Avery Island’s Top 25 Albums of the Year

25. City Limits Volume 1 by Silkie

In 2009, we saw many new trends; but since the breakout underground hit of Burial’s Untrue, dub is quickly become one of the fastest growing genre’s on the market. So, here comes Silkie, a 23-year-old dub musician that next to no one knows about giving us the best dub-step album of the year. A mix of dubstep, jazz, and triphop, City Limits Volume 1 is easily one of most intriguing listens of the year.

From the streetlight-and-traffic jingles of “Concrete Jungle”, to the brilliant “Beauty”, this album contains some of the best dub tracks we’ve yet heard, with stand-outs like “Quaser” and “Purple Love” forming an unbreakable back-to-back midsection of hits. You may not have heard of this guy, but don’t let this trip pass you by; this is the next big name in dubstep. You heard it here first.

24. Horehound by The Dead Weather

Jack White might be the only person whose other OTHER side project could craft one of the best solid rock albums of the year. That being said, all praise is not to be paid to the (former? current?) counterpart of the ubiquitous White Stripes. The Dead Weather is a super-group of sorts (one that doesn’t suck, finally). While who-plays-what isn’t very concrete or consistent, generally, Allison Mosshart of The Kills steps in with vocals, Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age is on guitar and keys, and that ever-eyeglassed badass Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs plays bass. White quite impressively takes his hand at the drume (his first instrument), managing to work some innovation into the usual Blues formula.

Though he may not be in the spotlight, literally, as he is sitting in the drummer’s seat, White’s influence is unmistakable, especially through the recurring organs heard most notably in “I Cut Like a Buffalo” and “Treat Me Like Your Mother” and “Bone House”. Not to mention the fact that the entire band plays strong in the vein of the blues: Jack’s specialty. They touch on this widly overt Blues influence the most in Horehound’s closing track “Will There Be Enough Water?”. Mosshart breaks from her usual tightly knit act in the Kills and belts out everything from Oedipal suggestion to backcountry Nashville chants. She plays the role of the dark seductress, advocating the devil and voodoo, all sung in a voice sounding like rude dripping honey.

There is no bad song on this album. Call it Neo-Psychedelics, call it Blues-Rock, but Horehound is one of the best albums of the year, whether or not it is very well represented here on the internet (too hip an audience, one could presume). To my previous obsession with the White Stripes, and my slight bias in this review, I quote the words of the Dead Weather: “Just because you caught me, does that make it a sin?”

23. Psychic Chasms by Neon Indian

Psychpop is nothing new. However, Neon Indian are anything but traditional in their approach to the studied genre; if most Psychpop outfits stick around in the astral plains, these guys hang out in the subterranean goo of primordial Earth. It’s not the longest album you’ll hear, nor is it the best chillwave, but this is real talent on display here; greatness lurks even further beneath the surface.

Neon Indian drift the same regions as Boards of Canada, and to a lesser extent, Daft Punk. That is, they think back to their childhood for inspiration, and while they don’t have the absolute bubblegum heights of Daft Punk nor the lurking memories of Boards of Canada, these guys are definitely somewhere inbetween. The fog of lo-fi crunch and distortion that cover this album are like pot-glaze on a cerebellum, and just as satisfying, with the likes of “Deadbeat Summer” and “Mind, Drips” offering some truly stand-out moments. They may not be the most original band, but I’ll be damed if they aren’t one of the funnest.

22. Dimensional Bleedthrough by Krallice

Black Metal is one of those genre’s that will never die, but will never see the light of day; with a murderer as the premier musician, it’s obvious that this kind of metal is not for the faint of heart. However, it’s also not for those with short attention spans; the likes of Krallice are no exception. These four are doing nothing new, with tremolo picking and lingering guitar lines being the primary engine of their songs, the “riffs” themselves are just so evocative that it’s hard to discredit them.

