Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best Albums of 2009, Part 5: #10-6

Part 1 - Rules and Runners Up
Part 2 - #25-21
Part 3 - #20-16
Part 4 - #15-11


Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

Animal Collective have been charming indie ears for years with their quirky pop and for months before this album was released, leaks and buzz built it up to be the record of 2009. Inevitably, it's slightly overrated - many tracks just aren't that memorable. On the other hand, the best tracks on the album are, simply put, flawless. Every sound has been honed to perfection and mixed into a Brian Wilson-esque three dimensions. And as with the Beach Boys, the band's warm melodies are gently unforgettable.

Read more from the original RFR review...

How I found it: Only, like, the whole internet
Track picks: "Summertime Clothes," "My Girls"
Link: [MySpace]


Sonic Youth - The Eternal

It's been a year of changes for Sonic Youth, putting out their first indie label release in twenty years and their first release with bassist Mark Ibold. The addition of Ibold, formerly of Pavement, sends the band in their most rock'n'roll direction maybe ever. With dense, heavy guitars, The Eternal is strikingly direct. For Sonic Youth, the songs are bite-sized, though there are still some sprawling numbers and while this is one of the band's more accessible efforts, it certainly sounds like no one else. To say Sonic Youth pushes boundaries isn't accurate because their music is so uniquely the band's own that it can't be described in relationship to rock's boundaries at all. The Eternal is no exception.

How I found it: N/A
Track picks: "What We Know," "Anti-Orgasm"
Link: [MySpace]


Why? - Eskimo Snow

Apparently, during the recording sessions for last year's Alopecia, the band recorded another set of songs entirely disconnected from their hip-hop roots. Eskimo Snow is country-tinged indie rock. And that doesn't sound appealing, at least not to me. However, instead, Eskimo Snow is a staggering accomplishment. Yoni Wolf's lyrics are always personal and always clever, but here, for the first time, the cleverness is never used as a shield - Wolf rips himself wide open. The lyrics reveal the deepest pains of early adulthood, and one astounding melody after another make this album extraordinary. Easily one of the year's best and most underrated releases.

Read more from the original RFR review...

How I found it: several ways
Track picks: "Into the Shadows of My Embrace," "These Hands," "Eskimo Snow"
Link: [MySpace]


Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II
Ice H2O

Few albums have been as long anticipated as Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II, the sequel to Raekwon's 1995 solo debut. It seemed unlikely that after so many years, Raekwon could live up to expectations - after all, his debut was considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time and the Wu-Tang Clan's prime has certainly since passed. But OB4CL2 is every bit what it should be - inventive, hard-hitting and simply a mess of amazing MCing and production. The credits are mindblowing, featuring the entire Wu-Tang Clan (except U-God, who cares), Busta Rhymes, Beanie Sigel, J Dilla, Dr. Dre and a whole lotta others. The only real problem with the album (other than it being a bit musically incohesive) is that it only fulfills expectations, it doesn't defy them. Nothing here breaks the Wu-Tang mold, but it still blows everything else of its kind out of the water.

Read more from the original RFR review...

How I found it: No great story here.
Track picks: "Broken Safety," "House of Flying Daggers"
Link: [MySpace]


Flaming Lips - Embryonic

I don't think anyone saw this coming. Sure, Flaming Lips have put out great albums many times over, and they have never stopped evolving, but the appropriately titled Embryonic is a rebirth of sorts. Many bands have sought to stay relevant by incorporating electronics, and Flaming Lips numbered among these with 2002's Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. But on Embryonic, the band looks back to roots, making their rawest, grittiest sounds in well over a decade. It's not a move backwards though. Embryonic is as bold a step forward as any the band has made today. The dark, hypnotic psychedelia is the band's most professional album, doing away with any hints of indie quirk in favor of large production and unwavering statements. Soft Bulletin remains the band's masterpiece, but Embryonic opens an exciting new chapter and makes Flaming Lips as relevant in 2009 as they were in the 90's.

How I found it: N/A
Track picks: "Convinced of the Hex," "Powerless"
Link: [MySpace]

NEXT>> Part 6: #5-1

No comments: