(note - the full article appears on In Review Online)
As much as I enjoyed the music of 2008, it would be difficult, if not impossible to argue that the first six months of 2009 have already surpassed the previous twelve in terms of both quality and quantity of exceptional releases. While the spotlight last year was taken, in large part, by newcomers like Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, the best of this year focuses much more on the triumphant returns of some of indie rock’s most notable acts. By that same token, 2009 feels like a year of reinvention and progression for those same bands, with groups like Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs all taking stylistic steps away from their previous successes and all creating the best albums of their careers in the process. That’s what great bands do, evolve and improve, and we’ve seen the best of that principle in action this year.
But what is perhaps most refreshing about the year so far is the relative lack of disappointment I’ve felt when it comes to those bands who I’ve been counting on to impress. Certainly I’ve been let down a time or two, but looking over the following list, it’s readily apparent that the majority of those groups I’ve been expecting big things from have delivered in an even bigger way. For whatever reason, through the aligning of the stars or will of the gods or what have you, 2009 has delivered an absolute explosion of superb music, a trend that we should hope will continue over the remaining six months.
For a more detailed description about the albums, check out my article on In Review Online (second half of the page)
List is ALPHABETICAL
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (Review)
"...despite the many words of praise that have already been heaped upon the album, the masterpiece that is... Merriweather Post Pavilion continues to live up to every ounce of hype and thus far maintains its spot on the top of the list of '09's best albums."
Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca (Review)
"Bitte Orca’s inimitable blend of pop melodies and expansive experiments mark a high point for the band and for music this year."
DM Stith - Heavy Ghost (Review)
"Heavy Ghost feels like the kind of record from which a distinguished and notable musical career could be launched, and if Stith can continue to provide music of this caliber, I imagine that’s exactly what will happen."
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest (Review)
"Filled with ghostly vocal harmonies and intricately arranged instrumentals, Veckatimest is an album built of mostly ordinary parts organized into an almost otherworldly whole that’s truly gripping and frequently astonishing."
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone (Review)
"Throughout its 14 tracks, Middle Cyclone frequently feels so comfortable and effortless that it’s easy to forget how rarely an album comes together this well. The record is both approachable and refreshingly unique, a reminder of why we all fell in love with Neko Case years ago."
P.O.S. - Never Better (Review)
"Alexander’s politically-charged lyrics remain sharp throughout the album, and the conception, execution and production of Never Better are all exceptional, resulting in an ambitious and exciting rap record."
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Review)
"...you get what you came for: perfectly executed pop music with a big heart and even bigger choruses, and in providing that, the record succeeds completely."
St. Vincent - Actor (Review)
"...her sophomore album expands on the promise of her debut, Marry Me, and further establishes Clark as one of indie rock’s premier songwriters."
Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer (Review)
"Back at the helm of what can hardly be considered his side project, Sunset Rubdown, Krug and his band have created a monstrously great rock album that marks the group's best work to date, and showcases some of Krug's most impressive material."
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz (Review)
"It’s Blitz is a step forward and up for Yeah Yeah Yeahs and an immensely enjoyable one at that."
Now go read more about my picks and see In Review Music Editor Jordan Cronk's picks HERE.
Have a list to share? Please do!