A Year in Music: Best Albums of 2009: Look Back Part 2.

>> Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Year in Music: Best Albums of 2009.
I am going to do a quarterly revisit of my best of the year albums. I am doing this, in part because, it is funny how albums stay the same as you change. You realize that overtime you are listening to some albums more than others, and some you are not listening to at all after the luster wears off. But also, upon reviewing my previous best of lists, I would change so much in retrospect. So, this is to document how my mind is evolving throughout the year.

Below you will see the albums ranked in their new order with the original ranking in parentheses. You will also see my original introduction for this list, as well as each original review listed as they were back when first posted. I have put my updated thoughts from March in a lovely shade of
lilac, and my insights from June in a manly shade of green.
First and foremost I need to ask for forgiveness for my absence from this glorious blog. I have been devoid of a computer for the last 6 months and the itch to write nearly killed me. So, you have my profoundest and sincerest apologies. With that in mind, I fear that my ability for string coherent words together to form witty one-sided banter may be a bit on the rusty side, so bear with me while I gain my bearings.
This year, for the first time in many years, seemed insignificant. One day bled into the next until this year felt like last. Stretching within my own confines proved to be a fruitless task, this year was doomed to be nothing special, static, and forgettable. Understand, this is not a bad thing; quite possibly, it is something to celebrate. No news is good news. My life, for the first time in years, was dramaless and boring. Dramaless and boring, is great for one thing. Losing oneself in those true inner passions. Rediscovering exactly how discovering something feels. This was my year in music. A year of discovery. And it was bountiful.
In 2009 I purchased a total of 144 albums and EP’s, 58 of which were actually released between November of 2008 and December of 2009. That is 58 new recordings from this year alone that made this year anything but forgettable. And, yes, I did, purchase all of these. And yes, this is where all my money goes. It’s better than a drug habit, although, sometimes it’s hard to know the difference.
As 2008 progressed, I took a noticeable step away from my standard singersongwriter persona. I started to really appreciate music that took real chances. Music that tried something new and of value. Leaning more and more towards the Los Campesinos! and The Dodos of the world, I started to purchase records I never would have considered two years ago. This was just the start of a hell of a journey.
This year was about taking chances in safe places, between the left and right side of storytelling headphones. I hope you enjoy. I will do a quarterly review of this list to track the changes that are sure to follow.

1. Slow Club – Yeah, So (Previously #1, #1)
This album is full of fresh pop hooks that burrow their way into your subconscious, clearing the fog in the process.
I have had a slight affinity to cuteness in the last year. And this affinity has taken up residence in some of the music I have fallen into these last 12 plus months. I am not sure that Slow Club will reinvent any rock and roll wheels, but sometimes, making a really good wheel is more than enough. This album is full of fresh pop hooks that burrow their way into your subconscious, clearing the fog in the process. I had a lot of trouble ranking my top 4 albums this year. Having to decide what was number one was easily the hardest decision I have made in 13 days, but when all was said and done, the simple fact is, I listened to this band more times (by a mile) than any other group of the year. They may not be technically brilliant, they may be somewhat replaceable, hell some of the songs sound like they were recorded in a shower stall of a junior college, but none of that matters or compares to how this music makes me feel. This album, as well as the 4 other EP’s released in the last two years, made a static year alive. I love this album. I feel that in 15 years, when I am driving my children on an eight hour drive up to my family lake house in Canada, this will be on the playlist like Jimmy Buffett was the soundtrack for my childhood roadtrip memories.
If anything, this record grew on me even more. The dilemma I had with choosing between this and fun. has evaporated. This is a record that I will celebrate forever. I have even moved away from my dislike of the song I Was Unconscious, It Was A Dream.
This record was rereleased in 2010 with some GREAT live tracks that has only further endured me to the band. Not only is this record going to remain at number one, but if/when I compile my 3 year list, this will probably top that as well. I have gone to the extent of buying and mailing this record to my ear-ies (I'm trying to find the musical equivalent to the word foodies, what you think? Yea or Nay?) who have not given this record the chance it deserves. And, so far, I have a perfect batting average.
Songs that Hit: Nearly all.
Songs that miss: I Was Unconscious, It Was A Dream.
Songs that I will listen to forever: Christmas TV. Let’s Fall Back in Love. Thinking Drinking Sinking Feeling.

