At the end of 2009 the staff at AVERSE pooled together their resources and came up with sixty of the top records of 2009. Then everyone got sort of bored with the process and we didn’t do anything with it. In the meantime Matt Siblo started off our look at last year with the now ironic “2009: The Year Lists Broke“, I put together a list of my Top Ten Hot 97 Guilty Pleasures of 09 and Thom Siblo constructed his Top Songs of 2009 in three parts, complete with downloads here. Still, there was a lot of effort behind fleshing out our master list, and it seems a waste to throw it away.
Our original plan was to list out the top sixty records, showcasing a few entries here and there that one of us felt needed special consideration. Rather than go through this task I’ve decided to list only our top twenty, with brief (occasionally ridiculous) write-ups for each one. It’s a list I’m really proud of, as I’m sure the rest of our staff is as well. Here are some standouts from selections 60-21:
Destroyer Bay of Pigs
Jay Reatard Watch Me Fall
Nite Jewel Good Evening
Eugene McGuiness S/T
Talk Normal Sugarland
Real Estate S/T
HEALTH Get Color
Memory Tapes Seek Magic
Yo La Tengo Popular Songs
Rick Ross Deeper Than Rap
Polvo In Prism
Drake So Far Gone (Mixtape)
Jarvis Cocker Further Complications
Fool’s Gold S/T
St. Vincent Actor
With all of that talent left out who made the top twenty, you ask? Find out, after the jump.
20 Memory Cassette Call & Response EP
This was fun! I don’t have a whole lot else to say about it!
19 The xx xx
A James Bond-esque intro (think Pierce Brosnan, not Sean Connery) followed by an adorable male/female duet? If the record took a nosedive from there I’d still remember it fondly, but luckily it continues to propel forward through nine more tracks of gorgeous melody and beautifully minimal orchestration.
18 The Very Best Warm Heart of Africa
Oh, go on then. Beyond the fact that the title track is one of the best of the year The Very Best have proven with this quintessential afrobeat party record they might be just what the name advertises (except… you know, not really, because they’re only number eighteen on the list. Still, this shit was pretty awesome.)
17 Sunset Rubdown Dragonslayer
Oh, Spencer Krug! You delightful man, you. If you’re not impressing us with Wolf Parade records you’re wowing us with this incredibly epic recording fit more for a Broadway audience than a couple hundred drunk hipsters. His voice is commanding, the music is intense, and there isn’t really a weak track in the bunch.
16 Dinosaur Jr. Farm
Hey, this band is still really good, huh? How about that.
15 The Pains of Being Pure At Heart S/T & Higher Than the Stars
We had to lump these two together just because it would be unfair to take two spots out of the top twenty on these guys. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart put the “pop” squarely in “indie pop”, churning out track after track of the catchiest tunes of the year. Also, my version of Higher Then the Stars came with remixes? Did everyone’s? I hope so! They’re very good!*
*Some of my finest reviewing!
14 jj jj n° 2
The greatest sample team in the history of indie rock! Also, they’re from Sweden! Also, they made the worst Lil Wayne song I’ve ever heard into something kind of cool!
13 Flaming Lips Embryonic
One of the most highly anticipated albums in years did not fail to disappoint, as Wayne Coyne and co. put out arguably their best record yet. Seeing this band live is like watching a group of people rummage through an A/V closet; wires, pedals and synths litter the stage as the Lips navigate through their set with such breathtaking precision. On Embryonic the band uses everything at their disposal to meld together a masterpiece in tonality.
12 Girls Album
Oh, the buzz. With all the words used to describe Girls’ freshman release you’d think each of the members had personally gone to every internet critic’s home and given them a handjob and/or fingerbang to grease the wheels. What’s shocking is that every kind thing that has been said about this band is spot on: positive comparisons to Elvis Costello and the Beach Boys are on the mark, and the subtle complexities of songs like “Hellhole Ratrace” help drive the album to crescendo. Even if I didn’t get the handjob I’d sing this band’s praises.
11 Bibio Ambivalence Avenue
Personally, I think it sounds like a bunch of interludes thrown together back to back on one recording, but you can’t argue with results: three fifths of the AVERSE staff put this puppy on their list as one of the best records of the year. Can we get a Thom Siblo justification in the comments section, please?
10 Think About Life Family
I didn’t vote for it, but I kind of love this album for the artwork alone. Never let it be said that Paul DeBenedetto won’t toe the company line!
9 Fuck Buttons Tarot Sport
I wrote about this here.
