Before anyone starts wondering where anything is, keep in mind this is MY top 25 albums of the year and my taste is shared by nearly no one. The "Comments" section is where you're invited to write in as many albums as you can until your fingers get tired. Generally, people who agree with me should probably be locked up in a home somewhere. Or you are probably already hooked on Quaaludes. I like my music slow and dull or loud and annoying. I am always hoping next year will be better--and sometimes it is.
25) Alasdair Roberts--Spoils (Drag City): The guy from Appendix Out records what sounds like traditional Scottish folk songs but then they don't. His voice sounds like they found him in a valley washing sheep.
24) Norah Jones--The Fall (Blue Note): Yeah, I didn't believe it either and if it had come out earlier in the year I'd have a better handle on it, but this is Norah Jones' pop album. Yes, she hired some guy who records Tom Waits and it's been referred to as her "Tom Waits album," but I don't hear that (try the new Morningbell album for Waits imitation). I do hear a pretty nice pop record.
Raveonettes--In And Out Of Control (Vice): Make your wall of sound loud enough and everyone will become interested. I'm not a raving fan or anything. But I love derivative pop-rock with droning guitars.
22) Andrew Bird--Noble Beast (Fat Possum): Not considered to be his strongest album, Bird's Noble Beast is still plenty challenging and weird working its way through folk and jazz and German drinking songs and would sound great with the year 1973 stamped on it.
John Frusciante--The Empyrean (Adrenaline): The guitarist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers always make more interesting, less popular music on his own. They say the cream always rises to the top. How about Tabasco Sauce?
20) Gurf Morlix--Last Exit To Happyland (Rootball): With a name like Gurf, it has to be good. The alt.country category is jammed with kids who sound like they've never been West or South of New Jersey, but Morlix is the real deal, a vet with a way of making you feel like things didn't work out so well, but it's ok.
Bruce Springsteen--Working On A Dream (Columbia): I've read in so many places that this is Springsteen's worst album, which makes me wonder if these people actually listened to "The Rising" or "Devils + Dust" because I find this a much more honest and likable album. He's much more likely to find a "Queen of the Supermarket" than a "Darkness on the Edge of Town" where he doesn't care about money or his wife but about standing on a hill! I think he's finally getting his priorities in order.
18) Vic Chesnutt--At The Cut (Constellation): The Musical Patron Saint of Athens, Georgia, Vic Chesnutt released two albums this year. This is the louder one with the guy from Fugazi and Silver Mt. Zion among the guests. Vic almost sounds like he's having fun.
Mountain Goats--Life Of The World To Come (4AD): John Darnielle named all his songs after Bible verses and then wrote songs interpreting those passages. Or something like that. Who's going to argue with the Greatest Story Ever Told?
16) Harper Simon--Harper Simon (Vagrant): I was pleasantly surprised when I put on this debut solo album from Paul Simon's oldest son and it sounded like a singer-songwriter who had listened to his Paul Simon albums. You can't fight genetics or who your family is. You think he's going to return his inheritance? Hello darkness, my OLD friend.
Rickie Lee Jones--Balm In Gilead (Fantasy): Rickie Lee is another grizzled veteran of the music business who is raging against the dying of the light--sort of. She's not that old, but she is getting to the point where she admits it isn't as much fun being poor. Unlike Dylan, she isn't croaking about it. She's still singing, thankfully.
12) Tegan And Sarah--Sainthood (Sire): Who doesn't love twins from Canada?
Flaming Lips--Embryonic: I'm sure these folks will place much higher on other people's lists. They usually do. I'm more intrigued by them than anything else. They give my stereo a workout and I'm damn glad they are given the kind of money necessary to pull off the vision of Mr. Wayne Coyne. It will take me years to figure out what the hell is going on. In some ways, I'm still studying Zaireeka like it's Finnegan's Wake or something.
12) Antony And The Johnsons--The Crying Light (Secretly Canadian): Antony has a voice that sounds like a woman who's seeing ghosts. The intensity can be a bit much, but that's why you regulate the dose.
Magnolia Electric Co.--Josephine (Secretly Canadian): I've tired of their Neil Young trudge, but I'll never grow weary of their despair. Pass the knife, Molina.
10) Joe Pernice--It Feels So Good When I Stop (Ashmont): This is kind of a hodgepodge album, covers and such, and very short, meant to accompany his book. But maybe that's why I like it. It doesn't insist on being 80 minutes like so many albums today.
Brookville--Broken Lights (Unfiltered): This is the kind of album I recommend you listen to when you're about to pass out.
8) Jay Farrar And Benjamin Gibbard--One Fast Move Or I'm Gone: Music From Kerouac's Big Sur (Atlantic): I was inclined not to like this. After all, the idea of putting Jack Kerouac to alt.country music or "emo" pop or whatever the hell you want to call Death Cab for Cutie doesn't sound like a good idea on paper. But anything that kicks Jay Farrar out of the drop D tonal drones he insisted on for a time is ok in my book.
Big Star--Keep An Eye On The Sky (Rhino): Who knew there were all these outtakes? This is the comprehensive box set for fans who already own the albums. Some call them a power pop band, but they're denser than that. By album three--3rd, Sister Lovers--it's all about the mental breakdown. Who knew misery could be so entertaining?
6) Langhorne Slim--Be Set Free (Kemado): I'd take this for "I Love You, But Goodbye" alone. But then there are a half-dozen other goodies here that make him a folksinging troubadour for a generation that no longer cares about folksingers. Meet ya on the breadline, buddy!
Leonard Cohen--Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 (Columbia /Legacy): Sometimes I think I'd listen to an album of Leonard Cohen humming. This live album CD/DVD from 1970 makes you wonder what else is lurking in the vaults and how many times Cohen's manager needs to rip him off to get him to release it.
4) Richard Hawley--Truelove's Gutter (Mute): Funny, but some people might call Hawley a modern day Leonard Cohen. Hawley sings in a deep voice that reminds some (me!) of Jim Reeves. So put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone, now!
Tom Rush--What I Know (Appleseed): Mr. Rush is a "warm" singer whose voice has resisted aging. Seriously. It may take Rush years to make an album, but when he does it's as if no time has elapsed.
2) Vic Chesnutt--Skitter On Take-Off (Vapor): Vic's second album of the year showed up about two weeks after the other one. Here he plays with a drummer and supposedly Jonathan Richman. But it's mostly Vic and his little guitar. Some will find this incredibly boring. I don't.
Van Morrison--Astral Weeks: Live At The Hollywood Bowl (Listen To The Lion): I'm sure I'm disappointing some people and not surprising others with this pick, but it is the album I played the most for the first half of 2009 before I had brain surgery and my taste changed. Anyhow, if you liked the original studio album, you should find this album fascinating as well. Van only needs help with the words in a couple of spots and even there he mumbles pretty convincingly. After all, he's at his best when he's mumbling.