The Ash Gray Proclamation Presents:
Our 25 Favorite Records of 2009
Just when you thought you were safe from the onslaught of year end lists, here come your friends at The AGP with one more. Like many of you I read a lot of lists each year, so I tried to offer something that hasn't been done and re-done before while paying tribute to 25 of our favorite releases from the year that was 2009. I think we put our own stamp on it, at least that was the intention.
You will find mp3 links and stream embeds from Lala so please click away and check some of the music you might have missed. Each album also has a link to purchase the album, please do so if you like what you hear.
As always thanks for reading and for your continued support of The Ash Gray Proclamation.
and now without further delay....the list.
25. Califone - All My Friends Are Funeral Singers (Dead Oceans)
This year Tim Rutili proved once again that a new Califone record is an event worth paying attention to. All My friends Our Funeral Singers is the bands finest release since 2001's Roomsound. A companion piece to the Rutili directed film about a fortune teller who lives in house that's occupied by ghosts. An experimental Appalachian blues-folk masterstroke, just another day at the office for Califone.
24. The XX - XX (Young Turks)
This South London quartet released a game changer of an album. Combining the skeletal guitar riffs of Joy Division with the thoughtful yet powerful music of Young Marble Giants. 11 tracks of perfect minimalist boy/girl conversational pop. XX is an immediately satisfying record that you'll love from first listen, I know I did.
23. Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer (Jagjaguwar)
In June Spencer Krug released Dragonslayer, his third and most sparkling record with Sunset Rubdown. Released just two months after unveiling the excellent Enemy Mine with his other side project Swan Lake. Dragonslayer is leaner and more accessible record without losing any of the experiments or ambition of the bands previous two releases. On Dragonslayer, Krug and Co. create a labyrinth of engaging multi-part songs while effortlessly hopping genre's from song to song. Even though I've listen to this record endlessly since it's release I still need more, that to me is the sign of a great record. Dragonslayer is that and then some.
22. The Wooden Birds - Magnolia (Barsuk Records)
The Wooden Birds is the new project from Andrew Kenny formally of The American Analog Set. Magnolia features a strong collection of hushed folk pop that's both intimate and inviting. Kenny hasn't strayed too far away for the sound he made with AMANSET, although The Wooden Birds favor a more stripped down acoustic sound. You might know where you're going with Magnolia, but that doesn't make the trip any less enjoyable. Magnolia is a catchy and satisfying listen from beginning to end.
[MP3/Stream] The Wooden Birds - The Other One
Buy the album at the Barsuk Shop
21. Girls - Album (True Panther Sounds)
It was hard to miss the story of Girls last year.Growing up in a cult must have been a traumatic experience for Christopher Owens, but what about the music? With the release of Album, Girls surpassed all expectations and hype by delivering a stunning and timeless pop record. Lyrically its full of heartbreak but musically it's all sunshine, reminiscent of the early Beach Boys catalog, complete with surf guitars and 60's pop melodies.
Buy the album at Matador
20. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino USA)
Over their nine album career Animal Collective have remained on of the most fascinating bands in music and never has it been so obvious than on Merriwether Post Pavilion. With My Girls, Summertime Clothes, and Brother Sport the album finds Animal Collective a little more listener friendly without losing their sense of adventure. 11 tracks in over 55 minutes for the bands most accomplished and exhilarating record to date.
19. Caspian - Tertia (The Mylene Sheath)
Beverly's Post-rockers Caspian had my jaw on the floor once again this year when they delivered Tertia. A record that rivals the bands superb debut LP The Four Trees. They've added their touring guitarist Burke Moran to the band and as a result Terita boast an even heavier sound than it's predecessor. Tertia is a crushing and captivating record that requires your attention.
Buy the album at The Mylene Sheath Store
18. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains (Sister's Den)
Originally self released at the beginning of the year and then re-released in September after the band signed to Sister's Den Records, Why There Are Mountains got some well deserved attention in 2009. Cymbals Eat Guitars released a sprawling and explosive album that shines equally during it's quieter moments as it does during it's crashing wall of sound anthems. A smashing debut.