2. The Temper Trap – Conditions (Previously #3, #4)
This is not a one trick pony record. It’s a backflip pony record, and that’s a hell of a trick.
I imported this little album from down under primarily on the strength of the track Sweet Disposition that was featured on the season finale of one of my favorite shows “Greek.” And I’ll tell you what, it was not an easy get. It took me three weeks to even figure out what song was on the show, and then another week to find a record store in Sydney that was willing to ship it internationally, costing me nearly 40 bucks for a ten dollar album. But, it was worth it. Boy was it worth it. This is not a one trick pony record. It’s a backflip pony record, and that’s a hell of a trick. You go from sweet, sweet arena rock on songs like Down River, Rest and of course Sweet Disposition to gentle, almost do-op sounds on songs like Love Lost and Fools. If you want to be surprised, if you want to be entertained, if you want every single mood you will ever know, expressed to you in clear, amazing vocals, strong baselines, and energizing guitar licks this would be the album for you.
Everything I added about fun can be said about this record too. It is still as complete of a record I have heard all year. Still listen to it all the time. Mostly on my way home from work when I need to get the rock out.
So, this moved up. I'm just as surprised as you are. But, when I look though my most listens playlist, 7 tracks out of the top 50 belong to this record, 3 in the top 10. Yeah, those are staggering numbers. Seeing these facts, I sat down and really reexamined this record and realized that I was severally undervaluing it. Any other year and this would have been a number one record.
Songs that hit: Sweet Disposition. Love Lost, Resurrection. Fader. Down River. Science of Fear.
Songs that miss: The second half of Drum Song. It’s brave to toss a fully instrumental song on an album like this, but, it is just way too long.
Songs that I will listen too forever: Sweet Disposition and Love Lost

3. fun. – Aim and Ignite (Previously #2. #3)
Rebellious. That is about the only word/concept/idea that can possibly even start to describe this record. From Be Calm, a powerful showtune-esque toe tapper, you can clearly tell that Nate Ruess, former creative force and lead singer of The Format, is not one to bend to typical structures of pop records in this digital, radio centric age. This album is about taking chances as much as is homage to an array of influences. Both All the Pretty Girls andBenson Hedges are love songs to the power and beauty of classic Queen, not that you could ignore the glaring influence of Freddy’s voice throughout. Nate hits notes that make my testicles hurt just to hear, let alone attempt sing along. Light a Roman Candle with Meis as close to a song by The Carpenters you can get without alienating listeners. Overall, each song tells a different story. Each song instills a different emotion. Each song leaves a lasting impression. There are so many ways to describe this album that is almost doesn’t seem fair to even try, no words will compare to you sitting on a park bench, slipping on a set of headphones and listening to this enigma of a band yourself, and frankly, its genius.
Still genius. This record only suffers at the hands of The Swell Season filling the musical void that I have been searching to fill. This is an amazing record that does not deserved to be demoted. But that is just part of the game.
I cannot say this is not a great album, but it has lost a little of its luster. It can feel a little one note at times. Still amazing music, vocals and writing, don't get me wrong, but not the staying power I expected.
Songs that Hit: All
Songs That Miss: None
Songs that I will listen to forever: Be Calm. Barlights. At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be).

