I know it's the fourth day of 2010, but I'm just a bit slow with last year's retrospective. Anyway, because you can't not do it, here's my favorite albums on 2009.
1. Wild Beasts – Two Dancers (Domino) | BUY
Slinky, sexy, understated and anchored by an incredible rhythm section, Wild Beasts move to the big leagues with their second album. I hear something new and amazing every time I listen to it.
MP3: All the King's Men
MP3: We Still Got the Taste Dancing On Our Tongues
2. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote) | BUY
Ten years into their career and no signs of peaking, Phoenix just get better with each album. Did any other record this year have this many killer cuts? It's all hits. Pop album of the year bar none.
3. Intelligence – Fake Surfers (In the Red) | BUY
Catchy, weird, occasionally disturbing, Lars Finberg's skewed genius is in full effect on Fake Surfers, a record that transcends any garage/lo-fi/surf pigeonhole in which you try to put it.
MP3: Moody Little Tower
4. BOAT – Setting the Paces (Magic Marker) | BUY
Here's Seattle's little band that could, making good with LP3. Self-depricating indie rock of the mid-'90s variety where the song, not the attitude, is king. Giant hooks, lyrics that are funny without being novelty (and have just enough of the crying-on-the-inside clown thing going on too), and production that is neither slick nor low fi. What's not to like?
MP3: The Name Tossers
5. The Horrors – Primary Colours (Beggars Banquet) | BUY
Whether it was Geoff Barrow's influence as producer or a quality shift in the band itself, but the Horrors have gone from goth novelty to making seriously great psych rock — dark, shoegazy, killer basslines, speaker melting production… awesome. And still goth.
MP3: Scarlet Fields
6. Cats on Fire - Our Temperance Movement (Matinee) | BUY
With great melodies, perfect arrangements, and a tongue-in-cheek mopey sense of humor, Finland's Cats on Fire have put their own fresh spin on the best of early-'80s jazzy jangle.
MP3: Letters from a Voyage to Sweden
7. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – S/T (Slumberland) | BUY
One of the great success stories of 2009, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart did what their influences couldn't — become genuinely popular. Deservedly too, their debut is one of the smartest, most-tuneful albums of the year. Just try not to sing along.
MP3: Come Saturday
MP3: Everything With You
8. The XX – xx (XL) | BUY
A lot of hype around this one, but justified. Though it might take you a while to come to that conclusion. The album's charms sink in slowly, and usually late, late at night. Get comfortable, turn it up, then turn off the lights.
9. Ty Segall – Lemons (Goner) | BUY
A one-man-garage wonderkind, Ty Segall has the lo-fi sound down — thick, dirty, and hot — but also has the songs and attitude to keep it on repeat. Out of the 500 records Ty released this year, Lemons is the one absolute must-own.
MP3: Lovely One
10. The Raveonettes - In and Out of Control (Vice) | BUY
The Raveonettes have never really strayed from their Phil Spector meets JAMC formula, but Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo began perfecting and elevating it with last year's Lust Lust Lust and, while they turn down the volume (or at least the distortion) for In and Out of Control, it's easily their best batch of songs yet — the the production is perfect.
MP3: Breaking Into Cars
11. Think About Life – Family (Alien 8 Recordings) | BUY
Nothing matches the positive vibes that comes from seeing Montreal's Think About Life live, their second album come pretty close. Funky, fun, loaded with clever little touches and samples… this is feel good music with no saccharine aftertaste.
MP3: Sweet Sixteen
12. Fresh & Onlys – S/T + Grey-Eyed Girls, etc (Castle Face, Woodsist, etc) | BUY
This time last year, few had heard of San Francisco's psychedelic friends The Fresh & Onlys hadn't released a single anything. Since then they've put out three albums and a slew of singles. Almost all of them are good. If they'd pulled the best songs from their records into one killer album, we'd be talking Top 5. Instead, their warts-and-all 2009 ouvre comes in at #12.
MP3: Peacock and Wing
MP3: Invisible Forces
13. Real Estate – S/T (Woodsist) | BUY
Leaders of the "beach" scene that seemed to take over certain parts of the Brooklyn blog community, NJ's Real Estate were no doubt the leaders, and the best of the bunch. Part '80s Flying Nun, part Greatful Dead, their magic hour sound captivates even in January.
MP3: Beach Comber
14. Micachu & the Shapes - Jewellery (Rough Trade) | BUY
Given form by cut-and-paste maestro Matthew Herbert, Micachu's kitchen sink debut was like nothing else in 2009. And any time you started to figure out what it was doing, it went somewhere else. Can't wait to hear what they do next.
MP3: Golden Phone
15. Fanfarlo – Resevoir (Atlantic) | BUY
If you listen to only one swoony, anthemic, orchestrated epic this year, make it this, Fanfarlo's debut was a long time coming but worth it.
MP3: I'm a Pilot
15 – 30 after the jump…