Monday, January 04, 2010

Top 10 albums of 2009

2009 was, again, another pretty great year for music.  As always, there is just too much out there to be familiar with it all, but here are my top 10 albums of the year.  Important to note, these are my 10 favorite albums of the year.  This may not exactly agree with what I consider the best albums. 

Honorable Mentions: In a lesser year, every one of these would be in the top 10.  They just were beat out by some even more stellar offerings.

Isis: Wavering Radiant
Mastodon: Crack the Skye
Porcupine Tree: The Incident
Megadeth: Endgame
Karnivool: Sound Awake

10.  Kylesa: Static Tensions
Kylesa has been doing the two drummer thing for a few albums now, but on no previous album has it been utilized as effectively as on Static Tensions.  With the drummers clearly separated in each channel, the effect is driving and propulsive.  The music rocks as well, with a sort of raw and primal energy, yet a sound that balances clear production and that grunge that is so vital to the music.  Awesome album.

9.  YOB: The Great Cessation
YOB is one of those bands I had heard of, but had not heard.  After the dissolution of the band, and formation of Middian, I was aware that they were out there and were a respected Doom band.  But it wasn't until the release this year of The Great Cessation that I heard these guys.  And what an introduction it was.  This album is fabulous.  It is the distilled essence of Doom.  And it is suffocatingly heavy, in the truest sense of the word heavy. 

8.  The Devin Townsend Project: Ki and Addicted
Devin Townsend took some time off from his many other projects (The Devin Townsend Band, Strapping Young Lad) and spent a bit of time with his family.  The result is The Devin Townsend Project.  Four albums over two years, this year gave us the first two.  Ki is a much more mellow, laid back Devin than we have seen in just about ever (if you don't count his ambient, electronic album).  It is a lush album, full of dynamics and contrasts, yet very restrained.  Addicted is almost the opposite.  Full of the trademark Devin Townsend "wall of sound", with layer upon layer of rocking riffs, yet packaged in an almost pop styling, it is a fantastic album.

With the conclusion of the "Reality Dream" trilogy, Riverside had to move on.  I was a bit apprhensive about where that move would take them, honestly.  But not to worry.  The wrote an album dealing with our frantic "high definition" lives (cleverly titled so the initials of the album are ADHD) that is their most urgent, energetic release yet.  This is a fantastic album, and one of my favorites of theirs. 

6.  Katatonia: Night is the New Day

Katatonia starts off Night is the New Day with "Forsaker", probably one of their best songs ever.  The album ends with "Departer", likewise one of their best songs.  While the songs between may not be better than the first and the last, they are of superb quality.  Katatonia manages to strike the perfect balance between their melancholy and the metal tendancies on this album.

5.  Russian Circles: Geneva
Russian Circles first album, Enter, was a powerful post-metal/post-rock instrumental statement.  Their second album, Station, was a decent album, but a bit too mellow for me.  On Geneva, these Chicagoans have managed to find the perfect balance between they two.  This is an album full of layers, textures and different moods.  The rhythm work is impeccable as well, with fabulous drumming and bass work.  With Geneva, Russian Circles have solidified their position in the pantheon of American post-rock royalty.

4.  OSI: Blood

Kevin Moore and Jim Matheos have been collaborating long before the release of the first OSI album.  However, never before have they found such marvelous synergy with their styles.  Matheos' fantastic song writing, married with Moore's electronic ambience and unique vocal delivery work on Blood better than ever before.  Bringing in Tim Bowness and Mikael Akerfeldt for additional vocals was just another brilliant move.  Blood is a fascinating album for fans of music of just about any kind.

3.  Guilt Machine: On This Perfect Day
Arjen Lucassen has the Midas Touch as far as I am concerned.  Every project he seem to touch these days turns to gold.  After the brilliance that was The Human Equation and 01011001, Arjen decided to take a break.  He also stepped away from Stream of Passion, another project he had helmed.  His next project became Guilt Machine, more of a band than the collaborative efforts of his previous projects.  Guilt Machine is pure, distilled essence of Arjen prog.  Long compositions, slowly building to powerful guitars, soaring vocals, and uncharacteristically bleak lyrics combine to create one of my absolute favorite albums of the year.

And coming in at a tie for the top spot, I just couldn't pick one of these over the other.

Shrinebuilder: Shrinebuilder
Supergroups can be tricky.  Too often they fail under the egos and styles of the individual members.  On their debut album, Shrinebuilder bucks that trend.  Retaining all the style and individuality of the comprising members, yet effectively creating something entirely new, Al Cisneros and company deliver a record of truly epic proprotions.  This is much more than the sum of its individual parts, and a monster of an album.

My Dying Bride: For Lies I Sire
My Dying Bride was a new introduction for me this year, and proved to be one of the most impressive.  For Lies I Sire is a masterpiece in atmosphere building.  With the reintroduction of violins, the music becomes that much more haunting and eerie.  Turn out the lights, crank up the volume, and prepare to be moved.  It was a tough call, but after repeat listens, this is my favorite album of the year.

So there you have it, 10 (actually 11) fantastic albums from a pretty darn good year in music.  I'm looking forward to what 2010 brings.


  1. The only band on this list I've heard of is Katatonia but I've not heard any of their music. But I'm pleased to see you mention Karnivool. 'Sound Awake' is one of my favourites of the year.

  2. I'm intrigued by some of the things on this list I haven't heard. I've taken a bit of a step away from metal this year, and perhaps some of these albums you've mentioned will spur me back into the saddle.

    Besides, I need heavy work out music.

  3. Braeden, I can highly recommend anything by Karnivool or Clutch - my two favourite workout bands.

  4. Bro:
    My Dying Bride, Shrinebuilder and Russian Circles have all been on pretty heavy running rotation. Good stuff to workout to there. Karnivool has some good stuff to workout to as well. Probably more on their previous album Themata than on Sound Awake.

    Mark: Hope you enjoyed checking out some of the stuff I posted.

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