Written by: Chris Andrade
That time of year has come again where we recap the year’s new releases and tell you who we thought put out the best material of 2009. This year we’re doing things a little different. Before we get to the top 9 albums of 2009, we’re presenting to you an honour roll list of albums we thought were good and/or influential this year.
As always, we welcome your comments, espeically which albums you thought were the best of 2009. So feel free to scroll down and leave us your musical impressions of the last year of the Aughts.
2009 Honour Roll;
…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead ~ the Century of Self; Breaking their bonds from Interscope and going it alone has produced an honest and artistically relevant effort from the boys of Austin, TX.
Against Me! ~ the Original Cowboy; A re-release of sorts (labeled as a demo in some circles), but delivered the way the group originally recorded it. Looking back, they now wish they didn’t bother re-record the songs for the eventual 2003 release Against Me! as the Eternal Cowboy and I tend to agree.
Alice in Chains ~ Black Gives Way to Blue; Returning with a new singer replacing the late Layne Staley was considered a risky move to many die-hard fans but this album is fantastic and William DuVall does an impressive job.
Arctic Monkeys ~ Humbug; Produced by Josh Homme, this is actually quite good and naturally, features a sometimes blatant stamp of their QOTSA producer.
Blakroc ~ S/T; Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney of the Black Keys teamed up with a number of hip-hop artists including Ludacris, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Mos Def, RZA, Pharoahe Monch, Raekwon, Q-Tip and a few others to put forth an excellent combo that many salivated over.
Cage the Elephant ~ S/T; Upbeat, raw, energetic, fun and arriving in North America far too late.
CKY ~ Carver City; Sticking with their tried and tested formula, the West Chester, PA quartet return after a long absence and continue to grow their fan-base.
the Decemberists ~ the Hazards of Love; A fantastic concept album containing one of (if not) my favourite songs of 2009, “the Rake’s Song”. The recurring melodies and arrangements made it a tad repetitive but it’s great none-the-less.
Dinosaur Jr. ~ Farm; An excellent album containing yet another of my absolute favourite songs of 2009, “Said the People”.
the Fast Romantics ~ S/T; Winners of the 2008 Xposure prize from X92.9, these dapper fellas are making a name for themselves here at home in Calgary and abroad.
Franz Ferdinand ~ Tonight: Franz Ferdinand; Always serving up a good time, this album gets honours simply for the infectious “Ulysses”.
Matt Good ~ Vancouver; As cynical, soulfull and talented as ever, Good put out this album which is a homage of sorts to his hometown, as flawed (according to him) as it is.
Great Northern ~ Remind Me Where the Light Is; With former 30 Seconds to Mars guitarist Solon Bixler and the primary female vocals of Rachel Stolte, their sophomore album is really good. Hopefully we hear more of them soon.
Great Lake Swimmers ~ Lost Channels; Beautifully crafted indie-folk songs that soothe and move you simultaneously.
Hot Little Rocket ~ S/T; Calgary’s indie-rock darlings bid adieu to their fans with this fitting final album with a couple of exciting release/farewell shows.
Lucid 44 ~ Body Harm Sounds; Short enough to be an EP but full enough to be a full length, the former GutterAwl singer delivered another shining example that Calgary’s indie-music scene is loaded with talent.
Madcowboys ~ S/T; One of the most underrated bands in Calgary, their raw punk sound is accompanied by some of the most intelligent lyrics in a language most can understand…you just have to pay attention.
Matisyahu ~ Light; fusing his Hasidic Jewish roots with reggae, rock and hip-hop is not something you’d easily imagine could be pulled off but he does so in the most interesting of ways.
Metric ~ Fantasies; You can always count on the Canadian/American collaborators to put together a record that makes you want to move. And in answer to the question in “Gimme Sympathy”, I’d rather be the Beatles.
Modest Mouse ~ No One’s First and You’re Next; In the eyes of their most hardcore fans, they can do no wrong and with an EP like this, I can see why. Features “the Whale Song” whose video was conceived by the late Heath Ledger.
Monotonix ~ Where Were You When It Happened?; I was at their Concert of the Year show at the Distillery, and the way I look and expect a live gig should be has been changed completely forever. Missed the show? They’re coming back to Calgary in January 2010 and this album will give you but a taste of their madness.
Mos Def ~ the Ecstatic; You can scoff all you want but if all hip-hop/rap were like this, we’d all be better off for it. Plus his involvement in the critically acclaimed Black Roc has upped his already impressive cool factor.
Muse ~ the Resistance; Continuously evolving their sound in subtle yet significant ways, this album carries quite a few similarities to Queen among other acts of days gone by. An excellent collection of songs and it’ll prove to be even better live when they come to North America in the new year.
NOFX ~ Coaster; I love NOFX, and the fact that the vinyl version of this album is appropriately titled Frisbee is indicative of their humour but these tracks aren’t without political and social commentary.
