit Bats – Mouthfuls: Kind of like Luna, these guys defy genre for me. They sound like a band out of another decade, but the songs are so… perfect… that I can’t help but love them. I sing along with every one.
The Wrens – Meadowlands: Enough feedback to fill a dozen albums, but these guys make it work somehow. Alternating between kicking ass and crying in their coffee, this is a great album to try to sing along with… if you can understand any of the words through the feedback.
Eels – Shootenanny!: This album has my all-time favorite Eels song on it, and one of my favorite get-up-and-go tunes. Saturday Morningrocks. It’s dumptrucking sugar in your morning cereal, playing outside from sun up to sun down and moving as fast as you can because there’s daylight a-wastin’. It also has one of the greatest ballads of ever on it: Somebody Loves You.
Sufjan Stevens – Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State: In one word, Sufjan Stevens’ work is heartbreaking. Always artful, gorgeous and layered, you just can’t get away from one of his albums without a tear in your eye.
Mew – Frengers: Rockingly awesome and that’s all. I can’t really describe what’s so great about this album, but it grabbed me from the first chord on the first song and doesn’t let go through the whole thing.
Massive Attack – 100th Window: It’s not as good as Mezzanine, but it’s still ten times better than almost everyone else. When Your Soul Sings is particularly good, though, and would have fit in nicely between Risingson and Teardrop on that album.
The Polyphonic Spree – The Beginning Stages of the Polyphonic Spree: Jen calls them “Up With People for grownups”… and she’s not really wrong. They’re kind of goofy and happy, but the music’s so damned good. It makes me smile every time. This is my favorite album of The Spree’s three so far.
2004 – The year of the mashup!!
The Kleptones – A Night at the Hip-Hopera: How can you go wrong mashing up classic Queen and hip-hop? You can’t. Well, at least, they can’t. I listened to just this album for over a month.
Zero 7 – When It Falls: They successfully followed up Simple Things with another gorgeous album. The songs are a little more complex than on their first album, but still beautiful and mesmerizing.
DJ BC and the Beastles – The Beastles: The Beatles + The Beastie Boys = AWESOME. It’s so freaking good, especially Tripper Trouble and Mother Nature’s Rump.
Arcade Fire – Funeral: Granted, I didn’t actually buy this album in 2004, but it’s still really really good.
David Byrne – Grown Backwards: I’m a huge David Byrne fan, and this is my favorite of his recent albums. I love his music because even though you really never know what you’re going to get, it always sounds like a David Byrne song – which is a lot of fun.\
There you go… I only cheated, well, a lot.
Sound Opinions’ most recent podcast listed their favorite albums of the year so far. I did this last year, and there’s been so much good stuff so far this year, it’s time to do another one. So, here’s my list of the best albums of 2009 so far:
Hazards of Love by The Decemberists: I love everything on this album. The fact that it’s basically a Rock Opera only helps. It’s great on a lot of different levels, but my favorite thing about it is that it’s great at many volumes. Turned up loud in the car or through headphones, the fantastic guitar work comes through. When quieter, the lovely vocals and lyrics are the stars. Really, you should get this before you do anything else.
Hombre Lobo by Eels: Another rock opera from one of my all-time favorite bands, this one doesn’t disappoint at all. It’s got the sad ballads, and the ass kicking rockers that the band does so well. Fresh Blood is now my second favorite Eels song of all time (after Saturday Morning). The whole album is great, and it was hard to choose which album to be at one or two, but this album could have easily been number one.
Eating Us by Black Moth Super Rainbow: Silly band name aside, this band is amazing. They’re somewhere between Zero 7, Massive Attack and Holy F*ck. Great analog techno, fantastic beats – this is an awesome headphone album.
Lost Channels by Great Lake Swimmers: Ongiara is one of my all-time favorite albums, and this one picks up where it left off, adding some new sounds, but generally keeping the masterful folk ballad front and center. I love the addition of harmonies and some of the new instruments, but the heart of their sound is the lyrics.
Dark Was the Night by a bunch of great people: I don’t normally get compilations, but this has a ton of my favorite artists on it, so I couldn’t resist. This album is worth the price just for Grizzly Bear‘s heart-breaking Deep Blue Sea and The New Pornographers‘ Hey, Snow White. The album is solid throughout, and the collection of bands they got to perform on it is staggering.
Hospice by Antlers: This is firmly in Massive Attack territory, so I’m going to instantly perk up at anything that follows in one of my all-time favorite bands’ footsteps. It’s melancholy, atmospheric and so layered, it took me a dozen times through it with headphones on to pick them all out.
