OK - since I NEVER F-ING POSTED all year (OK I did, but not at the . . . prodigious . . . pace of yesteryear), I've been pretty bad with music updates. For that reason I'll expand to 15 this year - but I won't like it, and I will probably drink enough to fight you as a result. If you want, drop me a line and I'll upload some of these so you can "sample" THEN CLEARLY GO BUY IT IMMEDIATELY AND IN CONJUNCTION WITH AMERICAN COPYRIGHT LAWS. Get me a smoothie while you're out, with the PlusProtein add-in? Thanks, dollface.
15: The Hood Internet - Mixtape Vol. 4
While not quite on par with the ridiculous "Vol. 1", the fourth installment from the Chicago DJ duo matches up the weird/experimental (Weezer over faux italo?) with legit bangers (AZ/Ghostface over the Golden Filter) and shit that just works (SPOILER: my favorite song of the year over "Back Dat Azz Up"). And it's free. Sick.
14: Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Easily the best AC album, and contains two of the best songs of the year ("Brothersport" and particularly the superb "My Girls" - more on that one later).
13: Major Lazer - Guns Don't Kill People, Lazers Do
Sure, it's inconsistent, jokey and smacks of a one-off . . . and there's a 4-song stretch in the middle that completely sucks (CHOKE ON SOMETHING LARGE, AMANDA BLANK) . . . but the bookends of the album are more fun than watching Cowboys fans lose. A car banger if there ever was one.
12: Roll Deep - Street Anthems
Cheating a little - this is a "retrospective" singles collection. Still, it's everything right with the UK Grime movement, in a tidy package.
11: The XX - xx
It's like Zero7 for smart people - breezy, seemingly-effortless, but with real depth and power. The drum machine actually allows for the band to open up, instead of being a constraint. Just a stunning, out-of-nowhere debut.
10: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Yeah yeah - it's a collection of obvious influences, almost like an indie-rock hybridization experiment (you can see the Mendel squares: "Dominant trait, Stone Roses - recessive, Pixies). But it's a GOOD one - full of harmony and that odd, cloudy-but-sunny disposition that make it work in the car or on the boat.
9: Dizzee Rascal - Tongue n Cheek
So the dude goes out and makes an electroclash album - and why not? Dizzee doesn't sound as fierce, as hungry, as he did in his first albums - but growth is a good thing, and sounding comfortable over an Armand van Buran beat works much better than chatting shit about geezers and gunplay. My British rap fixation continues unabated (insert own abating joke here).
8: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
Probably the best-named record of the year, because it really is a blitz - the YYYs keep the angular guitars, but lose the Joy Division for some New Order. Holy shit, it's an actual dance album - and Karen O's squawks and howls and lyrics fit the dance floor like a fucked-up bloody glove. This is the album the Killers wish they'd made instead of Sam's Town. "Get your leather on", indeed.
7: Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come
John Darnielle might be the best songwriter of this generation - he spins a story better than anyone, and can create consistent yet interesting album better than anyone this side of David Berman. A Biblical album without references to God, a spiritual journey that stops to ask questions, and a teacher who doesn't pretend to have all the answers - just a great, great album.
6: Japandroids - Post-Nothing
Beach songs about French kissing French girls, changing (or losing) dreams while growing up, or just simply reminiscing - all over the kind of fuzzed-out, devil-may-care attitude that takes years to master but minutes to hit hard. It's hard to sound this lackadaisical - and even harder to actually make the music matter as a result. Gorgeous.
5: The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
Honestly, this was not an album I thought I'd enjoy (along with similar-yet-different group Mumford & Sons), but I and Love and You blew me away at first listen. The North Carolina bluegrass roots collide with an alt-folk mentality that reminds you of Wilco but quickly runs right past its influences - heartfelt and smooth, yet jagged with loss and despair.
4: Girls - Album
Everyone has the same thought their first listen through Album: "the dude who made this is totally and completely fucked up." Of course, the first song proclaims the singer is "fucked in the head" - it's not exactly subliminal, but it's still important, and his loss is our gain. Ranging from surf to 50s R&B to a hint of rockabilly and calypso at times, this is a beach record that wears its influences proudly but uses them to reinforce lyrical themes, rather than the other way around. An incredibly impressive effort from Girls.
3: Passion Pit - Manners
The new era of pop music will accept anything as an instrument - whether it's vocals or computer manipulation or banging on a trash can. Passion Pit's expansion to a full band pushed the falsetto and computer-assisted vocals further to the back but heightened their effect, creating soaring anthems that never cross into "Wind Beneath My Wings" schmaltz for longer than a second or two. Taking the 'build/release' formula of electronic music into the mainstream - the future is grand.
2: Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part II
A swaggering FUCK YOU to anybody who thought OB4CL2 was vaporware of the music world, or would be a pussy-footed effort like The Blueprint 3 - instead, Raekwon and especially Ghostface blow the doors down then pillage all your snacks and shit. I'm not sure it was the second-best album on artistic merit, but it was certainly the album I listed to the second-most this year.
1: Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Unreal. Surreal. Perfect. Thomas Mars and Phoenix have come a long way in a short time, not by pushing boundaries, but by settling comfortably within their current vein and simply making pop music from a 60 degree angle. This album will always be the sound of 2009 for me, even if I want to murder a child every time I see the car commercial butchering "1901".