Pearl Jam ~ Backspacer; Even Pearl Jam’s crap is excellent. Not enough to put it in the top 9, but “the Fixer” is actually deserving of being the lead single amongst some other great tunes.
Phoenix ~ Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix; Before the Daft Punk duo came to be, they played with these guys in a previous act. Why it took so long for these guys to make their mark is beyond me but we’re certainly glad they’ve broken out in 2009.
Spinnerette ~ S/T; Homme’s baby’s mama, Brody Dalle returns after the demise of her punk outfit the Distillers to offer a more alt-rock album than punk. Joined by former Distillers band-mate Tony Bevilacqua, Jack Irons of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alain Johannes of QOTSA, this is a solid release.
Street Sweeper Social Club ~ S/T; Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave guitar master Tom Morello teams up with Boots Riley (of the Coup) for an album that is fantastic, fun and catchy as fuck.
White Lies ~ To Lose My Life; Sounding like New Order/Joy Division can pay off well when you throw in your own unique feel. Plus the ladies seem to love it quite well.
2009 EP of the Year;
Secrets in Scale ~ Secrets in Scale EP; If this EP (which was released for free, BTW) included enough tracks to be considered a full length release, I would have easily named it the album of the year. That’s how amazingly good it is. From the great work-up “Introducing Emergency” (which is only a 60 second long instrumental precursor to the equally good “This Love”) to the infectious “Inside the Den”, to the epic closer “Wild in a Free World”, these guys are phenomenal and are worth keeping an eye on. Get your free copy of the EP on their MySpace page NOW!
Top 9 of 2009;
Propagandhi ~ Supporting Caste; The Canadian socially and politically conscience group from Manitoba return to bemoan the world, our society, killing animals and even patriotism at hockey games. It’s an excellent album, featuring music that’s just as much punk as it is hard rock and it’s so very, very good.
Secret Broadcast ~ Exploding Spiders; One of two Calgary acts to make our top 9 this year, this album is fun and catchy and only begs the question; why aren’t these guys more popular? Do yourself a favour and get your hands on this record. You will NOT regret it.
the Shagbots ~ We Were Born Tigers; The second Calgary act to make the top 9, the Shagbots sneaked in under the radar and delivered a raw, overwhelmingly fun record that gives Franz Ferdinand a run for the money in the dance-rock arena. I dare you to sit still through tracks like “Get Up Girl” and the inclusion of Christian Bale‘s infamous rant in “Lost Time” is one of my favourite songs of the year.
Portugal. The Man ~ the Satanic Satanist; The Alaskan trio has grown into a burgeoning group of extremely talented musicians and their fourth album is utterly great. Increasing it’s value is the bonus disc/accompanying release the Majestic Majesty, an album of almost all Satanic Satanist tracks performed acoustically. Brilliant.
White Rabbits ~ It’s Frightening; An excellent sophomore effort from this Brooklyn, NY group, they’ve enjoyed increased exposure with performances on the Late Show with David Letterman and features the unbelievably good lead track, “Percussion Gun” (which should be added to the list of Best Songs of 2009).
Them Crooked Vultures ~ S/T; What do you get when you combine Josh Homme‘s singing, lyrical stylings, guitars with the fierce drumming of Dave Grohl and the classic, tried and true bass guitar mastery of John Paul Jones? An album that couldn’t have been more hyped! Although it failed to impress me on the first listen, it already proved it’s extreme worth upon the second spin and this record is sheer genius. We all want more!
Silversun Pickups ~ Swoon; When the girlfriend insisted I give Silversun Pickups a serious listen after 2006’s Carnavas came out, I didn’t act fast enough. Three years later and this album has me hooked beyond belief and I should’ve listened sooner. Beyond “Panic Switch” and “Substitution”, there is an album that you have to listen from start to finish. It’s just that good.
Gallows ~ Grey Britain; The moment I further damaged my hearing with their debut album, I knew I was going to be a fan for life. This follow-up album smashes you in the face with unbelievably heavy punk and metal tracks that, if you listen closely, paints an ugly but truthful picture of the world at large, and Frank Carter‘s tortured self. Right down to the exhausted, self destructive heaving breaths on final track “Crucifucks”, this is what punk, metal, alternative and frankly, any rock album should embody.
Manchester Orchestra ~ Mean Everything to Nothing; With the list of eight albums above, I struggled to settle on this as the album of the year. Not because it isn’t worthy, but because Manchester Orchestra had some serious contenders to fend off, but there is no denying how good this album is. It moves you, shakes you, while you ponder the stories being told, reduces you to your bare self as you take self evaluation and makes you wonder where music like this has been hiding. Sometimes you have to be thankful for over-played catchy singles like “I’ve Got Friends” because it sucks you into ensuring you pay attention to what else is going on with the band and in this case, it’s well worth every radio play. With an album like this and the eight above, 2010 has a tall order on it’s desk and I certainly hope it delivers.