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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Best Albums of 2009: September Edition

Best Albums of 2009

September Edition (a bit late, sorry)

Rather than compiling a huge list at the end of the year, not having enough time to do a good job, and simply throwing something together really fast, I'm going to start compiling my thoughts on albums over the whole year - month by month. Some of these may have actually been released earlier in the year, but are in this months set because this is when I got my hands on them.

J. Tillman
Year in the Kingdom

Two LPs in one year - not too shabby. Tillman's 2nd offering of 2009 is hands down, one of the best indie-acoustic-folk releases in a long time, if not ever. It features his familiar dark, brooding, mellow vocals, quiet guitar strumming, and richly overlain harmonized oooings and aaahings in the background. There are some great string arrangements backing these tracks as well. And, it appears that Tillman has discovered the dulcimer, which adds a unique new texture to his music -giving Year in the Kingdom a distinct feel. Top Tracks are all of them. Seriously. Try these out though: Though I have Wronged You [download mp3] and Earthly Bodies [download mp3] via stereogum.

Joshua James

Build Me This

I wrote quite a lengty review on this album last month as a stand-alone review. It is quite lengthy, so I'll just direct you there. On that review I had originally posted a sample mp3 of Coal War - the albums opening track. Joshua had given me express written permisison to do so, but his record label disagreed and made blogger disable the post TWICE. I took the mp3 down immediately, but they felt it necessary to flag it for abuse a 2nd time (even though the link was gone). Bummer.

New Leaves

Mike Kinsella's now multi-year solo project, Owen, simply does not disappoint. I can't get enough of his brand of indie-acoustic slowjam! New Leaves is marked by his now very well established noodly acoustic guitar tracking, oft-hesitant vocals, painful lyrics and interspersed lead electric guitar. Reportedly, this album still contains some material recorded in his mother's basement - as per tradition - but clearly features a more well-developed writing and production process than previous releases. It follows in the footsteps of "At Home with Owen" in this regard. Great strings and other backing instrumentaiton abound. Top tracks include New Leaves and A Trenchant Critique [download mp3].

A.A. Bondy
When the Devil's Loose

I have just recently gotten into A.A. Bondy. The new album is good, but some of the alt-county production turned me off. I think I liked his 2007 American Hearts a lot more. I do appreciate his gravely vox though. Mmm Mmm. Loves me some good 'ol fashioned gravely vox!

Volcano Choir

I have been a fan of Pele, and their later reincarnaiton as Collections of Colonies of Bees for quite a while. Avant-garde, experimental, noodly-guitar rock. When I heard they teamed up with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon to form Volcano Choir, I was intruiged. I'm not a huge bon Iver fan, but his falsetto vox prove a great addition to the experimental Wisconsinites' sound. In deed, many of the lyrics are indiscernable anyways, and his voice serves as another layer of instrumentation. Very nicely done boys. Top tracks include Island, IS [download mp3] and Still.

Grand Archives
Keep in Mind Frankenstein

Grand Archives' 2008 self-titled LP still stands as one of my favorites. It set the standard pretty high for their sophomore release. Even with mediocre expectations, however, Keep in Mind Frankenstein is disappointing. There are a few good tracks, but much of the album is simply boring. Dig That Crazy Grave is a travesty of alt-country devolution/digression. According to their label profile at, they originally recorded a much more raucous album, but scrapped it, wrote this one on the spot, and recorded it. I think I would like to hear the more raucous one. The redeemable tracks are Topsy's Revenge, Silver among the Gold [download mp3] and Witchy Park/Tomorrow Will.

Running LP List

  1. J. Tillman - Year in the Kingdom (September)
  2. Joshua James - Build me This (September)
  3. J. Tillman - Vacilando Territory Blues (January)
  4. Brendan Benson - My Old Familiar Friend (August)
  5. fun. - Aim and Ignite (August)
  6. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (May)
  7. Shark Speed - Sea Sick Music (April)
  8. Owen - New Leaves (September)
  9. Say Hi - Oohs & Aahs (February)
  10. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast (January)
  11. Iron & Wine - Around the Well (May)
  12. David Bazan - Curse Your Branches (August)
  13. Before Braille - Spring Cleaning (June + July)
  14. Art for Starters - Drugs Made / Drugs Ruined (April)
  15. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love (March)
  16. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - Outer South (May)
  17. Fruit Bats - The Ruminant Band (August)
  18. The Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels (March)
  19. A.A. Bondy - When the Devil's Loose (September)
  20. Volcano Choir - Unmap (September)
  21. Mos Def - The Ecstatic (June + July)
  22. Dent May and his Magnificent Ukuele - The Good Feeling Music of Dent May (March)
  23. Jeremy Enigk - OK Bear (May)
  24. Coconut Records - Davy (January)
  25. Jimmy Eat World - Clarity Live (April)
  26. Iain Archer - To the Pine Roots (April)
  27. The Appleseed Cast - Sagarmatha (February)
  28. John Vanderslice - Romanian Names (May)
  29. Peter, Bjorn and John - Living Thing (March)
  30. Jonsi and Alex - Rice Boy Sleeps (June + July)
  31. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest (May)
  32. Grand Archives - Keep in Mind Frankenstein (September)
  33. Lateef the Truth Speaker - Truth is Love Mixtape (April)
  34. Vetiver - Tight Knit (March)
  35. General Elektriks - Good City for Dreamers (February)
  36. Dark was the Night compilation (April)
  37. Ben Kweller - Changing Horses (January)

Running EP List

  1. Common Market - The Winter's End (March)
  2. Death Cab for Cutie - Open Door (March)
  3. Owen - The Seaside (August)
  4. Joshua James - Sing Songs (May)
  5. Andrew Bird - Fitz and the Dizzyspells (August)
  6. The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice - Moon Colony Blood Bath (April)
  7. Blue Scholars - OOF! (August)

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