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Favorite Albums of 2009 (so far)

Date July 1, 2009

Whether it’s from phenomenal debut albums or continued greatness from reliable favorites, one thing is for certain, 2009 has already been a very exciting year for music. This is my annual mid-year recap of what I believe to be the best albums of 2009 so far. As I’ve done from this site’s inception, I’m including 12 and a half entries, exactly half the amount I’ll be counting down in my annual year-end list. The twelve albums and one EP (that’s the half) are listed in chronological order and include my favorite albums released in the first six months of ’09.

Andrew Bird – Noble Beast (January 20, Fat Possum)
Ever since 2005’s magnificent Mysterious Production of Eggs, Andrew Bird has been one of my favorite artists. I don’t think it’s possible for him to make an album I dislike, but it did take me a bit longer to warm up to this one. While the album doesn’t have the immediacy in some of his other work, it makes up for with his immensely talented songwriting and musicmanship, that engages the listener on a deep level. Multiple listens unveil the layers to organically beautiful songs like “Anonanimal” and “Tenuousness”.

MP3 Anonanimal

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion (January 20, Domino)
I’ve been a borderline AC fan for a while and loved Panda Bear, but it was this album that really won me over to the band. The album has almost been overshadowed by it’s enormous hype and expecations, but the band lives up to it with a string of truly classic songs. The sonic exploration and melodic qualities on the album are wonderful but it’s the emotional resonance of songs like “My Girls” and “Brothersport” that has moved me the most.

MP3 My Girls

Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP (January 20, Jagjaguwar)
Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver earns the coveted “half” spot on this list for his Blood Bank EP, partly because I feel guilty that I was late to the party on his debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago and also because the four songs on here are so achingly lovely. The title track is like a revelation. Each time the instruments fade and Justin hits that beautiful falsetto, something magical happens.

MP3 Blood Bank

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Why There Are Mountains (January 20, self-released)
This was the first debut to truly blow me away this year and I’m still captivated by Cymbals Eat Guitar’s explosive sound. It’s a hugely ambitous and broad-reaching album full of epic, sweeping guitar and cathartic, angst-ridden vocals. It’s no surprise that the band has quickly gained an audience, an album this powerful and spell-binding is hard to ignore.

MP3 Wind Phoenix

Asobi Seksu – Hush (February 17, Polyvinyl)
Asobi Seksu’s third album incorporates a slight shift of the band’s sound, still living in a shoegaze world but now incorporating more pop sensibility. It is of my opinion that this refined sound suits the band very well, resulting in mesmerizing, lush tunes. Yuki’s vocals are at their transcendant best and matched with the gorgeous dream pop, makes Hush a breathtaking listening experience.

MP3 In The Sky
MP3 Me & Mary

Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Health (March 24, Gigantic)
It would be hard to find a more unabashedly jubilant and in-your-face catchy album this year than Harlem Shake’s debut. The spirited melodies and harmonies on Technicolor Health give the album an undeniable charm as the band uses an array of brisk instrumentation to thrust the infectious tunes forward. It’s extremely refreshing to hear an indie rock album that exudes so much joy and hopefulness.

MP3 Strictly Game
MP3 Sunlight

Junior Boys – Begone Dull Care (April 7, Domino)
Begone Dull Care
, the third from Canadian duo Junior Boys, is an exceptional produced and performed album, and one that’s constantly revealing more of itself to love. I was first attracted to the synth-heavy dance singles like “Hazel”, “Work”, and “Bits & Pieces” but it’s the masterfully structured, romantically-inclined ballads like “Dull To Pause”, “Sneak A Picture”, and “The Animator” that have kept me coming back. The combination of understated beauty with sunny electro-pop has made it one of my most listened albums of the year.

MP3 Hazel
MP3 Dull To Pause

Fanfarlo – Reservoir (May 25, self-released)
Ever since I heard the demos from Fanfarlo’s debut album, Reservoir, I’ve been captivated by their lovingly crafted, ever-endearing orchestral indie pop. The band excels at writing beautiful arrangements with lush, spirited instrumentation and triumphant melodies.

MP3 I’m A Pilot
MP3 Luna

Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (May 26, Warp)
Grizzly Bear has quickly risen from unknowns to indie rock royalty and while I thought with Yellow House, the buzz outweighed the quality, I applaud those that saw the band’s potential. Veckatimest, with it’s mesmerizing choral harmonies and sweeping instrumentation, is an outstanding work of art. It’s not only a vivid, dynamic, and strikingly expressive album but also wonderfully accessible. Even for the most ardent critic, it would be impossible to deny the otherworldy beauty of songs like “Two Weeks” and “While You Wait For The Others”.

