I am hesitant to write “best of” lists. I mean, really, who the hell am I to start talking about which album is better than another? Well, I am a music snob, that’s who. You should be listening to me, and if you aren’t then you are stupid and I’m, like, way cooler than you.
I’m glad that’s settled. Here’s the list:
1. *Gavin Castleton – Home (Five One)
This one won’t come as a surprise to those of you who listen to the podcast or follow me on twitter. This is my favorite album of 2009, hands down. Castleton placed the story of a six year relationship and subsequent break up in the context of a zombie film and did so with great effectiveness. He wrote every note of these luscious arrangements, giving nods to numerous genres while maintaining his own sense of identity. No other album gave me as much pleasure this year and I remember distinctly how it felt to listen to “Coffeelocks,” the first track I heard from the album.
In the liner notes, Gavin says, “This album is designed to be a sonic hug to those of you who are dealing with heartbreak.” To Gavin, I say, “It worked. Thanks.”
standout tracks: Coffeelocks, The Human Torch, and Oregon.
2. Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men (
standout tracks: Small Metal Gods, Emily DIckinson and The Greatest Living Englishman.
6. *Division Day – Visitation (Dangerbird Records)
Not just a great band, but fucking nice guys as well. I’ll admit that at first listen, Visitation didn’t grab me like I hoped it would, but while giving the album a second listen on the subway the dissonance in the beginning of Malachite had me squirming in my seat for nearly forty seconds before allowing me to take a breath. I love music that causes a physical reaction in me. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring does it, and now so does Division Day. That experience gave me a new point of reference for how to listen to the album and what this album does – expertly bring together the band’s seemingly irreconcilable influences (black metal + David Sylvian = what??) in a coherent and glorious way.
standout tracks: Malachite, Azalean, and Black Crow.
7. Wild Beasts – Two Dancers (Domino Records)
I immediately fell in love with the track Hooting and Howling when it was a featured free download from Other Music, and nothing on this album disappoints. Hayden Thorpe’s signature falsetto is tempered by bass player Tom Fleming’s Bowie-esque crooning. Heavy on the hypnotic percussion and sonic guitars, in all the right ways. Baroque-inspired-percussion-heavy-art-pop… yeah, that’s it.
standout tracks: Hooting and Howling, Two Dancers (i), and The Fun Powder Plot.
8. *Uniform Motion – Pictures (self-released)
My first introduction to Uniform Motion was through their cover of Talk Talk’s Such A Shame, but my love for their music now runs much deeper than our mutual appreciation for one of the best bands to come out of the 80’s. Four-string guitars, chilly harmonies and surreal lyrics give these guys a distinct identity and the accompanying cartoons add a particularly unique layer of understanding to their work. You can download the entire album for free here.
standout tracks: The Pen Fallacy, Rain & Soil, and Cast Iron.
9. *Josh Mease – Wilderness (Frogstand Records)
Josh Mease sent an e-mail to my neighborhood listserv (is that word outdated yet?) this year looking for guitar students. Out of curiosity, I checked out his music, and bought the album at once. Good, solid songwriting, hushed intimate vocals and intelligently whimsical arrangements make for a great listen. All this from a debut album? Hells yes. Can’t wait to hear what’s next for Mr. Mease.
standout tracks: White Diamonds, I See You, and Eleanor.
10. *Anois – Treehouse Whispers (Aerotone)
There’s not much information to be found about this German duo. Their label’s website redirects to a page advising that they have gone to sleep in order to regroup, and I can’t seem to find a place to tell you to purchase the album. Still, find it you should. Anne and Lars have created a lovely, intimate and often romantic gem out of a handful of instruments and their voices. If you can’t track it down, let me know and I’ll send it to you. I don’t think they would mind.
standout tracks: Sew New World, A Noise, and November.
(the * next to an entry indicates that the music is podsafe. I have played some of the other artists on MikeyPod with special permission, but I only indicated bands here that I am certain are okay for anyone to play.)