4. The Swell Season – Strict Joy (Previously #9, #2)

I could not imagine sitting and writing about the tumble of love, with the tumbler sitting across from me.
There is nothing strict about this joy. I know, lame line, and one that almost every blogger is sure to use to review this album, but it’s also the most honest statement I can make about this record. To be frank, I was not sure Glen and Markéta could step out of the shadow that “Once” and Falling Slowly had cast. It was a task that only a really musically secure group could accomplish, and I was not sure they possessed that quality. I have never been happier to be proven wrong. As a fan of the movie “Once” (all time favorite), I approached this record with more hesitance than normal. I did not want to love it, because of what it reminded me of. I did not want to hoist false praise due to my own heavy-handed bias. So, when originally writing this list, I left this off, knowing very well that it was probably a mistake. It took going to see Glen, Markéta and the boys from The Frames live at The Paramount to make me realize how big of a mistake it actually was. Objectively, I can say, it was the best concert I have ever been to, and it made me re-approach this album with less hesitancy. Upon doing so, I found a much fuller sound than on both the “Once” soundtrack and first Swell album. The songs paint such gorgeous pictures, with both Glen and Markéta's personalities strewn about. Not to mention the lyrical content that composed this magical little record. What you may want to know, no, what you need to know, is that Glen and Mar fell in love during filming, and stayed together for 2+ years. Only to break up, just before writing and recording this album. This is the ultimate break up album. The songs were not only written with a broken heart, but with two hearts, suffering from the same break. I could not imagine sitting and writing about the tumble of love, with the tumbler sitting across from me. I think this album will climb on my quarterly reviews.
Clearly this record took a huge leap forward for me. I guess I can never really get away from the singersongwriter crap that I love, no matter how much I appreciate new stuff that takes chances. When I am in a pinch to listen to something. When I want to write. When I am driving to work, and talking myself out of calling in sick. This is what I listen too. Outside of Slow Club, this record gets more spins than any other from this last year. And it surprised me how much I love it.
Yeah, I know. I move them from #9 up to #2 and now down to #4, and it makes me look like a jackass. But hear me out.... I have no excuse. After I gave this record the shot it deserved, it hit me like a wave. And everything I said in my lilac review still rings true, its just not a groundbreaking or punchgut as those before it. This is still my go to record, and who knows, in 3 more months, it could be back up at number 2.
Songs that hit: Low Rising. In These Arms. The Verb. I Have Loved You Wrong. Feeling the Pull.
Songs that miss: High Horses.
Songs that I will listen to forever: In These Arms. I Have Loved You Wrong. Low Rising.

5. The XX – XX (Previously #4, #5)
It’s like booty call music for the heavily sedated.
Pride is a foolish endeavor. Pride almost left this gem of a record unlisted here and undiscovered in my heart. This little English band made a big impact on me, and, I assume, many other indie music fans. This album is the equivalent to a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Combining two things that shouldn’t blend, in this case, Sexiness and Sadness, in the most harmonious of ways. Hands down, the saddest sexy album I have ever heard in the most gratifying way. It’s like booty call music for the heavily sedated. While narrowing down my selections for this list in front of you, I contacted 3 of my closest musical advisors, The Kramer’s in Brooklyn, and Mrs. Malone in Austin with a very unwatered down version of this list. I have upmost faith that if I had made an egregious error, or a glaring omission, these people will let me know without hushed tones. I sent this, of course, with hope that they would agree full heartedly in my selections and tell me how brilliant I am. This, however, was not the case, I was met with both with harsh criticism and stirring insights on my current selections as well clear misses. Mrs. Malone pointed out within 2 hours of pursuing my list that I did not have The XX. I believe her exact email stated in its entirety:
“THE XX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
And, being the friend that I am, I of course thanked her for her suggestion and had absolutely no intent to look them up. I hate not being the one to find that new amazing band that the exclamation points proclaimed this one to be, and I was going to ignore her suggestion on stubbornness alone. But, I swallowed my pride after hearing about 14 seconds of Basic Space and purchased the album. The rest is #4. Listen with your headphones on.
I hate to be repetitive, but the same sentiment I have for fun and The Temper Trap I could reiterate here. This is a brilliant record, and honestly, has the best chance to move up out of the top 6 on this list here. You have noticed that I have used this record more than a few times when making other lists or songs of the day, and you should expect that to continue.
No change.
Songs that hit: Islands. Crystalised. Basic Space. Shelter. VCR. Intro. Hot Like Fire (cover).
Songs that miss: Fantasy.
Songs that I will listen to forever: Crystalised Basic Space. Shelter.
6. Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything to Nothing (Previously #5, #6)
This album is heartbreak disguised as rock and roll.
If this list was written in May, this would have been my number 1 or 2 record. It is really a strong record. And, if I am going to be honest with myself, I think I hurt its ranking on this lovely list. I really, really overplayed this record from April when it came out until probably the end of summer. And no matter how much you love a record, you can develop an allergy to its melody after a while. I over saturated myself with Andy Hull in general in the last year. He has another little sad, nautical band called “Right Away, Great Captain” that I suggest you check out if you want to understand how a band can possibly be described as both sad and nautical. But anyways, after taking a break from the fall to the winter from this record, I started to slowly move it back into my rotation and re-realized its power and beauty. This album is heartbreak disguised as rock and roll. Hitting on topics from child abuse in My Friend Marcus, to touching on addiction and longing in 100 Dollars, this album deploys a whole bevy of stories to tug at the listeners strings. The heavy guitar riffs and thumping drums are a clear departure for the band from their recent albums/EP’s. But it feels like a step in the right direction. You still get pieces of the ”old” band on songs like I Can Feel a Hot One and I’ve Got Friends, which will keep the purists happy. Personally, I am proud of this group. There is something to be said about taking chances as a band, you don’t always succeed, but sometimes you get electric Dylan.
Bold statement….. This album has the potential to become for my 20’s/30’s what “August and Everything After” was for my teens.
I have a hard time not moving this up. Mostly because I had a hard time ranking it at number 5 the first time around. But, this has fallen off a little bit for me. Not in a dramatic way, just in a “I choose to listen to other things more often” way. Still a hell of a record.

