2009 has been an incredible year for music. We’ve seen some albums released that will surely stand the test of time and go down not only as the best albums of some artist’s careers, but albums that will be called classics for years to come. Here’s a list of albums from this year I think everyone needs to check out, if only to say you have and garner some sweet indie-cred points.
1. Mew – No More Stories / Are Told Today / I’m Sorry / They Washed Away / No More Stories / The World Is Grey / I’m Tired / Let’s Wash Away
Mew’s choice to title its album after lyrics from their “Hawaii Dream” was an … interesting choice. Put it on, however, and you’ll quickly realize Mew has the bite to match their bark; No More Stories … is a fantastic hour of fairly intricately woven dream-pop. Tracks like “Beach” and “Introducing Palace Players” contain some of the tightest wound hooks the band was written to date, and the lighter atmosphere returns to the feel of Frengers – a departure from the dark mood of their last album, And the Glass Handed Kites. No More Stories … is probably the album of Mew’s career, and if it continues marking its reputation with albums of this caliber, Mew will mark itself as one of the more famous engineers of this Swedish pop craze.
2. múm – Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know
Their records rarely are covered in the expansive review sections of the countless numbers of indie-rock sites across the net, and even though 2002’s Finally We Are No One stirred up some hype with its incredible single “Green Grass of Tunnel,” múm is seemingly non-existent apart from its carefully documented Wiki page. But hey, just because the U.S. hasn’t caught onto them yet doesn’t mean they’re unimportant. Sing Along is an incredible array of tracks, combining songs that mimic the bands minimalistic start to songs like “If I Were a Fish” that have strong roots in traditional music. One thing that doesn’t change throughout the album’s 11 tracks, however, is múm’s strong sense of experimentation. “Illuminated” for example, combines the more traditional elements with an ethereal female melody that makes the track anything but generic. To put it simply, múm has not surprisingly released another incredible album.
3. Animal Collective – Meriwether Post Pavilion and Fall Be Kind
I’m a fan of the latter, but most the former. Either way, it can’t be denied 2009 is Animal Collective’s year. Pitchfork claims it’s an “album of the decade,” and love it or hate it, Pavilion is one of the most powerful indie-releases to come out in recent years.While it may be the most pop-filled album they’ve released thus far, don’t expect to hear it in the mall when you’re out finishing your Christmas shopping. Animal Collective won people over through its shrewd use of experimentation, but mostly through just being the best at what it does. Fall Be Kind follows this album up strongly, and “What Would I Want? Sky” may be the best song I’ve heard all year. This may be their year, but expect AC to do some huge things in 2010 as well.
4. Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More
Folk rock is a predominantly American endeavor, so it was pretty surprising when England’s Mumford and Sons wowed the blogosphere with Sign No More. The band fully deserves praise. Take the opening lines from “Winter Winds” as an example: “As the winter winds litter London with lonely hearts/ oh the warmth in your eyes swept me into your arms.” All of the tracks are coupled with these impressive and touching lyrics, proving folk rock isn’t just an American game.
5. The Antlers – Hospice
I’m not necessarily ranking these albums, but you should be well aware its inclusion as the last on this list means nothing in relation to its placement. This is, hands down, one of the best releases of the year. Hospice still stands as one of the most powerful concept albums I’ve ever heard. If you haven’t and you’re a fan of quiet indie rock, you’re really doing yourself a disservice. Not many albums hold the emotional baggage of Hospice, and it’s even rarer to find one that sounds so beautiful in spite of that fact.
Albums that nearly made this list include, but aren’t limited to jj’s jjn?2, Mos Def’s The Ecstatic and John Mayer’s Battle Studies. And hey, don’t worry – if you find you like one of these albums, I’ll turn the other cheek when you start claiming you heard them through some secret online music blog only you can access.