Ohmpark’s Top 50 Albums of 2009

ohmparktop102009_50albumsFINAL

As this decade comes to a close, there is no doubt it will be remembered for the rise of Indie music and the enormous influence the Internet has had on the course of music history. 10 years ago the independent music scenes of the United States were fragmented by location and genre. But thanks to technology, they have all coalesced into one huge melting pot phenomenon unlike any other before it. There was no giant explosion as with underground scenes of the past. It was a slow, steady crawl that still goes unnoticed today by a large portion of pop culture despite unlikely widespread commercial success from weirdos like Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear. And thus 2009 marks the high point so far in this golden age of music. The money may be draining out of the industry faster and faster, but the art is getting better, and there’s a whole lot more of it.

Last year I felt other Blogelites’ end of year lists were rewarding commercial viability over music quality and I was worried that Indie music as whole may have been moving towards the mainstream a little too much. It turns out my slight pessimism may have been unfounded, at least for now. This year I agree with the hipster consensus picks for the most part, and my list lines up with others’ lists much more so than in the past two years. I still think things are moving in a poppier direction overall, but that may not be all that bad of a thing if it results in albums like Merriweather Post Pavilion, Veckatimest, and Bitte Orca, all of which were the most accessible efforts to date from their respective artists. You have to figure this Indie thing is going to eventually burn out and something else is going to come along, but so far there is no sign of it slowing. I continue to suspect that there is something fundamentally different about this music movement than its predecessors.

Up until this year, one phenomenon that was prevalent in former scenes that was not a primary characteristic of the Indie world was artists collaborating and teaming up with one another. But in 2009, that seemed to change. Two of the greatest compilations of all time came out this year, Dark Night of The Soul & Dark Was The Night. Both Dark comps featured a vast cast of Indie stars all working together in new configurations, and the music world began to fell a little smaller and more tightly knit together. You had My Brightest Diamond joining The Decemberists and Beach House joining Grizzly Bear. There was Karen O’s Kids, there was the Monsters of Folk, there was Zach Hill working with as many artists as he can. Certainly there have been plenty of team-ups before, but this year it just felt different to me.

Last year’s trend was the No Agey distortion lo-fi sound, and that bled into 2009 for a bit helping propel Wavves into Indie celebrity. This year’s trend would be “chill-wave”, characterized by bands like Real Estate, Neon Indian, and Washed Out. This stuff sounds nice, but for the most part it is way too boring to amount to anything more than a passing fad.

Even though I agree with the P4kish lists more this year, I still think there are plenty of overrated records getting way too much love. Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Fever Ray bored me to death. Girls was good for a crappy punk record, but that’s like winning the Special Olympics. The new Baroness was weak, and I think people were overcompensating for overlooking the stellar 2007 Red Album. And you’ll find my list absent of any hip-hop records for the first time, as I could not find a single one that felt special. I absolutely hate that I cannot find anything worthwhile in a genre I used to love, but all I hear is unimaginative garbage or borrowed styles done better 15 years ago. One thing that always appealed to me about hip-hop was how one beat and one rhyme could express so much, but now I feel this style is overwrought with limitations and constricting expectations. Innovators could always come along and revive this thing, but right now I don’t hear a heartbeat.

In years past, I flexed my writing muscles by doing individual write-ups for all 50 albums on my list, but this year I decided to spare you readers the overkill. For the most part, I’ve already said everything I want to about these records, and if I haven’t the other 5 billion bloggers sure have. Enjoy the final product of a year’s worth of research:


