This year has been an interesting year in music. I’ve enjoyed a lot of different albums and releases, some that surprised me and some that disappointed me. I had a hard time making this list, but here are my favorite 26 records (because one got added last minute!) of the year, 6 EP’s that I enjoyed, a few honorable mentions, best shows of 2009 and best band of 2009.
BEST RECORDS OF 2009
26) Fireworks – All I Have to Offer is My Own Confusion
This was probably the best pop-punk release of 2009. With a sound reminiscent of New Found Glory, Fireworks’ hyped full length did not disappoint me. At first, I was confused, but this album grew on me and I came to enjoy it a lot. The songs are so upbeat and they definitely stick to the listener. The album starts off a little slow, but it picks up and gets so much better, the songs are so well composed that it blows you away. If you enjoy upbeat, positive, and catchy pop-punk music, give Fireworks a spin.
25) Owen – New Leaves
Mike Kinsella really cannot do wrong. Having worked in the past with bands such as American Football and Cap’n Jazz, he really adds a midas touch to whatever music he is involved with. Owen is the moniker he goes under for his solo music, and it sounds great. This was his first full-length since 2004’s I Do Perceive, and it was pretty fantastic. The guitarwork is incredible as always, with any Owen album. The lyrics are less bitter and more focused on his marriage and birth of his daughter. It’s a very spectacular and different release from Mr. Kinsella, and it isn’t a bad thing.
24) The Appleseed Cast – Sagarmatha
Ten years ago, The Appleseed Cast was immersed in the Lawrence, KS indie/emo scene they were coming out of along with bands like The Get Up Kids and the Anniversary, with them sounding similar to Sunny Day Real Estate or Mineral. Right now though, they are coming up with some of the more interesting post-rock music today. With light vocals added in by the band to be interpreted as another instrument of sorts, Sagarmatha is beautiful, twinkly, post-rock music that is easy to get lost in.
23) Old Canes – Feral Harmonic
My external hard drive crashed, so for a while I didn’t have access to music. One of the albums I put off listening to for a while was the Saddle Creek Records debut of Old Canes, entitled Feral Harmonic. Old Canes is a side-project of Christopher Crisci of the Appleseed Cast, but it’s not like Appleseed. It’s folk/indie stuff, almost reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel and Bright Eyes at moments. The album is great, in fact, as good or better than their debut album Early Morning Hymns. It’s an interesting display of music that I will be enjoying more, my only regret is not listening to it earlier.
22) 1994! – Thank You Arms and Fingers
Lancaster, PA’s 1994! is another one of the amazing bands coming out of the prosperous and talented Lehigh Valley music scene. Their guitarwork is technical and precise, with vocals yelled over it that are raspy enough to fit perfectly somehow. The drums are fast and yet just as precise. It’s almost as if Bear Vs. Shark and Hella got together to have a kid, this is what it would sound like. Their live performances are amazing too.
21) Portugal. The Man – The Satanic Satanist/The Majestic Majesty
Portugal. The Man releases so much material, and all of it seems to be quality. This record is no different. Its a huge step up from Censored Colors, which was still a great album. Each song is good in its own way. They also released an acoustic accompaniment to the album, entitled The Majestic Majesty. The songs on there are stripped down, and yet just as good as the album versions. Portugal. The Man continues combining indie rock with classic rock influences to make some of the best music around.
20) Castevet – Summer Fences
I gave this band a listen a while back when they put their first EP up for free download. It sounded like a mix of twinkly math-rock coupled with raspy punk rock vocals. With their full length, Summer Fences, you get moments of American Football-like guitarwork, vocals that sound like they were part of a Small Brown Bike or Hot Water Music record, as well as post rock-esque buildups reminiscent of an Explosions in the Sky record. It’s a fantastic record, my only complain is about how it feels.
19) Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) – What It Takes to Move Forward
What a long, long band name. This is Emprire!’s first full length album, and it’s great. Their singer Keith has improved his vocals infinitely from their first album, and their style of twinkly-emo rock is perfected on this album. Though some of the songs are a bit long, this is a great album. It also has guest spots from Matt of Look Mexico. Rad.
18) Polar Bear Club – Chasing Hamburg
I was really waiting for Polar Bear Club’s second full-length album. I didn’t give into listening to any of the preview songs posted on their myspace before it was released, but waited for the album. Chasing Hamburg is their Bridge 9 Records debut, but it doesn’t mean they are going to be a hardcore band now. This album shows the slow side of Polar Bear, the fast side and everything in between. Great stuff.
17) Russian Circles – Geneva
I’m not usually a huge fan of Post-Rock/Instrumental music. It’s nice to unwind to, or have as background music. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not going to be my first choice if I’m going to sit down and listen to something. Russian Circles has changed that. Their technical prowess is incredible, especially on their new album, Geneva. Really everything they have released has been great, but this blurs the line between post-rock and post-metal. Their live show is incredible too, with them being able to pull of everything they do on record live as well.