No change.

Songs that hit: EVERY SINGLE ONE. Seriously, I may be undervaluing this record due to my own over indulgences.

Songs that miss: Not a single one
Songs that I will listen to forever: I Can Feel a Hot One. Shake It Out. The River. Jimmy, He Whispers.
7. The Antlers – Hospice (Previously #11, #7)
The Antlers take chances by holding back and letting some of the song keep their secrets.
Two things of note about this particular record, first, this is an album that is 100% better if you listen to it with quality headphones, and second, this album is, quite frankly, a novel.
I noticed this record because of the album cover; it was vivid, stark and informative. I purchased this record due to my quality trackrecord of finding bands named after animals. I know, that’s kinda stupid, but you run with a superstition until it runs you over. Which, thanks to Grizzly Bear, it now has. Anyways, back to The Antlers. If you have experienced loss recently, if you often deal with bouts of depression or are currently dealing with a grave illness, this may not be the album for you. This record is about death/dying, it is about recovery after loss, it is far too often tragic/blameful. It is simply beautiful. Any article on the net will mention that the band describes their sound as "a delicately branching instrument of force,” which, normally I would avoid such repeated dribble, if it was not so accurate. There are concept albums that are meant to be listened to in order, from start to finish. This is not one of them, it is much more. I can only describe the experience I felt when I finally sat still, headphones on, and really listened to this album from beginning to end, as reading a great, great novel; digesting the words and melodies and feeling changed by them. Again, headphones are must, often sung in a whisper, many of the track will sound simple, single instrumentations, until you really listen. The Antlers take chances by holding back and letting some of the song keep their secrets. This album, if not so grim would be much, much higher. It is the kind of album you may need to take in doses. Take this in. Be cautious. Enjoy.
Another big gainer on the list. As I wrote 3 months ago, this is a novel of a record. It builds and stories in ways that, I, as a pseudo writer only dream to do. I expect this to keep climbing, slowly, as it is a record that cannot be listened too, too often, without wanting to slip into a depression coma. And that is a very good thing. It is an impactful record.

No change.

Songs that hit: Bear. Kettering. Epilogue. Two. Shiva.