50. Wavves: Wavvves

wavvves




49. Harlem Shakes: Technicolor Health

harlem




48. Birds Of Avalon: Uncanny Valley

uncanny




47. Sin Fang Bous: Clangour

sin




46. Blackout Beach: Skin Of Evil

skin




45. The Dodos: Time To Die

dodos




44. The Orphins: Wish You Well

orphins




43. Akron/Family: Set Em Wild, Set Em Free

aetem




42. Royal Bangs: Let It Beep

royal




41. Omar Rodriguez Lopez: Xenophanes

xeno




40. Sunset Rubdown: Dragonslayer

dragon




39. Bibio: Vignetting The Compost

vig




38. Venice Is Sinking: AZAR

azar




37. Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs

popular




36. Volcano Choir: Unmap

unmap




35. The Bronzed Chorus: I’m The Spring

spring




34. Mastodon: Crack The Skye

Cracktheskye




33. Tortoise: Beacons Of Ancestorship

tortoise-beacons-of-ancestorship




32. Devendra Banhart: What Will We Be

devendra_banhart_what_will_we_be_large




31. Jim O’Rourke: The Visitor

The Visitor




30. Bear In Heaven: Beast Rest Forth Mouth

beast




29. Crystal Antlers: Tentacles

tentacles




28. Lotus Plaza: Floodlight Collective

lotus




27. Blastoids: Kids Hands Smell Like Glitter

blast




26. From Exile: Monolith

monolith




25. The Flaming Lips: Embryonic

embryonic




24. The XX: XX

xx




23. Here We Go Magic: Here We Go Magic

here




22. So Many Dynamos: The Loud Wars

loud




21. Built To Spill: There Is No Enemy

enemy




20. Woods: Songs Of Shame

woods




19. The Mars Volta: Octahedron

octa




18. Nomen Novum: Paradises

paradisesgrass




17. Untied States: Instant Everything, Constant Nothing

IECN




16. Clues: Clues

clues




15. Sonic Youth: The Eternal

eternal




14. White Denim: Fits

fits




13. Atlas Sound: Logos

logos




12. Bibio: Ambivalence Avenue

amba




11. Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

phoenix




10. DM Stith: Heavy Ghost

heavy




9. Cymbals Eat Guitars: Why There Are Mountains

why




8. Loney Dear: Dear John

dear




7. Nomen Novum: November

novem




6. Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca

bitte




5. Mew: No More Stories Are Told Today I’m Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories The World Is Grey I’m Tired Let’s Wash Away

mew-no_more_stories




4. Do Make Say Think: Other Truths

ot




3. Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest

veck




2. Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion

mpp




1. St. Vincent : Actor

actor


MPP, Veckatimest, and Bitte Orca are all phenenomal records and all three would be a solid pick for album of the year, but for me, nothing topped Actor. It is one of those albums where every single second feels perfect. A sense of excitement comes with the beginning of every song as it starts. It is completely dynamic, and perfectly paced. It’s entirety works as a compelling thematic piece, and every individual part holds up on its own. The classical/pop hybrid aesthetic of St. Vincent may not be fully appreciated by many, especially the testosterone dominated music journalism world that remains inept at discerning female talent. But in my book, Annie Clark is one the greatest musicians in the world right now period.

The most underrated record of the year, and maybe the best primarily instrumental record of the decade, is Do Make Say ThinksOther Truths. I can’t believe it is falling under so many people’s radars. Mew‘s newest may be the best “Bridge Band” record I’ve ever heard. And November, Dear John, Why There Are Mountains, and Heavy Ghost are all simply amazing recordings that should be getting a lot more love than they do.

I feel like everything on this list is essential, so dig in to what you don’t recognize, and go hear some great new music!

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  • Posted by Davy Minor on December 29, 2009 at 7:13 am
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5 Responses to “Ohmpark’s Top 50 Albums of 2009”
  1. Taylor Says: December 29th, 2009 at 9:36 am

    “The new Baroness was weak, and I think people were overcompensating for overlooking the stellar 2007 Red Album. And you’ll find my list absent of any hip-hop records for the first time, as I could not find a single one that felt special. I absolutely hate that I cannot find anything worthwhile in a genre I used to love, but all I hear is unimaginative garbage or borrowed styles done better 15 years ago. One thing that always appealed to me about hip-hop was how one beat and one rhyme could express so much, but now I feel this style is overwrought with limitations and constricting expectations. Innovators could always come along and revive this thing, but right now I don’t hear a heartbeat. ”

    I agree with you on Baroness, the Red album is better than the Blue album. But in terms of hip hop, there’s still hope. We’ve got artists like J.Cole and Wale and my personal fav is Jay Electronica. Look up the songs the Pledge and Love Czars II by him

    http://www.shotfromguns.wordpress.com

  2. Sara Crawford Says: January 2nd, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Other great albums you didn’t mention:

    - Fantasies by Metric
    - Elvis Perkins in Dearland (self-titled)
    - Up From Below by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

    Great list overall, though. 2009 was a spectacular year for music. :)

  3. Ryan Says: January 4th, 2010 at 3:30 am

    Been looking forward to this post! Last year’s top 50 of 2008 kept my ears busy for six months. Keep up the good work!

  4. Marvin Says: December 30th, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    This list makes me feel out of the loop. I do my best to listen to a lot of new music but I find there’s only so much of it I can realistically take in.

    I have probably only heard 15 to 20 of these. !

  5. Marvin 20woods | ChokeTheChickenGame Says: March 5th, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    [...] Ohmpark » Blog Archive » Ohmpark's Top 50 Albums of 2009 [...]

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