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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