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Albums of the Year (2009)

Music, Year-End | By The Top 13 on December 7, 2009

It's The Top 13's favorite time of year, but that has nothing to do with the holiday season. We love the end of the year because of how much we enjoy making our year-end lists, and the one we love the most is today's: The Top 13 Albums of the Year. With many fantastic albums to choose from, we're certain there will be substantial disagreement - both with those albums that we omitted and how we ranked the albums we included. With that in mind, we ask: Do you agree with our list?

The Top 13 Albums of the Year project is brought to you in conjunction with The Music Slut, a New York-based music site, which in 2007 was ranked by Billboard as the best music blog. In addition to our list, you also can check out The Music Slut's Top 20 albums of the year.

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Mastodon - Crack the Skye


Mastodon - Crack the Skye

With Mastodon's fourth full-length album, the Atlanta-based band made the leap to progressive metal that they hinted at with their previous album - 2006's Blood Mountain. Crack the Skye is also a full-blown concept album, telling the story of a paraplegic whose soul, through astral travels and divination, ends up in the body of Rasputin. On paper it reads like something that only metalheads and basement-dwelling dungeon masters would enjoy. But the end result - seven tracks of intricate musical arrangements coupled with flat-out hard rock - is the most accessible metal album of the decade and, simply put, the best album of 2009.

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion


Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

By now, we've had almost an entire year to let Merriweather Post Pavilion sink in, as it was one of the first highly anticipated releases of 2009. Here's what we now know: Animal Collective has accomplished something exceptional – Panda Bear, Avey Tare, and Geologist managed to make both their most accessible and finest album, and they did it without alienating their core fan base. Plus, they did it without Deakin, the band's primary guitarist, who took the album off.

Dinosaur Jr. - Farm


Dinosaur Jr. - Farm

On this, their ninth studio album, J Mascis and his Dinosaur Jr. bandmates prove that if there is anything they have learned in their 25 years of being a band (putting aside the nine-year hiatus/breakup from 1997 to 2005) it is that being loud is not enough. Notorious for being one of the most deafening live bands in the world, the true greatness of Farm lies behind the walls of feedback and distortion with its downright solid songwriting.

Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer


Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer

It's hard to believe that just a few years ago, Sunset Rubdown was merely Spencer Krug's solo project. With the release of Dragonslayer, Sunset Rubdown – now a five-piece – is threatening to turn Wolf Parade into a side project for Krug. While Krug is still unquestionably the driving force behind the album, the eight fantastically epic tracks benefit from the increased vocal role of Camilla Wynne Ingr, the band's "jane-of-all-trades," who provides a perfect counterbalance to Krug’s frenetic keyboards and spastic warble.

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix


Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

If you weren't a fan of Phoenix before hearing this album, you might not know that this French foursome has three fantastic prior albums and even scored a minor hit with "Too Young," which appeared on the Lost in Translation soundtrack. Building on their solid track record, Phoenix took a significant step forward with the release of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. It's an infectious, upbeat indie pop album that really couldn’t be any better, and it has rightfully broken the band to the mainstream public.

Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine


Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine

When Magnolia Electric Co. touring bassist Evan Farrell died tragically in late 2007, frontman Jason Molina wrote his latest masterpiece in tribute to his fallen friend. Recording with frequent producer Steve Albini, Molina left behind the Crazy Horse sound that populated the past few Magnolia Electric records in favor of songs with a more minimalistic country/western feel (with accompaniment from slide guitar, dobros, horns, and the like). Josephine is an album about loneliness, dislocation, and heartbreak - themes not uncommon in Molina's work, but here feeling even more authentic due to the real life sorrow that contributed to the making of this album.

St. Vincent - Actor


St. Vincent - Actor

On the beautifully haunting follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut Marry Me, multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark (who performs under the moniker St. Vincent) has no problem avoiding a sophomore slump. Daringly creative and ambitious, Actor blends Clark's soothing voice and thoughtful yet seething lyrics with striking instrumentation that begins with her fantastically unique guitar work. Notably, Clark, the former touring guitarist for The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, didn't write Actor's songs on guitar or piano, but instead used Apple's Garage Band software to write and arrange them. Regardless, the result is an engrossing album that demands repeated listens.

