10. DARK WAS THE NIGHT / WAR CHILD PRESENTS: HEROES (tie)
Yes, I'm cheating again. Technically, I'm not sure that you're supposed to include compilations on your "Albums of the Year" lists, but whatever. Both of these collections were stellar. Dark Was The Night included unreleased cuts from Spoon, Beirut, The National and just had a darker tone overall. War Child: Heroes was a nifty idea where legendary artists, (Bruce Springsteen, U2, David Bowie) asked new, rising, (The Hold Steady, Elbow, TV On The Radio) artists to cover their songs.
Both albums were much better than they should have been. A rare treat.
9. PHOENIX * WOLFGANG AMADEUS PHOENIX
They made a great first impression on SNL, a great album, but ultimately, it just faded away once the months piled on. Kind of like Vampire Weekend, the buzz and radio play might have harmed them. Still, I'll be interested in seeing where these guys go next!
8. DAVID GRAY * DRAW THE LINE
This is when the eye-rolling begins. I like David Gray. I don't give a fuck that you don't, or that when you think of his music, John Mayer also comes to mind. David Gray is fucking good, he writes impressive, emotionally powerful music. And while this album wasn't the powerhouse that Life In Slow Motion was, it was still a nice record. One I listened to a lot in my car at the end of a long day.
7. WHITE RABBITS * IT'S FRIGHTENING
These guys are incredible and I hope they get more buzz with their next album. I've searched some "Best of 2009" lists already, and they ain't on any of them...which is a damn shame. I saw them open for Spoon two years ago and they blew me away. Intense, raw, catchy. Even got Britt Daniel to produce this album for them. They're going places, so watch out.
6. JAY Z * THE BLUEPRINT III
I actually have my brother to thank for this one. He's always telling me how good Jay Z is and besides a "99 Problems" here or his collaborations with The Roots there, I've never picked up one of his albums before. While he tells me this isn't near the "classic" status as the first Blueprint, it's still easily one of the best albums of the year. A few songs are skipable, but the combo of the first five songs are as perfect as anything else released this year. Whoever says "albums are dead" needs to remind Jay Z. Cause he ain't interested in merely releasing singles and stuffing the rest with filler.
5. KAREN O & THE KIDS * WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Soundtracks are usually worse than compilations when it comes to being spotty and "5 shit songs for every 1 decent one." But god damn, this soundtrack is something special. Way more ambitious than it needed to be. You can't but wonder if Karen's past relationship with Spike Jonze came into play. They shared a vision of this not being some lame "kids" movie. The music had to be as interesting and challenging as the film itself. And it came out way more awesome than it needed to be.
4. PEARL JAM * BACKSPACER
Well, hello boys! Long time no see. Your last album, self titled, was nice and nifty, but lacked that certain "edge" your early work had. Looks like you found it again with this release. Songs like "Got Some" and "Supersonic" packed a punch unlike anything you've released in years. You found the passion again, you sound like a brand new garage band, out to rock the world with a sense of purpose and drive that no one can damper. This was my "surprise of the year." I wasn't expecting it to be this damn good, and I'm glad they proved me wrong.
3. HOCKEY * MIND CHAOS
These guys were making all sorts of hype and word-of-mouth on the festival circuit earlier in the year, and who knew if their debut would live up to all the hoopla? Good thing they seemed unfazed by the attention and set out to just focus on the music. Out of nowhere they became one of my favorite bands and I can't wait to see where they go from here on out!
2. BOB DYLAN * TOGETHER THROUGH LIFE
When he's not getting arrested for wandering the streets of New Jersey, or releasing a collection of Christmas tunes for a feed-the-homeless charity, he's still producing some of the best work of his entire career. Much like Clint Eastwood, he seems to just keep making interesting, important work by never letting up. He's been on his "Never Ending Tour" since around 1988. Together Through Life hearkens back to my personal favorite, "Time Out of Mind" in that he's reflective of the world around him, while still longing for true love and deep attractions. It would have been my favorite album of the year if it wasn't for...
1. ELVIS COSTELLO * SECRET, PROFANE & SUGARCANE
I've only gotten into Elvis Costello fairly recently, but I always assumed he was rock n' roll. Imagine my surprise when I read that one of his very first gigs was singing a duet with country music legend, (and my Dad's all time favorite artist) George Jones! This album takes Elvis back to his honky-tonk roots and he brings along legendary producer T-Bone Burnett just to make sure it leaves the rest of the music industry in the dust. They recorded the entire thing in three days and songs like "I Felt The Chill Before The Winter Came" and "Sulphur to Sugarcane" just drip good ol' country. Toby Keith and Taylor Swift could learn a thing or two...