As promised, here is Part II of Our Favorite Albums of 2009 list:
Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
From "proto-Sanskrit Minoans" to "Porto-centric Lisboans," Andrew Bird's dense lyrics occasionally read like a dissertation, but his sense of melody always pulls them back into range. His musicianship is outstanding - looping pizzicato violin with guitar and an otherworldly whistle that's enough to send shivers down your spine. Noble Beast is a pastoral record for Bird - mixing witty, alienated apocalypticism with a keen sense of belonging to the earth, its creatures and its history. Easily one of the best performers I saw this year, or any other.
Andrew Bird - "Anonanimal"
The Dead Weather - Horehound
Jack White and friends bring blues back to rock in this made-for-headphones LP. Distortion and reverb dominate this guitar-heavy voyage. Although the album can meander aimlessly in parts - albeit only briefly - the record provides a wonderful trad-rock alternative to the lo-fi songcraft that currently dominates much of the day.
Watch the video to: The Dead Weather - "I Cut Like A Buffalo"
Watch the video to: The Dead Weather - "Treat Me Like Your Mother"
Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3
While many have dismissed it as a lesser album than his original masterpiece, there is no doubt that Jay-Z still holds his reigning title on The Blueprint 3. It's a massive album, with all-star collaborations, including Alicia Keys, Timbaland and Rihanna. While anything but an underground hit, it would be hard to deny an album of such proportions the success it's received. "Empire State of Mind" is Jay's ode to NYC - calling himself the "new Sinatra." On "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-tune)," he carves a tombstone for phony rappers and the studio-enhanced vocals that have dominated the radio in the last part of the decade. Jay-Z never caters to pop culture. He sets the trends himself.
Watch the video to: Jay-Z - "Empire State of Mind" (feat. Alicia Keys)
Watch the video and read our review to: Jay-Z - "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)"
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
This French band has been writing catchy tunes for years, but hadn't seemed to be fully embraced stateside until the release of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. The songs "1901" and "Lizstomania" received considerable exposure on tv ads and beyond all year. "Love Like a Sunset" is an epic for the band - a largely instrumental arrangement that builds to a prog-pop crescendo and back down, like an homage to "Baba O'Riley". The band was ripe for the attention in '09 and certainly stood out as one of the more deserving alternative pop records of the year.
Watch the video to: Phoenix - "1901"
Watch the video to: Phoenix - "Lisztomania"
Passion Pit - Manners
Some of the most hyperactive party tunes of the year were also some of the most thoughtfully-crafted, dark and self-searching, and this record serves as evidence. Passion Pit's first proper LP is chock full of indie electronic dance jams and falsetto funk. It's incredibly poppy and fun, but the underlying production value and emotionally earnest lyrics make it more than just a batch of disposable singles.
Passion Pit - "The Reeling"
In case you missed it, go back to Part I of Our Favorite Albums of 2009!