Girls - Album


Girls - Album

Album, which The Top 13 picked as the best debut album of the year, offers a fresh take on pop music, one infused with noise rock, new wave, punk, and psychadelia. And this is a perfect album for a summer day, one that perhaps borrows a bit from the Beach Boys, but does so without in any way sounding derivative. Indeed, Girls have delivered right out of the gate an exceptional slice of bright indie pop that is unlike any of the other albums on this list.

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You


The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You

This is a familiar story in the music industry: An underground band with a loyal following gets scooped up by a major label, records their next album with a big-time producer, and starts gaining new fans while the old fans are left wishing nothing had changed. Many will say this is the Avett Brothers' best album and just as many will argue that the gloss applied by uber-producer Rick Rubin is the beginning of the end of a great run. No matter which side of the fence you fall on, this album has some undeniably great songs, such as "The Perfect Space," "Slight Figure of Speech," and the epic title track.

Handsome Furs - Face Control


Handsome Furs - Face Control

With Face Control, the second full-length release from Wolf Parade co-leader Dan Boeckner and his wife, Alexei Perry, the Handsome Furs no longer sound like a side project, as they did on their debut. Whereas Plague Park was an intriguing but ultimately sparse and moody album that never quite reached its potential, Face Control offers a much fuller musical experience: Boeckner is at his best both lyrically and on guitar and Perry adds spirited work on the synthesizer and drum machine. While many of the tracks (inspired by the band's travels in Russia) stand out, "I'm Confused," for which the Furs made a fantastic zombie video, is the album's highlight.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz


Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz

Grammy nominated and referred to by Spin as the "alternative pop album of the decade," It's Blitz is somewhat of a departure for this punkish rock trio. Credited for their debut album, Fever to Tell, with contributing to the resurrection of the New York rock scene, most of Nick Zinner's shredding guitars are absent here, replaced by a heavy dose of synthesizers Zinner himself provides. The result, as always anchored by Karen O's manic and rangy vocals, is a revelation. The band's successful reinvention cements its status as one of alternative music's most important bands and it was rewarded with headlining gigs at a number of major summer music festivals.

Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures


Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures

With Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, and Queens of the Stone Age singer and guitarist Josh Homme comprising the band, it's no surprise that the self-produced debut from Them Crooked Vultures was one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the year. The self-titled album doesn't disappoint. While it certainly sounds more like a Queens of the Stone Age release than anything ever recorded by Nirvana or Zeppelin, collaborating with masters like Jones and Grohl has brought out the best in Homme. This is a fantastic rock album.

Japandroids - Post-Nothing


Japandroids - Post-Nothing

With its debut album clocking in at barely 35 minutes, this Vancouver duo doesn't have all that much time to make an impression. But the eight songs on Post-Nothing do just that. Long-listed for the prestigious Canadian Polaris Music Prize, this album combines first-rate post-punk noise and garage rock in a fury of hazy guitars and tag team vocals. The lyrics are simple – mostly about girls and getting wasted – but they more that suffice to complement the barrage of sound created by only drums and the guitar.

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Comments Leave a comment


Great list! Surprised that Dirty Projectors aren't on the list, but a little glad as I think that they are over rated.

6:45 AM   Dec 07, 2009

tloveisready ★★

Four of my faves made this list! That's a surprise

8:54 AM   Dec 07, 2009


Just submitted. I'm surprised that Veckatimest isn't on the list. TCV is all hype. I find the album to be racket. I'm sure I'm in the minority.

9:02 AM   Dec 07, 2009


weird #1

9:31 AM   Dec 07, 2009

KungFuJay ★★

If by "weird," you mean "awesome."

9:42 AM   Dec 07, 2009


i mean i like the album, but it's not the best of the year. i thought it was a step down from blood mountain and leviathan.

2:28 PM   Dec 07, 2009


Not a fan of this list. Only two albums will be on mine, and I find a couple of them either extremely dissapointing, substantially overhyped, or egregiously bad.

