Sunday, December 13, 2009

Three Colours' Year End List (2009)

Not another Year End List

After a somewhat mediocre year of music in 2008, the last year of the aughts brought us some solid releases from a handful of indie veterans as well as some surprise gems. All in all, 2009 has been a great one. So in Three Colours’ opinion, here’s the best music of 2009.

Top 20 Albums 0f 2009
20. Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears – Tell 'Em What Your Name Is
19. The Whitest Boy Alive – Rules
18. The Cave Singers – Welcome Joy
17. We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls
16. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
15. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
14. Brazos – Phosphorescent Blues
13. Franz Ferdinand – Tonight
12. Elvis Perkins in Dearland – S/T LP
11. Taken By Trees – East of Eden

10. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
French electro-pop rockers Phoenix treated us with the feel-good album of the year that’s just begging you to dance.

9. Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslayer / Introducing Moonface
While it’s probably cheating to count both of these as one entry, I went ahead anyway. Sunset Rubdown stripped away the gloss of Random Spirit Lover to return with the powerfully dark Dragonslayer. Moonface treated the hardcore fans with two softly beautiful tracks.

8. Say Hi – The Oohs and Aahs
The very talented one-man-band from Seattle, Eric Elbogen's Say Hi, finally strikes gold with its sixth full-length indi-pop/low-fi masterpiece.

7. Telekinesis – Telekinesis!
This self-titled debut is chock-full of fresh, tender kicks from Seattle’s Telekinesis, another one-man-band fronted by multi-instrumental Michael Benjamin Lerner.

6. White Rabbits – It's Frightening
Hiring the helping-hand of Britt Daniel for the production of their sophomore effort, White Rabbits paired down the big-band arrangements of Fort Nightly to create a more minimalist record that’s frighteningly awesome.

5. Julian Plenti – Julian Plenti Is... Skyscraper
After three terrific albums with Interpol, lead singer Paul Banks explores his creative side with the solo project Julian Plenti. Using his new musical vehicle for more experimental ventures, Banks has delivered some very interesting sounds without upsetting the Interpol fan base. Catching these guys live only made this album more appreciated.

4. Patrick Watson – Wooden Arms
Following up the Polaris Prize winning debut Close to Paradise, Patrick Watson returns with an even stronger follow-up. Accompanied by lush orchestration and eerie vocals, Wooden Arms plays out like an epic fantasy novel, transporting the listener to otherworldly dreamscapes. Secret City Records hits another home run with this release.

3. The xx – xx
Taking me by complete surprise, South London’s The xx have released an absolute gem with their debut album xx. Not only did the xx make it to number three on this list, the band also won “Rookie of the Year” honors with this LP. Sounding very little like any band currently out there, the xx succeed by truly exposing themselves, making their lyrics sound like they’re directly from the heart. The minimalist, indie touch on soft R&B-styled tracks creates catchy, hook-laden instant classics.

2. White Denim – Fits
After landing Exposion as the second best album in 2008’s year end list, White Denim returned with Fits to re-claim their position for 2009. Delivering in one album what some bands strive to achieve over an entire career, Fits blasts all the grooves with no apologies. The band has been melting faces across Europe through aggressive touring. With the superb craftsmanship of Fits, White Denim is finally starting to garner the respect they so truly deserve – they recently signed with Downtown and were able to drop their first indie label record late this year.

1. Handsome Furs – Face Control
Handsome Furs totally blew my mind with Face Control. Upon first listen, each song firmly planted its hooks into my brain, proving to be one of the catchiest LPs of the year. The fact that this album ceases to wear itself out after nearly 12 months of heavy rotation is exactly why this album landed itself at the top of 2009. Handsome Furs proved that some bands aren’t affected by the “sophomore slump.” Face Control is to Judgment Day as Plague Park is to Terminator: same great vision, however, the sequel was executed to perfection.