Buy the album at Amazon
17. Circulatory System - Signal Morning (Cloud Recordings)
I love this record. I feel better to have gotten that out of the way. Signal Morning is the welcome return of Elephant 6 Collective and The Olivia Tremor Control founding member Will Cullen Hart. It's been eight years since Hart released Circulatory System's debut, in that time he was diagnosed with MS. So when it was announced that their sophomore album would be released it came as bit of surprise. However the real surprise is how damn good Signal Morning is, it not only picks up where their debut left off, it rivals Hart's best work. Signal Morning is a 4 track psych pop masterwork. Breathtaking, inventive, and well worth the wait.
Cloud Recordings Store
16. Super Furry Animals - Dark Days/Light Years (Rough Trade)
On their ninth release Super Furry Animals prove once again that they're one of the most consistent bands making music today. SFA are incapable of recording a bad album, they just don't have it in them. From the tongue in check opener Crazy Naked Girls to the blissful Cardiff in The Sun, Dark Days /Light Years is yet another inspired and varied album. I would recommend this album to the SFA newcomer as much as I would to the long standing fans.
15. David Bazan - Curse Your Branches (Barsuk Records)
An incredibly brave album from the former driving force behind Pedro The Lion. David Bazan put his personal struggles with alcohol and family front and center on Curse Your Branches , for the years most haunting and inspired record.
[MP3/Stream] David Bazan - Bless This Mess
Buy the album from the Barsuk Shop
14. Fanfarlo - Reservoir (Canvasback Music)
Fanfarlo have been releasing music together since 2006 but it wasn't until early 2009 that they released their superb debut album Reservoir. Recorded in Connecticut with Peter Katis (The National/Interpol), the album consists of 11 great pop songs that had me reaching for Reservoir over and over.
Buy the album from the Fanfarlo Web Store
13. Mission of Burma - The Sound The Speed The Light (Matador)
Their third release since reforming in 2002 finds Mission of Burma in peak form. With the fierce and rowdy tracks being complimented with some of Burma's most mesmerizing slower ones like Forget Yourself, with it's shimmering guitars and it's pounding wall of drums. The Sound The Speed The Light is another triumph from a band that has only ever delivered uncompromising quality.
Mission of Burma Store
12. The Antlers - Hospice (French Kiss Records)
On The Antlers 2nd full length Peter Silberman leads his Brooklyn band mates through a conceptual and haunting record about love, death, and cancer. To the bands credit Hospice never comes off as cliche or contrived. Instead what you find when listening to this 10 song suite is a heartbreakingly beautiful record.
French Kiss Records Boutique
11. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic (Warner Bros.)
By 2009 I had accepted the fact that The Flaming Lips sonic explorations were a thing of the past in favor of the safer ground they've covered over the past 10 or so years. Embryonic came along and proved in just over 70 minutes that I don't know shit about what the future holds for this band. Embryonic is staggering, menacing, unhinged and ultimately the epic rebirth of The Flaming Lips.
The Flaming Lips Store
10. Built to Spill - There Is No Enemy (Warner Bros.)
There Is No Enemy finds Doug Martsch and co. reining in some of the stretched out jams found on their last few records in favor of a varied and dynamic batch pop songs. With each listen the album reveals itself a little more, unveiling it's rich instrumentation and tremendous song craft. Easily my favorite Built to Spill record since Keep Like A Secret in 1999 and one of the finest records of the year.
Built To Spill Shop
9. Hallelujah The Hills - Colonial Drones (Misra Records)
Hallelujah The Hills found a way to follow up their fantastic 2007 debut with an even stronger album. Every once in a while a record comes along that you can't help but to play it over and over, Colonial Drones is that kind of record. With the sure fire Boston rock classic Blank Passports, the country twang of Put The Gurus in Charge, and the blistering Allied Lions, Hallelujah The Hills were responsible for some of the finest moments committed to tape in 2009.