MP3 Two Weeks

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (May 26, V2)
With Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the French band have made perhaps the most euphoric and universal albums of the year. This is what all pop albums should aspire to, a collection of brilliantly engaging songs with gloriously crisp production and never any shortage of hooks. The album is incredibly concise and consistent, there’s literally not one dull moment in the under 40 minute running time. With their endless playability, tracks like “Lisztomania”, “1901”, and “Girlfriend” sound both nostalgic and timeless. It’s a breakthrough album for a band who’s long deserved it.

MP3 Lisztomania
MP3 1901

Patrick Wolf – The Bachelor (June 2, Bloody Chamber)
Leave it to Patrick Wolf to make an album that incorporates everything from traditional Celtic folk to industrial club music to spoken passages from Tilda Swinton. Wolf’s baroque compositions are crammed with ideas and youthful ambition, as on the thrilling single “Hard Times”. It can be chaotic at times, but it’s also the best showcase of Wolf’s prodigy-like talent and his grandiose theatricality.

MP3 Hard Times

Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslayer (June 23, Jagjaguwar)
I’ve said it before and I will probably say it again many times, Spencer Krug is a genius. It’s freakishly amazing how incredibly talented and prolific a songwriter he is and Dragonslayer may be the man’s finest work yet. The album features a more fully realized Sunset Rubdown, completing the transition from a one-man show to a highly skilled band, capable translating Krug’s mystical rock epics with thundering drums and masterful guitar solos. Krug matches his musical prowess with some of his most wildly inventive lyrics and puts it all together to make electrifying songs like “Idiot Heart” and “You Go On Ahead” that begged to be listened again and again.

MP3 Idiot Heart
MP3 You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)

Wilco – Wilco (The Album) (June 30, Nonesuch)
The overwhelming appeal of Wilco may best be summed up in the whimsical, tongue-in-cheek opener “Wilco (The Song)”. As the song says if you “dabble in depression” and “times are getting tough”, you can put on headphones and “Wilco will love you, baby”. This album showcases a mature and thoughtful band who are comfortable with making easy-going, but still absolutely excellent music. On songs like “Deeper Down” and “One Wing” the band fully embrace their melodic, chamber pop qualities and show that after seven albums they can still stand up with the Fleet Foxes of the world (and even teach them a thing or two like on the whirlwind of raging, unhinged guitar during “Bull Black Nova”).

MP3 Wilco (The Song)

Just Missed:
M. Ward – Hold Time
Passion Pit – Manners
God Help The Girl – God Help The Girl

Honorable Mentions:
Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
The Pains of Being Pure Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
The Thermals – Now We Can See
Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
The Decemberists – Hazards of Love
Cotton Jones – Paranoid Cocoon
Jeremy Enigk – OK Bear

Leave your favorite albums so far this year in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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38 Responses to “Favorite Albums of 2009 (so far)”

  1. hu said:

    where’s La Roux?

  2. Matt said:

    Lists are highly personal things, but I’d put Hazards of Love over half of those albums.

  3. Jim said:

    The Antlers – Hospice
    St. Vincent – Actor

  4. Duh said:

    Obscure Brooklyn band called Mon Khmer has some need music. Add it to your list now before it’s on everyone’s in December.

  5. Brendan said:

    Here’s my list: http://countmeoutblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/favorite-albums-of-2009-so-far.html

  6. Heather said:

    My favorites thus far are Hazards of Love and Manchester Orchestra’s new one, Mean Everything to Nothing. :)

  7. tom said:

    Ooo lovely, but would have Cotton Jones on there, even as a honourable mention!

  8. erika said:

    yes, grizzly bear. most definitely. as soon as “cheerleader” got out and i listened to it, i knew veckatimest would be a stazzling album (word i just made up involving dazzling and…a word that starts with “St”). i also really liked abe vigoda’s new album. there’s so much good music this year. so much.

  9. Saint God said:

    What makes this list better than all the rest is the fact that it doesn’t have Dirty Projectors on it. And wasn’t Hazards of Love like, end of December 08?

    Dragonslayer is great.

  10. Taylor said:

    @Jim: The Antlers would be on here but I’m counting Hospice as an August release.
    @tom: Cotton Jones should be on my HM list. Forgot about that one.

  11. Mangtooth said:

    Wait until the end of July when you have the new RX Bandits album titled MANDALA and the new Portugal. The Man titled THE SATANIC SATANIST. Both albums sound absolutely amazing.

    You can preview RX Bandits here: http://tinyurl.com/nadnre

    You can preview Portugal. The Man here: http://tinyurl.com/mw6ssq

    Seriously. These bands are ridiculous.

  12. Anne-Sophie said:

    I love those kinds of lists :)
    You should give a try to Patrick Watson, both to the new album Wooden Arms and to Close To Paradise. And to Beirut’s March Of The Zapotec.

