2009 Wrap Up: Top Albums – #9 to #5

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on Jan 9, 10 • by • with No Comments

The 2009 best of lists continue…

9. K’Naan – Troubadour
Talk about a come from nowhere surprise. I saw K’Naan perform a couple songs at Lolla ’08 and was hyped for more after hearing an early version of the socially conscious “Take A Minute”. I had no idea he would craft an album that I listened to more times than the new K-OS. I wouldn’t say its the best hip-hop album this year, but it had great re-playability. “Somalia” gave an interesting look into K’Naan’s home country, while the aforementioned “Take A Minute” and “Dreamer” recognize problems, but the need to have outlets for those issues. Troubadour had loads of pop potential (“Take A Minute”, “Bang Bang”, “If Rap Gets Jealous”) that I’m not sure why A&M didn’t capitalize on. A song like “Bang Bang” not only had a Adam Levine feature, but a hook that was near infectious.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMwpVF58c2c
8. Various Arists – Dark Was The Night
Is it fair to list a compilation album as one of the best of the year? In this case, I think it works. The National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner curated this album that featured everyone from Bon Iver to David Byrne. Pitchfork called it “The Chronic for white people” and while I wouldn’t go that far, its pretty amazing how well these songs weave together with so many people involved. Stand outs include more great campfire rock from Bon Iver (“Brackett, WI”), a short but sweet collabo by Dirty Projectors and David Byrne (“Knotty Pine”), communist history via Arcade Fire (“Lenin”) and tribal fun about regret by Yeasayer (“Tightrope”). I’m more partial to Disc 1, but both are superb.

7. Dan Deacon – Bromst
A not so great performance at the Eyedrum didn’t change my views on Dan Deacon’s Bromst. The album by far exceeded my expectations and made me think of him as more of an electronic composer, rather than a mad scientist. Its fitting that “Build Voice” opens the album on a relatively sane note with a frenetic piano, horns and a choir, because after that it gets a little wild. Sound collages like “Woof Woof” combine elements like vocal distortion, electronic buzzing, a marching band and dog noises into a stomp worthy affair. While tracks like “Paddling Ghost” and “Baltihorse” create instrumental mayhem by melding keys, xylophone and something that sounds a little like Woody the Woodpecker. I love it.

6. Dan Auerbach – Keep It Hid
The lead singer of The Black Keys took a break from the thrashing, southern blues duo with his own slightly less thrashing, still southern blues project, Keep It Hid. The first single “I Want Some More” might sway towards Attack & Release with growling strings and thumping drums, but the album also dabbles in alt country (“My Last Mistake”) and experimental rock territory on the title track. Lately, I’ve been listening to bayou-inspired “Mean Monsoon” and the pulsing track “Heartbroken, in Disrepair”.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc5rxu9zCKY
5. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
I’m still not sure it tops the quality of her last album, Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, but it definitely had more pop appeal. I couldn’t get enough of Neko Case‘s alt country crooning amid steel guitar (“People Got A Lotta Nerve”), breezy story-telling (“Middle Cyclone”) and interesting way of showing her love of animals/nature (“This Tornado Loves You”). I’m actually giving less pop-ready, yet similarly satisfying songs like “Red Tide” and green-leaning “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth” more listens months after its release. Middle Cyclone might also have my favorite album cover of 2009.

Have you heard the albums mentioned so far?  Whats your take?
Are you in favor of the you tube links for song previews or do you like the lala.com player?
Albums #14-#10

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