CoS Year-End Report: The Top 100 Albums of ’09: 100-76

100. U2 – No Line on the Horizon

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Set aside any cracks at Bono and focus solely on the music; the result is U2 and its concrete reign upon Achtung Baby and Joshua Tree alone.  No Line On The Horizon is not a classic album, despite an incessant amount of touring with a stage show that rivals Pink Floyd laser shows on every degree.  Alongside The Edge’s spacey guitar and some eclectic drums a la “Magnificent” and “Stand Up Comedy”, the very presence of U2 and its ability to make even mediocre ego efforts sound pleasantly mind-altering holds No Line On The Horizon by a thread above this list’s bottom line. -David Buchanan

99. Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know

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Is this Black Sabbath? Non Ozzy Black Sabbath? Who cares what it is, all that matters is that Heaven & Hell offer a great send-up of classic heavy metal straight to your face. Dio wails, Tony Iommi brings the shake and the rhythm section of Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice crush the iron gates of heavy metal’s mighty fortress. Listen to it already! -Jay Ziegler

98. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

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British four-piece Mumford & Sons has been in the vanguard of a UK folk revival since the band formed two years ago. Sigh No More is a rousing debut, shot through with rich harmonies and rhythmic intensity, to create manly, passionate music which stirs the soul and warms the heart. -Tony Hardy

97. Florence and the Machine – Lungs

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Florence Welch underwent a rapid transformation from earth mother to vixen as the PR machine put its full weight behind her, living up to her Brit Award by releasing a commercial album with surprising depth. The harp was cool again. -Will Hines

96. The Horrors – Primary Colours

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Primary Colours is an excellent example of maturity without losing your style or principles as a band. The Horrors took horror into the fuzzy but accomplished contemporary with shoegazy atmospheric noise, underlying crisp garage punk and a mind-twisting sense of avant-pop for an admirable second album. -Jesper Persson

95. Levon Helm – Electric Dirt

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Everyone knows Levon Helm’s comeback story from throat cancer, so no need to rehash it here, but what’s exciting about Electric Dirt is how close he’s getting to the former deep swamp, twangy bellow of his vocal work with The Band. His Grammy Award-winning The Dirt Farmer was no slouch of an album, but it saw the legendary drummer-vocalist working with what he had, rasping out his lyrics in a log cabin creaky strain over mostly acoustic arrangements. On Electric Dirt, he brings in the full band, including his daughter Amy, and belts out with all his might, recapturing his bravado and sounding his most confident since The Last Waltz. The album could use a few more originals (the songs are mostly blues, country, and folk covers), but I’ll take Helm’s soulful renditions of the songs he loves over former Band-mate Robbie Robertson’s half-assed attempts at griseled Americana any day. -Dan Caffrey

94. Ducktails – Backyard

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No, this is not the soundtrack to the cartoon. Ducktails the band, is at the forefront of the burgeoning psych-surf-pop wave and Backyard is a collection of Matt Mondanile’s early recordings. If you like feeling like you’re at a bonfire on the beach, this one’s for you. -Adam Kivel


“Backyard”

93. Wild Beasts – Two Dancers

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“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know there was a party going on in this zoo,” said the drunken man upon stumbling into Wild Beasts’ rehearsal space. Then he started dancing before ultimately passing out. Man, you try describing them. -Drew Litowitz

92. HEALTH – Get Color

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The sophomore slump be damned, HEALTH brought their Zoothorns out of retirement for Get Color. The tour with Nine Inch Nails not only helped boost their appeal, but a bit of the Reznor bravado seems to have sunk into the music. The album’s a bit tighter than the spectacular self-titled debut, for better and for worse. -Adam Kivel

91. Here We Go Magic – Here We Go Magic

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Well, the eponymous album title pretty much said it all. Luke Temple’s first venture into musical territories behind an alias found him streaming his consciousness in a hazy mix of magic lo-fi, mesmerizing folk tendencies and subtle indie rock aesthetics. If you’d like to call it a debut, Here We Go Magic delivered one of the year’s first noteworthy debuts that beautifully showcased a vague, unfolding trend in contemporary experimental indie without necessarily coming off as trendy. -Jesper Persson

90. Son Volt – American Central Dust

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Jay Farrar and the rest of Son Volt continued their creative resurgence with the stripped-back American Central Dust. There is the Keith Richards-influenced “Cocaine and Ashes” in the form of a Tom Waits piano ballad. “No Turning Back” may be the most hummable song Farrar has written since the days of Uncle Tupelo. By closing it off with “Jukebox of Steel”, featuring new member Mark Spencer on excellent lap steel, we look forward to letting Farrar lead the way towards justice in the years to come. -Justin Gerber

