CoS Year-End Report: The Top 100 Albums of ’09: 50-26

50. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns

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Hometowns is laced with a certain buzzed-out folk feel. We call it folk, simply because of the harsh yet beautiful tales of rural Alberta that are told. We feel compelled to hear more and more, exploring every corner of the record that we can. Many have never seen these places that the band describes, but they create eclectic sonic landscapes all the same. -Joshua Kloke

49. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm

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Nobody asks much of J Mascis, probably because when he delivers, he really delivers. Farm continues the near-perfect track record Dinosaur Jr.’s been scoring since its out-of-the-water reunion. What started with 2007’s Beyond is fully magnetized here, especially with power ballads like “Plans” or reckless punches like “Over It”. Who would’ve thought more melody would bring this band to better, and more amicable, heights? -Michael Roffman

48. Art Brut – Art Brut Vs. Satan

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Eddie Argos and company have a history of sticking it to modern music. Their first album’s hit “Formed A Band” was a satirical call against the waste of time it is to ever create anything musically. But with their third album, the English art band is going toe-to-toe with the greatest enemy of all: Everyone else.  Whether it’s attacking people for bad taste (“The Replacements”) or making it clear about why they do what they do (“Slap Dash For No Cash”), the album gives a raspberry to everyone who isn’t Art Brut. -Chris Coplan

47. Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream

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The grand return of Synthpop is upon us, but Empire of the Sun isn’t looking to the past, with Walking on a Dream the genre rises to its former brilliance and, once again, looks to the future. 2009 was taken by storm from these travelers from another place- a place of wild colors and brilliant soundscapes that set the whole world dancing. On the iPod of a 16-year-old Edinburgh art student, echoing from the outdoor speakers of an Italian gas station… this was the summer of the Empire. Every field of sunflowers swayed to their beautiful melodies. -Cap Blackard

46. Richard Hawley –True Love’s Gutter

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This feels like the album Richard Hawley always wanted to make. Truelove’s Gutter is utterly beautiful, somber, spellbinding and has as classy a selection of songs that you could wish to hear. It underlines Hawley as one of the most important artistes in the UK. -Tony Hardy

45. K-os – Yes

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With some of the most engulfing beats this year next to Jay-Z and Wale, K-Os delivers monotone rhymes in what instantly feels of freestyle and listless preponderance of everything around him. Yes! appears out of nowhere like the kind of album that boasts without a need for name-drops, relying solely on a relentless drive that seems very DIY and made to look easier than it probably is. -David Buchanan

44. Jonathan Johansson – En Hand I Himlen

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At times it seems that Jonathan Johansson’s album is another one in a long row of albums delving deeper into the ’80s. Yet it doesn’t take long before a timeless album whose ephemeral beauty and deeply touching lyrics unfold as a steady companion to Nordpolen’s 2008 debut. This is a reason to believe the pop myth surrounding Sweden. -Jesper Persson

43. Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse – Dark Night Of The Soul

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EMI’s interference with an official release of Dark Night of the Soul should be classified as the lamest move by a record company in 2009. Long-time collaborators Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse (Mark Linkous) wrote and produced an eclectic 12-track record that combines Danger Mouse’s intricate beats with Sparklehorse’s pop sensibilities and features guest vocalists as renowned as Frank Black, Iggy Pop, and Julian Casablancas. Combine all this with the fact that acclaimed director David Lynch provided the photography to be used for the album art, and you have one of the most intriguing releases of 2009. What a shame most of the world has never gotten the chance to hear or see any of it. -Matt Melis


Dark Night Of The Soul

42. Depeche Mode – Sounds of the Universe

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The Mode’s 12th studio album is also one of their most expansive. The music found in Sounds of the Universe moves between many sounds that are all unique yet all distinctively theirs. From the haunting echo guitar of “Wrong” to the anvil-clang of “Come Back”, Depeche Mode’s longest studio album is arguably their best this decade. -Joe Marvilli

41. Third Eye Blind – Ursa Major

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2009 was a comeback year for Third Eye Blind, a time when audiences finally realized that their gimmick was never really a gimmick. On Ursa Major, the band’s leanest and meanest disc to date, frontman Stephan Jenkins continued to spin his trademark San Francisco tales of youthful sex, heartbreak, and drug use amongst a neon party scene that only existed for about ten minutes back in the late nineties. But what’s always made his songs work is their sincerity, and Ursa Major’s sound is big enough to encompass all of his white boy histrionics. He growls, raps, and yelps his way through some of his biggest hooks, especially on “Can You Take Me”, “Don’t Believe A Word”, and “Water Landing”. -Dan Caffrey

40. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown

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The idea of following up a concept album with another one seemed like a death wish, at best. However, the Oakland trio came back with a fully realized album that, in hindsight, is the perfect counterpart to 2004’s American Idiot. Although “Know Your Enemy” and “21 Guns” hardly impress, songs like “Peacemaker” and “Murder City” indicate that Green Day still know how to keep things fresh and visceral. Rest assured, they’re here to stay, and that’s a good thing. -Michael Roffman

39. MF DOOM – Born Like This

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For years, Doom was one of underground hip-hop’s crowning achievements, but now he is a rap icon for his unique flow, talented production, comic-book style rhyming, and did anybody know he wears a metal Dr. Doom mask? With Born Like This, Doom proved to the masses that all the legends about him were true and that his ability as a rapper/producer are unmatched. If you are lucky (or informed), you got the version with the Thom Yorke-produced remix of “Gazillion Ear”, which was just evidence of Doom’s unique abilities as an MC. -Ted Maider

38. ISIS – Wavering Radiant

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To truly feel music is a euphoric and sometimes violent experience, and bands like Tool have made a substantial living from impacting the audience with dreamscapes and terrors built on real world emotions or viewpoints on such.  ISIS is a result — in part — of this sonically concrete yet universally mind-altering influence, pulling from styles akin to Opeth and the like while expanding upon a recurring theme of inherent femininity and changeability within even the heaviest of sounds. ISIS released 2009’s Wavering Radiant to great appeal, and like its predecessors in both the ISIS repertoire and beyond, proves that the tangible world is only a fraction of what we as humans can actually feel…and we feel you. -David Buchanan

37. Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3

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Jay-Z has a status that in many cases triumphs — in “Mafioso” fashion — over any throwaways from previous albums by sheer star power alone. When The Blueprint III was given a release date, I already figured that topping both the original classic and the double-disc onslaught of a quality sequel was tantamount to BIG’s resurrection, nee unreachable. What we received was a matured rapper whose lyrical presence has aged like fine Cristal, and whose latest penchant for New York jazz and beat experimentation stamped Jay-Z’s final Blueprint installment shy of a classic yet poignant enough to sculpt one skyscraper of a reputation in functional class. -David Buchanan

36. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic

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Embryonic wasn’t for the casual Lips fan. It reached deep into the recesses of Wayne Coyne’s mind and pulled out their most psychedelic, brilliant work to date. The off the wall collaborations and sonic explorations made it one of the only records this year that required your full attention, and proved to be more rewarding with every listen. Whether you liked it or didn’t get it, Embryonic solidified The Lips as psychedelic rock’s torch bearers for yet another decade. -E.N. May

35. Built to Spill – There is No Enemy

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Like every Built to Spill record, There is No Enemy fills you the genuine alt rock emotions that so many others try to replicate. It’s just as timeless as anything else they’ve done in their long history with tracks like “Hindsight” and heavy hitter “Pat” showing no signs of slowing down. If there was a Mt. Rushmore for indie rock, Doug Martsch would be front and center. -E.N. May

34. Micachu and the Shapes – Jewellery

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Once you get past the too-cute-to-handle name (trust me, I refused to listen to this record for over a month because of that name), the music within is a charming mixture of ramshackle noise-manipulation and sing-talking that sounds like a female child of Art Brut’s Eddie Argos and The Streets’ Mike Skinner. Not enough of an endorsement? Check out the headrush fun of “Golden Phone” or the churning jam of “Calculator” and you’ll be sold. -Adam Kivel

33. Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk

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The name says it all. These monsters, while furthering the “supergroup” tradition, take folk by the hand and strum right through the naughts with melodies that are serene and jovial. -Maria Murriel

32. Wavves – Wavvves

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“Wavves’s second record, entitled, um, Wavvves (note the third ‘v’…or don’t; I’m not sure that it matters), is capital-e Empowerment music. It empowers those who have limited means to be able to express themselves. It empowers those who have a lot of energy and a little time. And it empowers me to declare, without reservation, that this is the best distortion-laden pop album since Loveless.” -Aaron Kelley

31. Kiss – Sonic Boom

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KISS triumphed in 2009 by doing what they do best. They didn’t try to mature, they didn’t try to expand, they didn’t try and change your mind. Instead, they offered up their best batch of tunes since Love Gun about partying hard, screwing fast, and rocking loud. The riffs are big, the songs are under four minutes, and the most clever lyric is “danger you, danger me, danger us.”  ‘Nuff said. -Dan Caffrey

30 Second Samples

30. Mastodon – Crack the Skye

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Mastodon represents experimental metal in the genre’s American “new wave” at the turn of last decade.  Utilizing hardcore and prog elements it gained a huge following via publications like Revolver praising 2002’s Leviathan and beyond. Rise in recognition among metal’s elite later earned Mastodon a main stage spot at the inaugural Mayhem Festival in 2008.  During said tour there was viral promotion for a new record with flyers depicting a curiosity-inducing, pencil-drawn portrait of Rasputin. Mastodon seemed ready to ride the cusp of yet another decade and what arrived in 2009 was a seven-track epic masterpiece referencing Russian czars, the occult, and out-of-body experiences. Crack The Skye encompasses raw “prog metal” euphoria, blurring the lines with Sanders’ hypnotic vocals superseding typical Spartan force-feeding more often than not.  Indisputably, Mastodon transcends and makes palatable, progressive atmospheres that never once compromise the fan-heralded car crash complexity of everything pre-Blood Mountain — and all of this while giving Crack The Skye accessibility to an otherwise hesitant world of new listeners more accustomed to maybe The Mars Volta’s Octahedron. -David Buchanan

29. A Place To Bury Strangers – Exploding Head

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What goes into a great record? Well, you need the heart and the soul, that’s all very true. Melody? Well yeah that works too. However all those ingredients added together with one helluva loud, raucous production value emit a modern day masterpiece such as this one. Shoegaze never sounded so epically grandiose and with the release of the Brooklyn trio’s sophomore album, this modern day King Kong sized record delivers on so many levels. Guitar screeches, warbled drums and thunderous bass pave this desolate and sorrowful record, and yet lightning still manages to be captured in this bottle. Do yourself a favor this holiday season and ask St. Nicholas to put this one in your stocking, then blare it on Christmas Day. Better late than never. You’ll thank us later. -Jay Ziegler

28. Pearl Jam – Backspacer

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This past summer, Pearl Jam returned to top form. Not only did they remind everyone they’re still A-listers (That performance on Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show debut helped some.), but they entertained their fan base again. That’s not to say 2006’s self titled release or even 2002’s Riot Act were disappointments. They just lacked some energy, per se. With Backspacer, Pearl Jam didn’t come out clobbering, yelling, or cursing — they came out with a party. Frontman Eddie Vedder, who wrote the lyrics to each and every song, shelved the Bush mask and went for a beer, instead. Songs “The Fixer”, “Supersonic”, and “Gonna See My Friend” claw its way into your chest and warm that chilly soul of yours — all in the name of love. What’s left to argue? -Michael Roffman

“The Fixer”

27. Mos Def – The Ecstatic

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Mos Def may be modern rap’s most loyal disciple of classic hip-hop. Here, four albums into his solo career, he is still channeling the street corners through the hand claps and “up-jump-the-boogie” chants of “Quiet Dog” and other tracks. Songs like album opener “Supermagic” prove that an artist can be socially conscious without blatantly political — or even sensical — lyrics. Simply conjuring up memories of a generation of Black and Hispanic youth spitting “Peace and Love and Unity and Having Fun!” in the face of one of America’s ugliest ghettos is a more powerful political statement than anything on that Street Sweeper Social Club record. -Michael Denslow

26. Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures

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When a legendary bassist of 70’s rock, a drummer from the grunge age, and a leading man from late 90’s stoner prog get together, the standard is to expect any fuzz and rock swagger of each respective field to accumulate into one big cluster-fuck. Them Crooked Vultures has a way of gingerly toeing a line of indistinguishability where songs like “New Fang” and “Elephants” aerate traits of Kyuss/Foo Fighters crossbreeding and “No One Loves Me…” takes a crack at Zeppelin revisited and coats it in static. This album is an experiment that can truly jog your noggin on Genre Blends & Benders 101, but even a crash and curious meeting of expert musicianship cannot be ignored — much less left to real vultures. -David Buchanan

#25-1

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