16) Native – Wrestling Moves
I forget who recommended Native to me, or if I found them on my own. Anyways, their We Delete; Erase EP blew me away. I loved it. So of course, I was excited to hear their album Wrestling Moves, their first full-length. The album seems to pick up right where the EP left off and then some. It’s a great display of math-rock and post-hardcore, almost sounding like a mix of Maps & Atlases and These Arms are Snakes. A great fact about Native is the fact they’re all in their early 20’s, so who knows how far they will progress, but they definitely have a lot of years left in them to make great music.
15) The Number Twelve Looks Like You – Worse than Alone
This album is ridiculous. I would have never thought that a silly noisy, jazz-esque mathcore band with song titles such as “An Exercise in Self Portraiture: Go Shoot Yourself” would ever make an album this technically advanced and mature. How much they have changed is incredible. This album is sick, and still maintains the heaviness they had. It’s truly a shame that they are breaking up, I’m going to have a hard time saying goodbye to a band i’ve been listening to for so long…especially one this talented.
14) Animal Collective – Merriwether Post Pavillion
When I first heard this album, especially with all of the hype behind it. I didn’t understand at all why people were praising this as being one of the best albums ever and etc. After a few more listens, I caught onto how good this album is. It’s probably the most cohesive Animal Collective album released to date, with each track being an example of perfectly crafted indie pop. If you don’t understand the hype, give it a few listens.
13) Brand New – Daisy
This is so different from all of the other Brand New releases. They’ve really switched it up with Daisy. There are moments on here that feel like the heaviest stuff Brand New has done, others that are absurd, and others that fit in as being like them. As much as I like it, it doesn’t even touch it’s predecessor, The Devil and God are Raging Inside., but that’s an almost impossible thing to ask of Brand New.
12) Coalesce – OX
Some bands come back from the dead to reunite and make a record. Sometimes it’s good, and a lot of the time the band is an okay version of what they used to be. However, Coalesce picks up where they left off when they broke up. OX is a great display of intensity that you would expect from them. I’m so glad to see them still making music, especially music that is this good.
11) HORSE the band – Desperate Living
This is a bold statement to make, but I’ll go ahead and make it: This is the best HORSE the band album yet. What they have done here is absolutely incredible. They have become so musically precise, with not a single bad moment on this record. The lyrics are as hillarious as ever, and the crushing moments are heavier than they were before. It’s just amazing what HORSE did with this record.
10) Narrows – New Distances
Narrows’ full length is obviously going to score well with me, they have members of These Arms are Snakes and Botch. Their singer is Dave Verellen of Botch. It sounds so good. It goes from being straight up heavy to intricate on the album. I hope that this super group of sorts still has more material left to give.
9) Converge – Axe to Fall
Anything Converge releases is going to be a big deal. The New England “extreme metal” pioneers have been making music for more years than I’ve been alive, so I gotta bow my head in respect to them. The guitarwork is ripping and incredible, and just like any Converge album, the intensity is maitanined throughout. The last two songs show a totally different side of Converge as well, very slowed down. All around, this is an amazing album and it definitely shows that Converge has a lot left in them.
8 ) Every Time I Die – New Junk Aesthetic
Every Time I Die is another band that doesn’t seem to dissapoint. With their intelligent and witty lyrics, mind-boggling guitarwork and crushing drums, stepping into an ETID album is going to be an intense experience. This album shows how much ETID has to offer, with some of their heaviest moments ever. Jordan and Andy are masters of riffage, even more so than in the past. Keith Buckley has improved his voice so much, and his singing sounds great. I’m sure they’ll be touring plenty in 2010 in support of it, so go out and catch them live.
7) Touche Amore – …To the Beat of a Dead Horse
Touche Amore is one of many examples of how blooming the California screamo scene is. With bands like Touche Amore, Comadre, Dangers and Loma Prieta, to name a few, California seems to be cranking out intense bands left-and-right. Touche Amore’s debut full-length has guest vocals from Jeff of Modern Life is War and Geoff of Thursday, but they just add to many intense bursting moments throughout the album. There are sing-a-long moments (the song “Honest Sleep”), as well as moments that leave you in awe (“I’ll count on Morrissey to answer my questions, because Ian Curtis has left me hanging”). Touche Amore have made an intense, intelligent and unforgettable hardcore record, which is quite the accomplishment these days.
6) Comadre – A Wolf Ticket
Here is another California band, and another prime example of how good their scene is. Comadre has been around for a bit, but this record is what has quickly became my favorite material of theirs. It’s 8 songs long and really short in length, but it packs a quick punch. All of the songs flow together well, have memorable lines. It took some getting used to at first, but once you get into Comadre’s new record, it isn’t something you end up regretting.