8. Japandroids - Post-Nothing (Polyvinyl)
Post-Nothing is the eight song debut album from Brian King and David Prowse collectively known as Japandroids (or JPNDRDS). The album is filled with coming of age angst and fuck-it anthems complete with fuzzed out guitars, crashing drums and more hooks than your old mans tackle box. An exceptional debut and an outright blast.
Buy the album at the Polyvinyl Store
7. We Were Promised Jetpacks - These Four Walls (Fat Cat)
These Four Walls, the debut album from Scotland's We Were Promised Jetpacks is a powerhouse of a record, full of immediate and captivating songs from one of the UK' most promising young bands. The songs are raw and straight forward with elements of 90's American indie and the post-punk instrumentation of there fellow country men Mogwai. Sometimes reinventing the wheel isn't all it's cracked up to be. An addictive and rewarding listen from start to finish.
6. Boat - Setting The Paces (Magic Marker Records)
Setting The Paces is a superbly crafted rock record that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Once an outlet for David Crane's after work (school teacher) recordings, now Boat exists as proper band and on Setting The Paces they turn in 14 guitar driven pop nuggets. There isn't a skippable track in the bunch. These songs are immediate, catchy, and if you give them the chance they will burrow there way into your brain. Trust me, this is a good thing.
5. The Mountain Goats - The Life Of The World To Come (4AD)
The Mountain Goats take on some challenging material on The Life of The World To Come, by naming each song after a bible verse. The songs John Darnielle wrote for the record are without a doubt some of his finest. According to Darnielle this is not a Christian record nor is it a record recorded after some sort of spiritual awakening. It is a collection of songs based on 12 lessons that the bible has taught him. Twelve tales of forgiveness and redemption told by one of America's greatest story tellers. Yeah, you need to hear it.
The Mountain Goats Store
4. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - S/T (Slumberland Records)
Weather it was the frigid days of February or the hot nights of July the debut album from New York's The Pains of Being Pure at Heart was never too far out of reach. A throwback of sorts to the music I loved in the 80's and 90's, reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and The Cure. The band specializes in earnest pop songs with creamy hooks and fuzzed out guitars. An impeccable debut.
3. The Thermals - Now We Can See (Kill Rock Stars)
The Thermals released one of the most enjoyable and satisfying albums of the year. Now We Can See is an anthemic record filled with the bands signature post-pop-punk. Hutch Harris sings of death, disease and being reincarnated as a fish. In a lesser bands hands these themes might end up contrived and trite but with The Thermals its a blast of pop hooks with some the bands most infectious tunes yet.
[MP3/Stream] The Thermals - Now We Can See
Buy the album at the Kill Rock Stars Shop
2. Johnny Foreigner - Grace and The Bigger Picture (Best Before Records)
Album number two from Birmingham, England's Johnny Foreigner picks up where their stunning debut Waited Up Til It Was Light left off. This time around the trio serves up tales of life on the road as a touring band. With 15 tracks in 45 minutes Johnny Foreigner deliver up a perfect dose of snotty punk, boy/girl vocals and noisy pop songs. Grace And The Bigger Picture is a truly great record. So much for the sophomore slump.
Best Before Records Shop
1. Boston Spaceships - Zero To 99 (Guided By Voices, Inc.)
For casual fans who haven't been keeping up with Robert Pollard's recent solo albums and side projects lately, listen up. Zero to 99, Pollard's third release in just over thirteen months with Boston Spaceships is an accessible and insanely catchy album that you need to hear. I guess what I'm saying is, this is the record you've been waiting for. For the obsessive fans who buy just about everything the man puts out, Zero to 99 proves what you probable already knew and that's that Robert Pollard has plenty left in the tank. With each release the Spaceships seem to sharpen their focus and consistency and on Zero to 99 they deliver an astonishing record of prog, punk, and power pop. As it reads on a t-shirt from the bands one and only tour, Boston Spaceships is Real, indeed.
The Factory of Raw Essentials