The Best[s] of 2009 - Part 1

An overture to the coming lists of best music, movies and more, (but mostly music,) including:

- Great 2008 albums absent from my list last year
- 2009’s 10 best collections of songs that weren’t really albums
- Miscellaneous awards and a few bitch-slaps
- List of coming attractions
- The part where I explain that I don’t just make lists to prove I am cool.

Great 2008 albums I missed till this year.... For shame.

(In alphabetical order):

Army Navy – S/T
Blind Pilot – Three Rounds and a Sound
Chad Vangaalen – Soft Airplane
Cold War Kids – Loyalty to Loyalty
Coldplay –Prospekt’s March EP
Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs (Interesting story there…)
The Dodos – Visiter
Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
Jon Hopkins – Insides
M83 – Saturdays = Youth
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
Right away Great Captain – The Bitter End
Sun Kil Moon – April
Unwed Sailor – Little Wars
Wintersleep – Welcome to the Night Sky

2009’s 10 best EPs samplers b-sides, etc:

10) Modest Mouse – No One's First and You're Next
Start with: Guilty Cocker Spaniels

9) Death Cab for Cutie – The Open Door EP
Start with: A Diamond and a Tether

8) Twilight New Moon OST
Start with: “Roslyn” (Bon Iver ft. St. Vincent); “Slow Life” (Grizzly Bear)

7) Horse Feathers – Cascades 7”
It’s only 2 songs.

6) Owen – The Seaside EP
Start with: Heads Will Ache

5) Karen O. and the Kids – Where the Wild Things Are OST
Start with: Igloo, Cliffs

4) Pickwick – 2009 Demo
Start with: Big Ideas, Zero Gravity Sleeping Bag

3) Dark was the Night
Start with: Disc 1.

2) Iron & Wine – Around The Well
Start with: The Trapeze Swinger

1) Bon Iver – Blood Bank EP
Start with: Any track except “Woods,” unless there’s something wrong with you :)

Pleasant surprises:

Best Post-Rock album:

The Appleseed Cast –Sagarmatha
Runner up: We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls (They also win best new band name and most Scottish.)

The “Hey, this kind of sounds like music” award:

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion
It’s the most (the only, if you ask me,) intelligible Animal Collective album to date. Now that I can sort of tell what the hell I’m listening to, I like it.

Best album cover:

Weezer – Raditude
Sure, it’s the only redeeming quality of an awful CD, but the perfectly-timed shot of that leaping, smiling dog is definitely rad.

Best use of the word Fuck in a song:

“California on my Mind” by Wild Light, from Adult Nights
Just listen to it, man.

One Hit Wonder:

“VCR” by The xx, from xx
Runner Up: “In Steps” by Letting Up Despite Great Faults

Best Side-Project:

Volcano Choir – Unmap
Actually, Sunset Rubdown probably made the year’s best side-project album. Handsome Furs is also up there. But Justin Vernon’s collaboration with fellow WI band Collections of Colonies of Bees is dang good and deserves recognition for more than just its awesome remix of “Woods.”

Best album that didn’t make my top 20 list:

Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
The melodies and guitar tone are great, and about half the songs are soid. But I just couldn’t get into the other half, so the album feels inconsistent to me.

Best Concert I saw this year:

Bon Iver at Sasquatch
Runners up: Explosions in the Sky at Sasquatch; Band of Horses at the Knitting Factory


Worst album cover:

The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
Seriously, what were they thinking? It’s like a cross between Hamlet and the fat squaw from Disney’s Peter Pan.

Worst Album that might have had potential:

Weezer – Raditude
Here’s the thing, I can’t really argue with the few loyal defenders of Weezer who claim that we can’t judge them for making immature music that doesn’t sound like Pinkerton or the Blue Album. Let’s face it, the target market for Raditude is young teens, and the album probably stacks up pretty well against this year’s releases from Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.

The “Too happy for their own good” award:

mewithoutYou – It’s all crazy! It’s all false! It’s all a dream! Its alright.
This is the album I was most excited for this year. mewithoutYou’s last album, the 2006 masterpiece Brother Sister is definitely the most obscure pick on my “Best of the Decade” list and I put it at number 3. The band is still unique, but all the existential angst that carried the last album is absent from this one, and instead of breakups and doubt the songs are about beetles and grape-nuts.

Best album Whitworth University couldn’t pay me to listen to:

The Flaming Lips – “Embryonic”
Okay, I get that they're supposed to be weird or whatever, but I totally outsourced this review. Katie wrote a pretty positive one, but she had a telling line that explains pretty well why I can’t get into the band. She said something like, The album betrays what can only be called “blatant disregard for the listener.” The Flaming Lips are like a lazy boyfriend, but I won’t make you dump him if you don’t want to.

Coming Attractions:

Dec. 23: Overture
Dec. 24: 2009’s 10 best movies
Dec. 25: 2009’s 20 best songs
Dec. 26: Best books of the decade, 2000-2009
Dec. 27: 2009’s 20 best albums

Why me?
One of the jobs I get to put on my resume after this year is “College Radio Music Director.” I don’t exactly think that makes me an authority figure on what’s good music and what’s not, and I don’t have a Pitchfork complex. But I’ve listened to a whole lot of new music this year and it’s great, and I want you to check it out if you haven’t yet. Think of the rankings of my lists not as an authoritative categorization of aesthetic merit, but as the order in which I would recommend the items to…umm…myself.


  1. While I can't disagree that mwY's newest is a step in an, eh, interesting (?), direction, that beetle song is actually a wonderfully interesting meditation on epistemology. And I discovered that the composer on it plays most of the music of a Presby church in my neighborhood. Best church music I've ever heard...

  2. Kyle,

    that is sweet dude. I actually agree and think the beetle king is a great song. I guess I was being flippant when I wrote this. I actually wrote a pretty positive review of the album:

    But I do prefer metaphorically conveyed experience (i.e. "Brother Sister") to allegory any day of the week.