Fantasies by Metric: This album is a little uneven, but the high points are worth the price of admission. If you like The Breeders or Luscious Jackson, you’ll love this album.\
There are a few albums that came close to making the list that are still good, but not quite good enough for the list. The latest from Vetiver, Malajube (I liked their previous album more), Sunparlour Players and Portland Cello Project are all worth checking out as well.\
What are your favorite albums of 2009 so far? Come on, share!
Every year, SxSW posts a ton of free mp3’s from the artists that showcase at the music festival. And every year since 2004, I’ve downloadedall of them. This year, though, instead of just letting them take up space in iTunes, I’m going to try something. Between now and whenever I get through them, I’m going to try to listen to a letter a day (the playlist is alphabetical by artist) and do my best to rate every song. Then, I’m going to post my top ten songs from each letter here. Here are the A’s:
These Flowers of Ours by The Asteroid #4 – 4 stars – Reminds me a lot of The Dandy Warhols.\
This is totally unscientific, and I probably missed rating some songs (I do need to work during the day), but here are the A’s. I’m listening to the B’s today. And yes, I know there are more than ten, but they’re alphabetical within the number of stars, so I decided to list all the 4 and 5 star songs.
This is kind of cheating, because according to iTunes, the album was released in 2007, but I discovered them this year (again, thanks to CBC Radio 3). According to iTunes, I’ve listened to this song 85 times since I added it at the end of April. It may not sound like a lot, but for me, that’s huge. What is it? It’s Holy F@ck‘s Lovely Allen!! Here, listen:
How awesome is that? It never fails to make me bop my head and get the chills. It builds and builds until it reaches a fantastic crescendo of sound that just makes me happy to be alive. It’s not often I find a song that does that, and that does it every time I listen to it.
I’ve been trying to write this post for almost a week now, and just couldn’t decide how to pick my “favorite” albums of the year, since there are a bunch of them. But, iTunes has rescued me and taken any and all opinion out of it, and given me a way to empirically prove which albums I consider my favorites this year. How? I created a Smart Playlist in iTunes where Year was 2008 and then sorted by Play Count. I then picked the albums from the list with the songs with the most plays and ta-da, I’m done.\
So, in order of plays, here are my favorite albums of 2008:
Kensington Heights by The Constantines – This is their best album yet, solid throughout with two or three songs that are destined to be all-time classics (New King and Time Can Be Overcome in particular).
Everything That Can Happen Will Happen Today by David Byrne and Brian Eno – This album is just plain gorgeous. In fact, I’ve already declared it the best album of the year. Of course, my formula has proven me wrong, but that’s OK.
Accelerate by R.E.M. – I haven’t listened to it much in the past couple months, but it was on constant repeat for a while there, hence its position at the top of the list.
Earth to the Dandy Warhols by The Dandy Warhols (duh) – I love this band without guilt or any shame at all. Yes, they’re kind of poppy and weird, but they’re also full of awesome. They fly all over the spectrum and their latest album is just more of it, but better. Love Song is my favorite track on the album, followed quickly by Talk Radio.
Parallel Play by Sloan – A full-on rocker, there’s no guesswork involved in this album. It’s just good ass-kicking rock and roll.
These are the Good Times People by The Presidents of the United States of America – This one sort of rocketed up the charts, seeing as I only bought it this week, but two songs are already on my empirical list. The playlist doesn’t lie, people. Sharpen Up Those Fangs may be a perfect pop song.
The Odd Couple by Gnarls Barkley – Three songs put this album in the top ten: Going On, Run and Blind Mary
Med sud I eyrum vid spilum endalaust by Sigur Ros – It’s not my favorite album by the band, but it’s more good stuff from them, and that’s fine with me.
Parc Avenue by Plants and Animals – Another great band discovered through the CBC Radio 3 podcast.
Anything by DJ Earworm – Really. He’s the best mashup artist around and doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Girl Talk gets all the press, but Earworm’s the real thing.\
2008 was a great musical year. There are albums released last year that I listened to a lot this year are LP by Holy Fuck (yes, mom, that’s really their name), Challengers by The New Pornographers, Live from Austin, TX by The Polyphonic Spree, anything by The Shins and recently rediscovering The Wrens. Now that I work for a music company, I’m listening to a lot of stuff and always on the look out for new music to sink my ears into.\
I can’t wait to see what comes out next year.