WTT: Top 100 Albums of 2009 (50-41)
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Skirting the dangerous line between metalcore and good music, Poison the Well manage to never fall on the wrong side of that fence, and end up kicking all kinds of ass in the process. The Tropic Rot is an undeniable masterpiece by a group who seems to care less about genres and more about passionate music that pushes the boundaries of a scene and doesn’t pull any punches.
A lot of hip-hop tries to get in your face; tries to impress you and wow you by being the biggest and the best. Mos Def decided to do something different. On The Ecstatic, he opts for a low-key, schizophrenic release of patchy coherency but perpetual brilliance. Before this release, I think a lot of us had begun to forget that Mos Def was, in fact, a rapper, and not just an actor. But anyone paying attention to this album won’t forget his hip-hop chops anytime soon.
I’ve been pimping out this homely little release from Birmingham group P.S. Eliot for the last six months, and I’m not done yet. Made up of three chicks – and one dude on guitar – this band is guaranteed to charm your pants off (literally?). Making cinnamon-sweet, deceptively-innocent lo-fi pop-punk, this four-piece has been making significant waves, especially considering the barren wasteland that is Alabama, and I can only hope they continue to do so.
Say what you will about the most vocal of their fanbase, but Alexisonfire is one of the best post-hardcore groups around, and has been for quite a while. They continued the trend on Old Crows / Young Cardinals, with dueling vocals swinging between screaming and clean singing dominating the sound as always. This is loud and pissed off and aggressive as fuck, and an essential 2009 release for any punk fan, as long as you’re willing to sacrifice a little hipster cred.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart got a lot of hype in 2009, most of which was deserved. They wear their jangle pop influences on their sleeves, taped up right next to their hearts. I feel like there isn’t much to be said about them that hasn’t been said already, but this is a lovingly crafted slice of twee revival that shouldn’t be passed up by anyone.
The first description I ever read of We are Hex was that they were a “messy pile of pop slop”, and, well, my hopes couldn’t have been higher after hearing that. Luckily, this Indianapolis group didn’t disappoint. This album consists of fuzzy, off-the-wall psychedelic madness, with booming drums and pulsating rhythms, and a female vocalist who reminds me in a big way of PJ Harvey; in fact, this release isn’t a whole lot unlike a more chaotic version of Harvey’s early work.
Who’d have thought we’d ever actually see this album released? Not me. Who’d have thought it would actually be good? Not me, and probably not you. But Alice in Chains has never been a band to adhere to expectations. Their first album in fourteen years, Black Gives Way to Blue is also their first album to feature William DuVall on lead vocals (a position which he fills brilliantly and powerfully), after the death of Layne Staley that most of us saw to be the final nail in the coffin for this grunge powerhouse. Opening with the lines “Hope / a new beginning / time to start living / like just before we died“, this album does exactly that; this isn’t a modern radio-rock version of Alice in Chains. It sounds like not a day has passed since the era of Dirt and Jar of Flies. It’s a curious thing that an album bringing me back to the fields of early ’90s grunge could sound like such a breath of fresh air.
Arcade Fire didn’t release an album in 2009, so Reservoir seems to have taken, at least temporarily, the space reserved in my heart for that third album. But while Fanfarlo’s folksy indie pop may bear a lot of resemblance to Arcade Fire, they mostly take a more reserved, cautious route, often bordering on twee, but still featuring quite a few moments of larger-than-life, bombastic alt rock.
Afraid! is an Italian screamo band who plays a furious mix of post-punk, psychedelia, and post-hardcore, which means they end up sounding less like a screamo band and more like a strange little hardcore oddity. Regardless of what you want to label it as, Megaloklift is a loud and jammy release with biting vocals and shimmering guitar sounds.
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Immolate Yourself, the third album from this New Orleans electronic duo, was released just a week before Charles Cooper, one half of Telefon Tel Aviv, was found dead in a park after mixing alcohol and sleeping pills. Certainly that adds to the intrigue of this complex, pop-tinged electronic release. On this album, the duo opted to switch to analog tape and synthesizers, which gives their music a dark, hazy, shadowy sense of danger. That this will most likely be their last album is a hell of a heartbreaker.