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.
Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
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.
Doves – Kingdom of Rust
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.)
U2 – No 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.
Wilco – Wilco (the Album)
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.
EELS – Hombre 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 Knopfler – Get Lucky
Same as Knopfler’s last three albums: expertly-performed, authentic, and relaxed.
Michael Bublé – Crazy 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 James – Build Me This
Singer-songwriter’s inevitable band-oriented sophomore effort. Good stuff, but bigger isn’t always better.
Peter Bradley Adams – Traces
This guy keeps making the same album, but who cares when they’re so damn good?
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – The Live Anthology
Rocking and revelatory.
Derek Webb – Stockholm 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.
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.