Part 1 - Rules and Runners Up
Part 2 - #25-21
Part 3 - #20-16
Part 4 - #15-11
Part 5 - #10-5
The Horrors - Primary Colours
I've hated on the Horrors pretty seriously based on seeing them live, but after a recommendation from my punk heroes Fucked Up, I decided to give the album a fair chance. And I gotta put my foot in my mouth after those snide remarks. This band is what it would have sounded like like if Kevin Shields had been Joy Division's guitarist instead of Bernie Sumner. The guitar itself isn't mixed high, but its twisted reverb and overtones play off the tense Peter Hook-esque bass. The vocals are influenced by Ian Curtis in their flat, desperate melodies, but the delivery is slightly higher and younger - this is no aping. The songwriting may be a throwback to the 80's, but sonically, despite each component's obvious roots, Primary Colours sounds far more ahead of its time than it does retro. Moody but catchy, the Horrors' music is well worth the attention it's garnered. I'm sorry I didn't know that sooner.
How I found it: It was Fucked Up's Best of 2009 list that made me give it a fair chance
Track picks: "Mirror's Image," "Who Can Say"
Pterodactyl - Worldwild
As I explained, this is a list of "most exciting" albums, and Worldwild is certainly that. It may not be as professional as the releases by been-around-the-block musicians like Sonic Youth, Raekwon and Flaming Lips, but it proves that it's still possible to find new directions for music in 2009. And though Pterodactyl sound like no one else, they are accessible and melodic. Fast, arpeggiated guitars, jumpy drums and soaring multi-part vocals combine for a totally fresh take on indie rock. The whole album speaks of exploration, energy and elation. Even the album cover, depicting two hikers under a glitchy, digital rainbow, evokes a strange and beautiful otherworld. Unjustly overlooked, Worldwild is good for your brain and your heart.
How I found it: They opened for Oneida.
Track picks: "One With Everyone," "Share the Shade"
Wavves - Wavvves
Last winter, Wavves was the first breath of fresh air for me as an indie reviewer. It's a return to the simple, minimal, poppy guitar punk of the 80's. There's no gimmick, there's no bullshit. I know something this simplistic doesn't sound revolutionary, but in a scene dominated by orchestral pop, self-aware art rock and pseudo-ironic hipster club tunes, someone needed to bring us to our senses. And who better than the 21-year-old slacker Nathan Williams whose four-track tunes exploded out of his bedroom and across the indie world last winter and spring, then crashed and burned its way out of the spotlight just as fast? We'll see if Wavves can dust themselves off from their sharp tumble and continue on, but what really matters is that in 2008 to 2009, they were exactly what indie rock needed.
Read more from the original RFR review...
How I found it: I don't remember!
Track picks: "California Goths," "No Hope Kids," "Beach Demon"
Dinosaur Jr - Farm
In the 1980's, Dinosaur Jr put lead guitar back into indie rock. Without their tuneful but heavy anthems, rock would not be the same today - they paved the way for grunge and 90's punk bands like Nirvana, who, um, might have influenced other bands to say the least. Though J Mascis has most of the songwriting credits, Dinosaur Jr's unique energy has always come from the friction among its three members. Farm can stand alongside the band's best (i.e. first) albums, and for those of us who weren't yet in kindergarten when the band first imploded, it's great to experience Dinosaur Jr not as some historical artifact but as something relevant to our time. They may have some gray hairs, but Dinosaur Jr haven't aged at all. And what could be more exciting than a truly great album by one of the greatest rock bands of all time?
How I found it: It's Dinosaur Jr, duh!
Track picks: "Pieces," "See You," "I Want You to Know,"
Antlers - Hospice
Hospice is the kind of album that changes lives. Exploring the guilt that lingers after abuse and after loss, Hospice is a painful record. Tales of mental illness, terminal cancer and emotional abuse enigmatically intersect while singer-songwriter Peter Silberman comes to terms with the fact that love does not conquer all. Musically, the shaky, dark electronica creates a distinctive soundscape perfect for the psychological decay and hospital setting of the album, while Silberman's high, clear voice unnervingly reveals dark secrets and deep fears. It's rare that an album comes along with the power to mend people, to change their lives permanently. Hospice is one of these albums, surely not for everyone, but for enough of us to be numbered among the greats.
Read more from the original RFR review...
How I found it: Pop Tarts Suck Toasted
Track picks: "Two," "Atrophy," "Wake"