(Some of) My Favorite Music of 2009

Last year I posted a couple of long, obnoxious blogs about my favorite music or 2008. Dan hated me for it and others appreciated it, but it was fun for me, so I’ve decided to do the same this year for 2009 (although I’m a little late). I don’t know if 2009 was better or worse than 2008 as far as music is concerned (probably worse if I HAD to choose), but it was still fun, and maybe a little deeper, in that there were more albums that I enjoyed somewhat and less that I really hated. So, without further adieu, here we go:

First, my 9 favorite albums of the year (in no particular order this year):

Lorien  “Esque”

-It’s hard for me to know how to describe this band and album (which I found on Noisetrade). They are unique, yet somehow familiar at the same time. The genre is “indie rock”, I guess, but it’s more than that. Big, epic harmonies. Big, epic arrangements. Think Jump, Little Children + Muse + Mute Math + The Dears + Mae. Also, I respect that they have a male and a female lead singer (a la Caedmon’s Call and Mates of State). I think this stuff could be on the radio. Catchy, atmospheric guitar riffs. Interesting drumming. Killer bass licks. Enough piano to keep me happy. This is just a really great record from a young Nashville band that I think has a bright future in front of them.

Standout tracks: “Pick It Up Slow”, “Let It Go”, “Taking On”

Sarah Siskind  “Say It Louder”

-This was probably the first record that really sucked me in this year. I got my hands on it in January through Noisetrade (although I don’t think it was actually released until May or June), and it was one of those that didn’t come out of my CD player very much for at least a couple of months. It has continued to get frequent spins throughout the year. Sarah is a little girl who plays a big ol’ electric guitar, has a voice unlike anyone else I normally listen to, and writes really great songs (she’s written songs performed or covered by Alison Krauss and Bon Iver, to name a few). Her range is endless. Her passion is obvious. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what sucks me in to some of these albums I end up loving. This is one of those cases. I normally don’t like female artists much. But Sarah Siskind won my heart with “Say it Louder”.

Standout tracks: “Falling Stars”, “Say it Louder”, “Reasons to Love”, “Long Nights” (Friends, there literally is not a song on this entire album that is anything other than stellar.)

Dave Matthews Band  “Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King”

–If you know me, you know I’m a huge DMB fan. I follow setlists during their tours, I read news about the band daily, I have almost 5 days of their music in my collection. While the last 6 or 7 years for the band have been great on the road, their studio work hasn’t reflected the fact that they still have the same “something” that made them so huge with “Ants Marching”, “Tripping Billies”, and “Crush”. ‘Stand Up’ was a mess, and although I really liked ‘Everyday’, most hardcore DMB fans write it off in favor of the “Big 3” albums of the ‘90s.

So naturally, I had high expectations for this year’s new studio album. Why wouldn’t I? This is my favorite band. This band does something to me that no other music can. The last year and a half for the band has been an emotional rollercoaster, and no matter how heartbreaking, it’s hard to deny that great things (music) often come out of horrible tragedy.

Friends, let me tell you, DMB, the STUDIO band, the one that created masterpieces like “Before These Crowded Streets” and the unfinished “Lillywhite Sessions”, is back. But maybe ‘back’ isn’t the correct term. This is definitely DMB, but it’s also something I’ve never heard before. There’s a ton more electric guitar because of the prevalence of whiz Tim Reynolds on the last couple of tours. There are songs that I never saw Dave writing. “Shake Me Like a Monkey” is an electric guitar-driven song that features incredible horn work by Rashawn Ross and Jeff Coffin (Leroi Moore’s temporary replacement). “Funny the Way It Is”, the lead single from the record, is definitely a pop-rock song, but it still manages to be introspective (with lyrics like “Funny the way it is, not right or wrong/Somebody’s heart is broken and it becomes your favorite song”) and interesting. “Why I Am” is pop gold, with a catchy riff and chorus. “Squirm” is an epic masterpiece that belongs on “Crowded Streets”, featuring a string section and some incredible moments from drummer Carter Beauford. Speaking of Beauford, he OWNS this album. He does not mess around or hold back at all. Even the simple songs musically, such as “Dive In”, are made complex with his inspired drumming.

If there is a bad song on “Big Whiskey”, I don’t know what it is. The weakest track is probably “You and Me”, and it’s getting radio play all around the country as the third single from the record. But that’s not a bad thing. It may not be great compared to many DMB songs, but compared to many other pop songs out there these days, it’s beautiful.

I think it is safe to say that my favorite band has burst back onto the scene with a return to form that manages to also be something totally new.