From the very first track, Dimensional Bleedthrough is like viewing a kaleidoscope of the past 20 years of Black Metal, with Burzum and Wolves in the Throne Room being the first to leap to mind; the desperate struggle of Varg Vikerne’s output and the evolving structure of Wolves combine to make a very bleak, very interesting album. The guitar proficiency is startling, and the evolving structure of each song sustains each track with ease. These guys may not be bringing the genre to the forefront anytime soon, but if anyone could do it, it’d be Krallice.

21. Bromst by Dan Deacon

Dan Deacon is one of those guys that aren’t in the music scene for the cool points; I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t even in it for the music itself. He just wants to make you dance like raving fool, and with this release, he succeeds. More than any other artist in the music business today, this man knows what it means to have no reservations. He will go to any length, and instrument, any oblique object to make you crack a smile, whether it is his idiosyncratic droning electronics or a kazoo.

On Bromst, Deacon doesn’t re-invent himself as much as he simply refines himself. Each track feels important, and with no grand opus like Wham City to eat up your attention, each song is up for grabs on your attention span, whether it’s the ephemeral climb of “Build Voice” or the bass throb and toy celebrations of “Woof Woof”. But the track to really take the cake is “Snookered”, which perfectly encapsulates everything Deacon has been developing. It’s a slow-building, sky-high, adventure of his classic chiptune aesthetic, and it’s the highlight of his career, much like Bromst is the highlight of his discography.

20. See Mystery Lights by YACHT

Yacht have had a hard time finding their place in the music scene, with each release coming closer and closer to a true show of their skill and little else. However, on See Mystery Lights, they’ve become a member of the elite-tier of Dance bands. And just to prove it, they have joined the genre’s exclusive club, DFA Records, headed up by the indomitable pair of Tim Goldsworthy and the Godfather himself, James Murphy.

In fact, without further listening, you could almost write-off SML as a LCD Soundsystem rip-off, but to do so would be ignoring all of the little things that go to make Yacht such a joy to listen to on this release. Tracks like “Ring the Bell” and “The Afterlife” sound like the best kind of twisting and churning myth-making, and “It’s Boring/You Can Live Anywhere You Want” and “Summer Song” sound like their application process to Murphy himself. Maturity has been reached on See Mystery Lights, and now there’s no looking back. And that’s just the way it should be.

19. Tarot Sport by Fuck Buttons

Starting from the opening trance-track “Surf Solar”, the swell of the bass drum grows and grows and grows, and never stops until the last beat of the last track of the album. From start to finish, it’s restless and at the same time buried in atmosphere, taking no time to stop to have a real climactic point, but never taking away from the album’s mesmerizing sound. In “Libson Maru”, it feels as if Buttons is taking us off to some sort of psychedelic war, with its marching band time and beat. “Olympians” takes on the keys and bleeds into “Phantom Limb”, which erupts into an electronic equivalent of a guitar solo. “Space Mountain” and “Flight of the Feathered Serpant”, the two most complimenary songs of the album, send us off with the dizzying rise and fall instrumented by the respected and often hoodied partners Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power.

The correlation between my animosity towards buttons and whatever genre this band would fit into (Noise, I guess) was no mistake this year. Following 2008’s Street Horrrsing (frighteningly unaccessible to the uninitiated), Tarot Sport flirts with elements of Fuck Buttons’s previous alienation of the listener, but quickly makes a 180 in the direction of an album sure to satisfy you with many listens. While Horrrsing was all about up-front immediacy, Tarot Sport takes its time, and, if you can stick around, it pays off.

18. Part the Second by maudlin of the Well (free download in link)

Fans can be a blessing or a curse; either they’re genuinely interested in what a band does or they’re nit-picking, nostalgia-fed whiners. Thankfully, maudlin of the Well fans are the best kind, and they offered to produce the sophomore attempt of these underground Progressive enthusiasts. On Part the Second, the band sounds like they’ve got something to prove, and to say they don’t would be to ignore the stagnation that Prog Rock has been going through.

