Blake’s Top 10 Releases of 2009

Thao with the Get Down Stay DownKnow Better Learn Faster
I have probably listened to this album at least four times every weekend since it came out. Once getting ready for the morning and once getting ready for a night out. Know Better Learn Faster is one of those albums that puts you in a great mood. On the last song of the album singer/guitarist Thao Nguyen starts the song by saying, “Sad people dance too”. And after first hearing the song “When We Swam,” I have to agree. Lyrics like “When we swam our love to pieces, we washed up on messy beaches” never sounded so danceable.

Thao with the GDSD – “When We Swam”

P.O.S.Never Better
If I had to choose one album from 2009 to call my favorite, it would have to be the third solo album from Doomtree and Building Better Bombs member P.O.S. This album is fittingly calling Never Better.

P.O.S. is an MC in the nine member hip-hop group Doomtree as well as the lead singer/guitarist of a three-piece hardcore punk band called Building Better Bombs. His solo music, although more deeply rooted in hip-hop, is a mixture of both. Sound good? It is.

P.O.S. – “Optimist”

I believe in a little thing I like to call the “Significant Other Band”. A “Significant Other Band” is one that your partner enjoys so much that you are left with no choice except to listen. In my case the significant other is my girlfriend — and the band is Metric. Luckily for me I have come to really enjoy Metric’s past two albums as well as their great new record Fantasies. Other friends I’ve known have not been so lucky with their partners’ music tastes.

Metric – “Help I’m Alive”

The ThermalsNow We Can See
If memory serves me right, every year the Northwest-based (Portland, OR) band The Thermals have released an album, it has ended up in my top 10 albums each year. The pattern that started with 2003’s More Parts Per Million continues this year with The Thermals’ latest release Now We Can See. I suppose I am a sucker for three-piece groups that can rock out three-chord songs in less than three minutes.

The Thermals – “Now We Can See”

Cecil OtterRebel Yellow
Cecil Otter, like P.O.S., is also a member of the Minneapolis , Minnesota based hip-hop group Doomtree.

This year was the “official” release of Cecil Otter’s long awaited album Rebel Yellow on Strange Famous Records. Cecil Otter’s sound is Johnny Cash meets Eazy-E or Woody Guthrie meets Nas. He switches from tales of box cars, gumshoes, and dive bars to modern hip hop rhymes from line to line.

Cecil Otter – “1999”

Cymbals Eat GuitarsWhy There Are Mountains
3 cups: Angst and dynamics of the classic Modest Mouse album The Lonesome Crowed West
2 ½ cups: Built to Spill jamming from their classic Perfect From Now On
6 T : Lyric and pop sense of Pavement’s classic Slanted and Enchanted
Note: you can substitute Slanted and Enchanted for Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
2 tsp : Brooklyn, NY influence
Blend together and bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes.

The result should be Cymbals Eat Guitars debut self-release, Why There Are Mountains. What I like about this album is that it doesn’t sound cheap, ripped off, or contrived. Although Why There Are Mountains cannot be held to the same level as the albums listed above, the songs do breathe fresh air into everything I love about the classics.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – “Wind Phoenix”

We Were Promised JetpacksThese Four Walls
My friend brought this band up at a bar, and honestly at 1 a.m., I just thought the name sounded cool. But he insisted I hear them and gave me his copy right there on the spot, which can be a good or bad sign. In this case it was a great. I woke up tired, popped it in for my commute and by the time I got to work I found some morning anthem songs to get me going. A few months later the band played a show here in Seattle, they stayed after the show and drank with my friends and a “ruddy good time” was had by all.

We Were Promised Jetpacks – “Quiet Little Voices”

St. VincentActor
The first time I saw Annie Clark aka St. Vincent she was opening up for John Vanderslice at a smaller size venue in Portland, OR about four years ago. I had never heard of her before and I don’t think I was alone. At that time she had no full-length album to speak of, just a four-song EP that you could only buy at her live shows. She came out on stage alone and using only an electric guitar, stompbox, and microphone, she held an entirely unfamiliar audience captive for her entire set. I played the four-song EP over and over until her first proper full length Marry Me was released in 2007. Marry Me ended up on my top 10 that year as does her sophomore release, Actor this year.

St. Vincent – “Marrow”

Old CanesFeral Harmonic
Their sophomore album Feral Harmonic picks up right where their debut album Early Morning Hymns left off, and for fans that’s a good thing. Old Canes is the side project of Appleseed Cast singer/guitarist Chris Crisci. For the Old Canes records Chris trades in his shoegazey electric guitar sound and sparse vocals for lyric-filled lo-fi acoustic numbers. The organic recording and use of driving, rhythmic percussion layered with acoustic guitars, banjo, and toy instruments reminds me of the classic album by Netural Milk Hotel In An Aeroplane Over the Sea. Since this album was just released, there are no quality videos available, so I decided to go with “Both Falling Bright” off of their debut album.

Old Canes – Both Falling Bright

Grizzly BearVeckatimest
Just like St. Vincent and The Thermals, Grizzly Bear is another top 10 repeat offender. The 2006 album Yellow House made my list, and I am sure had I heard Grizzly Bear’s Horn of Plenty back in 2004 it would have snuck its way in as well. So much has been written about this band that is seems a monumental task to try and add anything. Plus it’s late; it’s been a long day of work, Monday Night Football, and list making. It’s a good thing I have Grizzly Bear to wind me down; great sleepy time music. Goodnight.

Grizzly Bear – “Ready, Able”

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