Wednesday, July 15, 2009

DDoff Daily's Best Albums of 2009 (So Far)

No intro necessary, but please fill the comments field with your picks.

15. Manners, Passion Pit: Thanks to the group's hit single, "The Reeling," Passion Pit has become 2009's answer to 2008's MGMT, who was 2008's answer to 2007's Peter Bjorn and John. Am I sensing a pattern here? I worry that this band will disappear as quickly as it came (PB & J's sophomore album is actually a worthwhile listen, but do you care anymore?); in the meantime, I will keep rocking out to this impressive sophomore effort.

14. The Hazards of Love, The Decemberists: I'm not going to try to pretend I understand every moment of this rock opera, but I love it anyway. Colin Meloy and company did the unthinkable and topped The Crane Wife; to catch the live show and hear the album performed in chronological order was quite a treat.

13. BLACKsummers'night, Maxwell: Finally awake from his eight-year slumber, Maxwell proved that the nu-soul renaissance of the early 2000s was no fluke. This is baby-makin' music at its finest...D'Angelo, please follow suit and join the reunion party.

12. Back & Fourth, Pete Yorn: I found this album's sound to not be as "indie" as Yorn's reputation, and that's fine by me. Yorn's Americana-inspired effort is part-Counting Crows (the *good* Counting Crows), part-John Mayer (the *good* John Mayer), 100% awesome.

11. Above the Bones, Mishka and
10. Asa, Asa: Mellow guitar music seems to be a dime-a-dozen these days, but some international flavor helped turn these albums into iPod staples for my daily commute. If you're desperate for some chill-out tunes, these two are must-haves.

9. Guns Don't Kill People...Lazers Do, Major Lazer: While Mishka feeds the hunger for a laid-back, mellow reggae setting, Diplo and Switch's Major Lazer does the exact opposite. The duo's experimental dancehall disc is a balls-out party from start to finish, and deserved each bit of hype it received.

8. The Ecstatic, Mos Def: Thank goodness, we can put Mos on a "best-of" list again. Supporting this rapper/actor's music became hard to do after some sub-par efforts following Black on Both Sides, but The Ecstatic was a shot in the chest, reminding all of us why we love his work so much. Glad you're back on track, Mighty Mos.

7. Fondo, Vieux Farka Toure and
6. Welcome to Mali, Amadou & Mariam: One of the joys of the digital revolution is being able to hear music to which you might not have ever been exposed -- and these two fall under that umbrella. This might not be the place to start if you're unfamiliar with modern African music, but it's definitely the place to finish.

5. Keep It Hid, Dan Auerbach: Many dismissed this album as simply being a Black Keys side project, but it's much, much more than that. Auerbach's solo set borrows from the Keys' darkest, grittiest undertones, then takes it a few feet deeper. A truly overlooked album.

4. Troubadour, K'naan: Why this guy isn't multi-platinum by now is beyond me. I felt the same way about k-Os when I first heard his work, but the help of a major-label machine convinced me that K'naan's seamless combination of pop melodies and world-driven hip-hop was a recipe for success. This album is fun, plain and simple, and I'm still rooting for K'naan to take off and show the world how special he is.

3. A Matter of Time, Mike Posner & the Brain Trust: This Duke junior is giving hope to all you student-producers out there. What many older hip-hop fans don't yet understand is that today's hip-hop and pop markets are virtually inseparable (read: Asher Roth), so Posner's happy-go-lucky "urban pop" has a value much higher than label heads think. Posner might not ever convince the hip-hop community that he's the real deal, but he can rest assured that a writer/producer career is pretty much on lock for years to come.

2. Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear: I've decided that "hipster music" isn't anything more than very, very left-of-center pop music, and Grizzly Bear proves that point. Who could deny the straight-up CATCHINESS of "Two Weeks," much less the rest of the album? It still irks me that all these Brooklyn hipsters feel the need to come up with a weird title to prove how cool they are, but I'll let this one slide on account of tremendously special tunes.

1. So Far Gone, Drake: Surprise! (Hey, at least I didn't pick Animal Collective like every other damn blogger out there. But I digress...) Drake's mixtape is at the top of this list not only for its musical prowess, but also for how it changed the rules of the music industry altogether -- that might deserve its own post, so I'll leave it at that for now. I was taken aback by the "Best I Ever Had" video; for an artist with this much hype, a titty-infested cliche video was the LAST thing we needed from our so-called "next big thing." Nonetheless, the song has cemented itself as the official summer jam for 2009, and I'm very much looking forward to Drake's first proper release later this year.

Honorable Mentions and Other Notes:

- If you like singer/songwriters, Angel Taylor's debut might be the most overlooked album in your 2009 collection. The Colbie Caillat, girl-with-a-guitar sound has never been my thing, but there's something about Taylor's sympathy-arousing vulnerability that I find irresistible.

- Although I didn't like either albums as whole bodies of work, I've still got my eye on both Asher Roth and Chester French. The talent is too obvious to ignore, and I think the lack of label pressure on their respective sophomore sets will help us really see what they're all about.

- Love 'em or hate 'em, but Dave Matthews Band and Ben Harper (with Relentless7) both put out stellar albums this year. It's not easy having careers like these two men, and it's safe to call Dave and Ben living legends of our musical generation.

- It seems both Green Day and Eminem lost some of the shock value that made them such iconic artists (while I'm at it, same goes for Marilyn probably didn't even know he dropped an album this year). The talent is still there, and I thought both 21st Century Breakdown and Relapse were both good, just not great.

The first half of 2009 brought us quite a bit of great music, but there's still so much to hear. There's a ton of already-released albums I've yet to give a proper listen, namely: The Dead Weather, Discovery, and Street Sweeper Social Club, so maybe you'll see one (or none) of them on my year-end list. A bevy of hip-hop debuts (Wale, Kid Cudi, The Cool Kids, B.o.B.), follow-ups (Eminem, Lupe Fiasco) and potential classics (some album called Blueprint 3) are all on my radar, and a couple more hipster-credible sets (Little Boots, Amanda Blank) should be interesting, too. See y'all in December -- ddoff