It's a little late to put together a tops of 2009 list, but since I just started this blog, I felt like making one. Also, I'm home sick today. My criteria for this list are simply which albums I considered my most favorite. It couldn't truthfully be called a "best of" list, because I did not make an effort to listen to every critically acclaimed album of the year. That's not to say that I don't seek out new music, but I would rather give extra attention to the albums that I do really enjoy than try to listen to as many different albums as I possibly can. (Looking at my Rate Your Music account it appears I have about 30 2009 albums in my collection.) First, a few honorable mentions: Songbook by Family of the Year, Backspacer by Pearl Jam, The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists, and Sainthood by Tegan and Sara. Now, without further ado:
5. Afternoon Naps - Parade
This album is twee pop at its finest, and we are lucky to have such a delightful band here in Cleveland. With ten songs and 31 minutes of music, Parade barely qualifies to be Afternoon Naps' first LP. It's also their most accomplished work. They expand their sound in several ways, even adding some disco influences on a couple tracks. It's still full of the great hooks and boy-girl vocals that made their previous EPs hard to resist. Key tracks: "Mitten Fingers," "Beach Bums," "Catholic School"
4. Mono - Hymn to the Immortal Wind
It's a Mono album. If you've listened to the band before, you have an idea of what you're getting. Some might see that as a bad thing, but on this album, they take their style of post-rock and execute it really, really well. Music doesn't get a whole lot more epic than these seven tracks. Key tracks: "Ashes in the Snow," "The Battle to Heaven"
3. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Andrew Bird is an incredibly talented man. If you haven't seen one of his live shows, you should do so at the first opportunity. He has really created his own unique sound, notable for his superb vocals, his fantastic violin playing, and his amazing ability at whistling. The Mysterious Production of Eggs and Armchair Apocrypha are very good albums, but Noble Beast tops them, and is the first one that I feel really does justice to his immense talents. Key tracks: "Anonanimal," "Oh No," "Not a Robot, but a Ghost"
2. Megafaun - Gather, Form and Fly
I saw this band live over the summer, and I was mainly there to see Bowerbirds, but Megafaun blew me away. Their sound is a mix of experimental folk and more conventional folk rock with some country and bluegrass elements. They do it all very well, and their vocal harmonies are something to marvel at. Key tracks: "The Longest Day," "The Fade," "Kaufman's Ballad," "Guns"
1. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below
I must say that the people who book the bands to play at The Spot at Case Western Reserve University have done a very good job. This merry folk rock troupe rolled into town for a show just as they were beginning to blow up in popularity. I personally had no familiarity with them before going, and it turned out to be possibly the best show I saw all year. With nine or ten musicians on stage, it's quite an impressive spectacle as they fill your ears with joyous music that would have been right at home in the late '60s. The live show sets a very high benchmark, which the album very nearly lives up to. If you haven't heard "Home," a duet that is surely one of the happiest love songs ever, go listen to it now. Key tracks: "Home," "Desert Song," "40 Day Dream," "Janglin"