10:21 AM   Dec 07, 2009


which fall into which category?

11:14 AM   Dec 07, 2009

stillathreat ★★

Bravo on Mastodon. A truly worthy number one that I doubt most people will give its proper due. A few of these are head scratchers, though.

12:08 PM   Dec 07, 2009


On mine: Sunset Rubdown, MEC
Dissapointing: YYY, Girls
Overhyped: Girls, TCV, SV, AC
Bad: AC, Phoenix

12:54 PM   Dec 07, 2009


I'm surprized Nizz. I thought Girls and Phoenix would be right up your alley. I guess I don't know you well.

1:19 PM   Dec 07, 2009


seems more like a hodge podge list than one that came about by consensus

2:44 PM   Dec 07, 2009


This is the collective list of those that work behind the scenes at The Top 13; once all the submissions from our readers are counted, we'll post your collective results.

3:01 PM   Dec 07, 2009


Dragonslayer is the best album of the year. It's not close, in my opinion.

5:38 PM   Dec 07, 2009


If you love it so much, why don't you marry it :)

8:05 AM   Dec 08, 2009

ajay ★★

Only AC and Phoenix will make my list, but Sunset Rubdown and YYYs are close.

8:14 PM   Dec 08, 2009

tloveisready ★★

My list: 1. Dan Auerbach - Keep It Hid
2. Elvis Perkins in Deerland - Elvis Perkins in Deerland
3. Justin Townes Earle - Midnight at the Movies
4. Band of Skulls - Baby, Darling, Dollface, Honey
5. AA Bondy - When the Devil's Loose
6. Decemberists - Hazards of Love
7. Alberta Cross - Broken Side of Time
8. Black Crowes - AFter the Freeze/Before the Frost
9. Black Joe Lewis - Tell em What Your Name Is
10. Heartless Bastards - The Mountain
11. Deer Tick - Born on Flag Day
12. Telegraph Canyon - The Tide and the Current
13. Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More

8:21 AM   Dec 09, 2009


Major error on your list. Avetts were left off by mistake. I had four of your 13. AABond and DT were 14 and 15 for me.

1:36 PM   Dec 09, 2009

tloveisready ★★

That Avetts record is good, but it's got a few major lowpoints. That's what kept it out of the top 13. But it'll be top 25 material for sure.

2:29 PM   Dec 09, 2009


Other than Dragonslayer, this list is awful. :-/

12:39 PM   Dec 09, 2009


hazards of love should be on NOBODY'S list!

8:59 AM   Dec 10, 2009


Obviously coming from someone who hasn't seen it performed live (or someone with their head in the sand)

1:23 PM   Dec 10, 2009


totally agreed with matt. my list... (1) bowerbirds 'upper air' (2) camera obscura 'my maudlin career' (3) aa bondy 'when the devil's loose' (4) magnolia electric co. 'josephine' (5) the xx 'xx' (6) pains of being pure at heart 's/t' (7) passion pit 'manners' (8) bill callahan 'sometimes i wish we were an eagle' (9) thao with the get down stay down 'know better learn faster' (10) sunset rubdown 'dragonslayer' (11) regina spektor 'far' (12) au revoir simone 'still night, still light' (13) grizzly bear 'veckatimest'

9:52 AM   Dec 10, 2009



12:40 PM   Dec 11, 2009


I sure didn't mind the records released this year by Rodrigo y Gabriela, Wavves, Isis, Deer Tick, Big Business, and Daath. But 2009 will be the year of Pissed Jeans' "King of Jeans" for me. On top of that, I can't remember a year in which so many reissued albums came out. I had so much deja vu buying things for the second time.

10:16 AM   Dec 20, 2009


Actor should be #1 and where's Two Suns?

12:13 PM   Dec 22, 2009


1. YYY - It's Blitz
2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
3. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
4. Dan Auerbach - Keep it Hid
5. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
6. Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
7. St. Vincent - Actor
8. Jay Z - Blueprint 3
9. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
10. The xx - xx
11. AA Bondy - When the Devil's Loose
12. Kid Cudi - Man on the Moon
13. Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms

4:59 PM   Dec 24, 2009

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