Much like my brother said, 2009 was a huge year for music. There were so many outstanding albums it's taken me a fair amount of time to synthesize a list that reflects my favorite offerings in a year filled with awesome acts. Moreover, there are so many that I've loved so intensely, it was difficult to get the list down to a bare ten. The honorable mentions list is enormous, and the best thing to do would be to look at this top ten my brother did and check out all the things I neither have space nor predilection to mention again. He does have impeccable taste, after all...
But here's my top ten, after considerable trouble deciding.
Honorable Mentions: Everything on this list
Fever Ray: S/T
Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest
Dethklok: Dethalbum II
The XX: xx
10. Muse: The Resistance
Muse have a lot going for them - they're ridiculously popular, they supposedly put on one of the best live shows you'll ever see, and (most importantly) they're awesome. 2006's Black Holes and Revelations has some of the best hooks you'll ever hear in a rock album. While The Resistance might not be as formidable an album as their previous effort, its concept album feel gives it a leg up on its predecessor. It's an album where everything belongs and has its place, and when it's good, it's ridiculously good. The last three tracks (an imposing three-movement song) give hope to me that perhaps popular music isn't as far gone as I feared.
9. The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World to Come
While The Mountain Goats have been around forever, it's only been in the last few months that I've really heard them, but it's got to be said - you might not enjoy the slightly nasal delivery of vocals that John Darnielle sings with, but he writes some of the most literate, engaging, worthwhile lyrics you'll ever hear. His latest outing has everything one expects from a later-period Mountain Goats release - poignant, autobiographical wordsmithing, simple, warm guitar work, minimalist instrumentation. But its incorporation of themes from biblical scripture make it a more personal, spiritual effort.
8. Devin Townsend Project
Devin Townsend is probably the artist that consistently makes my "Top Albums of XXXX Year" list more than any other. His inventiveness and constant reinvention make him usually engaging, sometimes off-putting, and always worth a listen. Or ten. And his two albums last year are no exception. Ki is by far the stronger of the two albums, a huge departure from Devin's usual style, but Addicted has plenty of great hooks, too. Also, the addition of Anneke van Giersbergen as a vocalist on Addicted makes it that much better (I honestly believe she may have my favorite female voice in rock). Devin is changing as a person and as an artist, but when change results in releases of this calibre, I'm grateful for it.
7. F*** Buttons: Tarot Sport
Pay no attention to the name of this band. It's the most offensively nonsensical name I've heard all year. But that stupid name belies the talent and greatness of the music. This is electronica of the highest order; sure, it takes ten minutes to venture through one of their songs, but the ride is so crazy it's worth every minute of it. It's the first electronic album since Daft Punk's 2001 album Discovery that makes me want to listen to electronic music. It is almost like carefully packaged epilepsy - but the seizures last only as long as you want them to.
6. Kylesa: Static Tensions
This album is huge. The dual drumming is stellar, the grungy production hits all the right spots, the whole thing erupts in your face for forty minutes without letting up. It's been a constant play in the game Audiosurf, and has kept me entertained for hours.
5. OSI: Blood
The Matheos/Moore combination hits its sweet spot with their third release under the moniker OSI. It is heavy and progressive in all the right spots; it fades to calm and foreboding just when it needs to. The drumming is top notch (no need for Portnoy's ego this time around), the guitars are as slicing as ever, the programming and keyboards add the perfect level of ambience to every measure. Creepiness made perfect, this is a must-have for the rocker in all of us.
4. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion
I've listened to this album a couple of dozen times, and I still don't know what to make of it. I can't figure out how to describe it, what words or phrases might make you understand what is going on here. And I've had an epiphany - I don't have to explain it. The music explains itself, even if you don't know what to make of it. This is a strange, beautiful thing.
I've been listening to Riverside since the release of their second album, and while their following release was worthwhile, I didn't feel it came close to what Second Life Syndrome had done. Anno Domini High Definition doesn't come to that previous level - it demolishes it, becoming by far their best release.This album is a constant barrage of progressive awesomeness, from its some-of-it-is-backwards-and-some-of-it-is-forwards opener to the jarring guitars and subtle melodies that weave throughout the disc. Right when you think you know where Mew is going to take it, they go another direction - and make you enjoy every minute of it. This is the natural evolution of progressive rock, and I can't help but smile every time I hear the album. It feels equal parts prog, indie, electronica, and chutzpah - and is my favorite disc to come out in 2009.
2. Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
This album makes me dance. And dance. And then dance some more. It will probably make you do the same. That is all.
1. Mew: No More Stories...