Ray Legend’s Favorite Albums of ’09

I woke up around 8: 30 this morning. I never wake up early on Saturday. The only explanation I can give is it’s a new decade. Maybe that will be my new thing this decade … you know, waking up early, reading a newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee. Then, waving goodbye to the kids as they get on the schoolbus (on weekdays, of course). “Watch for bullies, kids,” I’ll yell. “It’s ok to hit them if they hit you first.” Yeah, that’s called Parenting 101. Teach your kid to be kick-ass and they will kick ass, when the time is right. Speaking of kick-ass — I’m not sure if that’s hyphenated but it’s my blog so I don’t feel like being a grammar Nazi — here are my favorite albums of the year. You know, the albums that would have spent the most time in my car cd player if the bastard wasn’t possessed by a demon and refused to play anything worth hearing.

10. Foreign Born – Person to Person. Underrated band from L.A. shines on the merits of singer Matt Popieluch’s assured vocals and strutting guitars that belie the confidence of a band ready to make their grand entrance. Favorite songs: “Vacationing People”, “It Grew On You”, “Winter Games”

9.  Megafaun – Gather, Form and Fly. Three-piece based out of North Carolina, formerly best known as the ex-bandmates of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, establish themselves as a band to watch with gorgeous harmonies, scenes from the countryside. Favorite songs: “Impressions of the Past”, “The Fade”, “Guns”

8. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca. Wanted to label this as the year’s most overblown record, but the vocals of Amber Coffman (“Stillness is the Move”) and Angel Deradoorian (“Two Doves”)  are so good that they make up for any misgivings I had about the weirdness/pomposity of frontman David Longstreth.  Favorite songs: “Two Doves”, “Stillness is the Move”, “Cannibal Sunrise”

7. Passion Pit — Manners. First time I heard this I thought Passion Pit had a female singer. But, once I got used to Michael Angelakos’ prepubescent vocals, this collection of 11 danceable gems rarely left my cd player this summer. (Yes, it was one of the few that actually played. Ha.) Favorite songs: “The Reeling”, “Seaweed Song”, “Little Secrets”

6. Girls — Album. Girls lead singer Christopher Owens does not seem like the type of guy you’d want to drink a beer with. Based on the yarns he spins on Album, I envision him being a sad sap who drinks himself into oblivion and then leaves his ex like 12 voicemails, each one a little loonier than the last. But, that aside, these songs are so good I found myself rooting for him, in spite of his woe is me delivery. Favorite songs: “Lust for Life”, “Laura”, “Hellhole Ratrace”

5. Rural Alberta Advantage — Hometowns. Leave it to a Canadian band to create a musical work that makes me think about driving through America and all the sadness and joy that criss-crosses this great land. Plus, hearing Nils Edenloff sing through his nose so passionately awoke memories of the first time I heard Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum. Score one for bad ffolk singers! Favorite songs: “Frank, AB”, “Rushed Apart”, “In the Summertime”

4. Florence and the Machine — Lungs. Florence Welch’s voice is soulful, pristine and effortless. And, like any self-respecting redhead, she has plenty of sass (see: “Kiss With a Fist”). Unlike other popular British female singers this decade, her music does not sound contrived or conceived in a corporate board room.  Favorite songs: “Cosmic Love”, “You’ve Got the Love”, “Kiss With a Fist”

3. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Listening to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, it is hard to believe this French quartet had not tasted stardom before this year. Their songs were always catchy. It’s just the phenomenal one-two punch of “Lisztomania” and “1901” finally made me people stop and recognize what they’d been missing. Favorite songs: “Lisztomania”, “1901”, “Girlfriend”

2. Japandroids – Post-Nothing. This Vancouver guitar and drums duo came out of nowhere and burned a hole in my consciousness like no other this year. Post-Nothing is a tightly wound album full of raw, euphoric and catchy as hell odes to leaving town and chasing girls. It perfectly catches the feelings of yearning and restlessness of being in your mid-20’s. But at the same time catches the fun associated with it, too. Favorite songs: “Young Hearts Spark Fire”, “Wet Hair”, “Sovreignty”

1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion. Merriweather Post Pavilion is like a baseball team starting a lineup of all-stars. Every song brings something formidable to the plate. The bliss explosion around the 2:30 mark of opener “In The Flowers” is a great example. On most albums that would be the highlight but here it’s just one of many, especially when you have songs like “My Girls”, “Summertime Clothes” and “Brothersport” waiting in the wings. Much ink was spilled over this album this year. And, in retrospect, it was worth it. This album is not only of the greats of this year and decade, but I predict it will continue to be a touchstone for bands for many years to come. Favorite songs: “My Girls”, “Brothersport”, “No More Runnin'”

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