Hank's Top 25 Albums of 2009

25.) Uninhabitable Mansions - Uninhabitable Mansions

24.) Brian Harnetty & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Silent City

23.) John Vanderslice - Romanian Names

22.) Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine

21.) The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You

20.) Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

19.) Rodrigo y Gabriela - 11:11

18.) Mono - Hymn to the Immortal Wind

17.) Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy

16.) Bad Veins - Bad Veins

15.) Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle

14.) Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele - The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukuele

13.) Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

12.) Clues - Clues

11.) Andrew Bird - Noble Beast

10.) Thao with the Get Down Stay Down - Know Better Learn Faster

9.) Royal Bangs - Let it Beep

8.) Vic Chestnutt - At the Cut

7.) Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

6.) Various Artists - Dark Was the Night

5.) The Mountain Goats - The Life of the World to Come

Sometimes you forget how great something is until your friends call you to tell you that you have to list your favorite albums of the year. John Darnielle, of The Mountain Goats, this one's for you. The band's taken a distinctly religious turn, this time titling every song of Life of the World to Come from a Bible verse. There's always been something biblical in Darnielle's writing. It comes from a time when the stakes are high, when brother vs. brother has an epic dimension (as well as a physical one), when we all have a chance to change. In what is, undoubtedly, the most philosophical album of the year Darnielle manages to turn religion back to its roots to expound on grace and transformation in a world that wants proselytizing and conversion (I'm looking at you Kirk Cameron), The Mountain Goats use music to move back to religion as myth and in so doing make it able to wipe us clean.

4.) Alela Diane - To Be Still

Nevada City, CA's own Alela Diane totally snuck in to my top 5. But, to be honest, she was the first one I turned to when about to embark on my day. Within the effortless tangle of plucked strings and a rustic stream of consciousness that would make 2004 Joanna Newsom (also from Nevada City) blush, Alela Diane carves out a record that is at once old-timey and relentlessly contemporary. Her lyrical stroke is only matched by the dense brambles of natural imagery that profligate these songs. It's just the kind of thing that you'd expect from the Sierras -- beautiful, a little tragic, original, and impossible to tear your attention from.

3.) Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer

How about some love for Spencer Krug? I mean, have you HEARD a bad Sunset Rubdown album? I must confess I haven't. And though I thought Random Spirit Lover wasn't quite up to par with Shut Up I am Dreaming..., Dragonslayershows up and seamlessly marries both. Just when you thought the metaphysical jeremiad record was laying low sinceYoshimi, Sunset Rubdown take the breakup record and imbue it with a little tongue in cheek, a little post-relationship pain, and more head-splitting riffs than should be humanly possible. Despite all this, Krug & co. seem to be continually underrated. Maybe this'll change that.
2.) Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Somehow, for this blog, I've become the Dirty Projectors guy. It's not that I mind. But, well, I feel that -- like your cousin who shows up to the X-mas party with the same tie -- I'm trotting out the same thing that you've already seen before. So, I'll just lay it out plain for ya this time. This is by far the most intriguing listen of the year. By the end of one spin, you'll have completely changed what you thought of music before you heard it.

1.) Neko Case -
Middle Cyclone

Neko Case's music is instinctual, animalistic, and downright gorgeous. Middle Cyclone is the sort of thing that you would expect to hear in a tornado. But, what brought this album to the #1 spot on my list this year is the impecable lyrical content. From the sly wink of "the next time you say forever...I'll punch you in your face" to the pale desperation of "The Pharoahs" where Case declares "I want the pharoahs, but there's only men," Neko seems to be able to weave everything together in one intoxicating melody after another. Earlier, when I reviewed this album, I said that it was Case was accepting her animal side. I was wrong. If anything, Case reminds us with this album that being human is about obeying instinct, perhaps that's why everything in Middle Cyclone feels authentic, right-in-place, and can shake you to your bones.

Best Song of 2009: Vic Chestnutt - "Flirted with you All My Life"
Worst Song of 2009: Vampire Weekend - "Horchata"


  1. props on sunset rubdown at #3. what a great album, specifically apollo is a great song

    feel free to check out my top 50 albums of '09 as well: http://obscuresound.com/?p=3917

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