Okay…I think I’m ready to post my Top Ten Records of 2009. This was a good—if not GREAT—year in music and there was plenty to choose from. I’m including a few more here, but if you’re wondering what else didn’t make the top ten, please check out my list of “also-rans” that I posted a little bit ago.
But, with no further ado, here is the list (with comments following—in order of how much I liked them):
- Mastodon – “Crack the Skye”
- Wilco – “Wilco (the album)”
- …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – “The Century of Self”
- The Reverend Horton Heat – “Laughin’ & Cryin'”
- Patterson Hood – “Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs)”
- Bruce Springsteen – “Working on a Dream”
- Elvis Costello – “Secret, Profane & Sugarcane”
- Them Crooked Vultures – “Them Crooked Vultures”
- Pearl Jam – “Backspacer”
- Cheap Trick – “The Latest”
Okay…here’s how this broke down. The first three have been battling for the #1 spot on my list for months—which is especially surprizing since when I first heard the new Trail of Dead, I didn’t like it much. 4-5 are definitely in the right places. 6-8 are pretty much interchangeable in their order. 9-10, again, are in the right places. I had a lot of stuff on par with each other this year, and actually assigning numbers to it was difficult…with the exception of #1.
Mastodon BY FAR had the best record of the year. (I’m embarrassed to say that so far I’ve only been listening to it on Rhapsody’s subscription service and I haven’t bought the physical product yet—but it IS on my Christmas list!) Yeah, there were two other records battling for the #1 spot…but it was kind of like if Cambodia and Latvia decided to go to war with the USA. It’s heavy in the right places, melodic in the right places, complex, simple, thought provoking, fun, and inspiring (musically, if not philosophically). For a while, I’ve thought of Mastodon as being the BEST metal act to come out of this side of the year 2000…and this record more than proves me right. It’s not as heavy as some of their previous work, but it’s still the best metal you can find on the market today—and also the best progressive music, as well. (Attention Dream Theater: I love you guys…but you’ve been replaced.) There was no doubt that this was my record of the year. It should probably be everyone’s.
About the rest of the list, as I said, Wilco and ToD were also fighting for the #1 spot. Wilco has produced their best work since “Foxtrot” with this one—possibly even since “Being There.” The Trail of Dead record had to grow on me…but once it did, it got the hooks in DEEP. It’s really stellar, once you get past the initial shock of how much sound they crammed into the opening track and just accept the fact that they aren’t trying to write anything catchy—they’re just trying to overpower the songs that are already stuck in your head.
The Rev returned with “Laughin’ & Cryin'” which is some of the best country he’s ever done (and definitely SHOULD be all over country-radio, even though that’ll never happen). It’s a lot of fun and were this limited to the genre, it would have been #1. It’s followed by Patterson Hood’s “Murdering Oscar (and other Love Songs)” which at one time was much higher on the list. GREAT record—and probably more immediately likable than even the last Drive-By Truckers release (which is saying something, coming from me—that was #1 on last year’s list). Lyrics that are smart and funny and a sound that is steeped in the same vibe as DBT, but is also wholly separate and stands on its own two feet.
Then we’ve got Bruce, Elvis, and the Vultures, all of which could be swapped around into what-ever order you want at this point in the list. Springsteen’s record isn’t quite as good as its predecessor (“Magic”), but does much to feed the hunger of the E Street fans, and there’s a lot worth loving on this release. Costello made a return to recording with an acoustic setup on his new record, and the results are simply beautiful (again, were we limiting genre, this would be at #1 among its kindred). And the Vultures…WOW! Best thing Homme’s done outside of Queens of the Stone Age, LIGHT YEARS better than Grohl’s last two Foos records, and…actually, what the hell has John Paul Jones been doing for the last 30 years? (Still waiting on that Zeppelin reunion, guys!)
Then there’s Pearl Jam. I was hoping for more out of the record, but it’s definitely top-ten worthy—just not top 5. And Cheap Trick’s “Latest” is pretty good. A little ballad-heavy, but y’know…play to your strengths and all that.
And, also among the also-rans, we have the following:
- Tom Waits – “Glitter and Doom” – Ineligable because it’s a live-record, but REALLY GOOD—though I should again note that I’ve only listened on Rhapsody, and this is on my Christmas List.)
- Grand Duchy – “Petits Fours” – Frank Black/Black Francis side project with his current wife or whatever she is…it’s good, but it’s not top-ten good…and Black puts out music so often that it’s difficult to absorb it in time for something to make it onto a list.
- Monsters of Folk – Enjoyed it…but it’s hardy made up of big names, as the band-name indicates (most would be hard-pressed to identify anyone in the band, aside from the My Morning Jacket guy) and it’s also often not anywhere NEAR being folk.
- Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – It’s okay…but Jason was better in the Drive-By Truckers.
- Billy Talent – “III” – Entertaining, but their records are starting to feel repetitive. Don’t get me wrong…it’s good. They’re one of the few punk bands out there today that I feel are worthy to still be called punk…it’s just kind of the same as I and II…but hey…it worked for the RAMONES. 🙂
- Modest Mouse – “No One’s First, and You’re Next” – Disqualified because it’s an EP. It’s also not their best work. Listenable and kinda fun…but gimmie a full record, guys. This one just felt kind of slapped together for the sake of having a summer-release this year.
…and that’s it. Hope you enjoyed the ridiculously long read…and I hope it inspires you to go out and buy something.