8 Bear In Heaven Beast Rest Forth Mouth
The little record that could! We started working on this list before Beast Rest Forth Mouth even came out, so it was no surprise tat it was left off everyone’s initial list. I’m proud to take the credit for shoving it down everyone else’s throats, though I’m sure it would have only been a matter of time before the rest of the AVERSE lads caught on. I’m hesitant to write much of a review since the album doesn’t have any one “sound” to tie itself down to, suffice to say that it really is quite excellent. Thom Siblo wrote about one of its standout tracks here, which is readily available for download, along with a shit-ton of other songs, here.
7 Dirty Projectors Bitte Orca
Rather than get into how good this album is you should just go here and download Thom’s top sixty songs, then listen to “Knotty Pine” featuring David Byrne. Then proceed to download everything else by the band.
6 Raekwon Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Part II
In a year where Jay-Z, Mos Def, and the Clipse all released albums it took Raekwon eclipsed them all creating not only the best hip-hop record of 2009 but one of the most dense, poignant rap records in years. Sure, it only took roughly half a decade to finish but if I told you that in five years time you’d hear tracks featuring all nine founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Cappadonna, Jadakiss, Slick Rick, Busta Rhymes, and production by RZA, J Dilla, Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, Marley Marl and Erick Sermon you’d probably stand the wait.
5 Japandroids Post-Nothing
Rounding out the top five is Japandroids, who managed to release an album that satisfied both the jaded hipster types and ex-emo kids looking for a new Cap’n Jazz LP. The brevity of the record works for them, capturing the intensity of the band while providing a certain instantly relistenable quality. And it’s surprising that all of this noise and emotion is coming from just two guys without being as inaccessible as, say, Lightning Bolt or Hella. But the real genius here is the ability by the band to not take themselves too seriously: on the standout track “Wet Hair” the band opines “let’s get to France so we can French kiss some French girls.” Indeed, gentlemen. Indeed.
4 YACHT See Mystery Lights
I was enamored by YACHT after hearing their song “The Afterlife” at a party, and it wasn’t long until I had a copy of See Mystery Lights in my hands and ready to pop into the computer. There’s such diversity in this duo that at times it’s hard to believe that the same band who produced the irreverent “We Have All We Ever Wanted” could come up with something as charming and delightful as “Psychic City.” Whatever your expectations are for YACHT prepare to have them met and surpassed.
3 Future of the Left Travels With Myself and Another
Sometimes I look at our list, and I listen to this album, and it bothers me that there were two albums better than Travels in 2009. It doesn’t really make sense. Ex-members of mcclusky play loud, aggressive, rock n’ roll while shouting in your face and writing songs with ridiculous titles likes “Stand By Your Manatee.” If there’s any part of that last sentence you don’t like you’re probably reading the wrong website.
2 Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Okay, look– a lot of time has passed. I get it, it’s embarrassing. I hate hearing “1901” played in the background of that Cadillac commercial, too, because invariably I have to be the one who says “you know, guys, this song is actually really good and, hey, you should check out the album maybe why not?” This is usually followed by a round of laughter, embarrassment, and shouts of “go back to watching MTV!” from my cohorts but quite simply everyone at AVERSE thought this record was nearly flawless. It’s eight tracks of pop perfection, along with two tracks of buildup and suspense that culminate into a Beatles-esque acoustic break. It took me a little while to admit but I couldn’t hold it in forever: Hi, my name is Paul, and I am a Phoenix fan.
1 Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion
It’s a little silly over a year after the album came out to wax philosophical on the greatness of Merriweather Post Pavilion. I’m not changing anyone’s mind who has already heard it, and if you haven’t heard it yet you probably never will. I’m not going to say anything new or interesting that one of a billion other websites who loved the record aren’t going to say. I certainly wasn’t going to pull a shocker-except-not-really and leave it off the list entirely, like some foolish lists have done (we already took that stance on the horribly overrated Grizzly Bear.)
What I will say about Merriweather Post Pavilion is that it made me a believer. Not that I wasn’t an Animal Collective fan before, mind you. I own a good amount of their catalogue, and certainly all of their full-lengths. I’d go as far to say that, for better or worse, they’re more consistent than any other band going today. But it’s the hype, you see. When you have the incredible hype thrust upon you that a band like Animal Collective does it’s nearly impossible to live up to it. How could you? If you hear someone praised as the next Michael Jordan even Kobe Bryant won’t satisfy your expectations. And so what Merriweather Post Pavilion did was the impossible: exceed expectations. No matter what you thought you were going to get as a follow-up to 2007’s Strawberry Jam your expectation were not only met but surpassed. Simply stated, Merriweather Post Pavilion is like a checkpoint in modern music: now that we’ve heard it, there’s no turning back.