  13. Saint God said:

    Wait for okkervil river to release an album these year. You can just have, Best Albums of 2009 nine, and Okkervil Rivers, “Real Names/Stand Outs” will be the only thing on it. It would rock if he called the new album “Stand Outs” and it was the follow up to the follow up.

  14. Chels said:

    For sure:
    Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
    Hayden – The Place Where We Lived
    Patrick Watson – Wooden Arms
    Great Lake Swimmers – Lost Channels

  15. scoja said:

    I haven’t been totally impressed by a lot of “great” albums this year. I even think Merriweather Post Pavillion isn’t as great as something like Feels or even Strawberry Jam. My solid favorite two are: Sunset Rubdown’s Dragonslayer and Manchester Orchestra’s Mean Everything to Nothing.

    I might consider Hazards of Love but only because it’s so good live, and I haven’t made up my mind on Bitte Orca. I think I don’t like it, but something keeps bringing me back.

    However I’d like to thank this website for turning me on to Cloud Cult’s The Meaning of 8. I now it’s an old album, but I’m listening to it non-stop.

  16. Johnny said:

    Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
    Animal Collective – MPP
    Phoenix – WAP

  17. Johnny said:

    Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
    Animal Collective – MPP
    Phoenix – WAP
    Antlers – Hospice
    St. Vincent – Strangers

    I tried to like the Patrick Wolf album but just don’t.

  18. Christian said:

    I agree with Chels that the new Great Lake Swimmers is incredible.

    I’ll also mention:
    Brakesbrakesbrakes – Touchdown
    Crocodiles – Summer of Hate ($5 on Amazon MP3 this month)
    Foreign Born
    Future of the Left
    John Vanderslice – Romanian Names (just saw him live w/ Tallest Man on Earth)
    Telekinesis (probably will wind up a Top 10)
    Deastro – Moondagger

    My #1 so far is Passion Pit’s Manners.

    This has also been a big year for me discovering stuff I missed last year like The Lord Dog Bird and Strand of Oaks.

  19. ferg said:

    the love language is far and away my favourite release of this year, although Yves Klein Blue – Ragged And Ecstatic is up there too (australian, debut album just came out, you’ll love it!)

  20. Wayne said:

    A lot of these picks I totally agree with, especially Dragonslayer which is far and away my favourite album of 2009. I also love the albums by Grizzly Bear, Swan Lake, Neko Case, The Decemberists and Clues.

    Worldwild-Pterodactyl is vastly under rated as well.

  21. Nathan said:

    I almost think that your Just Missed and Honorable Mention list is better than the list.

  22. talknerdy_2me said:

    wave machine – wave if you’re really there

  23. julie said:

    soooo glad you mentioned Hazards of Love! :)

  24. Oh Yeah said:

    And where is Yuksek “Away from the sea ” !!?

  25. Celeste said:

    Where is Bazooka Cheese Balls – Show Me the Cheddar!?

  26. vamos a la playa said:

    wave machines-wave if youre really there: must be on any “best of, so far” list

  27. Susquatch said:

    My favorites of the year are, in order:

    Faunts – Feel.Love.Thinking.Of.
    Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
    Junior Boys – Begone Dull Care
    The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
    The Mars Volta – Octahedron
    Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
    Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything to Nothing
    Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
    Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
    Black Moth Super Rainbow – Eating Us

  28. Jeremy said:

    Like most Im really enjoying Hazards Of Love.
    Good to see Yuksek, Swan Lake and Antlers get lovin’ too.
    Some others not mentioned work checking: Little Boots, Still Flyin’, Pete Doherty, Maximo Park and The Temper Trap.
    These lists are endless and narrowing down a Top 10 come the end of the year a big ask.

  29. josepallenart said:

    here is 10 :
    bell – ep, here we go magic, papercuts – you can have what you want, koen park – everything in shadow, kettel – myam james 2, venetian snares – filth, animal collective – merriweather post pavilion, Doom – born like this,wolfgang amadeus phoenix,and fanfarlo – reservoir.

  30. Becky said:

    Here is my #1 to add to a very strong list:

    Antony and the Johnsons – The Crying Light

  31. Andrew said:

    My main standout that is missing from that list is The Love Language. I have listened to that over and over and over and over.

  32. alvaro torres said:

    Morrissey – Years of Refusal

  33. sabones said:

    im going to repeat what andrew and ferg said: love language. i feel like i cant stop listening to it.

  34. michaelandbubbles said:

    I love Peaches’ I Feel Cream

  35. aardvark said:


    especially sea within a sea

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  38. @LEx said:

    Great list. Here are some that will probably make the list, as they are recent/upcoming releases.

    The XX- XX
    The Flaming Lips- Embryonic
    Volcano Choir- Unmap
    Memory Tapes- Seek Magic