My favourite albums of 2009

Year-end lists are trite, I know. I promise this is the only one I’ll make. It’s not about movies or news stories or gaffes or tween gossip. It’s about music. Specifically, my favourite albums of 2009.

So, lets get to it.

In no particular order, they are:

Don’t Stop

This offering by Norwegian pop sensation Annie is sickly sweet – in a good way. Listening to her album is like licking the spatula you’ve just used to mix a big ol’ bowl of icing. So bad, but so good.

Also good: the cover art. Even if you don’t like Norwegian pop (your loss), surely you can appreciate that cover. I mean, look at it. That chick is so cool she can write her name with light. Amazing. Like the tunes on her album.


There’s no mystery here. Brighton’s Brakes have assembled a good ol’ fashion indie rock album. The kind of album you could throw on during a car trip, while re-paiting your den a brighter hue, or when it’s raining outside and you refuse to be bummed out by it. You get it, right?

Whatever. This album is good. I like it. It’s on my list of favourites for 2009. Deal with it.

My Maudlin Career
Camera Obscura

Where have you been all my life, Camera Obscura? You’re a delight! You’ve managed to capture the feeling that comes over me when summer has arrived, the air is warm, it’s a Friday night, I’m wearing a linen jacket and shorts, and I’m well into a bottle of chilled Chablis.

Thank you, Camera Obscura. And thank you to the “French Navy” you so marvellously sing about on your album. (It’s my favourite track.)


Hoo-haw! What a romp!

Yup, this album is bitchin’. Electronic pop at its best. Which is doubly remarkable, considering this album is Discovery’s first.

I’m particularly fond of the eighth track, “I Want You Back.” It’s an homage to the Jackson Five’s, “One More Chance.” If MJ were still kickin’, I’d like to think he’d be pleased with the effort. I know I am.

Joel Plaskett

Joel Plaskett. Nova Scotian. Indie rocker. Obsessed with the number three. I dig it.

I also dig his latest album; a three-disc effort. It’s chock-a-block full of über-Canadian ditties. And what Canadian can resist jingoistic tuneage? Not this Canadian! (Case in point: of the 452 artists and 804 albums in my iTunes Library, nothing has received more airtime than Canadian troubadour, Gordon Lightfoot.)

But of course, you non-Canadians are probably thinking, “What about me? Will I like this Joel Plaskett fellow? I know nothing of Canada except for the igloos, dog sleds, and dope.”

My answer: you will like him, yes you will. Because good music knows no boundaries, be they political, linguistic, geographic, or otherwise. So do yourself a favour, pick up this album, head out to your nearest sugar shack, crack open a bottle of Canadian Club, and let the good times roll.

Battle Studies
John Mayer

Don’t judge me. I happen to enjoy John Mayer. And I think his fourth album is very good.

While it’s been out for less than two months, I’ve managed to listen to it from start to finish numerous times. (Granted, it clocks in at just over 45 minutes.) Yes, it’s a little uneven. Some tracks are stronger than others. In all, however, there’s enough good stuff to keep you coming back.

I particularly enjoy Mayer’s duet with Taylor Swift on the lovely, “Half of My Heart.” (This doesn’t count as tween gossip, by the way.) Their voices compliment each other surprisingly well. Seriously. (I said, don’t judge me!)

Matt & Kim

If fun had a soundtrack, it would be Matt & Kim’s, Grand.

Many a morning on my walk to work, I’d listen to this album. It put me in a good mood. It also made me want to walk past my office to the nearest bar, plug my iPod into their PA system, and spend the day rocking out, bottle of Jack in hand.

I regret never doing that.

Years of Refusal

Oh, Morrissey. So ironically miserable – or is it miserably ironic? Either way, Years of Refusal is sinewy, gritty, and damn good.

From the first few bars of the opening track, “Something is Squeezing my Skull,” through to the last licks from the closing track, “I’m OK by Myself,” Steven Patrick Morrissey delivers a genuine tour-de-force of grim cynicism.

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Oh yeah. How could I not include this kick-ass number from France’s hottest pop sensation? Sure, they’ve already licensed their stuff to Cadillac. (Odd, since they sound more like an Audi TT than they do an Escalade, but I digress.) Still, this album is solid, from start to finish.

Vive la France!

In and Out of Control
The Raveonettes

Whoa. I don’t know what happened between their last album, Lust Lust Lust, and this one, but whatever it was it definitely helped this Danish duo kick it up a notch.

Despite the myriad macabre subjects they cover (see: Rape; Suicide; Substance Abuse; Auto Theft; Death), Sune Rose and Sharin manage to infuse their tracks with a touch of whimsy and humour. I appreciate that, which is why I say this: when life throws you a lemon, listen to this album.

Oohs and Aahs
Say Hi

Picture this: you’re sitting on your friends’ back deck. It’s spring, so you’re still wearing a sweater. It’s evening. Nine-ish. Or even closer to ten. Between mouthfuls of this delicious, yet mysterious dip set out for you and the other guests, you hear music. It’s coming from the kick-ass outdoor speakers hanging from the eaves. It’s a band. They sound familiar.

“Who are these guys? They sound familiar,” you say, cracker crumbs falling out of your mouth onto your sweater.

They’re Say Hi. You’ve never heard them before. But you like them. You feel like they’ve been with you all your life. And listening to them makes you feel like everything’s gonna be okay.

St. Vincent

Gosh. Where to begin?

If you’ve been following the links I’ve embedded for each of these albums (which take you to the albums’ entries on Wikipedia, by the way), you’d already know two interesting things about this album: 1) it was created using Apple’s GarageBand application; and 2) Woody Allen’s movies and Disney’s animated features served as inspiration. Cool, eh? I thought so.

However, you should know I was unaware of both of these factoids when I first listened to the album. Moreover, knowing both doesn’t really change my opinion of it, either: I think it’s lovely.

Now We Can See
The Thermals

A little bit punk + a little bit rock-and-roll + a little bit indie hipster = this album.


Okay, so I was never that good at math. Sue me. But before you do, give this album a listen. Because I’ll be entering it into evidence in my defence, and I’m confident the judge, once he or she’s played it, will side with me.

So there.

The xx

I know I said this list was in no particular order. (Actually, it’s alphabetical by artist.) Despite this fact, it’s hard not to read something into the fact that this album, xx, is the last on the list. This would make it my #1 album, if you subscribe to the Letterman Theory of Lists. While I won’t be so bold as to confirm your suspicion, I won’t deny it either.


Honourable Mention:

Two Weeks Last Summer
Various Artists

You’ve probably never heard of this release. That’s because it never was. This one was compiled by my friend and incomparable music afficianado, Ryan. It’s a mélange of good stuff, including hits from The Ramones, The Cars, Iggy Pop, Jesus and Mary Chain, Cheap Trick, The Pursuit of Happiness, Sonic Youth, New Order, The Pixies, and Smashing Pumpkins.

Of course, not a single one of the songs in this digital mix tape was released in 2009, which is why I couldn’t include it in the aforementioned list. But I include it all the same because my friend Ryan deserves mention in this post. Were it not for him and his stellar musical tastes, I’d have had precious little to listen to this past year. After all, it was his advice and guidance that led me to the albums I’ve discussed, and many others I haven’t. (John Mayer being the one exception. Don’t judge me, damn it!)

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