Unlike their fellow Prog-rockers, bands like the Mars Volta, they don’t make 10 minute songs because they’re self-indulgent; they make 10-minute songs because they want each track to evolve and develop into opuses. Each track on Part the Second sounds like an amalgamation of everything that has gone to develop and developed from Progressive kings like Pink Floyd and King Crimson, whether it’s Doom Metal or Jazz. Part the Second is something that just must be heard to be believed, each second containing some of the richest Progressive music you’ll hear anytime soon.

17. Cosmogenesis by Obscura

Don’t call it a comeback, because this isn’t one; it may contain members of the long-dormant Necrophagist and Pestilence, but Obscura are their own beast. A combination of Death Metal, Jazz Metal, and all around Heavy Metal, this is the Heavy Metal opus of this year; terrific drumming, guitar technicality, and the best bass writing for any metal release this side of Intronaut. All of these come together with the glue that is the guttural roar and pitched screams of Cummerer.

However, as impressive as the instrumentation is (and believe us, it’s REALLY impressive), Cummerer’s lyrics focused upon the astral is a breath of fresh air for the occult-obsessed Metal scene. Much like Martyr and Mastodon before them, Obscura tend to stay miles above the atmosphere lyrically, and along with this, they float miles above almost any other Metal outfit in recent memory, with sky-high licks of fire and a thick, bass-laden menace that few bands can match.

16. Farm by Dinosaur Jr.

Please, DO call it a comeback. Like zombies risen from the grave, Dinosaur Jr. reemerged from their 8-year hiatus (1997-2005) and pumped out Beyond to critical acclaim. Now, we have this. It just keeps getting better and better. I’ll keep calling it a comeback as long asDinosaur Jr continues to be together because they’ve somehow managed to keep the rock alive, something that far too many bands fail to do even when their careers only last a fraction of Dinosaur Jr’s near 18 year stretch. They still offer the wah wah of Mascis’s blessed telecasters, Murph is still slaying the drums, and little Sebadoh Barlow picks at the bass, just like it was 1987. This might be the vaguest snippet on this list, but, if you know Dino, you know what to expect when I say that some of these songs rival classics like “Little Fury Things” and “The Lung”.

Ever riff-tastic, Dinosaur Jr is not just a fossil of independent label rock of the past; they are a Godzilla, and they will tear your Japanese cities apart.

15. Post-Nothing by Japandroids

Oh, 2009. What a year you have been. You brought us black presidents, Snuggies, and Lo-Fi. While I may or may not have a personal problem with kids living in gentrified areas of Brooklyn off of their parents’ trust funds who distort their instruments so much that their lack of talent is somewhat hidden, this is not the case with Japandroids. Leave your dispositions at the door, folks, ’cause Japandroids have talent by the busload, and Post-Nothing is nothing less than a spectacle. While, yes, their fuzz is in excess, buried below that distortion are some damn-catchy songs pounding with energy. It’s hard to believe that all of that noise comes from just two guys with a guitar and a drum-set.

Released appropriately over the summer, every chorus serves as an anthemic battle call of flagrant youth, especially in “Young Hearts Set Fire,” where both guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse momentarily cut back on their instruments to lean into their respective microphones to release a series of fiery “OHHH”s. “We go out to get drunk, yes sir” they sing in their most riff-tastic “Rockers East Vancouver”. Sounding eerily like a fellow duo by the name of Death From Above 1979, King yelps the letters “X” and “O”, while trying to defeat his own admiration for a girl with almost embarrassing lyrics like “Your style is such a mess girl/I should know I used to date a stylist”. Post-Nothing sounds just as much fun in to listen to as as I can collect its production was from the lyrics that celebrate youth and humour, as well as its pure energy.

14. Actor by St. Vincent

Some people put their faces on an album cover because they’re obsessed with themselves. Others do it because that’s simply what you do if you’re a solo artist. But sometimes, people do it because there isn’t a thing on Earth to describe the music contained in the disc. Annie Clark is one of those people, and on Actor, this odd beauty of hers perfectly describes the odd beauty of the album. Jangling guitar lines work in tandem with pure, analog beats, and no one blinks an eye.

Each song sounds like a doubtful cursing of one’s self, yet never has the former Sufjan Steven’s tour companion ever sounded more confident, with songs like Marrow taking center stage, with Clark describing the literal makings of a human, and thus the actor we all play, with each organ playing their part. Much like this, each odd choice of instrument works so wonderfully that it’s just a joy to behold.

13. Black Math Horseman by Wyllt

Expectations are often the killer of any album’s reception, with bands like Modest Mouse disappointing fans with the still excellent Good News For People Who Like Bad News after the masterpiece that is The Moon & Antarctica and Mastodon alienating everyone with a piece of spacey Ozzy-worship that is still quite a record in itself. That is why Black Math Horseman succeeds; a band no one has heard of coming out with a debut album that no one listened to. This, along with maudlin of the Well’s sophomore attempt, is the sleeper hit of the Metal scene.

Brimming with Doom Metal genius and enough Sabbath and Electric Wizard worship to choke a goat, this album is thick in understated heaviness and atmosphere. With female vocals that are as whispering as they are harsh and a rising/falling dynamic that makes every churning guitar sounds like it’s heading for an inevitable break, this album is filled to the top with brilliant guitar lines and drum fills to go hand-in-hand with Timms’ beautiful and rugged voice.

12. xx by The xx

Sexy, soulful, and not old enough to drink. Signed right out of high school at the age of 19, the members of the XX have made it big (though it might not be as blatantly obvious in America as it is in the UK) so quickly that you almost want to hate them. “I’d never even heard of the Cocteau Twins until, like, a year ago,” vocalist and guitarist Romy Croft said back in August, “I still haven’t made it to This Mortal Coil.” I certainly hope that in the time that has passed, she’s found time to roll around in their amassed British hype and listen to what some would assume to be an undeniable influence in their music, as goes with any 80’s dream-pop.

Perhaps, though, it seems like they are getting a free ride because it’s so odd for a first album to be this good, this refined, and so focused on timed instrumentals and the coalescing of vocal personalities to move the album forward, listen after listen. Perhaps I am just used to having to listen to so many current bands’ first few albums just to observe the progression of their sound. Perhaps I am overlooking the fact that the four members of this band have been trained at the dignified Elliot School, which produced modern electronic genre-models such as Hot Chip, Four Tet, and Burial.

Fantasy takes us back into the womb, with an atmosphere wrought by the echoes of post-rock instrumentals. Shelter cuts itself up with a moan of vocals with clean delay guitar in the back. In “Infinity” literal snaps can be heard in the background, matching the soulful R&B production elements. Even while some tracks may trail off towards the end, they always swing back around, almost suspending you in expectation. The greatest feat of this record is its ability to remain catchy, dignified and tastefully anti-climactic in accordance to its night-time theme. All tension is in accordance to the sexually tense relationship created between the co-starring male and female vocals of Romy Croft and Oliver Sim, who equally mutter coital endearments and apologies throughout the length of the album, something almost ironic coming from a band of 20 year olds who want to be taken seriously. At the same time, they are. They have made one of the best albums of the year that improves with every listen, that sounds better the louder and louder you turn that nob on to the right.

11. Two Dancers by Wild Beasts

Along with the previous entry, Wild Beasts is the other Dream-pop classic of this year, with a narrative-driven masterpiece to complete The xx’s self-loathing and sexual nature. Sounding like it’s got something lurking beneath the surface, Two Dancers is an extremely sexual, violent, and dark album that never clues you in.

Rather than taking the ironic route for this, Wild Beasts decide to take the straight-faced route, with them playing it so serious with their narrative prose that the sexual depravity and violence is almost missed. This isn’t because of a lack of coherence, but rather an abundance of subtle, well-written prose that even Joanna Newsom would admire. However, narrative-prowess and all, Wild Beasts are, as their name suggests, beasts, but it’s the subtlety that really makes the monster a brilliant menace.

