Monday, August 2, 2010

Best Music of 2009: #10-6

#10. Freelance Whales: Weathervanes (listen to it here or buy it here for $6)
This album can classify as '09 or '10, but I'm placing it in the former because it wouldn't make the top 20 in the latter (and I actually meant to place it at #11, but I messed up).  Whales owe serious debts to Postal Service, but they aren't derivative rip-off artists like Owl Crappy (that's the PG version).  They implement a banjo and a glockenspiel on several songs that pay homage to Sufjan.  At first, Whales struck me as a bit too saccharine (as indicated by their album cover) but there's a cleverness to the lyrics that move them past simple sweetness ("Shut me up with your long tube socks, / They don't scream, 'Hey, let's just be friends.'").  Beyond that, they make several fantastic analogies to being a house, being objects in a house, or being a ghost exploring a house ("Oh, you caught me sleeping in the power sockets, / You caught me mildewing the tiles of your bathroom.").  Don't let their sweet sound fool you; there's some deep and dark stuff going on therein.  Here's a fan-made video of "Starring," one of my favorite tracks:

#9. Various Artists: Dark Was the Night (buy it)
This double album reads like a who's who of indie rock: Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer, The Decemberists, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab), Iron & Wine, Feist, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Beirut, etc., etc.  There are more than a few throwaway tracks (even from some of the aforementioned bands), but when you've got 31 tracks, you can afford to have a few swing-and-a-miss efforts (plus it introduced me to Sharon Jones).  And not only was this a good album, its proceeds went to help promote AIDS awareness, thanks to the Brothers Dessner (The National).  Sufjan's track is beyond epic, but this song is probably the album's most beautiful (yet, in Bon Iver style, tragic and haunting to boot) [warning: explicit]:

#8. Other Lives: self-titled (listen to it here and buy it here)
The band formerly known as Kunek changed their name and didn't miss a beat.  If you like melody-driven piano rock, then look no further than Other Lives.  The Oklahoma quintet is what Coldplay might have been had they not hopped aboard the crazy train of popularity and radioplay.  Viz:

#7. Jaydiohead: Jay-Z x Radiohead (legally download it for free here)
I'm not a huge mash-up fan (never really liked The Gray Album), but this thing is awesome and rivals volume 1 of the Ratatat Remixes (but not killer vol. 2).  I'm not a Jay-Z fan, at all, but his lazy and laid-back rapping style fits well with most music (as Danger Mouse and Ratatat have both proven), and the Radiohead tunes -- from throughout the catalog, including Yorke's solo career -- are almost a pitch-perfect fit.  Enjoy [warning: explicit]:

#6. Port O'Brien: Threadbare (listen to it here or buy it here)
I wrote about this one previously, so you can visit it if you so choose.  But just trust me that I underestimated this album's power back then.  It's a grower, that's for sure, and I think it's in a sonic class of its own (hard to find a comparison for these guys).  And these guys have a great energy on stage and put on a good show, so see them if you get a chance.

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