Standout tracks: “Shake Me Like a Monkey”, “Squirm”, “Seven”

Manchester Orchestra  “Mean Everything to Nothing”

-This Georgia-based indie rock/punk band took me by surprise with this record. I heard their first one and wasn’t that impressed by it. But this one totally changed my opinion of this group. In my always-evolving quest into harder, louder music, this was an important album. Lead singer and songwriter Andy Hull is about my age and many of the issues he tackles about struggles with faith and love are things I’ve been going through this year as well. It sounds very high schoolish and Taylor Swiftish, but I really can relate with what he’s talking about on this record. This is a big rock record. There’s screaming, There are huge guitars and drums. But there are also lines like “I felt the Lord begin/ To peel off all my skin/ And I felt the weight within/ reveal a bigger mess that you can’t fix” and “You mean everything to nothing/ you mean everything to nobody but me”. Awesome. Love this one.

Standout tracks: “I’ve Got Friends”, “Everything to Nothing”, “The River”

Derek Webb  “Stockholm Syndrome”

-Just get it, listen to it, love it. It’s nothing like the Derek Webb we know and love. But I have a feeling this Derek will be sticking around. Get used to it.

Standout tracks: “Black Eye”, “What Matters More”, “The State/The Proverbial Gun”, “I Love/Hate You”

Bon Iver  “Blood Bank EP”

-How could a 4 song EP be one of my favorite records of the year? Because they are four of the best songs I’ve heard all year. If I were giving you a list of my 30 favorite songs of the year, all of these would be there. And at least three of them would be in the top 15-20.  Bon Iver has apparently gone on a hiatus, but if they’re only going to make “For Emma, Forever Ago” and “Blood Bank”, then WOW. Those are two incredible releases.

Standout tracks: “Beach Baby”, “Blood Bank”, “Woods”

fun.  “Aim and Ignite”

-In this case, the name says it all. The former lead singer (Nate Ruess) of one of my favorite guilty pleasure power-pop bands, The Format, is back in fun., which can basically be described as “The Format 2.0”. ‘Aim and Ignite’ hearkens back to the same formula that made ‘Dog Problems’ so pleasing to my ears back in 2006: quirky instrumentation and arrangements, lush harmonies, and Ruess’s unmistakable voice and melodies.  “Be Calm” is the perfect opener, with its tempos varying from almost sluggish to almost too quick and its basis in a string section (with interesting cameos by guitar feedback, jingle bells, and even Theremin), and ‘All the Pretty Girls” is catchy pop at its best, while still being interesting. The band even pulls off a ballad convincingly in ‘The Gambler’. And when I say convincingly, I mean it’s a beautiful, “Pet Sounds”-esque love song from the perspective of Ruess’s mother. All in all, this is an incredible debut album from a band whose name only begins to describe its prowess.

Standout tracks: “All the Pretty Girls”, “Be Calm”, “The Gambler”

The Damnwells  “One Last Century”

-Underrated band, underrated album. Straightforward alt-rock/pop songs. Love anything Alex Dezen touches.

Standout tracks: “Dandelion”, “55 Pictures”, “Come To Me”, “WWXII”

Andy Gullahorn  “The Law of Gravity”

-I’ve probably labeled a lot of artists my “favorite singer/songwriter” over the years. Bebo, Derek, Andrew Peterson, Ray Lamontagne, and many others have held the title at times. Right now, this guy holds that title. Nobody writes more honestly than him. I’ve never seen someone so skilled at making me cry with one gut wrenching song, then laugh out loud with the very next hilarious one. And all of this is done smartly, tastefully, and beautifully.

Standout tracks: “Someone to You”, “I Haven’t Either”, “Why You Brought Me Here”

This next set of albums are ones that I liked a lot, or maybe even loved at some point, but they weren’t worthy to have a blurb about them:

Wilco  “Wilco: The Album”

Standout tracks: “One Wing”, “I’ll Fight”, “You Never Know”

Imogen Heap  “Ellipse”

Standout tracks: “Earth”, “Tidal”, “Canvas”

Brandi Carlile  “Give Up the Ghost”

Standout tracks: “Pride and Joy”, “Caroline”, “Before It Breaks”

Paper Route  “Absence”

Standout tracks: “Enemy Among Us”, “Tiger Teeth”, “Last Time”

John Mayer   “Battle Studies”

Standout tracks: “Assassin”,  “Perfectly Lonely”

Mute Math   “Armistice”

Standout tracks: “Clipping”, “Armistice”, “Pins and Needles”

Phoenix   “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”

Standout tracks: “1901”, “Girlfriend”, “Countdown (Sick for the Big Sun)”

Andrew Osenga    “Choosing Sides”

Standout tracks: “I’m On Your Side”, “I Thank God For You”

Nick Flora and Film at Eleven  “Great Escape”

Standout tracks: “Our Best By Far”, “I’ll Take Punctuality”

Passion Pit  “Manners”

Standout tracks: “Little Secrets”, “Moth’s Wings”, “The Reeling”, “Sleepyhead”

Noah and the Whale  “The First Days of Spring”

Standout tracks: “Our Window”, “Love of an Orchestra”

David Mead  “Almost and Always”