10. Why There Are Mountains by Cymbals Eat Guitars

Born right from the womb of Mid-Western Indie heroes, these young guys have been doing their homework; in a year where both Modest Mouse and Built to Spill release some truly underrated music, four 20-somethings from Anywhere, Mid-United States have undercut their influences with strong song-writing and pure-unadulterated emotion that bleeds through every crevice of the album.

D’Agostino’s breathy-but-harsh voice is a wonder of emotive power, especially when he inevitably breaks on several places on the album, and when shit hits the fan with every guitar on full-blast choppiness and cymbals crashing, these guys show why youthful aspirations are sometimes the best fuel for genius. Classic indie guitar lines and emotional vocals are hardly new, especially in a genre where Isaac Brock still lumbers, but when they’re of this caliber, it’s hard to ignore. These guys, mark my words, are the next big thing; and for good reason.

9. Monoliths and Dimensions by Sunn O)))

This is what I imagine the churning of the earth would sound like. This is metal on sweet, angelic quaaludes. It’s just as sonic as Black One, but it takes the dark atmosphere a step further, into the abyss. No album cover better represents its contents than this gaping black abyss does. Upon listening to Sunn O)))’s Monolith & Dimensions, the newest of the band’s 7 full length albums of their career spanning a little more than a decade, you are indeed transported to a field of darkness created by O’Malley, Anderson, and friends. The friends on this album include composer Eyvid Kang, Australian guitar player Oren Ambarchi, Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar, Dylan Carlson from the drone band Earth (heroes of the members of Sunn O))) as well as inspiration to their name), and trombonists Julian Priester and Stuart Dempster. Despite the heavy outside involvement, Monoliths & Dimensions still lives within walls of feedback and cult-worthy chants, in in their way of drone that we have come to know and cherish. Within these walls, though, can be heart an upright bass trio, French and English horns, harp and flute duo, piano, brass, reed and strings ensembles, and a Viennese woman’s choir led by Persian vocal savant Jessika Kenney. The band expressed that is was “the most musical piece we’ve done, and also the heaviest, powerful and most abstract set of chords we’ve laid to tape.”

8. Converge – Axe To Fall

Ian MacKaye. Henry Rollins. Now, Jacob Bannon. These men know what it means to truly be “hardcore”. Now, this word has become a bit of a joke, especially considering that most “hardcore” bands now are about as hardcore as their pre-packaged individuality bought by their parents at Hot Topic. Converge on Axe to Fall sound like a band shaking themselves to the bone, searing their flesh and viscera from their own bodies with lightning fast riffs that put anything else put out this year to absolute shame. These guys have been playing their brand of Metalcore for quite a while, and while each new release of theirs has been quite good in it’s own right, Axe to Fall is their opus.

Axe to Fall‘s throaty screams, crunching guitars that lick out distorted riffs, and drums that sound like machine guns smacking onto a leatherface will force you out of your seat into your head crashing into the nearest wall. The level of energy on display here is equal to the level of talent, putting this band somewhere in the stratosphere; a combination of Neurosis’s lingering ballads, early Mastodon’s dizzying pace, Black Flag’s ludicrous energy, and brilliant mixing make this album the absolute essential “hard” music release of the year. In a year where Obscura, Kylesa, Sunn 0))), Mastodon, Black Math Horseman, and about a million other metal bands released excellent albums, none of them come close to the level of that ephemeral quality we call metal like these 4 guys did, and they aren’t even really a metal band. These guys out-metaled every other metal band this year, and in a way, that is what real hardcore is all about.

7. Embyronic by The Flaming Lips

You know, for a band that has made their career on songs about the fragility of humanity, they’re about as optimistic as any band around. However, on Embryonic, the Lips sound as if they’ve taken their eyes off of Kansas City and squarely on the enormity of the Universe that surrounds them, and they got scared. If Yoshimi was about rationalizing death, Embryonic is about the paranoia of its approach. The wide-open spaces of the Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi have been replaced with the aging walls of Coyne’s basement, and with this new place, we have new emotions from the eternal optimists.

