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30 Best Albums Worth Your Dime in 2009

30 Best Albums Worth Your Dime in 2009

For those who care, I thought it was appropriate to list my Top 30 albums of this year. Here they are (along with my original comments when they were released), and there are links where you can sample the songs:

1. Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest
(A sensational breakthrough album from a band that was already an indie favorite. I have little doubt this beautiful pop opus will catapult them into the mainstream. Get hooked now, before they become overexposed.)
2. Bear In Heaven, Beast Rest Forth Mouth
(An unexpected dark horse contender for “best album of the year.” This sophomore LP from the Brooklyn band immediately places them alongside greats such as Animal Collective, The Dirty Projectors, and Grizzly Bear, when it comes to gorgeously-scuffed indie rock noise-jams.)
3. Atlas Sound, Logos
(A solo side project from Deerhunter leader Bradford Cox, ambient noises and layered melodies build an even better case that he’s an emerging – and only 27 year-old – talent to keep an eye on.)
4. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
(The enigmatic and experimental trio lives up to the hype, and beyond the lagging last LP, to bring us what may end up being one of the best of 2009.)
5. U2, No Line On The Horizon
(Darker than necessary, but still vibrant and beautiful. The latest from the world’s biggest rock band, finds them experimenting with melody and achieving greatness.)
6. Kid Cudi, Man On the Moon: The End of Day
(This major label debut from the hip-hop wunderkind is not what we expected from the radio-friendly singles. This is a darker, deeper album than the club-friendly rap project we all wanted/needed. However, that doesn’t mean this album doesn’t work. If anything, this may be the first production to fully embrace the similarities between modern rap and indie rock. A spacey trip, but one worth taking.)
7. tUnE yArDs, BiRd BrAiNs
(Holy wow. This is a unique musical project from Merrill Garbus, who has taken household items to create one of the best albums in recent months. Folk-song/worldbeat structures are redesigned and inverted for a lush but organic, sound experience. You have to hear it. These songs sound like they’re from another country, another planet, and you can’t deny their greatness.)
8. Monsters of Folk, Monsters of Folk
(Speaking of expectations, this years-in-progress album from Conor Oberst, Jim James, and M. Ward could never achieve what fans dreamed. But, what they accomplished is way better than simply “this generation’s The Traveling Wilburys.” This is a great folk/rock album, with some amazing moments and an earnest inclination to marry harmony with heart.)
9. Memory Cassette, Call & Response EP and Rewind While Sleepy EP
(A cryptic New Jersey outfit that took the world by surprise with these two delightful and dark EPs. Shoegazey pop with reverb-heavy effects and a fine pop sense.)
10. Mos Def, The Ecstatic
(A much-needed return to form for the MC who has found more luck as a screen actor these days. This new album reminds you why he’s considered one of the smartest rappers live. Overflowing with production, but also great rhymes, behold the rap album to beat this summer.)
11. Fever Ray, Fever Ray
(Knife vocalist Karin Dreijer Andersson creates a solo project that’s as strong as her day job. Spooky and serene, it’s like Bjork scoring a David Lynch film.)
12. Memory Tapes, Seek Magic
(Philadelphia soundscaper Dayve Hawk has followed up his stellar Memory Cassette EPs with this album of submerged melodies and overcast dance musi
13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It’s Blitz!
(As these Brooklyn noise-rockers mature, their sound becomes rather clean and tempered. But, it’s still loud and still subverts all the great hooks. Not so much a sell-out, as it is a grown-up.)
14. Black Moth Super Rainbow, Eating Us
(These Pennsylvania synth-fiddlers have forged ahead on the amazing promise of their debut. Spacey sonic experiments that are also sticky sweet.)
15. Wale, Attention Deficit
(This may be the pop/club hop-hop album we’ve wanted for months. Featuring guest turns that add to Wale’s already impressive flow, and song-after-song of radio-friendly rap. This is the day to Kid Cudi’s night.)
16. The xx, xx
(These Brits have a love for R&B, sure, but inject their soft-spoken pop with a darker/sharper edge.)
17. Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2
(Way too long – at 23 tracks – but if you dig through the thickness, you’ll find some great gems from one of Wu-Tang’s best MCs.)
18. Mastodon, Crack The Skye
(Prog metal-heads from Georgia get smarter and craftier in this sonic improvement. By teaming with producer Brendan O’Brien, they have created a classic that ranks up there with the best of Tool or At The Drive In.)
19. St. Vincent, Actor
(Brooklyn-based Texas native impresses with her sophomore solo album. Big songs with lush production, all grounded by her unmistakable and unshakable voice.)
20. Lily Allen, It’s Not Me, It’s You
(The British tabloid fave turns it more serene for her sophomore LP. A bit quieter and more thoughtful than her bombastic debut, but equally as infectious.)
21. Super Furry Animals, Dark Days/Light Years
(It’s the best album in years, for these Brit-rock mainstays. Catchy, infectious, and imaginative. One moment, it’s space rock and the next moment it’s club sounds. And, special points for any band that can craft a hook out of the words “The Very Best of Neil Diamond” as a refrain.)
22. Pearl Jam, Backspacer
(The grunge-rockers are back with their tightest, and most playable, rock album in years. Reuniting with producer Brendan O’Brien was a very good idea, because he’s pulled some of the best arrangements and writing out of these guys, since 1998’s Yield.)
23. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
(Just in time for Cannes: these French pop-rockers officially welcome summer with a sunny and piercing new set of songs. This is pop/rock at its finest: succinct and sophisticated, all at the same time.)
24. Silversun Pickups, Swoon
(L.A. noise rock outfit keeps the Smashing Pumpkins tribute alive, even as Billy Corgan descends further into oblivion. For fans that miss the Siamese dreams of the 1990s, here’s the cure.)
25. Yo La Tengo, Popular Songs
(You gotta hand it to this tireless trio of indie space-rockers, they somehow keep turning out killer album after killer album. Not bad for an act that formed 25 years ago.)
26. jj, jj n2
(Another electronic act from Sweden. Do these grow on trees over there? I hope so, because jj has manufactured some smart pop with subtle beats. Oh, and a wicked Lil Wayne homage.)
27. Here We Go Magic, Here We Go Magic
(Folk-pop singer Luke Temple reinvents himself as a one-man Animal Collective with this new project. Experimental, texture, and irresistible, it’s bliss.)
28. Various Artists, Dark Was The Night
(A stellar double-disc benefit collection, part of the Red + Hot organization, compiled by members of The National. Features just about every cool new band working today, and many of them contribute terrific exclusive new songs.)
29. The-Dream, Love Vs Money
(He wrote “Umbrella” and “Single Ladies,” and now this R&B/pop mastermind furthers his career behind the mic. The results here are dynamic and imaginative. He could be the next R. Kelly, musically speaking.)
30. Steve Earle, Townes
(One of the last remaining bad boys of country pays tribute to his idol, Townes Van Zandt, and rips open new life for these dusty but timeless Americana classics.)

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