Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Best of '09 Part 4/4 (#5 - #1)

I completely forgot to post this entry, so I apologize. Without further a due, the semi-dramatic conclusion to this Best of '09 listy list.

#5 - Beirut - March of the Zapotec

I came into this group a little later than I probably should have, as this was the first album I really got to listen to. Zack Condon started this up as a small project and later expanded into a band. He has a hauntingly beautiful voice that fits well with the eastern folk indie rock blend of music. You'll never hear another band like this, so if you haven't heard it before, you'd be wise to look him up.

#4 - Islands - Vapours

Islands has been one of those bands that can do no wrong in my book. I've been a huge fan of everything they've been a part of, from the Arcade Fire to the Unicorns and Human Highway. It's catchy, dancy, and a crisp album all around. With the return of Jamie Thompson, Nick Thorburn put together an entirely new lineup of players for the album. Wonderful stuff.

#3 - Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains

This album was a sleeper for me. I had it for several months before I really gave it a listen. When I first picked it up, I was in the process of work transitions, getting ready to move, and mending a life that never really felt 100% legit. On the surface, there is some nice pianowork, as well as sweeping distorted guitars creating a sonic wall that drives and lulls at the same time. When life finally slowed down, I was smacked in the face by an even deeper realization of this album. It never really makes me feel comfortable because of the way it changes. A very spirited youth pulling the strings makes it move from start to finish seamlessly, as the heavy distortion and riled vocals taper off into Indiana, which is a beautiful pop song. It was the first time I really stopped to give this band a deeper look. I'm going to kick myself in the face if I don't get a chance to see them perform live sometime, I just know it.

#2 - Mew - No More Stories are Told Today, I'm Sorry, They Washed Away

Anyone who knows me should not be surprised by this. Danish indiepop rock is on the list of things I want every year for Christmas. Some years back, I was floored by And the Glass Handed Kites, and then by Frengers, and once again by this. These guys have always had a very unique sound, blending melodies, harmonies, and rhythms together almost effortlessly on the surface. When it's all said, the guitar work is tight and technical, the drums are wild, often pulling us in and out of odd-meter, and Jonas' vocals are spot on. When I first listened to them, I seriously thought his voice was processed. Palace Players gives us a taste of how a song can be in total disarray and pop us a quick on to the jaw saying "just kidding" as they take seemingly senseless noise and lock it up to show us we had the entire picture all along; a driving dance rock anthem. We just weren't looking at it the way we should. Silas the Magic Car is probably my favourite album on the track, but I almost always listen start to finish. Again, highly recommended album.

#1 - The Antlers - Hospice

By far this is the album that hit me the hardest this year. I found it by accident because I had In the Attic of the Universe and remembered liking it. When I first got a chance to hear it, I wasn't at all prepared for what I was about to embark on. Proof that a crushingly beautiful piece of work doesn't need to be riddled with witty lyrics, the Antlers put together an album that would have been too much for lesser bands. It takes us through a reminiscent tale of a love lost through the eyes of someone now standing without a hand to hold. Perhaps it's the fact that I've been around several people directly affected by cancer that amplifies my experience, but I don't think that is even the slightest excuse to discredit this album's authenticity. Meet someone and fall in love, only to ride out their last days with them. There is such a rich array of the very rawest of human energy here that I almost don't want to know if this was written about a personal experience or not. As it ends, it shows us the reality of coping with loss. The feeling of falling into your bed as you snap out of a dream to find the one you love most ripped out from under you. Everyone knows that body jolt. To wake up and realize it's not a brand new thing; it tugs at you every day until you muster up the strength to move on and live again. Not a gentle subject, but they make no effort to apologize for it. It's so perfectly executed that you can't help but to give it your attention. It goes from spacey, ambient, to driving and even uplifting, right back to the lowest of lows. I seriously meant every word of it when I said that lesser bands would crumble under the pressure of juggling so much at one time. Bravo!

...and that's it, my twenty favourite albums of 2009. Now I can close the door on '09 and focus on the new year (two months in might I add). Hopefully some of you will enjoy this list, and please please please share with me the songs and stories that got you through the year. I'm all ears. :-)

It's winter time and we've got almost a foot of snow on the ground. I have to fight to rip off the covers and get moving in the morning. Sounds like the perfect time to start drinking tea again. :-)