5) Trophy Scars – Bad Luck
Out of all the bands I have listened to, when Trophy Scars’ Jerry Jones vocally displays the lyrics he has penned, whether its singing, speaking or screaming it, it strikes a nerve. He writes so personally, the music is easy to connect to. This is their most mature release yet, with stories added into some of the lyrics, and other songs that are examples of Jones’ memoir-esque style. Overall, its an amazing album, and a display of how good they continue to get.
4) Thursday – Common Existence
Thursday is one of my favorite bands. They’ve been a band for 12 years now, and this full length shows they have a lot left in them. It’s a solid album that they made to the best of their standards, since Epitaph finally allowed them to do so. It’s a matured record that is heavy and moving and also slow at times, but sounds good through all of it.
3) fun. – Aim and Ignite
fun. features members of The Format and Steel Train, both bands known for having upbeat and happy tunes, even if some of the lyrics reflected otherwise. This album is no different. It’s such perfect pop-tunes, with great lyrics. Nate Ruess of the Format does the vocals, and he makes everything sound perfect. From what I’ve heard too, they’re just as fun (no pun intended) live as on record. It’s an incredible record, and it should be the stuff more people are catching onto.
2) Andrew Jackson Jihad – Can’t Maintain
My friend showed me this band this year, shortly before the release of this album. I was into some other folk-punk bands, namely Mischief Brew. This blew my mind. I was hooked by the wit, sarcasm and hillarity of their older stuff. Can’t Maintain doesn’t change anything, it keeps around all of the things that made me listening to them in the first place. They add electric guitars, drums, and brass instruments to the mix to create one of the best albums of 2009. The lyrics are just so perfect throughout. I really love this record, how unique it is, and how it’s by far the best in the folk-punk genre, if you were to classify it.
1) Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything to Nothing
A perfect craft of what indie rock should sound like. I really enjoyed Manchester Orchestra’s first album, but this…it doesn’t even compare. This is so much better. They crafted an amazing album, and what might be the best of their career. It’s hard to think they’ll top that they will top it. All of the songs flow perfectly, the production is crisp, the lyrics are great, the musicianship is precise, it’s just an amazing album. The songs are catchy and yet still emotive. Hopefully this is the album that gets people into MO because it is by far their best yet.
Grizzly Bear – Veckitamest
This is a really fantastic indie album. The songs are well crafted, and precise. It’s a nice and relaxing record that I enjoyed.
mewithoutYou – It’s All Crazy, It’s All False, It’s all a Dream, It’s alright
Not mewithoutYou’s best by any means, but it’s good for what it is. The songs are pretty catchy and interesting, especially for such a huge shift in sound. They also all sound great live. It’s a good record, and I really don’t know why I didn’t put it on the list. I guess I had to see the songs live to really appreciate them.
6 BEST EP’S/DEMOS/7-INCHES OF 2009
6) Coalesce – OXEP
Nice EP from these guys. Picks up sort of where the OX full length left off. It’s kind of short, but still very quality material from these guys. This and their LP really show that they are indeed back.
5) The Wonder Years and All or Nothing – Split 7″
The Wonder Years never really disappoint. The two songs they put on here are fast-paced anthems. Great stuff from these guys. All or Nothing’s side is also good too, they kind of remind me of Set Your Goals.
4) Small Brown Bike – Composite Vol. 1 7″
When Small Brown Bike announced they were reuniting, I was estatic. I found out in my computers class, I actually remember it. Then they played the fest and I found out they recorded a new 7″ to be released there. Both songs on it are absolutely amazing, with SBB coming back in full force. If you don’t believe they are back, the lyrics still hit as hard as they used to. Check out these lyrics from “Hourglass”: “Like a habit I was seeing you. Now I’m just used to missing you.”
3) Boys and Sex – EP
Boys and Sex has ex-members of Boy Problems, a band I really liked and missed out on seeing live. When I first heard their EP, I thought it was flat out lame. I didn’t understand how the members of Boy Problems could go and make something that was so different. But then it grew on me, and I love it now. It’s a really good EP, though it’s a bit short.
2) Algernon Cadwallader – Fun 7″/EP
Originally leaked onto the internet as the Hot Green EP in the first few months of the year, this finally got a proper release in late December. The first 3 songs are from Hot Green and the other 3 songs are newly released. It’s a really enjoyable EP, and the newer song “I Wanna Go to the Beach” is one of the best Algernon jams ever written.
1) Snowing – Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit Demo
I remember hearing about this demo, and knowing it was the new band of members of Street Smart Cyclist and Boy Problems. I gave it a download and was hooked instantly, telling all my friends who liked this kind of music and all my friends who don’t like that kind of music to give it a listen. The noodly and fast guitars over John Galm’s yelling personal lyrics makes for an EP that is impossible to put down. Go to their myspace and download all of their stuff for free. It’s well worth your time.
