One of my all-time favorite bands releases a decent Wilco record. But, a decent Wilco record is good enough to be top 10 of the year for me.
9. DRAGONSLAYER by sunset rubdown
You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II) [LISTEN]
I was once a Wolf Parade fan and am now a fan of pretty much anything Spencer Krug does. This was a pleasant surprise for me.
8. I AND LOVE AND YOU by the avett brothers
I And Love And You [LISTEN]
Nothing I can really rock to like Emotionalism’s “Die, Die, Die”, but, the title track is great and this is a consistently good record all the way through.
7. WHY THERE ARE MOUNTAINS by cymbals eat guitars
Wind Phoenix (Proper Name) [LISTEN]
My favorite debut of the year and they’re only 20 years old. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for these guys.
6. BITTE ORCA by dirty projectors
Cannibal Resource [LISTEN]
Hadn’t even heard of them until this was released, and after seeing them live I will definitely be keeping my ear out for whatever else they have to offer.
5. MANNERS by passion pit
After hearing Manners for the first time I was sure Passion Pit would be the MGMT of 2009. I’m not sure if they’ve quite reached that point but there are some great dance party tunes on this one.
4. NOBLE BEAST by andrew bird
Oh No [LISTEN]
At this point I don’t believe Andrew Bird is capable of putting out a bad record.
3. WOLFGANG AMADEUS PHOENIX by phoenix
When an album begins with possibly 2 of the top 5 songs released all year (“Lisztomania”,”1901″) its pretty hard for it to be topped. Gets a little muddled down in the middle but finishes strong.
2. VECKATIMEST by grizzly bear
Two Weeks [LISTEN]
Grizzly Bear finally receives their critical due with Veckatimest. You may have to be in a certain mood to listen to this all the way through, but if you do you will be rewarded with a beautiful record.
1. MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILION by animal collective
Summertime Clothes [LISTEN]
AC’s most accessible album to date, while still sticking to form. Named after a venue I have visited many times, MPP is proof that these guys from Baltimore may end up being one of the best of our generation.
So much more excited waiting for a follow-up to Writer’s Block than I was upon finally hearing it, but you know, there’s still hope. It doesn’t suck, but I wish they’d released the two albums in reverse order.
9. DEAD MAN’S BONES by dead man’s bones
My Body’s A Zombie for You [LISTEN]
This is a band/album few have even heard of, but this Halloween-inspired record from Ryan Gosling and friend Zach Shields, recorded with a children’s choir, is a bold and fresh first creative effort from the two, who describe their influences as Disney haunted mansion, doo wop and 60s girl groups…who can knock that?
8. NOBLE BEAST by andrew bird
Fitz And the Dizzyspells [LISTEN]
As a more recent Andrew Bird fan, I fell in love with Armchair Apocrypha and subsequently his earlier albums. While this one didn’t hit me like his previous, it’s still got Bird all over it, and that’s not bad at all.
7. DRAW THE LINE by david gray
For a hardcore Gray fan, It may not boast his best tracklisting to date, but it’s not too far off. His songwriting and piano-guitar combinations are still strong on this one.
6. WHITE WATER, WHITE BLOOM by sea wolf
Wicked Blood [LISTEN]
I was a little disappointed with what I see as a step back on this sophomore effort, but seeing as Sea Wolf is still a fairly new band that should be experienced by more listeners, it deserves a nod.
5. VECKATIMEST by grizzly bear
While You Wait for the Others [LISTEN]
Their second full-length album isn’t really a venture into anything new, but sounds close to what you’d expect from the increasingly popular group: bolder, louder and, dare I say happier?
4. FAR by regina spektor
The Calculation [LISTEN]
She’s back with the same great kinds of songs that have grown her popularity to where it is now: sad lullabies, poppy anthems, and everything in-between.
3. WOLFGANG AMADEUS PHOENIX by phoenix
Yes, there are arguably more talented musicians lower on this list than Phoenix, but damn it, if I don’t just love listening to some of this band’s songs more.
2. I AND LOVE AND YOU by the avett brothers
Laundry Room [LISTEN]
While longtime fans may not call it the brothers’ best album to date, it’s pretty undisputedly a great one, offering some of the best tunes I’ve heard come from the band.
1. RESERVOIR by fanfarlo
Harold T. Wilkins, or How to Wait for A Very Long Time [LISTEN]
How could such a new (and largely unheard of) band produce the best album of 2009? I don’t know, but they did, and it’s because they’re so new and unheard of that they deserve the top spot.
Pitchfork: 5.8 Rolling Stone: 3.5/5 Metacritic: 77 Spin: 3.5/5
Released: September 2009
I And Love And You
Head Full Of Doubt / Road Full Of Promise
And It Spread
The Perfect Space
Ten Thousand Words
Kick Drum Heart
Laundry Room [LISTEN]
Ill With Want
Slight Figure Of Speech
It Goes On And On
Incomplete And Insecure
Rolling Stone magazine dubbed The Avett Brothers “the Artist to Watch of 2009”. Unfortunately I didn’t get the memo until late in the year, and since then I’ve been trying to catch up. As with most bands that you fall in love with, it first started with falling in love with one of their songs (the song was from Emotionalism, their previous studio album…review to follow). This, at least, signified that the band could “wow” me, but how many more times would it happen? By the time I got to listening to the new I and Love and You, it had happened enough to solidify their place as a favorite.
The album opens with the title track, a song that quickly became my most played song of Fall ’09. It’s a beautiful piano and string ballad with a great melody made more great by spot-on harmonizing by both brothers (and there’s also something really amazing about the words “i and love and you” together). “Laundry Room” is another mostly soft gem, the first three and a half minutes of which again showcase great harmonies and lyrics (Scott pleads, “teach me how to use the love that people say you make”). The last minute and a half showcase the other side to the band as they bang away on their banjo and guitar in a country-style folk rockout.
The “double treatment” shown to some songs is also evident in “The Perfect Space”, another track that is one part slow ballad, one part fast and fun rock piece. Other songs like “Ten Thousand Words” stick to the safe, acoustic formula, where organ or strings sometimes compliment, and the solos come in the form of intense guitar- or banjo-picking. Then a catchy piano-driven song like “Kick Drum Heart” will come around with upbeat percussion and harder, sometimes even screaming vocals.
It’s hard to argue that any of the album’s thirteen songs are bad, although a handful certainly seem stronger than the rest. And you’re bound to find at least one song that alone makes it worth paying full price for the real thing at a store. Looking at the Avetts’ progression from album to album, it’s easy to see that they’re consistently growing, yet consistently maintaining their sound, and far from going in any wrong directions. I can only wait for the next, but in the meantime, they’ve given me a large discography to wrap my head around first.