I think, on the whole, that 2009 has been a good year for music. We’ve seen some albums heavily lauded, some declared album of the year directly after their leak, and some that will be timeless for completely different reasons. After taking on the task of listening to as many albums of 2009 as I could, I find that I appreciate each album released for what they are more than when I only hear certain ones from the year. I’m not sure if that makes sense.
It hasn’t been a good year for other stuff, however. There have been few good horror films released; Merzbow’s put out around 15 records, none of them overly fantastic; we’ve had a terrifying number of celebrity deaths, many being young at the time of passing (see The Rev from Avenged Sevenfold, who just passed – RIP); and the economy does not seem to be looking good. But let’s enjoy what we have, and let’s get on with it.
10. Blacklisted – No One Deserves to Be Here More than Me
Yep. Blacklisted unleashed a furious but refined album late in the year which blew me away. At first, I thought I was hearing another Every Time I Die album, but I got used to the shouted vocals and let the music wash over me in a wave of angry, experimental hardcore. It may not be the Blacklisted that people are used to, but it’s definitely one of the best hardcore releases this year in my book.
9. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
The competition for album of the year between Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, and Animal Collective is moot to me. Grizzly Bear released a catchy, folk-tinged masterpiece that’s bubbling with joy and dramatic in its sadness. Lush soundscapes shimmer over anything Animal Collective wrote this year. But I think it’s just my preference (and yes, I do like Animal Collective – I just didn’t think Merriweather was anything that amazing).
8. sunn o))) – Monoliths & Dimensions
sunn o))) present a grim trio of songs from the very beginning, putting me directly in the dark, Satanic forests of Young Goodman Brown. That’s exactly where I want to be, and coupled with the new brass section and the angelic yet creepy female voices, sunn o))) have upped the ante on their drone and I’m really excited to see where it takes them. And then, a turn for the better, more uplifting on “Alice!” It’s a fantastic twist to sunn o)))’s bleak repertoire. This doesn’t top Black One in my opinion, but it is a great sign of things to come from the droning group.
7. Loma Prieta – Dark Mountain
A twist for me, considering I didn’t even know about this release until I accidentally stumbled upon it. But Loma Prieta have provided a fantastic one-two punch of aggression and emotion that doesn’t normally stand out to me in other screamo groups. Check this one out, if only for the amazing song “Ghost Shadow.”
6. Converge – Axe to Fall
A blistering, chaotic record that goes in every direction that made me love Converge in the first place. There’s no blatant breakdowns here, just a tendency to experiment in the hardcore style more than most bands are willing to go. Fortunately, it works on Axe to Fall, and the two ending songs, which stray into more sludgy territories, are the standouts for me.
5. PsyOpus – Odd Senses
I love technical metal, and I’m a drummer, so the grinding, shifting work of PsyOpus directly appeals to me. Chris Arp and company have come up with new ways to stun me, whether its complicated start-stops, catchy breakdowns, or ridiculous harmonics solos. The thing that holds this album back from being higher on the list are the two frustrating tracks toward the end, “Boogeyman” and “Choker Chain,” which try to experiment too far and end up becoming disjointed.
4. Into the Moat – The Campaign
And in a way, that is why Into the Moat beat out PsyOpus – Into the Moat’s brutality and technicality is present in every song, with shifting time signatures and tempo changes becoming instantly memorable, somehow. Into the Moat has always been a favorite of mine, and The Campaign may not be better than Into the Moat’s earlier works, but its progress is noted. Plus, it was about time they released a new album.
3. Cursive – Mama, I’m Swollen
I had really high hopes for this. I was impressed by Happy Hollow but wanted more, and I wanted Cursive to go back to the direction they started with The Ugly Organ. I know that’s hoping for too much; they’re not even the same band anymore, and since Tim Kasher’s songs are directly related to his emotional life at the time, it’s too much to ask. Mama, I’m Swollen is not my favorite release by Cursive. At first, I was pretty mad, too. It wasn’t what I was looking for from the band. But after giving it a few listens, letting it sink into my brain, letting the catchy yet discordant riffs pervade, I found Kasher and co. a little changed, something lost, something gained. It’s not a bad thing – we must embrace change. Just let “What Have I Done?” speak to you; get lost in the jangle of “Caveman”; let Tim Kasher’s wavering voice bring you into his life.
Never been a huge fan of Kylesa – I can listen to them, but they never really captivate me. Well, that is until I heard Static Tensions, perhaps their best album. It’s sludgy, doom-laden, but it’s so totally exhilarating as well, never relying on the same techniques to get the next high. Try “Running Red” on for size. It’s a different beast from anything Kylesa has tried, and it will blow you away.
1. Napalm Death – Time Waits for No Slave
This may seem like a strange album to top my list, but give it a chance. Napalm Death have done everything right this time: brutal grinds; slower, down-tempo blasts; a ripping ride through over 15 songs, which are actually quite long in comparison to other grindcore bands; and best of all, ridiculously catchy songs for a band that utilizes quick tempos and complicated rhythms. This leaked in late 2008, yet I’m still listening to at the close of 2009 more than any other album. That tells me something; but even more, I’ve still got “Larceny of the Heart” stuck in my head. That’s an accomplishment no other band has done this year. Keep it up, ND.
So that’s it – my top ten list. Tomorrow, I’ll have some more goodies, like an honorable mentions list, the worst of 2009, and the biggest disappointments.
Please feel free to agree, disagree (and I know there will be some huge grievances), or just comment. Keep in mind that I love the metal genre more than others, so there’s a bias there. Thanks, and have a great New Year.