A “Top 10 Albums of 2009” list, with a few caveats. I feel the need to qualify it. To create this list, I chose 15 albums from the year that I love, either because they are musically the best the year has to offer, or because I simply like them a lot. This is a personal list, but I also vouch for it as an accurate description of the year’s offerings, or as “accurate” as something subjective like music taste can be.
My methodology consisted of looking through my personal iTunes and Last.fm libraries, as well as other top 10 lists, including Pitchfork and the AV Club. This served as a reminder to me what had been released this year. Of course, some albums never made it on my radar, and others, like Animal Collective’s “Merriweather Post Pavillion,” I find excruciating.
-Arctic Monkeys, “Humbug”
-Phoenix, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”
-Jay-Z, “The Blueprint 3”
-Kid Cudi, “Man on the Moon: The End of Day”
-Grizzly Bear, “Veckatimest”
Phoenix and Grizzly Bear didn’t make the top 10 because, when you consider the albums as full entities, they seem a bit lacking. While the hits are fun and influential, the other tracks are middling at best and boring at worst. Kid Cudi’s debut was also lacking compared to his mixtape release and features; he didn’t use the full extent of his talent on his own album. Instead, he went for a more introspective hip-hop/singing meld, rather than the straight rapping for which he became noticed. The album does not work very well as a concept album, although it is an interesting exploration of the artist’s depression.
Now (drum roll, please), on to the Top 10 Albums of 2009…
10. Major Lazer, “Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do”
9. Wale, “Attention: Deficit”
8. Big D & The Kids Table, “Fluent in Stroll”
7. Volcano Choir, “Unmap”
6. The Very Best, “Warm Heart of Africa”
5. Blakroc, “Blakroc”
4. The xx, “XX”
3. Various Artists, “Dark Was the Night”
2. The Decemberists, “The Hazards of Love”
1. Bon Iver, “Blood Bank EP”
I did feel weird placing an EP as the number one release of the year, especially considering that not every song on the album is gold. However, in creating this list, I looked at titles and reordered them. Giving an album a number is the hardest part, and when I started the process I set Bon Iver aside. But as some albums moved up and others fell down, I kept looking and saying to myself Bon Iver is better than this or that one, it deserves to be up higher than this album, and then before I knew it, it was at the top. That said, it is an excellent release, and looking down the list, I feel like its placement is not wrong.
But 2009 was a good year. The albums put out this year are like a cherry on top of the delicious cake of new music released this decade, which saw tremendous advancements in both hip-hop and indie/alternative rock. And with upcoming releases from Yeasayer, Vampire Weekend, and a host of others, it looks like 2010 will start off right.