Here they are -- the albums that rocked my world in 2009, in alphabetical order. A couple are offered for free download by forward-thinking artists, although we do recommend you either donate or purchase a physical copy in the format of your choice, if at all possible.
Andrew Jackson Jihad - Can't Maintain
This band just keeps bringing the folk. Folk-punk as a genre is something has the potential to make me cringe. AJJ has a way of writing songs that are both political and confessional without being embarassing, however. They went a little electric on this album, even going so far as to add a drum kit, but it's not like it's Dylan goes electric -- AJJ has expanded their sound and come up with something greater than they once were.
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
It's so nice when an album is an album. Animal Collective makes albums, not songs. Yes, you can listen to every song individually, but the whole of this album is far greater than the sum of its parts. The Beach Boys comparison has been done to death, but it's so fucking perfect that I can't deny it.
Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
Now, seeing the Avett Brothers live might have provided me with the greatest bit of controversy in my journalistic career, but it also cemented my love for this band. Were I a single man, every song on this record would be analyzed for hidden meanings, and mixtaped to death. As it was, I and Love and You was the album that made me happiest of any release this year.
Bomb the Music Industry! - Scrambles
Jeff Rosenstock has finally figured out what he wants to do. BTMI! is this melange of ska, punk, folk, electronic, and experimental all thrown together. The previous albums are a little unfocused, but Scrambles moves from song to song in a way that makes perfect sense. It's a meditiation on playing music, and how it has the potential to make you happy and unhappy.
Coalesce - OX
What a comeback. Ten years without a release, and Coalesce comes back with a fucking audio beat down. This is the sort of album that, back in the band's heyday, would have been heralded as genre-changing. Now, it's made best-of lists the world 'round, and rocks my stereo weekly. The phrase "return to form" isn't even appropriate, because they haven't lost a single step.
Dan Deacon - Bromst
This album is totally weird. I'm not sure I get it, or have any idea as to what's going on. Spider-Man of the Rings at least had "Woody Woodpecker," which was kind of like a single. All I know is that when I listen to this, I get really uncomfortable at the beginning, and really upset when it's over. One of the few albums to actually involve me emotionally.
Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
Damn, they're pretty. I saw them play at SXSW this year, and watching them while sitting on the grass at the French Legation Musueum with Ian was probably the highlight of my trip down to Austin. This album shows that they're more than something weird and bizarre, and actually have the ability to be an act that can write really amazing pop songs.
Drakkar Sauna - 20009
How do you follow up the highly-regarded collection of Louvin Brothers covers that was Wars & Tornadoes? You write an album about ancient astronauts that has a companion book and fill it with songs that are just this side of inscrutable. There's a bit of a formula to Drakkar Sauna's sound, but they mix it up, and do it so well, that every album is a joy.
Fake Problems - It's Great To Be Alive
I fucking hated this album the first time I heard it. It's such a change from How Far Our Bodies Go that I was turned off. I compared it to Maroon 5, and took the pre-order vinyl that came in the mail and let it sit, unopened, for weeks. I decided to revisit it at some point, and after the songs bounced around for a bit, I gave it another spin. Then another...and another and another. It took a while, but goddamn, this record grew on me.
Girls - Album
Honestly, this barely made my list. It's almost the opposite of the Fake Problems record, in that the more I listen to it, the less impressed I am with it. Maybe it's the quality of records that came out this year, but Album seems to be well-regarded only because it didn't disappoint after all the hype.
Hex Dispensers - Winchester Mystery House
This album was my holy grail. It took forever to get a copy on vinyl, because I refuse to buy Hex Dispensers records on anything else but. From the opening chords of "Doomsday Romantic" to ending with Devo's "Gates of Steel," this record had me thrilled. It lives up to what I'd expected when they released "Lose My Cool" as a single last year, and that song is the centerpiece of this bit of garage-rock awesomeness.
Reigning Sound - Love and Curses
Greg Cartwright. Really, do I have to say anything else? The band released a live album earlier this year (Live At Goner), and still had the decency to put out a real record. Love and Curses builds on the troubadour soul garage the band perfected on Time Bomb High School, and is the sort of the album that everyone likes. It's so genre-spanning and timeless that it never ceases to provide something new upon repeated listens.
Shitty Limits - Beware the Limits
Kelly at Love Garden gets points for foisting two Shitty Limits singles on me earlier this year, and then furthering my addiction to the band by having them play live at the store. This record is short, sharp, and tunefully abrasive. A band called the Damned Personals used to have a shirt that said "Our rock will fuck you," and I can't think of a more appropriate description for the buzzsaw attack every single song this band releases.
Download Beware the Limits (Mediafire, left click)
Teenage Bottlerocket - They Came From the Shadows
Pop-punk is back, and even though it's not the ridiculously popular genre it was when Green Day first started selling platinum records, it's still got fans. And, boy, did the fans go nuts for this record. By "fans," I mean "me," of course. TBR just keeps getting tighter and tighter with every release, and adding touches here and there ("Bigger Than KISS" at once mocks and steals from glam-metal) in mild enough doses that the changes aren't too jarring.
White Denim - Fits
I certainly enjoy this band live, but on album, they get past garage and blues and become a psychedelic jam machine that makes me wish I still did drugs. Fits is an apt name for the record, as the rocking going on makes you want to shake and shimmy like someone having a seizure.
Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
They've certainly gotten back to where they belong. I haven't really been down with the last couple albums from Ira Kaplan and company. I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass was as unwieldy as its name, but Popular Songs manages to take some of those lengthy songs and give them enough movements to make this a record that thrills.