Songs that miss: None
Songs that I will listen to forever: Bear (May end as the best song of the year).Shiva. Epilogue.
8. Hey Marseilles – To Travel & Trunks (Previously #12, #8)
(released in December of 2008)
If The Format and Bishop Allen had a baby in a French café, it would sound something like this.
Point of contention, this is my local pick. They are not on here, just because they are local, they have clearly and rightfully earned their place on this list. This is a seven piece Seattle band that plays even larger than that. Each member of the band is proficient at multiple instruments, and nothing seems overplayed, as is often the case in a band of this size. Consisting of 2 guitars, a bass, trumpet, cello, accordion, piano, mandolin, drumbourine, drums, handclaps, sousaphone, and thighs, this musical enterprise should be riddled with trying to do too much too often. But that is not the case. Their restraint is the key to their masterfullness. When trying to get people interested in the band, I have often resorted to using “if they had a baby…” metaphors. For example, I have said, if The Format and Bishop Allen had a baby in a French café, it would sound something like this. This is a cheap tool to create a buzz about a band, but in this case, it is really fitting.
The final album to make a big jump. And I think this is probably where it belonged all along, and if I had found the record earlier, it would have been at least this high. Beautiful, deep, introspective record.

No change.

Songs that hit: All. Sincerely.

Songs that miss: None.
Songs that I will listen to forever: Someone to Love. Rio. You Will Do For Now.
9. K’naan – Troubadour (Previously #8, #9)
He raps National Geographic Bi-lines.
Obviously, if you have read any of my other lists, you will realize that Hip-Hop is not really my forte. Judging what is quality from what is over-produced garbage is not really in my wheelhouse so to speak. So, it takes something special to grab my attention, a back story of sorts, to make me give a rap album a fighting chance. Don’t get me wrong, I buy quite a few albums of this genre, but never with the intention to even consider them for one of my lists. I had no clue to K’naan was, I had not heard a single track to justify spending $12 on his album, but, then I read an article, not about his music, but about his story that woke me up. K’naan is a Somali refugee, a man, who needed to express his story. Express what he saw growing up in a war torn world; as he so eloquently stated in I Come Prepared “My Job is to write what I see / So a visual stenographer is who I be.”So, he picked up albums by Nas and Rakim, and phonetically learned to speak English through hip-hop, and now his story is set to a beat with some of the best and most intricate rhymes I have heard in a very long time. He raps National Geographic Bi-lines. His story of tragedy and triumph is unmistakable and undeniable. I feel like, if given the proper chance and the push, this album could become what “The Miseducation of Lauren Hill” was, a crossover album that impacts all aspects of society and is celebrated amongst all music lovers, not just hip-hop fans. This album made me listen.
This only dropped due to others moving up. I have since purchased 5 or so more hiphop albums, and this is still the best from the last several years. Great record.

No change. Seriously, still have not found a hiphop album that even comes close.

Songs that hit: Wavin’ Flag. I Come Prepared. 15 Minutes Away. People Like Me. Bang Bang. America. Take a Minute.
Songs that miss: Honestly, if you like lyrical hip-hop, no songs miss. The beats could be stronger.
Songs that I will listen to forever: People Like Me. Wavin’ Flag. Take a Minute.
10. Paolo Nutini -- "Sunny Side Up"
The sophomore slump is a myth, for this Scot.
I made a mistake. I avoided this record. I didn't buy it on purpose, fearing that I would lose faith in an artist. I read an interview where Paolo was quoted in saying that he was not allowed to take the chances he wanted to take on his debut, that in his heart, he is a reggae guy. Now, you have to understand, that I LOVED his first record, and if that was him being restrained or reigned in, I was not sure that I wanted to allow him to be cut loose. Believe it or not, but producers do serve a purpose, and often know their shit. So, I chose not to pick up the album, rather than take the chance of being disappointed, and that was my biggest musical mistake of the year, outside of Owl City, that is. This is a diverse, rich, flutter inducing, kick in the ass record. He is a modern day musical method actor. He can take on a mo-town type song, a reggae number, or a Jimmy Buffet inspired tune and make you think that he has been releasing records in that genre for decades. It is quite something, he does not stumble with the freedom that is often earned but squandered after a successful debut release. The sophomore slump a myth for this Scot. I apologize Paolo Nutini. I did not even have you as an honorable mention for the year, I was wrong. Well done chap.

Songs that hit: No Other Way. Growing Up Besides You. Coming Up Easy. High Hopes. Pencil Full of Lead. Tricks of the Trade.