BEST SHOWS OF 2009
La Dispute and the Wonder Years @ the Khyber
Two amazingly energetic and talented bands packed into a small, small room. It was a great time, and it’s incredible how into both bands got.
The Joint Chiefs of Math, Algernon Cadwallader, Snowing, 1994!, Best Friends, An Airbag Saved My Life @ Bordz Skatepark
This is a skatepark in the town I was born in, and the town next to the town I live in currently. For an area where there isn’t much to do, this show was a pretty big deal, at least for me. Best Friends put on a fun set, An Airbag Saved My Life was pretty heavy and to be honest I barely remember them. 1994! was so intense and precise that the drummer got sick. It was my first time hearing Joint Chiefs and I definitely dug what they had to offer. Snowing put on a really fun set that was really precise. And as for Algernon…it was my first time seeing them and it wouldn’t be my last. Incredible show.
Thursday with The Fall of Troy, Young Widows and Moving Mountains @ The First Unitarian Church
Seeing a concert at the Church is always guaranteed to be fun, hot and intense. Seeing one of your favorite bands there? Amazing. Being front row at the sold-0ut Church show was such a fun experience. Having Geoff in my face and being able to scream all of the lyrics back at him was amazing.
The Get Up Kids with Kevin Devine and the Life and Times @ the TLA
The Get Up Kids are back! The day they announced tickets were on sale, I bought some. This show was especially incredible, even comparing it to the night before’s show at the Trocadero. There were tons more fan favorites, and I even got to slowdance with a girl during “I’ll Catch You”. TGUK can still pull off an amazing live show, and I’m glad to know that they are back making great music once again.
mewithoutYou with Drink Up Buttercup and Make a Rising @ the First Unitarian Church
Incredible show. I went with one of my best friends and we had a great time. mewithoutYou played a lot of new stuff, and though its not intense on record, it translates well live. The crowd got into really everything and they played incredible live. A huge surprise though was them playing the original “Bullet to Binary”, with singer Aaron Weiss jumping into the crowd. The openers they chose were great, too. Both bands really played solid and I enjoyed their sets a lot.
New Years Party with performances by Algernon Cadwallader, The Joint Chiefs of Math, Best Friends, Boyfriends, Grown Ups, Castevet, Hop Along, Bandname, Snowing and a Boy Problems reunion set @ the Ox
I don’t think there could have been a better way to bring out the old year and ring in 2010. With the exception of Hop Along, who I really didn’t enjoy at all, this was an insane show with every band being really fun and great. Grown Ups was a band I had never heard but will check out because their set was great. Castevet is a band I’ve loved for a while that really pulled off a great live set. The Joint Chiefs of Math once again blew me away with a ridiculously intricate live set. Best Friends was hillarious and super fun, a great time.
Boy Problems’ reunion set was amazing, the band looked like they were truly having fun and the crowd loved it. Boyfriends was fun, and I enjoyed their set, even though their bassist kept running into me. Hop Along was really just awful, lets end that there. Bandname made some fun tunes and their set was pretty enjoyable. Snowing was one of my favorite sets of the night, and I was right up there with John Galm singing my heart out to every single line. I wish they had played longer because everyone was really loving it and getting into it. and last but not least was Algernon Cadwallader, who called themselves a “poor man’s Beatles”, which I didn’t understand. Then they jumped into a set of well-performed Beatles covers and a set of their own songs. The crowd was in full out party mode, with almost everyone hosting a drink in their hand and a good time to be had. The new year really could not have started off better.
BEST BAND OF 2009 – SNOWING.
I guess there’s been a fair amount of bands to get off their feet in 2009, and even more bands to release something. However, there isn’t a single band out there better than Snowing to start making music. Honestly, this band became one of my favorite bands quicker than any other band I have ever heard. Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit hits so hard, all the lyrics on it are absolutely incredible and made for singing along, especially if you know what John Galm has been through to pen them. The music is so perfect, with the loopy and noodling guitars and crushing drums. It really never ever gets old, every moment of that demo is purely perfect.
Their Tour Tape took some getting used to because it wasn’t as good of a quality recording, but the songs are just as incredible. Their live show is incredible too, and they can pull it all off live. Everyone gets into it and is singing the lyrics. Even when John lost his mic at the show, everyone was singing along. I can’t think of a single better band who deserves better things, I tell all of my friends to listen to them because of how simply amazing they are.They deserve your support and love. Bands this great do not come along often.
and that concludes it for 2009. It was a great year in comparison to 2008, and I know that 2010 will be even better. I’m so excited for what 2010 brings, and in the words of Snowing, I’ll do my best to live my life without regret.