Standout tracks: “Rainy Weather Friend”, “Last Train Home”, “Twenty Girls Ago”

Thrice  “Beggars”

Standout tracks: “Wood and Wire”, “The Weight”

Fiction Family  “Fiction Family”

Standout tracks: “When She’s Near”, “Not Sure”, “Elements Combined”

Fanfarlo  “Reservoir”

Standout tracks: “I’m a Pilot”, “Comets”, “The Walls are Coming Down”

Katie Herzig  “Acoustic Trio”

Standout tracks: “Hey NaNa”, “Wish You Well”

Butterfly Boucher  “Scary Fragile”

Standout tracks: “I Found Out”, “Gun for a Tongue”, “For the Love of Love”, “A Bitter Song”

This last group contains albums that I enjoyed and thought deserved a mention, because some of you might end of loving them.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland  “Elvis Perkins in Dearland”

Matthew Mayfield “Five Chances Remain Hers”

Andy Davis “New History EP”

Jaydiohead “Jaydiohead” (This is an awesome mash-up of Jay-Z and Radiohead songs)

The Swell Season “Strict Joy”

The Antlers “Hospice”

The Temper Trap “Conditions”

Pearl Jam “Backspacer”

The Avett Brothers  “I and Love and You”

Sara Watkins “Sara Watkins”

White Rabbits “It’s Frightening”

Mindy Smith “Stupid Love”

The Mountain Goats  “The Life of the World to Come”

Mumford and Sons  “Sigh No More”

Coldplay “Leftrightleftrightleft Live”

The xx “The xx”

Dark Was the Night (compilation) ft. Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Spoon, Bright Eyes, The National, Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine

Will Hoge “The Wreckage”

A special shout-out has to go to the following artists who released albums this year and that I am normally a fan of. I, for one reason or another, didn’t end up hearing your albums. I’m sorry, and I’m sure they are great: Sara Groves, Eric Peters, Jill Phillips, David Bazan, Jason Grey, Pierce Pettis, Seabird, Sleeping at Last, and Brooke Waggoner.

The following artists released albums this year that were mainstays on many “Best of” lists this year, but did not do it for me at all. (I like to think of this as proof that I’m not just some hipster wannabe who listens to what Pitchfork likes”: Animal Collective, Girls, Islands, Dan Auerbach, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Antony and the Johnsons, Atlas Sound, The Decemberists, Neko Case, Monsters of Folk, Sufjan Stevens (you heard me… it’s called “The BQE”… don’t get it at all), Volcano Choir, Patrick Watson, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

In addition to all of this music that came out this year, I’ve spent a ton of my time listening to older stuff. This includes, but is not limited to, Elbow (especially “The Seldom Seen Kid”, which would have been the best album of this year by far), Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, The Beatles (I’m finally a fan), and The Beach Boys/Brian Wilson (pure genius).

Also, let me thrown in a quick rundown of my top 10 shows of the year:

10) Red Mountain Music Christmas Concert (December – Workplay Theater, Birmingham, AL)

9) Derek Webb (September – Workplay)

8. Frightened Rabbit (September – The Bottletree, Birmingham)

7) Behold the Lamb of God (December – Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church, Birmingham)

6) Pierce Pettis (August – O’Kafe’s Coffeehouse, Birmingham)

5) Bon Iver/ Elvis Perkins in Dearland (June – Workplay)

4) Dave Matthews Band/ The Avett Brothers (April – Atlanta, GA)

3) Punch Brothers (January – Opelika Performing Arts Center, Opelika, AL)

2) Mute Math (November – Alabama Theatre, Birmingham)

1) Elbow (August – The Center Stage Theatre, Atlanta)

Thanks for reading… I’m going to try to be a better blogger in 2010.


~ by wchandlerparker on January 6, 2010.

4 Responses to “(Some of) My Favorite Music of 2009”

  1. You really should listen to more music. Seriously. C’mon get with it.

    I hate that I missed DW in B’ham. I really wanted to see that show. Things just didn’t work out that way.

    Glen Phillips is playing at the Workplay in February. You should try to go. I’ll fo sho be there. Got tickets for Xmas.

  2. Let me clarify why I “hated” Chandler’s 08 music post. It simply comes from the fact that I choose (because it is a choice we all must make) to obtain all my music legally. This inhibits my acquisition and intake of new music. Everything I get, I either pay for or noisetrade. Chandler doesn’t submit to this idea (and I’m not trying to preach or proselytize on behalf of legal music acquisition… like I said, it’s everyone’s choice.) So, i’m bitter. Jealous maybe. I wish I could have all of that music, but my budget doesn’t allow for it. Other than that, I love the Yearly Chandler Music Recap. I’ll probably base future purchases on it.

    That is all.

  3. love it

  4. Hey I’m glad you like Jaydiohead! Also check out http://www.doublecheckyourhead.com for another remix project I did!

    More music coming in 2010!


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