Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Best of 2009: Music

Less organized, but here are some of the better new albums, new songs, and rediscoveries.

Grizzly Bear: album, Veckatimest; song, Two Weeks
Marvelous blend of warmth and cold across their songs, vocal harmonies are lush but the backgrounds can be marvelously spare. Two Weeks has enough of a pop edge to keep it immediately catchy but its subtle in how it unfolds.

Avett Brothers: album, I and Love and You; song Heart Like a Kickdrum
Pure adrenaline in that song, but there's a wonderful immediacy to the music, being half bluegrass folk roots and simplicity, half screaming punky energy. Their album is full of its share of perfect, heartbreaking tender moments too.

Animal Collective: song, My Girls.
Catchy in a way that seems so weird to work, but it does.

Bon Iver: album, Blood Bank.
4 songs, rich and focused. I need to listen more to get under them, but it's been rewarding so far.

Various artists: song, Mashup from Glee: It's My Life/Confessions.
Pure power pop hooks, immaculately assembled.

Various Artists: album, Dark Was the Night
It doesn't quite hang together as an album for me, but the parts themselves are some of the best offerings from a variety of sources- Grizzly Bear, The Books covering Nick Drake, Beirut, Sufjan Stevens, a marvelous small gem of a song from Iron and Wine, and a long but meticulous song from the Decemberists. And more.

And the best song of the year, Phoenix: album, Woldgang Amadeus Phoenix; song, 1901.
The video for this song is hypnotic, a light show, and what's more it is fit so musically with the song itself. The song grows out of a sparse, electronic texture into a fairly masterful dance hit. Vocals, guitar riffs add in. Then around a minute in, it bursts into a high-octane version, sunnier in its orchestration and with adrenaline-filled sense of slow build. Then at 1:15 or so, it manages to build even higher with a siren, until the chorus erupts: a few fleeting moments of full gratification. But here's the kicker- that moment is backed by that initial soundscape, setting up a second cycle perfectly, never dropping you for a second.

And since rediscoveries are so great, here are five recommendations of CDs that languished too long until this year:

Gil Shaham, Barber and Korngold violin concertos
Neeme Jarvi, Nielsen Symphonies
Europa Galanta, Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione
Dawn Upshaw, I Wish It So
Radiohead, The Bends


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