Favorite Music of 2009

I am among several people who enjoys listening to music. I will now summarize for you, the sensual, gyrating masses, my favorite new music of 2009. Feel free to obtain this music for yourself and thank me later when your life becomes awesome.

Favorite Albums

Avett BrothersI and Love and You
The Whiskered Brothers Three
This was my most enjoyable musical find of the year. This rootsy, North Carolina-based trio has been around for a while, but their new album received a lot of attention because it was produced by the bearded zenmaster Rick Rubin. The album sounds gorgeous and organic, and I just couldn’t believe how many songs I loved the first time through. The album felt familiar, yet its warmhearted themes and tight brotherly harmonies were punctuated with plenty of unexpected left turns that kept me guessing.

DovesKingdom of Rust
Kingdom of Beards
Doves were a moody British band I loved back in the early aughts who I thought had started to slide with their last album. Happily, they rebounded this year with what I felt was their best effort. Doves’ best material has a melancholy sweep to it and is able to build and crest under Jimi Goodwin’s beautiful alto. This album has no shortage of such cinematic loveliness. Kingdom of Rust is definitely worth checking out and giving a bit of time to let it seep under your skin. (Incidentally, this seemed to be Bridgette’s favorite of the new albums I got this year.)

U2No Line on the Horizon
Read my full review from earlier in the year here. Many listens later, it’s still a great album with tons of layers. I’ll only add that the album’s elusive, slow-burning songs have gained stature in my mind while the middle stretch of radio-oriented material feels a bit more out of place.

WilcoWilco (the Album)
Camel melodies.
My brother in law and I are each big Wilco fans, but this is an album we disagree on. He’s inclined to favor Wilco’s fractured, dissonant, “challenging” material from earlier this decade like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (which I also dig) and A Ghost is Born (not as much). A few years later, lead singer Jeff Tweedy is apparently in a happier, more contented mental space and he’s produced another straightforward “mature” album. While its heights aren’t as towering as 2007’s Sky Blue Sky, this is a great album with warmth, wit (see “Wilco [the Song]”), and impeccable craftsmanship.

Runners Up:

EELSHombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire
E sacrificed some melodic consistency for thematic purity on this album. It’s probably destined to be a worthwhile curio in the EELS catalogue, but it doesn’t stand up next to their last effort.
Mark KnopflerGet Lucky
Same as Knopfler’s last three albums: expertly-performed, authentic, and relaxed.
Michael BubléCrazy Love
A wonderfully tuneful, tasteful album for any pop-jazz vocal afficianado. I’m honestly not sure how much of the artistry is his though, so I can’t put it on my most-recommended list.
Joshua JamesBuild Me This
Singer-songwriter’s inevitable band-oriented sophomore effort. Good stuff, but bigger isn’t always better.
Peter Bradley AdamsTraces
This guy keeps making the same album, but who cares when they’re so damn good?
Tom Petty & the HeartbreakersThe Live Anthology
Rocking and revelatory.

A Disappointment:

Derek WebbStockholm Syndrome
The controversial album from this important Christian artist was a mixed bag for me. The daring production style (see: Yorke, Thom) was great and created a freshness to the material, but the songs just weren’t strong enough musically. Christian reviewers (especially those with more progressive inclinations) bent over backwards praising the album’s sometimes ham-fisted lyrical content. On the other hand, I just couldn’t get past the fact that a lot of melodies felt undercooked. It’s a fine album if you’re the type to read and reflect on the words without ever desiring to sing along.

Favorite Songs:

Doves“Kingdom of Rust”: A dark, textured epic.
EELS“Beginner’s Luck”: Catchy and deserving to be heard.
Rocket Club – “One More Day”: Local country-rock effort written by a father who lost his daughter to a fatal illness. Always gets me a bit misty-eyed, like “Christmas Shoes” but better. (FREE DOWNLOAD)
Wilco“One Wing”: Great mix of Wilco’s beautiful and artistic ambitions.
Derek Webb“What Matters More”: The best and worst of Webb’s album is distilled into this pretty remarkable track that his record label refused to release.
Jars of Clay“Headphones”: A stirring call to Christian love.
Avett Brothers – “I And Love And You”: A wonderfully broken, rootsy ballad.

(See also their hilarious video for “Slight Figure of Speech”)
U2 – “Moment of Surrender”: For me, this was the best, most beautiful, most movingly-performed song I came across this year.

(See also my musical roundups for 2008, 2007, 2006, & 2005)

This entry was posted in Music Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Favorite Music of 2009

  1. Good list. Funny how you rip on Derek Webb’s but have U2’s in the list. :P I mean, what’s more ham-fisted than “Unknown Caller” – probably the worst song of 2009.

    Yeah, U2 will make my list (barely, like #25), but Derek’s was great… Top 5 at least.

    Oh well, I guess that’s why this is all subjective. :)


  2. Peter says:

    “Unknown Caller” is certainly a bizarre track, but its guitar solo alone is better than any musical moment in Stockholm Syndrome, which is enough for me to not delete it from my iPod.

  3. Matt says:

    Hey Peter ~

    Always love your End of the Year Music List! Totally agree with you on U2 (their best in awhile) and Eels (sure, not as good as some of E’s other work, but – hell – it’s the eels and it’s amazing) and Wilco (always interesting).

    I gotta mention a few others of note (in my opinion):

    Andrew Bird “Noble Beast”
    The Boxer Rebellion “Union”
    The Decemberists “The Hazards of Love”
    Diane Birch “Bible Belt”
    Grizzly Bear “Vecktatimest”
    Lisa Hannigan “Sea Sew”
    Pearl Jam “Backspacer”
    Regina Spektor “Far”
    The Swell Season “Strict Joy”
    William Fitzsimmons “The Sparrow and the Crow”

    Looking forward to JLP 2010!


  4. tim hopps says:

    I vote for Green Day’s “21st Century Breakdown” as the kickass-est album of 2009! I thought they had made the best record they ever would with “American Idiot” but even that one pales in comparison. When I play it, I want to pump my fist and jump up and down playing air guitar like a 20-year-old… and I do! Then I have to see the chiropractor.

    This doesn’t have anything to do with that, but as long as we’re talking music: Sufjan Steven’s Christmas album is wonderful.

  5. Adam says:

    One of my absolute favorites this year (not that I buy much music that isn’t at least 30 years old) was Balmorhea’s All is Wild, All is Silent. As a follow up to their Rivers Arms album, it is phenomenal. It’s made my top 20 of all time.

  6. Peter says:

    What older music have you been listening to, Adam?

  7. Adam O says:

    I liked your mix! I have to say though, that Mr. E. has got to stop using distortion on his vocals. It makes him sound terrible. If his intent is to sound edgy, then he gets a deserved F because there is nothing edgy about it. Stop sucking Mr. E. You are better than this.

  8. Adam says:

    I’ve actually been getting into a lot of Johnny Cash lately, as well as my usual jazz and bluegrass. I just got an album of traveling songs from the 20s and 30s that deserves another listen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>