Songs that miss: None.
Songs that I will listen to forever: No Other Way. Tricks of the Trade. Pencil Full of Lead.
11. White Rabbits – It’s Frightening (Previously Honorable Mention, #11)
It sounds like standing up too fast. A musical head rush.
A new arrival! This is a record that I went back and forth with so many times. It was between this and Tiny Masters of Today for the last spot. Ultimately I went with Skeletons as the better and more often turned too album, and at the time it was the right choice. But this record exudes so much energy that it needs two drum kits. It sounds like standing up too fast. A musical head rush. From instant classic songs like Percussion Gun and They Done Wrong / We Done Wrong this record comes out swinging. With a yearning to his voice, he begs you to not only hear him, but listen. This is a record that as I get older will grow with me. The complexities are subtle, but ingenious.

No change.

Songs that hit: Percussion Gun. They Done Wrong / We Done Wrong. Rudie Falls. Company I Keep. The Salesman (Tramp Life). Midnight and I.
Songs that miss: None.
Songs that I will listen to forever: Percussion Gun. They Done Wrong / We Done Wrong.
12. Tiny Masters of Today – Skeletons (Previously #13, #12)
Concise, and bratty, these songs are a flick to the ear on a cold January day.
My primary concern with listing this album on my best of blog was the fact I was not sure if I like it for the correct reasons. If you listen to the album without knowing the story of the band, you hear perfectly messy neopunk rock songs; tangible and special, but nothing spectacular. However, if you understand, this was recorded on a computer in a livingroom by Ivan and Ada, Brooklyn born brother and sister, ages 14 and 12 respectively, would that change your opinion of the record? Is it the music that I am enjoying, or the fact that it was made by such prodigies, and should one impact the other? I think, rightly so. Based on the music alone, this record may not stand up to the others that missed the cut for this list, but this is not just music alone. What these kids are doing, is nothing short of spectacular. The best thing about these youngsters, they do not pretend to be anything else. They are kids, they write songs like kids, they sing like kids, and the only thing that is not childish about them is their talent. Concise, and bratty, these songs are a flick to the ear on a cold January day.
I do not listen to this nearly as much as I did, but I still think the record has improved in my eyes. It is still one of my favorite records to put on when I need to accomplish something, or get something done. It is motivating, both because of the raucous noise coming from their little fingers, but also from the fact that it is little fingers producing that raucous noise. These kids have achieved more at a mean age of 14 than most adults ever will.

No change.

Songs that hit: Pop Chart. Big Stick. Monkey in the Middle. Skeletons. Real Good.

Songs that miss: Two Dead Soldiers.
Songs that I will listen to forever: Pop Chart. Big Stick.

13. BOAT– Setting the Paces (Previously #10, #10)
And then there is some music you do not listen to, you celebrate
*Every year, I try to include a local band in my list, because, well, I'm a homer for the northwest and want to celebrate it. Yes, this is a local band, but it would be on this list no matter where they were from, except Utah.
BOAT has been making this raucous indie noise for some time, and I say that with the greatest respect.However, in my eyes, BOAT has finally made an album. I think my co-writer of this blog may be offended with that statement, but that is not the intent. As I have mentioned to numerous people, I am a big fan of BOAT, I have their older albums, and although my collection is missing from what I understand, some excellent EP’s. I feel that I have a good feel for this band. But this album exceeded all my expectations. From songs like Prince of Tacoma, Lately (I've Been On My Back), andFriends Since 1989, I feel that BOAT has really come into their own. There is some music you listen too to set a mood. There is some music you listen to express an emotion you are too fragile to feel. And then there is some music you do not listen to, you celebrate. This is fresh music, and it deserves to be championed and celebrated.
No change. Great record. Best to listen too with openminded company. This is a record that is lost on closedoff music people. You know who I'm talking about, those adult contemporary radio only listeners. Such a fun record!
Losing its luster. I still love some of these tracks, but others I have come to skip more often than not. In fact, I almost removed this record to make room for a band you will find below in the HM's. And honestly, I expect them to swap places by the next update. No offense guys!
Songs that hit: Lately (I've Been On My Back). Prince of Tacoma. Friends Since 1989. Tough Talking the Tulips. Your Muscular. The Name Tossers.
Songs that miss: 100 Calorie Man
Songs that I will listen to forever: Lately (I've Been On My Back). Prince of Tacoma.