Honorable Mentions
• The Blakes – Souvenir
• Black Math Horseman – Wyllt
• Islands - Vapours
• Volcano Choir – Unmap
• Swan Lake – Enemy Mine

Top 5 EPs of 2009
1. Beirut - March of the Zapotec EP
2. Spoon - Got Nuffin EP
3. Bon Iver - Blood Bank EP
4. Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears - S/T EP
5. The Blakes - Lights On EP

Best Shows Attended in 2009
(I missed some really good ones this year)
1. Spoon / Black Joe Lewis @ Crystal Ballroom (12-11-09)
2. White Denim @ The Tractor (4-5-09)
3. Julian Plenti @ Chop Suey (11-16-09)
4. White Rabbits @ The Crocodile (6-22-09)
5. Department of Eagles / The Cave Singers @ Neumos (1-28-09)
6. Plants and Animals @ Nectar (3-17-09)
7. Telekinesis / The Cave Singers @ Lawnapalooza (5-14-09)
8. Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears @ The Tractor (5-22-09)
9. The Blakes @ Neumos (9-29-09)
10. Dr. Dog / The Cave Singers / Golden Boots @ The Crocodile (4-14-09)
11. We Were Promised Jetpacks @ Neumos (9-16-09)
12. The Cave Singers @ Easy Street Records (8-18-09)

Most Disappointing Albums
We at Three Colours usually follow a strict policy when writing about bands. If it’s good music, we love it up and praise it through reviews. If it’s bad, we simply neglect to mention it. There’s no point ripping up someone’s hard work, it’s just that the music simply failed to hit the right chord with us. On the year-end list, however, we do point out a few instances over the year where a band we’ve loved has let us down. It’s possible that these albums require an amazingly high number of listens before they are truly appreciated, but up until this point, we haven’t reached that just yet. Hopefully on next year’s list, we can place these in the “Most Underappreciated Albums of 2009” category. But right now, this is how we feel about these disappointingly weak releases.

1. Pearl Jam – Backspacer
What happened to Pearl Jam, I ask? Where’s the angst, the fight, or the emotion? Perhaps living in Seattle too long and becoming a father mellows the soul. Or perhaps Mr. Eddie "Antitrust" Vedder has finally sold out, complete with an exclusive Target release. Now that PJ are on their own label, they should have the freedom to fully explore the creative spirit that once brought us greats like Vitalogy and No Code. Instead, Backspacer does nothing but bore. The first single “The Fixer” was a Trojan horse – catchy, upbeat, and a totally different than rest of the album. In the time of American Idol, I at least thought the fathers of grunge would have served up something better than an LP full of family-friendly generic rock.

2. Silversun Pickups – Swoon
After absolutely eating up Carnivas, my expectations for a follow-up were admittedly sky-high. I’m not even sure how to describe it, but Swoon just fails where Carnivas excelled. I’d rather have bands sit on a record until it’s absolutely great (see Fleet Foxes) than meet the fans’ demands and release something that hurriedly soulless (see Tapes ‘n Tapes).

3. Nouvelle Vague – 3
For those of you unfamiliar with Nouvelle Vague, two dudes got together to remake a bunch of our favorite “New Wave” classics with the aid of sexy French and Portugese female voices. The first two efforts were nothing short of fabulous. The main criterion for each cover, that no lead singer had ever heard the original version of the song, made each interpretation an entirely new sounding track. With high hopes on NV’s third LP (fittingly entitled 3), I was grossly disappointed to find out that the original singers from each track performed duets. The song selection was sub-par and the overall finished product left me wanting to forget that 3 had ever been released.

Most Anticipated Albums of 2010
1. Spoon - Transference
2. Plants and Animals - TBA
3. Spencer Krug – Dreamland EP: marimba and shit-drums
4. Fleet Foxes – TBA
5. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
6. Miracle Fortress – TBA

For the full list of anticipated albums, check out the Three Colours' 2010 Music Forecast.