I’m not about to sit atop Snooty Rock Critic Mountain and declare the 10 absolute best albums of 2009. I’ve heard but a fraction of the year’s releases, plus my tastes are as quirky as yours. Instead, I have assembled a list of 10 albums released during ’09 that I fully enjoy — and you might also.
I’m not about to sit atop Snooty Rock Critic Mountain and declare the 10 absolute best albums of 2009. I’ve heard but a fraction of the year’s releases, plus my tastes are as quirky as yours.
Instead, I have assembled a list of 10 albums released during ’09 that I fully enjoy — and you might also.
DAN AUERBACH: Keep It Hid. “I just wanted to do the things I loved,” Dan Auerbach, multi-talented guitarist-vocalist-songwriter for the Black Keys, said about his first solo album. Recorded in the Rubber City, the record is flat-out terrific, mixing elements of psychedelic fuzz-rock, vintage country, Southern R&B and Delta blues into a timeless brew.
CAGE THE ELEPHANT: Cage the Elephant. I love a good rowdy garage band and these Kentucky boys definitely fit the bill on this fun-filled disc. The rollicking “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” is the best song the White Stripes didn’t release this year.
EELS: Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire. “Hombre Lobo” is Spanish for wolf-man, and there’s definitely some howling and prowling going on here. Rough-hewn rock tunes with distorted vocals and guitars (”Tremendous Dynamite,” “Lilac Breeze”) alternate with disarmingly lovely melodies (”In My Dreams,” “All the Beautiful Things”), delivered with confessional honesty.
GOSSIP: Music For Men. Beth Ditto’s feisty, impassioned, tremulous, bluesy vocals are the chief attraction here, whether topping irresistible electro-dance tunes like “Men in Love” and “Pop Goes the World” or the lowdown, guitar-driven “8th Wonder” and “Heavy Cross.”
LADY GAGA: The Fame Monster. While her fashion choices tend to baffle me, young and savvy Gaga is making the best dance singles since Madonna. Her debut album “The Fame” (which spawned “Poker Face,” “Let’s Dance” and “Paparazzi”) was a 2008 release but this new eight-song disc, containing the dancefloor epic “Bad Romance,” will do fine.
PHOENIX: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. While I’ve enjoyed plenty of French food, films and artwork over the years, this kinda-wonderful French pop-rock band comes as surprise. Bright, breezy, bouncy and loaded with hooks, “Lisztomania,” “1901,” “Lasso” and “Girlfriend” are among 2009’s top pop pleasures.
ASHER ROTH: Asleep in the Bread Aisle. It’s a shame this sharp-witted white suburban rapper got branded as a one-hit wonder due to his debauched novelty hit “I Love College.” To these ears, this inventive hip-hop collection is a mashup of Eminem at his most class-clown and the early Beastie Boys.
WHITE RABBITS: It’s Frightening. The second CD from this Brooklyn sextet launches with a wild ride titled “Percussion Gun” and keeps the pace rolling with plenty more catchy, rhythmic indie rock driven by piano, drums and emotive vocals. An outstanding disc produced by Britt Daniel of Spoon.
WILCO: (The Album). Solid melodies, frank lyrics, intimate vocals and stellar musicianship pay off yet again in Wilco’s warm and satisfying seventh studio album. Contents range from the poppy fan valentine “Wilco (The Song)” to the atmospheric ballad “Deeper Down” to the guitar-spiked jam “Black Bull Nova,” certain to be a concert highlight.
THE XX: The XX. Low-key, hushed and minimalist, this band of U.K. teenagers has crafted a mesmerizing debut. Vocalists Romy and Oliver’s call-and-response duet on the slowly building “Crystalised” is haunting and sexy. Throughout this moody CD, the band is casually cool, its articulate guitar riffs and bass lines providing spare background to the hypnotic voices.
BEST CONCERTS I SAW IN 2009 IN OHIO: The Killers, Tower City Amphitheatre; Kings of Leon, Tower City Amphitheatre; Black Keys, Musica; Bob Dylan, Canton Memorial Civic Center; Old Crow Medicine Show, Kent Stage.
CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED BANDS OF 2009 THAT I JUST DON’T GET (AND TRUST ME I HAVE TRIED): Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors.
SOME OTHER NEW ARTISTS OF 2009 THAT I LIKE: Yacht, The Drums, The Juan MacLean, Kid Cudi.
THINGS I’M ALREADY EXCITED ABOUT IN 2010: New January releases by OK Go, Vampire Weekend, Eels and Spoon; March concerts by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and G. Love & Special Sauce.
Dane Kane writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio.