Plumbiferous Media

Top Ten Albums of 2009

Jan 1st 2010
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One full year and 97 reviews later, for better or for worse, Plumbiferous Media is still up and running, and quite honestly, we’re very proud of the site. By way of celebration, we’re posting our top ten list for 2009. Things change with time, and albums are no exception. While the individual bits on a CD or hard disk rarely change, tracks that might have seemed like good ideas in the first number of listens can become somewhat dull after a few months of listening time. We’ve therefore spent well over a month working on this list, and have finally managed to arrive at what are our favorite ten albums, ranked for your viewing pleasure.

#10: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – Phoenix

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - PhoenixIn tenth place on the list, but certainly not a weak album is Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. We missed reviewing the LP when it was first released, which is frankly a shame. The album is horribly catchy, has amazingly complex rhythms both in the instrumentals and the lyrics, and only gets better with additional listens. Phoenix is not an inexperienced band, and they have clearly applied themselves to this release. Tracks are nearly universally built around one clear, simple theme, yet they somehow manage to stay utterly engrossing, no matter the length. Basically, it’s a great all around listen.

#9: The Century of Self – …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed - Los CampesinosNext up is …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead’s Century of Self. With Century, Trail of Dead took the best parts of its impressive previous releases to create a gloriously cacophonous conglomeration of post-rock, punk, indie, and noise music. A mix of instrumental sections and those displaying Century‘s rich vocals creates a varied experience throughout the album, while thought-provoking lyrics (we still love the line “I’m the monster, and I exist”) develop the significance of the music as a whole. Carefully constructed, constantly energetic, and always creative, Century of Self was a clear contender for the best albums of 2009.

#8: Declaration of Dependence – Kings of Convenience

Vampire Weekend - Vampire WeekendDeclaration of Dependence, this year’s album from Kings of Convenience, is absolutely unlike anything else on this list. And while we’re not really sure where the “Convenience” in the band name came from, the band’s two members are certainly kings of relaxed, beautiful tunes, filled with delicate lines and intricate textures. Our only quibble with the album is that the two seem to latch on to one interval and sing in parallel through entire tracks, rather than providing a melody and harmony or melody and countermelody. That said, they do what they do perfectly, and the album barely suffers.

#7: Fantasies – Metric

Pershing - Someone Still Loves You Boris YeltsinComing in seventh is Metric’s Fantasies. With this album, Metric soundly beat the majority of its earlier work, creating a simultaneously elegant and multi-layered album. Fantasies is quite catchy, but manages at the same time to avoid falling into repetition – an impressive feat, especially when combined with the enthralling stories told through the album. Emily Haines’ vocals are in top form, as emotionally striking and fluid as ever. Fantasies is, in all of its major parts, an excellent album. When we reviewed the album eight months ago, we said that we wouldn’t be surprised to see it on top 10 lists come December – and we’re happy to confirm our own prediction.

#6: (a)spera – Mirah

Dear Science - TV on the RadioSixth on our top 10 list is Mirah’s (a)spera. We were immediately intrigued by this album because of Mirah’s track record of creating excellent music (not to mention the rather curious name), and it paid off. (a)spera is musically gorgeous – from the first cautious buildup to the final fade. Making this even more impressive is the pure simplicity of (a)spera‘s sound – the height of elegance, creating a soaring landscape of sound through which the listener floats. The soft, rich quality of Mirah’s voice works to make the album even more beautiful, and (a)spera is, in the end, simply excellent.

#5: The Life of the World to Come – The Mountain Goats

Modern Guilt - BeckHalfway through the top 10 is The Mountain Goats’ sixteenth LP, The Life of the World to Come, a concept album that frontman John Darnielle describes as “twelve hard lessons the Bible taught me, kind of.” It’s lyrically excellent – no surprise from a man who has, over the past eighteen years, told some of the most compelling stories in music. Instrumentally, The Life of the World to Come is almost invariably interesting, and always well-constructed. Darnielle’s vocals are the perfect mix of grating and exulting, calm and desperate, while at the same time impatiently impassioned and filled with an incredible energy. The Life of the World to Come may well be The Mountain Goats’ finest album, and it’s certainly one of 2009’s best.

#4: Aim and Ignite – fun.

Consolers of the Lonely - The RaconteursFun., formed by Format graduate Nate Ruess, released its debut album this year, and the experience of the band members, combined with the freshness of a brand new band has certainly helped in vaulting Aim and Ignite up to the number four position. At first glance, the album may seem simply a whimsical set of tracks with influences spanning the gamut from indie to gospel to who knows what. But while the band members most certainly had a lot of fun conceptualizing the album, Aim and Ignite is much more than just a fun album. The vocals range from incredibly, purely melodic to what would be a great Jack White impression, sometimes within single tracks, guest vocals are used to great success, lyrics are interesting, as are the lyrical rhythms, and the instrumentals are nothing short of excellent. In any weaker year, Aim and Ignite could easily have topped the list.

#3: Wooden Arms – Patrick Watson

Out of It - Brad SucksSomehow managing to be better even than Aim and Ignite is Wooden Arms. Delicate, but nevertheless powerful, Patrick Watson used every trick up his rather wide sleeve to create a beautiful album. Wooden Arms takes a heavy cue from classical music, merged into Watson’s unique style, along with incredibly thoughtful effects like the bicycle wheel and other “sounds of the city” on “Beijing.” Watson also included something on the album for nearly every listener, from the catchy “Big Bird in a Small Cage” to the careful, light, yet still noise-music influenced instrumental introduction, to the somehow appropriately titled “Where the Wild Things Are.” Wooden Arms is, not surprisingly, an absolutely terrific album.

#2: Wind’s Poem – Mount Eerie

Narrow Stairs - Death Cab for CutieMount Eerie’s newest album is easily the album with the most raw power on this list. As should be expected from an album titled Wind’s Poem, the album excellently mimics the full force of elements. Phil Elverum is not terribly concerned with melodies on the album, so much as overall power and sound, and it works very, very well. The first few tracks almost literally buzz with energy, and by the time he gets around to adding a slow, pondering melody on the third track, it sounds simply beautiful. Wind’s Poem is about as close as anyone can get to a perfect portrayal of often incredibly violent elements without actually recording the sound of a tornado, and the album is second to only one.

#1: Nine Ways – The Chairs

Rook - ShearwaterAfter nine excellent albums, we’ve finally come to the end of our list – and what is, in our opinion, the best album of 2009. The Chairs, a small indie band from Appleton, Wisconsin, was formed in 2008 by frontman Alex Schaaf. Since then, they’ve released two LPs and three EPs – all more or less excellent. With that much great work so quickly, it’s no surprise that their newest album, Nine Ways, takes the top slot in our list. Musically, Nine Ways is excellent. The Chairs is an incredibly talented band, and it shows in every part of the album. Everything fits together perfectly, so that not a second goes to waste. Adding to that is Alex Schaaf’s practiced vocals, which move effortlessly between haunting and cheerful as he tells the morbid tales that populate Nine Ways. Nine Ways is, in short, excellent in every important way, and it’s a perfect finish to 2009.

You’ve now come to the end of a full year of Plumbiferous Media! Thank you for reading – we appreciate it and hope you’ll keep doing so in 2010. We’ll be taking a week-long vacation, but rest assured, we’ll be back on the 10th to review some of the albums coming up next month (well, this month really), including the upcoming releases by Vampire Weekend and Owen Pallett!

-The Plumbiferous Team

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  1. […] quick hops around the internet, you can read exceedingly rave reviews like, “One of the best albums of the year…a near perfect album,” says Plumbiferous Media as they give the album a score of 98 out […]

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