gorilla vs. bear’s albums of 2009
Our favorites from an exceptional year:
25 pisces | a lovely sight
mp3: dear one
24 ganglians | monster head room
mp3: valient brave
23 the mantles | the mantles
mp3: don't lie
22 st. vincent | actor
mp3: the strangers
21 cass mccombs | catacombs
mp3: dreams come true girl
20 atlas sound | logos
19 washed out | high times
18 night control | death control
mp3: star 131
17 phoenix | wolfgang amadeus phoenix
mp3: love like a sunset (animal collective remix)
16 nirvana | live at reading
The Mayfair Set is the collaborative effort between Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls and Mike Sniper of Blank Dogs, which, as we said back in February, combines "Blank Dogs' dark, Joy Division-like baritone with DDG's bright, shimmering, '60s informed vocal melodies" to create something haunting and warm. Not technically an LP, but label-of-the-year contenders Captured Tracks + Woodsist compiled the group's stellar debut 7" single and 12" Young One EP onto one beautifully packaged cd, so here it is.
Stunning folk from Vermont trio Mountain Man. At times almost unnervingly stark, fragile, and intimate, with unreal vocal harmonies that are both soaring and devastating at once. Look for a 10" in early 2010 on Underwater Peoples.
Ghostly bedroom disco from L.A.'s Ramona Gonzalez. Like a lot of this "hypnagogic pop" steez, it may feel a bit slight to some upon first listen, but melted cassette-deck aesthetics aside, Nite Jewel's infectious pop songs are pretty undeniable. Also of note: Dâm-Funk is a fan, and has promised something called NITE-FUNK in the near future.
Gorgeous melancholy pop from the inhumanly prolific and consistent Dayve Hawk, and Seek Magic is arguably only the second best thing he released this year. The record plays like a hazy, recurring lucid dream, eliciting all of the familiar warmth and sadness of a very tangible but impossible-to-place nostalgia.
A record that spawned a competition among major pubs, blogs, and "people" to coin a genre title that, in the end, largely seemed to overshadow the music itself, and what this record really was -- a thoroughly mature, detailed and crafty dance pop gem that graced us with a handful of the year's most memorable jams. Look for a release from Palomo's other project early next year.
The solo debut from Karin Dreijer Andersson feels both icier and more claustrophobic than Silent Shout, yet somehow manages to remain considerably more accessible than the Knife's 2006 masterpiece. Chalk it up to Dreijer's ability to create brooding, hauntingly creepy soundscapes that are still entirely entrancing and infectious (inviting, even). The videos helped, too.
Sunny, blissed-out Swedish pop that borders on new age/easy-listening/adult contemporary (they even crib the lyrics and melody from a Taylor Dayne jam on album standout "Me & Dean") from enigmatic Swedes JJ, but with a playfully subversive spirit not unlike their bros in the Tough Alliance. Unless jj is TTA with a female lead, which seems plausible. Also, they managed to one-up Weezy, and made a classic corny '70s sitcom theme sound super dreamy.
We've been more or less obsessed with this band for nearly the past two years, since first hearing the lovelorn but wearily hopeful instant classic "Hellhole Ratrace" well before the backstory of Christopher Owens became a thing of legend. The long-awaited full-length delivers on all the promise of that first single and then some: perfect '50s pop melodies, heart-wrenching storytelling, and a rarefied heart-on-sleeve romanticism that very few can pull off.
The first of two bands of teenagers to appear in our top 10, Chicago's Smith Westerns' make earnest, irresistibly catchy pop songs (about girls), but with a legit, beyond-their-years glam-psych soul that sets them apart from the rest of their "garage"-y peers. And their best song isn't even on the record, so we're obviously psyched to see where these kids go next.
The Sandwitches' stylistically diverse debut full-length has earned the group comparisons to the Carter Family, Stevie Nicks, Loretta Lynn, and assorted '60s girl groups. Or as one commenter put it, "1960s Detroit meets 1909 Tennessee hill country." Anyway, yeah, the record feels at times like a jukebox full of dusty long-forgotten 45s, but as we mentioned in our initial appraisal, the band maintains an easy, totally natural cohesiveness throughout that makes How To Make Ambient Sadcake an endlessly enjoyable listen. The best album of the year that no one seems to be talking about.
Pitchfork took their version of a thinly veiled shot at us (and bloggers in general) for being into London youngsters the xx early on, only to turn around and bestow their coveted Best New Music tag upon the record less than a month later. Moving on, the moral of that story is this: if you think you don't like the xx, listen again. The band displays an uncanny ability to seamlessly and tastefully incorporate their influences -- namely, dubstep, R&B, Young Marble Giants-esque minimalism, and um, Chris Isaak -- but it's their astoundingly mature songcraft matched with a precocious sense of space and restraint that make this a special debut.
I'm not sure there's much left to be said about this one. With the feverishly anticipated/debated/praised/hated Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective set the tone for the year by crafting a near flawless avant-pop record that transcended itself and paved the road for countless imitators, as great records tend to do.
Grizzly Bear's follow-up to the universally beloved Yellow House is such a staggering and dense leap forward, it's not hard to get lost in the textures and effortless nuances that ultimately make this such an essential work. It's easy to take this for granted in a year when it seemed like pretentious art-school noodling was often lauded as some kind of groundbreaking genius, but, let's face it, Veckatimest made its mark naturally and gracefully, with songs that will inevitably endure the test of time.
No need to belabor our devotion to this band and record any further. You might not feel White Denim and what they do, and that's ok. But on the incredibly eclectic Fits, WD drew from a deep well of influences -- from Funkadelic to vintage psych to Stevie Wonder and beyond -- and in the process blew our minds with their effortless, perpetual shape-shifting and masterful songwriting. For me, not only one of the best of the year, but one of the decade's finest.
Check David's list after the jump...
david's albums of '09:
01 animal collective | merriweather post pavilion
02 white denim | fits
03 grizzly bear | veckatimest
04 girls | album
05 the xx | xx
06 neon indian | psychic chasms
07 smith westerns | smith westerns
08 various | ghana special
09 jj | no. 2
10 the sandwitches | how to make ambient sadcake
11 nite jewel | good evening
12 nirvana | live at reading