WTT: Top 100 Albums of 2009 (80-71)
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This trio of lovely Brooklyn ladies continued to woo even the deadest, blackest hearts with their third release, Still Night, Still Light. Their synthy indie pop is infectious to say the least. Perhaps one of the most feminine acts in my library, Au Revoir Simone always seems to make their way onto my chillout and happy playlists. Sometimes I get lost in their deceptively-simple music and find myself listening to their albums for hours at a time; I’m not complaining.
I admittedly don’t know much about this Japanese jazz group, but I do know that Love Thing proved itself to be my favorite midnight-listening album of the last year. Their lo-fi, downtempo chillout beats provide an incredibly fitting soundtrack to those strange hours when you should probably be asleep but aren’t (hours I have a lot of). Entirely instrumental aside from the final track (which happens to be one of my favorites), this is an album that you simply turn on and let yourself drift away with, into the endless labyrinth of late-night thoughts.
Is their anything that hasn’t been said already about Daniel Johnston? He’s the quintessential mad genius of the music world, having been praised by some the biggest artists ever (we’ve all seen Kurt Cobain’s t-shirt with Johnston’s little alien drawing) despite his reclusive nature. He may not be the most consistent artist around, but his 2009 release is a definite hit. His introspective, sometimes childish lyrics are present here as always, as he sings about love, loss, joy, insanity, and the rock n’ roll he so loves.
This duo, made up of Vampire Weekend’s keyboardist/guitarist/backup vocalist and Ra Ra Riot’s vocalist, may make the same shiny, ultra-produced electropop we’ve had shoved down our throats the past decade, but damn if they aren’t good at it. Bouncy and shimmering, this album calls you back the summer of ’08 when Vampire Weekend was inescapable, and has hipsters everywhere – despite their (our?) best attempts to put on a frown at the sight of repetitive dance music – finding themselves bobbing their heads when the club’s PA system starts playing “Osaka Loop Line” or “Orange Shirt”.
75. Adam Lambert – For Your Entertainment
[Glam rock, synth pop]
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I can almost hear the sound of three hundred people removing this blog from their bookmarks in unison. Yes, most “American Idols” are shameless corporate whores. Yes, Adam Lambert is most definitely among them. Yes, I love this album anyway. Lambert is apparently trying to bring back eras of the musical past that most of us spend our time trying to forget. Well, we’re all fucked then, because he’s great at what he does, and he’s just getting started. Swallow your pride, take the plunge into this piece of campy ’80s insanity, and just try to keep the grin off your face.
This Icelandic group has always been unsure of what kind of band they want to be. Electronic? Post-rock? Pop? I don’t think they’ve figured it out yet, but on their latest album these elements all come together beautifully, to create a relaxing and homely little release of electronic pop.
When I heard this album the first time, I was summarily unimpressed, especially considering the endless stream of praise it’s been receiving for the past ten-odd months. But listening to it again, I realized my initial reaction was because I’d overlooked the crucial element to appreciating this album – the lyrics. Telling a detailed first-person story of a doctor falling in love with a dying cancer patient, their abusive relationship, and her inevitable death, Hospice is an emotional wrecker of an album; it’s almost too much to let yourself think about all at once. Let it play in the background, and it will probably bore you; pay attention to it, and it might hit you like a ton of bricks.
78. Pearl Jam – Backspacer
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Pearl Jam have had a hell of a ride since they released Ten back in 1991 – that’s almost twenty years ago, if anyone’s keeping track – and while most rock groups have trouble making it past their sophomore effort, especially when they’re having to contend with the dangers of fame and fortune, this band is still kicking out great music nine albums later. But this isn’t just rehash, and it isn’t something for only the dedicated fan – it shows this group still sounding like nobody else, even themselves. Full of short-yet-jammy and pointed-yet-thoughtful songs, Backspacer is their best album in over ten years; two decades later, they’re still rocking the world and making fresh music, and there’s a lot to be said for that.
Seeing this Stillwater group perform a short in-store at my local record shop was one of the surprising live highlights of 2009. I’d heard their name a time or two, but never bothered listening to them until their folksy pop hooked me in at their show. This is a lovingly crafted album of earthen, natural pop gems that shine even though they sound covered by a layer of dirt and leaves.
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The resurgence and popularization of the chiptunes genre has been one of the strangest things to happen in the past ten years of music. And while its mainstream acceptance seems to have both begun and ended within the span of sixteen months, both thanks to that two-piece shitfest from Toronto who shall go unnamed, there still remain the tireless heroes of a dangerously-kitschy style of music, Anamanaguchi among them. Shredding your face with guitars while pumping out synthy, infectious beats with their old NES system, this group is possibly the best example of a genre that probably never really had a chance to survive. Get your geek on.