Part of what makes Embryonic so compelling is its thick, heavy, cyclopean amount of dread and fear; the three have never sounded so aware of their age, and each gray hair on Coyne and crew’s heads is digging into their brain. Songs are loud and spastic, songs are quiet and discomforting, and all the way, the Lips sound like Globally-aware cynics. The change of pace is staggering, and the inaccessibility is off-putting, but it all adds to the mystique, making Embryonic the best album they’ve done since Bulletin.

6. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is made up of 10 shining near-perfect tracks from a group of aging frenchies. Opening with possibly the best one-two punch of pop on an album of recent memory, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix proved to be just as good all the way through as you might suspect after hearing the aforementioned popular songs “Lisztomania” and “1901”. The rest of the album is nothing to be neglected. These Frenchies pump out  Thomas Mars’s falsetto. As far as lyrics go, the layers in this album are not apparent at all on the surface, but are something to be admired if you are willing to put forth the effort to uncover them. Vocalist Thomas Mars belts out the story of conflict between long-past composers Liszt and Amadeus, in between his audible existential questionings of life. They effortlessly sway from the hyper “Girlfriend” to the laid-back dreamy opening of  “Fences”, which proves to be a prime example of Phoenix’s mastery of melody. “Love Like a Sunset” wins over any 80’s pop enthusiast with catchy synths and atmosphere as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

Though they didn’t necessarily join the ranks of Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, or Demi Levato this year (Yes, I know their names off of the top of my head), Phoenix were 2009’s biggest popstars. After making what could be considered the archetype of everything that a pop album should be, they have been featured on commercials, in the background of cheesy television shows, in sold out ballrooms and venues, and even nominated for a grammy. It’s mind-bottling (Blades of Glory reference, ftw) how successful they’ve become, in comparison to their fan-base just a few years ago (generated mostly by their notable album It’s Never Been Like That). It’s hard to believe this album’s success, because, on paper, they aren’t pushing the envelope or really doing much more than indie-pop. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix could have been put out as the second disc to It’s Never Been Like That, and nobody would have batted and eye. Despite all of these potential detractors, this album has proved to be praised pop of the masses. After just one listen to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, it wouldn’t be hard to say that all of this praise is well deserved.

5. Ambivalence Avenue by Bibio

Already pigeonholed by his first release of 2009, Vignetting the Compost, Bibio’s Ambivalence Avenue was the second of three full-length albums released this year alone by Stephen Wilkinson, the British music producer behind the alias. Signed to Warp Records by the mere suggestion of Board of Canada’s Marcus Eoin, Wilkinson has indeed been having a busy year trying to both live up to this stamp of approval, and to escape his harrowing label as a one-trick pony. It would be an understatement to say that he had simply escaped this label, and perhaps not even enough to say that he rose above it. I imagine he hopped off of his trick-pony and bought a porsche.

My favorite moment on this album has to be the flow between Fire Ant and its following track Haikuesque (When She Laughs). Wilkinson manages to slip from strict electronic tappings to the flow of water effortlessly. Even within the seemingly schizophrenic machine-manufactured moments on the album, a recurring sense of nostalgia is managed through a both meticulous and carefree observation and application of genre. What might be heard on a lunar radar is layered over the clapping of hands, or the flowing of water.

What blows me away about this album is that, as an electronic artist, I have no doubt in my mind that these tracks were labored over meticulously for days on end, played back once, and changed yet again. That being said, the album itself seems to run free through the imaginary boundaries of genre, not wildly but majestically. It does this all, while still being a blatant and excellent electronic album. One of the best, by coincidence.

4. Bitte Orca by Dirty Projectors

This album should not work. Plain and simple. What Dave Longstreth and company do on this album is not experimental music in the fact that they aren’t experimenting with anything in particular, but are instead creating a hybrid of indie, folk, and electropop that breaks each rule of that genre. Timing, meter, and beat measures are switched and Longstreth’s cracking falsetto leads while two beautiful voices are restrained to backing duties for the most part.

