Part 1 - Rules and Runners Up
Part 2 - #25-21
Part 3 - #20-16
The Zookeepers - Ballin' Outrageous
It's been a while I've heard a band that can play in a different genre on every track of an album without sounding like they are having an identity crisis. But Ballin' Outrageous is an explosive record, with creativity flying out in every direction. From the synth-pop anthem that opens the album to the folky indie pop of "Sicky Sweet" to the post-hardcore rant of the title track, it's clear within three tracks, no classification can hold this band. However, the whole album is held together as a single statement because each song captures the same youthful, quirky energy, along with a good sense of melodies and hooks. The album can seem slightly unedited, which is slightly frustrating. But it also makes me think as the band gets older, the next releases will just get better. And this one's pretty damn good!
How I found it: Artrocker, who by the way, has the best "Best of 2009" list I've seen so far.
Track picks: "Chicken," "Ballin' Outrageous"
Links: [MySpace] [FREE* Full Album Download]
*but please donate so they have money to make another album soon!
Here We Go Magic - Here We Go Magic
I've been thinking for a while about how to make Here We Go Magic not sound bad. They've got a certain "world music" influence, as evidenced by the marimba-based groove in the opening track, and such nods to African and Asian music have been widely abused in the last few years. But HWGM does it right - it's understated and doesn't sound co-opted. It fits naturally, on an emotive level, with the type of music the band is trying to make. Like a darker Animal Collective, HWGM have enticing, quiet pop melodies and hundreds of tiny sonic pieces perfectly interlocking in intricate layers of sound.
How I found it: Lotsa places
Track picks: "Fangela," "Only Pieces"
Screaming Females - Power Move
Screaming Females are everything a rock band should be. I don't think Power Move is their best album (Baby Teeth has slightly better songwriting), but it certainly their most sophisticated in terms of stylistic breadth and recording quality. Although the attention usually goes to guitar hero frontwoman Marrissa Paternoster, all three members are exceptionally talented musicians. The shredding, riff-rich guitar playing couldn't thrive without its more steady riff-rich counterpart on the bass. And the bombastic drumming keeps the whole thing from ever touching ground. This might be the greatest indie rock band on earth.
How I found it: They opened for Dinosaur Jr.
Track picks: "Bell," "Lights Out"
Woods - Songs of Shame
The strange psychedelic folk-pop of Woods is certainly some of the most beautiful music of 2009. The amazing melodies remind me of Neil Young and the Byrds, but there's something more distant about Woods that makes their music haunting. It's a hint of something otherworldly, or like looking at something under water - something you can't quite understand or see clearly. The faint but nagging spookiness lurking in every song makes this album truly original and impossible to forget.
Read more from the original RFR review...
How I found it: the internet
Track picks: "To Clean," "Rain On"
Songs for Moms - I Used to Believe in the West
This is one of those albums that completely dominated my life when I first started listening to it. I was impatient any time I couldn't spend listening to it, and I was even impatient when listening to it because I could only listen to one song at once. Folk/country-tinted punk from three California girls, Songs for Moms have put out a truly great album. The songwriting and arrangements are simple but brilliant, each part filling its roll in the music better than anything else could. Lyrically, the album is a remarkable achievement, the words startling in their honesty but endlessly clever and never cliche. I Used to Believe feels comfortable as an album, everything circling the same images and ideas without quite becoming conceptual. I can't imagine a better folk-punk album than this.
How I found it: Screaming Females via their "Best Albums of 2009" list
Track picks: "With Shotguns," "In the West"
NEXT>> Part 5: #10-6
Part 6: #5-1