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Monday, November 2, 2009

Best Albums of 2009: October Edition

Best Albums of 2009

October Edition

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.


Needless to say, a new Mountain Goats album is always a welcome treat. With much hype, including an appearance on The Colbert Report, I came to this album with a little trepidation. The last release, a split EP with John Vanderslice entitled Moon Colony Bloodbath was ok, but not great. The Life of the World to Come is not a dramatic departure from regular Darnielle & Co. affairs. All of the song titles are Bible verses, and it makes for an interesting project to sit down, crack open your King James and ponder the verse while listening to Darnielle’s lyrics. This is not a concept album though. Furthermore it is not overtly religious. He said the songs are inspired by tough lessons the Bible and his life have taught him. The album is great. But, it is not my favorite Mountain Goats release. On a side note, the intro to Genesis 3:23 sounds an awful lot like the intro to the Doogie Howser theme. Just a thought. Top tracks include Genesis 2:23 [download mp3], 1 John 4:16, and Ezekiel 7 and the Permanent Efficacy of Grace.

R.E.M.’s return from the brink of insignificance, last years Accelerate, got me really excited about the band again. They were the bedrock of my high school music experience, and I loved most everything they did up through New Adventures in Hi Fi. This Live album comes from a rehearsal, not concert, and is absolutely fabulous. It is HEAVY on their 1980s releases and boast 39 tracks. Here’s a rough breakdown of the number of songs from which albums:
  • 8 songs: Accelerate (2008)
  • 6 songs: Reckoning (1984)
  • 4 songs: Chronic Town (1982)
  • 4 songs: Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)
  • 2 songs: Murmer (1983)
  • 2 songs: Life’s Rich Pageant (1986)
  • 2 songs: Document (1987)
  • 2 songs: New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996)
  • 2 songs: Automatic for the People (1992)
  • 1 song: Monster (1994)
  • 1 song: Reveal (2001)
  • 1 song: Around the Sun (2004)
There is no need to list top tracks, because you will recognize many of the song titles.
Built to Spill albums have been too few in his decade, if you ask me. Ancient Melodies of the Future in 2001, You in Reverse in 2006 and There is no Enemy in 2009. This band seldom disappoints. Martsch’s guitar chops are as meaty and dazzling as ever. There is No Enemy does feature the band playing with a few new sounds and styles. A welcome addition to an already impressive discography. Top tracks are Hindsight, Done and Tomorrow.
After the break up of Mike Doughty’s previous act, Soul Coughing, in 2000, Doughty hit the road on extensive solo acoustic tours. Since then, his releases have remained largely acoustic in essence, but have explored a variety of different sounds and levels of production and instrumentation. Generally speaking, Doughty’s releases have been increasingly more polished from year to year. Sad Man Happy Man is an aburpt return to his earliest solo acoustic efforts. Most songs are simply him, his guitar and touring-mate Andrew Scrap Livington on cello. A few other instruments and percussion make appearances, but are largely peripheral to the core thrust of the album. I think this is a fabulous triumph! I could have, however, done without the excessive use of parenthetical phrasing in the song titles. A bit trite. Top Tracks are (You Should be) Doubly (Gratified) and (When I) Box the Day (Up).


If you were a fan of Andrew Kinney’s previous musical outlet, American Analog Set, then you will love The Wooden Birds. Whether or not he intended for it to feel like a direct extension of AAS’s solid tradition, that is the way it comes off. The Wooden Birds pick up where AAS left off, and evolve his unique mellow, plodding, melodic songwriting and performance. Top Tracks are False Alarm [download mp3], Sugar and Hometown Fantasy.


I am always happy to see more Ben Gibbard. Perhaps I should have taken notice that he is listed 2nd on the album. This release feels much more like a Jay Farrar product with Gibbard playing 2nd fiddle. Heavy on the alt-country sound, take it for what it is. It is part of a film project. For more info see, their website. I prefer the Gibbard tracks such as California Zephyr, All in One and The Void.

Drew has been putting out DIY acoustic tunes for a few years now. With 2 LPs on the horizon (Goodnight Dannii and Goodnight Gary) Danburry recently offered up a free EP to the masses. Please visit his site and donate some money for the download. The highpoint is Lynette, I Love You [download mp3].

Mmm… tasty! With the eminent future of Radiohead releases or LPs a bit murky, I will gladly take some solo Thom Yorke. This was released as a double A-side. Greenwood’s involvement is evident as well, so stating them as a “solo Yorke” project is problematic.

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. Owen - New Leaves (September)
  6. fun. - Aim and Ignite (August)
  7. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (May)
  8. The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come (October)
  9. Shark Speed - Sea Sick Music (April)
  10. Say Hi - Oohs & Aahs (February)
  11. The Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels (March)
  12. R.E.M. – Live at the Olympia in Dublin (October)
  13. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast (January)
  14. Iron & Wine - Around the Well (May)
  15. David Bazan - Curse Your Branches (August)
  16. Mike Doughty – Sad Man Happy Man (October)
  17. The Wooden Birds – Magnolia (October)
  18. Built to Spill – There is no Enemy (October)
  19. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love (March)
  20. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - Outer South (May)
  21. Fruit Bats - The Ruminant Band (August)
  22. Volcano Choir - Unmap (September)
  23. Mos Def - The Ecstatic (June + July)
  24. Before Braille - Spring Cleaning (June + July)
  25. A.A. Bondy - When the Devil's Loose (September)
  26. Art for Starters - Drugs Made / Drugs Ruined (April)
  27. Dent May and his Magnificent Ukuele - The Good Feeling Music of Dent May (March)
  28. Jeremy Enigk - OK Bear (May)
  29. Coconut Records - Davy (January)
  30. Jimmy Eat World - Clarity Live (April)
  31. Iain Archer - To the Pine Roots (April)
  32. The Appleseed Cast - Sagarmatha (February)
  33. John Vanderslice - Romanian Names (May)
  34. Peter, Bjorn and John - Living Thing (March)
  35. Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard – One Fast Move or I’m Gone (October)
  36. Jonsi and Alex - Rice Boy Sleeps (June + July)
  37. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest (May)
  38. Grand Archives - Keep in Mind Frankenstein (September)
  39. Lateef the Truth Speaker - Truth is Love Mixtape (April)
  40. Vetiver - Tight Knit (March)
  41. General Elektriks - Good City for Dreamers (February)
  42. Dark was the Night compilation (April)
  43. 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. Drew Danburry – Geraniums (October)
  6. Andrew Bird - Fitz and the Dizzyspells (August)
  7. Thom Yorke – Feelingpulledapartbyhorses/the Hollow Earth (October)
  8. The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice - Moon Colony Blood Bath (April)

  9. Blue Scholars - OOF! (August)

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