Micro to Macro, Pt 2: 10 Ace Albums 2009

After a fun evening of list making yesterday, I looked forward all day to enlightening you all with my picks for albums of the year.

10.  Charles Spearin | The Happiness Project | Released: February 10, 2009
Charles Spearin - The Happiness ProjectSimply for the conceptual brilliance that is the linguistic aspect to this album, I had to include it in the top 10, even though it’s not something I listened to as much as some others I dropped off the list (apologies Wilco & Shakira).  Each track takes an aspect of vocal inflection and reintroduces it as melody, emphasizing how much we rely on intonation to give our speech meaning.  Beyond occassionally recognizing this melodic tone myself, I’ve never seen this done as an album before.  Innovation = 10.   To get a pretty good overview of the project, watch this short film. Standout tracks:  Mrs. Morris (listen), Anna

9. The Boy Least Likely To | The Law of the Playground | Released: April 14, 2009
The Boy Least Likely To | The Law of the PlaygroundI came across this album because the name of the band drew me in with its incomplete thought.  This technique often doesn’t pan out, but I’m glad to say that I was as cheerful as the bouncy tracks on this beautiful pop album.   And the first track I picked to celebrate it suited my pup incredibly well. Standout tracks:  Every David Has Its Goliath (watch), Faith (ok, so this isn’t on the album, but I just came across it and wanted to share.  It’s a good George Michael cover after all.)

8. Dragonette | Fixin to Thrill | Released: September 29, 2009
Dragonette | Fixin to ThrillI can’t say enough about Dragonette’s first foray into the album industry, so when news of a follow-up started floating around the forums, I was ecstatic.  But unlike the first, this one dropped all of a sudden so I didn’t have quite the same amount of time to enjoy each track before the next leaked.  And with a less than stellar title track and first single, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad bit disappointed.   That said, there are moments of sparkling electropop jousting out from the mediocrity of a more accessible release.  Standout tracks: Gone Too Far (watch), Easy (listen), Pick Up the Phone (watch)

7.  Morrissey | Years of Refusal | Released: February 16, 2009
Morrissey | Years of RefusalWhat can I say?  I’m a sucker for Morrissey’s brand of tragedy.  He’s one of probably a handful of artists I’ve followed fairly consistently since high school and this album has a lot of what first drew me to him (ie.  isolation, lovelessness, an incredibly vivid way with lyrics, etc), not to mention such a voice that envelops me and brings me into his universe.  Standout tracks:  I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris (watch), You Were Good in Your Time (listen), Something is Squeezing My Skull (watch)

6. Eels | Hombre Lobo | Released: June 2, 2009
Eels | Hombre LoboEels are another band from back in the day that, like Morrissey, left my scope of vision for a while in the early 2000s only to come back with a vengeance this year.  The whole werewolf motif seems pretty big this year and E did it before Shakira, so give it up for Fresh Blood.  Of course, the album’s full of Beatles meets Beck, which can never be a bad thing.  Standout tracks:  Fresh Blood (watch), Prizefighter (watch), Beginner’s Luck (listen)

5. Depeche Mode | Sounds of the Universe | Released: April 20, 2009
Depeche Mode | Sounds of the UniverseYet another eternal favourite that came out with an album reminiscent of greater days, Depeche Mode’s latest proved that they can make an album produced as well as the greatest ever, Violator, again.  With electro that doesn’t so much as try to keep up with the commercial club dance crap of today, but rather hits it back like in the 80s (which now that I think about it, may be today’s pop trend), Sounds of the Universe reconfirmed my love.  Standout tracks:  Peace (watch), Corrupt (watch), Jezebel (listen)

4. Frankmusik | Complete Me | Released: August 3, 2009
Frankmusik | Complete MeDemos, then EP, then full LP release.  That’s how to manipulate me into listening to your songs enough that I love them all and want more.  Fiona Apple did it in 2005, Dragonette did it in 2007, and now Frankmusik has done it in 2009.  It all started with one version of Confusion Girl and I was hooked.  I’m a sucker for songs being reworked for album release!  So it just leaves me wonder, who will grab my attention in 2011?  Standout tracks:  Confusion Girl (watch old / listen new), 3 Little Words (watch), Done Done (listen)

3.  Lily Allen | It’s Not Me, It’s You | Released: February 9, 2009
Lily Allen | It's Not Me, It's YouI have to be honest, despite the massive media push of her first album, Lily Allen was never really on my radar a couple years ago.  Then one day, on a friend’s Facebook page, I noticed The Fear linked and gave it a shot.  Boy, did I make a good decision.  This is one of the most complete  albums from start to finish with not only raunchy opinions masked in cleverly light-hearted pop riffs, but it’s also incredibly catchy.  Standout tracks:  Him (listen), Fuck You (watch), The Fear (watch),  22 (watch)

2. Pet Shop Boys | Yes | Released:  April 21, 2009
Pet Shop Boys | YesA year of comebacks?  You could say that based on my list, I suppose.  And Pet Shop boys are no exception to the joy that was 2009.  They last had a stellar album with Very and back they are.  With only a couple of fillers, Yes is a solid mix of commercial dance and soulful vocals.  One of my favourite tracks from this year isn’t even on their album, but one of the singles.  What does that say?  It says we’ve got one hell of an album.  Standout tracks:  Love Etc (watch), Building a Wall (listen), Pandemonium (watch),  Did You See Me Coming? (watch)

1. La Roux | La Roux | Released: June 29, 2009
La Roux | La RouxDear La Roux, You are the best.  Your album rocks.  I love every single track, which is a rare event;  I don’t think it’s happened since Madonna.   Tall shoes to fill.  You probably won’t, but you’ve started off on in an excellent pair.  Big ups to your freshman effort.  I look forward to your next outting.  Advice:  don’t go all rock trying to break the mould.  Love, Tyson.  Standout tracks:  Armour Love (watch), Tigerlily (listen), Fascination (listen), Bulletproof (watch)

Thanks for going on this musical journey with me.  It was my pleasure.  How will these albums stack up with those on the next entry:  Albums of the Decade!

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About seburnt

I own 4C and teach at University of Toronto. View all posts by seburnt

3 responses to “Micro to Macro, Pt 2: 10 Ace Albums 2009

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