Honorable Mention (alphabetical order)
The Cave Singers -- Welcome Joy
So earnest it hurts.
This seattle band kinda came out of no where, but didn't really. After Pretty Girls Make Graves disbanded, musicians found new homes. And those homes are warm. I wish I found this album when it was released in 2009, because it would have been on this list for sure. I am listening now as I am typing, and its hard to get the words down, at least in any poetic way. I keep pausing mid word and shutting my eyes to let the music swallow me. You can tell this is a project of love. Each note is maticulassly cared for, so earnest it hurts. This is a special album, one that I would bet money on, will be on the next update in 3 months. Great shit. (Seriously sorry if this review is sucky, its 2 am and this album is cocooning me.

Songs that hit: All, but especially Beach House.

Songs that miss: None.
Songs that I will listen to forever: Beach House

Matt & Kim – Grand (Previously #7, #13)
This music is not complicated, it is not intricately written or perfectly sung, but it makes its point clearly and easily.
Answer: Daylight, Lessons Learned, and Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare.
Question: What are three of the best songs to strike the indie landscape this last year?
You could not pick up an indie music zine, skim a blog, or watch a rewards show this last year without running into Matt & Kim. And it is a well deserved, albeit, overwhelming song of praise. If you are feeling a bit down, or possibly about to get into a scuffle of some sort, this would be the album I would recommend pump you up. From beginning to end, it is relentless. Never has a two piece band sounded so large. It’s almost as if Matt and Kim learned how to play their instruments on fast-forward, they do not seem to know how to slow their roll, and we are all the better for it. This music is not complicated, it is not intricately written or perfectly sung, but it makes its point clearly and easily. As good as this album is, it does not live up to their self titled debut, which, I insist you pick up.
Outside of the three songs I will listen too forever, I have grown really annoyed of Matt and Kim and skip over their songs often. But the three great songs save this from being dropped completely form the list, unlike the next band listed.
Yeah, it was on its way out. I just go sick of it. I still love Daylight & Lessons Learned.
Songs that hit: Daylight. Lessons Learned. Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare. Don’t Slow Down. Cinders. Spare Change.
Songs that miss: Cutdown. Daylight Outro (Remix).
Songs that I will listen too forever: Daylight. Lessons Learned. Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Previously #6, HM)
These are perfectly crafted pop-rock songs that make you want to rethink your objections to all French people.
If you would have polled me 4 years ago, I would have ranked 80’s electro-pop revival pretty low on my list of tolerable genres, somewhere ‘tween Pipe Organ and Instrumental Spoon (the utensil, not the band) music. But, as of late, my hesitant edge has softened a bit too new sounds. I think it has a bit to do with my aforementioned affinity to cuteness. From Lisztomania, Rome, and my personal favorite 1901, this group from Versailles leaves an undeniable wake in its path on the pop landscape this year. These are perfectly crafted pop-rock songs that make you want to rethink your objections to all French people. This record is not for everyone. Hell, this record may draw some pretty harsh words, Stevie. But, the quality of the sound, the structure of the record as a whole is something the musical environment has been begging for. This is as well made a record as I have ever reviewed.
What I said about Matt & Kim can only be doubly related here. This was a fad record for me. And outside of Lisztomania, 1901 and Rome, this is a medoicore record that I got caught up in the hype machine of. Upon further listen it just falls short in every way. Do not get me wrong. Both Lisztomania and 1901 made my best songs of the year, and I do not take that back, great tracks, but an incomplete album.
Songs that hit: Lisztomania. 1901. Rome. Lasso. Countdown. Armistice.
Songs that miss: Both Love Like a Sunset parts 1 & 2
Songs that I will listen too forever: Lisztomania. 1901. Rome.
Best of the rest.
  • Choir Of Young Believers – This is for the White in Your Eyes
  • Fanfarlo - Reservoir
  • Fruit Bats - Ruminant Ban
  • Owl City - Ocean Eyes
  • The Civil Wars – Live at Eddies Attic
  • the dodos – time to die
  • The Tune-Yards – Bird-Brains


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