WTT: Top 100 Albums of 2009 (60-51)
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Oh, Thrice. You’ve always been hit-and-miss for me, but on this newest album, you’ve gotten a magnificent hit, in my mind at least. Beggars isn’t going to please everyone, especially big fans of their older work. This is not a post-hardcore album, in any sense of the term. What it is is the sound of a band who’s grown up, matured, and realized they don’t need – or want – to stick to any kind of formula or pattern. While this has more in common with their last few albums, I’d say it’s much more clear-headed than those releases, and for a band who seems to have turned their back entirely on their past, that can only be a good thing.
One of the oddest – as well as one of the most oddly consistent – things about my musical taste is that I don’t like Australian music. Maybe there’s just too much of a culture gap or something, but 80% of what I’ve heard from that country seems to consist of cheap, quasi-quirky imitation of other bands. Maybe they just assume no one is listening, so no one will notice. But enough about that – Urthboy is a wonderful Australian artist, which is something I always enjoy finding. Spitshine is his third album, and what hooked me in initially was the brilliant video for the brilliant track “Hellsong“. Try to get it out of your head.
I guess this Pittsburg psych group must have gotten tired of making blissed-out releases which are essentially the sonic representations of drug trips, because on Eating Us, their fourth album with the name Black Moth Super Rainbow, they decided to actually make things that can be called songs. It’s almost a pop album! Still, this is the BMSR we’ve all grown to know over the past decade, so don’t be turned away if you’re one of those odd folks with irrational fears of traditional pop structures in your music.
54. jj – jj n° 2
I’m going to be honest – I’ve got mad fuckin’ respect for any band who can turn Lil’ Wayne’s “Lollipop” into a dream pop song. This media-shy group from Sweden did just that on their second album, and the results are surprisingly awesome. jj n° 2 is barely long enough to be called a full-length, and that – along, of course, with its ethereal sound and obscured lyrics – lends itself very well to repeated plays. This is the type of album you have trouble just spinning once.
I’ve heard some people refer to this band as ‘noise-pop’, and while I find this term to be downright vile, I suppose it is a fairly good description of what they sound like. Johnny Foreigner draws a lot of comparison to Los Campesinos!, except instead of the Sarah Records catalog sitting on their shelves, they have an overabundance of Touch and Go releases. Chaotic and sarcastic and, yes, noisy, but with a sweet and surprisingly innocent heart, this album throttles you along for roughly 30 minutes, leaving you unsure if you did a line of coke, or just ate a really big bowl of cereal with sugar poured on top.
There are bands who keep doing the same album over and over, to the point where everyone gets bored, and the band stops mattering. Then there are bands like Bishop Allen, who find a formula that works and stick with it to the great contentment of their fans. There’s certainly nothing in this release that hasn’t been heard before, but this Brooklyn group isn’t concerned with pushing boundaries or jumping on the newest trend. They just want to sit around with their guitars, piano, and maybe a ukulele or two, and do all they can to put a smile on your face. So far, they haven’t dropped the ball on that one.
This release was one of my mainstays of 2009. Sugarplum Fairies are a guy/girl duo from LA who make jangly, dreamy, folksy indie pop with a lazy-Sunday-afternoon feel to it (maybe I’m only saying that because of the track “I Hate Saturdays”). Some of this calls to mind the slower, mid-career work of the Velvet Underground, and I’m not sure how I could give them any higher praise than that.
This UK producer released his second album in 2009, and it’s a gloriously engaging affair, leaving you constantly unsure what exactly it is you’re listening to. Sometimes it feels like a trip-hop album, sometimes hip-hop, and sometimes laid-back, loungey jazz. It’s a varied album to be sure, but Ghost is such a talent that this doesn’t sound scattered, but relaxed and assured of itself.
It’s always such a shame when a band finally finds the sound that works for them, only to break up a short time later. As Cities Burn spent a few years making middling, largely-uninspired post-hardcore records, their continued existence apparently fueled only by the fervent nature of the Tooth & Nail Records fanbase. Then in 2009, I checked out what turned out to be their final release on a recommendation from a friend, and was very pleasantly surprised. There’s no more mindlessly appealing to their current fans done on this album; Hell or High Water is an album of focused, controlled prog-leaning alt rock that puts to shame their previous efforts (and most of their labelmates as well).
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This charming little alt country band from North Carolina reminds me a lot of what I wish Wilco still sounded like, embracing the country twang and label without even a hint of hipster irony. Do you want banjos and stories of drinking, reminiscing with paroled convicts, and horribly failed relationships? You’re in the right place.