The Upstate Life
The Upstate Life

Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The Top 10 Albums of 2009, Because You Really Care!

10) Brendan Benson - My Old, Familiar Friend: Benson's first release since 2005's highly entertaining Alternative to Love, My Old, Familiar Friend proved to be somewhat of a letdown compared to his earlier work. Then again, even Benson's fairest efforts still trump the works of other bands' albums released this year. His songwriting skills alone, such as those found in "Garbage Day" and "Gonowhere", propel Mr. Benson just high enough for him to make the cut into this year's list.

9) Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest: I'm not going to lie in saying that I'm not the biggest Grizzly Bear fan around these parts. Sure they receive incessant critical acclaim, but I always found them, well, boring. That was until of course their mainstream breakthrough track "Two Weeks" caught my ears. It truly is one of the best songs this year has brought us. And you know what? The rest of the album isn't too shabby either. Well played, Bear.

8) Jay Reatard – Watch Me Fall: In some ways, Jay Reatard is a lot like Brendan Benson. Both are exceptional songwriters, yet the former stuffs his formative expressions into a rather simple three minute or less track while the latter takes his time and augments his songs with layers of sound. Sorry Brendan, but Reatard wins this round.

7) Julian Casablancas – Phrazes for the Young: I was (or am? They're supposedly just taking a break I heard) big Strokes fan so I was looking forward to this release, and man, it's a fun album. The first three songs alone are gold until things come to a screeching halt with "Ludlow St." Phrazes is only comprised of eight songs, but the ones that are good, are really, really good. Hell, I might have to play "11th Dimension" at my wedding.

6) Wilco – The Album: Some have said that this is a poor man's Summerteeth but I have to disagree. This album has an identity of its own and is a step forward in the right direction after 2007's lackluster Sky Blue Sky. Memorable tracks such as "One Wing" and "You Never Know" have proven that, despite reaching their creative peak years ago, Wilco still has the ability to produce satisfying records.

5) Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca: Yes, it's yet another band that had a breakthrough album in 2009. We were fortunate enough to preview the material of Bitte Orca when the group opened for TV on the Radio at 9:30 Club back in June and they really nailed it out of the park that night. "Two Doves" is an incredibly poignant number while "No Intention" is able summarize the band's wide array of sound and rhythm in one track. One of the more diverse selections for this year's list. Sorry, Girls.

4) Matt & Kim – Grand: This duo, which you could somewhat compare to Mates of State on lots and lots of speed, delivered an excellent album in the very first month of '09 and found its way on our Top 10 because of it's collection of fast-paced yet introspective 11 tracks. Clocking in at less than half an hour, listeners of Grand are able to catch their breath during "Turn This Boat Around" before "Cinders" takes you right to the dance floor in uncontrollable style.

3) Franz Ferdinand – Tonight: Franz Ferdinand: You really have to tip your hat to these Scottish lads. The group has come a long way since "Take Me Out" and have continued to release one solid album after the next while simultaneously advancing their sound each time. "Lucid Dreams" is a tour de force over your ear buds, but seeing it performed live really takes it to the next level. Bands who write songs like that deserve some much-earned praise.

2) Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix: This album is chockfull of pure pop bliss. "1901" might get relentless airplay, and rightfully so, but songs such as "Girlfriend" and "Lasso" are just a couple of tunes that are simply irresistibly catchy. It still pains me to this day that we had to sell our tickets to their show at the Rock and Roll Hotel because we had to go out of town that weekend with no way in making it back in time. That would've been a Top 10 show for sure.

1) Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion: This should honestly come as no surprise as to where this album falls in terms of placing in this year's list. The recordings found on Merriweather Post Pavilion took one of the most esoteric bands in recent history and made them, well, accessible. Lush harmonies, layered melodies, and a sound all their own taken to the next level, Animal Collective had a one-up on the entire industry when MPP was released in week one of '09. Their Fall Be Kind EP, which was released just a month or so ago, has already shown that they're not anywhere close to going back down the mountaintop just yet.

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