But through all of this, one the best albums of the year, perhaps even the decade, has been forged by this odd steel. It refuses to belong to any one genre and also refuses to let your attention go; it’s demanding in its austere pop delights. It’s a challenging album that rewards repeated listenings, with each one revealing more and more intricacies; and it’s just plain fun to listen to.

3. Veckatimest by Grizzly Bears

If there was any album that gets accused of being “boring”, it’s Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear’s best album to date. What we have on this album is four men from New York taking their sweet time to make a great album. Peacefully, quietly, somberly make a great album.They’ve succeeded, and whether it’s the heart-stopping immediacy of “Southern Point”, the pop sensation “Two Weeks”, the beauty of “Ready, Able”, or even the brilliant grandeur of “While You Wait On The Others”, these guys have never made a stronger set of songs.

Structure-wise, this album continues the tradition of wandering rising and falling dynamics, as seen with the previous release Yellow House and Daniel Rossen’s other project Department of Eagles. The production by bassist Chris Taylor cannot be over appreciated; put simply, it makes the album. Like Yellow House before it, Veckatimest is acoustic, echo-ey, and ghostly in it’s special sound, and this is where Grizzly Bear are at their best, with their vocal harmonies ringing out into the atmosphere. It’s beautiful, and it rarely, if ever, gets stale. Their rustic, muted sound may have tweens running back to their sugar factory, but for those of us that can sit still and appreciate a truly terrific album, you need look no further.

2. Hospice by The Antlers

I’ve seen people write essays about what music means to them and WHY they listen to music far too many time. While it’s all in good fun, at the end of the day, no matter the varying opinion or perspective you take on music as a whole, I think that some truth lies in the fact that we all want to emotionally connect with what we hear. As we are all (mostly) human, we are all social creatures, looking for relationships with the things around us. The Antlers’ Hospice is the closest thing I’ve ever heard to wholly satisfying this need.

As cheesy as it is to say, this album truly wears its heart on its sleeve. The emotional effect of Hospice is as if you took this heart that Silberman so vulnerably displays, beat it to death, recorded its last resounding attempt to pump blood, and played that in slow motion. Pete Silberman’s voice dolefully traces the story of a hospital employee in love with a terminally ill woman whom he must take care of as she dies. This lyricism, combined with the both textured atmosphere, creates something highly inexplicable that takes hold of you and doesn’t let go. High points (even though the whole album is beautiful through and through) include the moan and droan of “Sylvia”, and “Epilogue” which might be my favorite closing track to an album, as it begs you not to leave. Worry not, Antlers. We’ll keep coming back to you.

1. Merriweather Post Pavillion/Fall Be Kind EP by Animal Collective

Call it obvious, call it uninspired, call it whatever you want: this dynamic duo of Psychedelic merriment are the best albums of 2009. Animal Collective have long been loved and hated quite passionately from both sides of the fence, but this album raises the stakes in a way that sent, and continues to send, people into a fury, whether it be actual hatred or genuine love. And if you’re anything like us here at Avery Island, you like these guys. A lot.

So why are both of these pieces out number 1? Well, let’s just call them inseparable; both signify the most forward-thinking Bear, Tare, Geologist, and Deakin that we have ever heard.

From Bitte Orca to See Mystery Lights, many bands have advanced their game, but none have done it so drastically and skillfully as these four Baltimoreans. Every song is a wonder unto itself on Merriweather, from “In the Flowers” dizzying dance, to “My Girls” clap-and-howl hook that people still have stuck in their heads, to “Summertime Clothes” and it’s warm embrace and nostalgic bump. Fall Be Kind almost goes onto one-up Merriweather by including inspired hit after inspired hit, from the brilliantly sublime “What Would I Want? Sky” to the lurking “On A Highway”, which is easily the best capture of a midnight highway drive we’ve heard in years.

Stop me if I start to become a bit of a mush, but these albums can inspire such a thing. Some will not get it, some will go out of their way to hate it, but the backlash isn’t nearly enough to make us forget that out of every album we’ve listened to this year (and we’ve listened to A LOT of albums), these are simply the most inspired, most memorable, and just all-around most well-crafted albums of the year. Period.

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