Top 10 Albums of 2009

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The year and decade are rapidly coming to a close, which means it's due time to look back on the year that was in music. There's no doubt that 2009 was an interesting year, full of terrific recordings and emerging artists. So what better way to get all nostalgic about the last twelve months than to compile a top ten list that highlights our favorite albums of the year.

With an expert panel of JPP's finest music writers contributing to the formation of the list below, we feel as if you'll find nothing but quality releases in our top ten; so we urge you to go and check out the albums featured in our list that you haven't had the chance to listen to yet. Without further ado, the top 10 albums of 2009.

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10. Melody Gardot - My One and Only Thrill


It’s been nice to see Melody Gardot receive a little recognition as of late. After quietly releasing her debut album Worrisome Heart last year, word quickly spread about this 24 year old jazz singer with a voice so ethereally perfect that simple comparisons don’t do it justice. And while her last effort was a wonderful album full of terrific songs, it seemed like more of a vessel for her chilling vocals than a fully realized work of art. With that being said, Gardot’s sophomore release, My One and Only Thrill, may very well be the young singer’s masterpiece. More focused, better executed, and dripping with emotion – if this album doesn’t make Melody a household name among music lovers, nothing will. (Tyler Barlass)
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9. Super Furry Animals - Dark Days/Light Years


With the weird stuff charming again, the intentionally dumb interludes bordering on transcendent and a wealth of great fundamental songs stuffed with juicy hooks beneath the eccentricities, Super Furry Animals sound more invigorated than they have in a long time. They’ve never been content to “phone it in,” but the results could be drastically uneven—the slow ones draining and the quick pop nuggets too faint and forgettable. But a masterstroke of seemingly clunky planning has beefed up the variety on here. More than that, though, nearly every song on here can be cherished alone again and again. Dark Days/Light Years is everything you could ever want from the Furries, and maybe a few things you didn’t know you were missing. (Matt Medlock)
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8. Thrice - Beggars
Beggars

I’m glad I continued to spin Beggars for a few weeks before I got around to writing up a review, though. The depth of Thrice’s new album is something I overlooked at first. While my initial response was a slightly disappointed “good but not great” mentality, I soon found myself wanting to constantly go back to Beggars. Tracks like the opening song “All the World Is Mad” and the mid-tempo “In Exile,” not only got stuck in my head for their infectious melodies but also for their intriguing lyrics. For the most part, Thrice is pretty far removed from their hardcore origins, but the band continues to pay homage to their roots while crafting fantastic hard rocking songs that lean more into a modern alternative, sometimes Americana based sound. Frontman Dustin Kensrue demands attention with his emotive vocals that saturate each song on the album. (Tyler Barlass)
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7. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone


With one of the most powerful and appealing voices in popular music today, Neko Case owns every song she performs. When she lends her talent to the potent power pop of the New Pornographers, she’s a surge of sunny melody and body-bouncing energy. When she concentrates on her own material, her tone is always the most immediately grabbing part of every song. Repeated listens unearth the instrument method but no studying is required to unpeel the layers of her throat. Even when she draws it back to a warble, there’s no one else in the room that matters. (Matt Medlock)
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6. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion


For once, the Animal Collective fans are mostly right. No, this won’t “change” pop music the way some say OK Computer did a decade ago, but the hype is appropriately directed. Merriweather is indeed the crossroads of the norm and the alternative. They remain idiosyncratic, experimental and even freakish in their approach, but everything is leavened with dreamy psychedelia, droning electronic loops, rattling African beats and harmonious vocals. It’s the next logical step for a band growing under a widening spotlight—but they’re doing it backwards. Instead of escaping from the derivations of their inspirations like almost every other band does, they’re beginning to show their colors more clearly by paying careful homage to those they love. It’s still a form of maturation, but done in a way that would make Benjamin Button feel less lonely. (Matt Medlock)
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5. Karnivool - Sound Awake
Sound Awake

Sound Awake is an album of immense progressive proportions that boasts some brilliant atmospherics, excellent melodies courtesy of vocalist Ian Kenny, accomplished musicianship and adventurous songwriting. Never in a rush, the truly awe-inspiring moments come in the guise of the "Change" and "Deadman" – both clocking in over 10 minutes – which sees Karnivool nail the term ‘dramatic’ with aplomb. (Darren Sadler)
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Fantasies4. Metric - Fantasies

Metric's third full-length album, Fantasies, is a glossy, slick, and so-clean-you-could-eat-off-it slice of modern rock that may scare off some of the band's early fans due to the unrepentant commercial nature of the album. Anyone who isn't repelled by the band's professionalism and ambition to sound perfect will find it to be quite good. You can't begrudge them taking a shot at the big time, especially when the result is as good as this. And it's not like they are doing anything radically different here; it just sounds freshly painted and shorn of any defects. In other words, it sounds just like an album by one of the bands that inspire them, finely tuned machines like the Cars, Garbage, Blondie, and Missing Persons. (Tim Sendra)
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3. The xx - xx
xx

The hype for xx sort of came out of nowhere without trade paper leaks and trendy band stories/gimmicks; in other words, this is the sort of swelling praise that’s trustworthy. With the Peter Hook basslines and the husky sexuality of Croft’s voice, they could have been the next craze. Instead, they decided to concentrate on their first album, plan each insinuating move with methodical precision, and deliver as impressive an entrance as we’ve seen in a few years. Even while they work in restrained shades, individual songs are captured and cherished (favorites: “Islands,” “Shelter,” “VCR,” “Crystalised”), but you won’t be itching to chop it up and sprinkle some gems onto an iPod mix. Instead, you bring the disc with you for lonely late-night drives or put it on in your room for midnight ambiance. The songs may be primarily about the instant gratification of sex, but your relationship to xx should soon blossom into true love. (Matt Medlock)
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2. Mew - No More Stories...
Mew

Although I know that Mew has had a solid fan base and a pretty good repertoire for a few years now (or at least since the release of 2003’s Frengers), I still really never understood what all the fuss was about. Their 2005 album And The Glass Handed Kites was universally praised, and though I did find it rather interesting it never grabbed me the way it did some of my peers. No More Stories has more than changed my opinion on these Danish rockers though. More upbeat and pop oriented than its predecessor, the band’s newest album is a trip through numerous genres and destinations. From the catchy “Repeaterbeater,” which relies on the silky smooth vocals of Jonas Bjerre, to the eclectic rock of “Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy” which implements saxophone and a children’s choir into the mix, No More Stories is a relaxing trip to both beautiful and exotic destinations. (Tyler Barlass)
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1. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
Hazards

The adventurous spirit of this band doesn’t always guarantee spectacular results, but their attention and ear for a good melody does. Musically, they hardly even sound like the same band that gave us Castaways and Cutouts a mere seven years and four albums ago. But as they continue to push the limits of pomposity to prove that nothing can defeat a good tune, they are playing as tight as ever before. Each band member's piece to the puzzle fits perfectly, the guests serve an important purpose and never feel overbearing (I had trouble figuring out where Jim James and Robyn Hitchcock were even at on the first couple listens) and Tucker Martine’s production continues to expand the layers far past what initially seemed to be the breaking point. I used to think there was a ceiling for this sort of thematic, lyrical and musical ambition, but I’m beginning to wonder if I was completely wrong. Right now, after five truly great albums and likely more ahead, the sky’s the limits for the Decemberists. (Matt Medlock)
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Dec
30
2009
Tyler Barlass • Editor

Tyler is passionate about Music, Sports, Beer, Comic Books, Food, Cocktails and other seemingly unrelated things.

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