89. Imogen Heap – Ellipse

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With Ellipse, Imogen Heap took immerse recording to a new level. Holing up the basement of her childhood home , her third album was more subtle in it’s use of electronics than predecessor Speak For Yourself,  instead opting to use the elliptical house itself as an instrument. Whether experimenting with layers on “Earth” or penning the haunting “Canvas”, Heap once again proved herself a formidable font of creativity. -Will Hines

88. Karen O and the Kids – Where the Wild Things Are OST

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For everyone who’s old enough to be reading this website, this film was already a big deal since it’s an essential story from childhood. That’s what makes Karen O’s (with the Kids, not the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) soundtrack to the film fit so perfectly. In 40 minutes of bliss, Karen O is able to musically capture the feeling of what it’s like to be a kid again, and it’s important to remember what that’s like. -Ted Maider

87. Gil Mantera’s Party Dream – Dreamscape

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In their sophomore effort, Party Dream truly live up to their name. Dreamscape is a luscious synth landscape of dreams and nightmares against hip-thumping beats. It’s no mistake that the album cover looks like something from an 80s math textbook — just one listen will send you soaring above ominous geometric shapes on the back of a winged, sexy cybernetic Stevie Nicks sphinx. There’s no better excuse to put on your spandex and work yourself up into a heavy sweat than jamming out to Dreamscapes. -Cap Blackard


“Elmo’s Wish”

86. Viva Voce – Rose City

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The remarkable thing about this album is that the husband and wife team made an ode to Portland that doesn’t get bogged down with the inherent lameness of many other albums with such a hokey theme.  While it may not be official, Rose City feels like a love letter to the Rose City.  And to those who’ve ever spent a minute in the city, the album’s sparse rock that is at times folky and psychedelic on top of lyrics that are as loving as they are well-written gives you a window into the town from which it was born.  And you never have to leave the comfort of your iPod. -Chris Coplan


“Devotion”

85. David Gray – Draw the Line

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The most pleasurably textured audiophilic orgasm in David Gray’s soft rock catalog, Draw the Line takes our dearest pianist and hones him in on enough fragile acoustic guitar string to put Jack Johnson to shame.  The lead-off single “Fugitive” wields an angelic indie pop chorus, in stark contrast to the title tracks solemn tone and urgency — perfect opposites.  Oh, and the rest of this jangly catch-all album is pretty sweet too! -David Buchanan

84. Silversun Pickups – Swoon

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On their second album, the LA-based quartet kicked everything up a notch and delivered a sonic blast to your ears. Swoon proved that the Silversun Pickups were not just a fleeting indie-craze, but a hard-working rock and roll band that was here to stay (for awhile). If you question this whatsoever, just listen to the first minute of “There’s No Secrets this Year” and you’ll know why this album should be in your collection, or streaming through your headphones. -Ted Maider

83. Gabby Young & Other Animals – We’re All In This Together

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Gabby Young lets you in on her individual take on the world with music that defies most labels you might like to apply to it. Aided by her fabulous band, Young mixes and matches musical styles and genres at will. Brave, compelling and blessed with Young’s remarkable voice, this is the dressing-up box of all your dreams. -Tony Hardy

“We’re All in This Together”

82. Chris Wollard & The Ship Thieves – Chris Wollard & The Ship Thieves

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For countless rock n roll frontmen, going solo means going soft, and in the worst way possible. Take a look at anything by Sting or Rod Stewart and see how it holds up to their work with The Police or Faces. Chris Wollard of Hot Water Music was no exception to the acoustic rule, toning down his post punk leanings in favor of a more folksy approach for his solo debut. But what he produced was a collection of some of the most earnest yet detailed and accessible songs to be released in 2009.  Melancholy tracks like “In The Middle Of The Sea” and “Hey B” gently creak like rocking chairs while harder edged tunes like “Up To The Moon” and “All The Things You Know” show that Gainesville’s favorite son still knows his away around an electric guitar. -Dan Caffrey


“No Exception”

81. Matt & Kim – Grand

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Not since the White Stripes has an act done more with just two members than Matt & Kim has. At its core, Grand is frantic; “Daylight” opens up the album like a hyperactive bike ride around New York City that reads like a young man emerging into the world. “Lessons Learned”, complete with its streaking video, has a Ramones urgency to it with a jagged 60’s girl pop spin. Meanwhile, “Cinders” is a seizure-inducing explosion of straight noise, much like if you broke you original copy of Contra. And the “Daylight Outro Mix” brings it all to a quiet close. And yes, your body being sore from all that stomping around is totally natural. -Chris Coplan

80. Pixelh8 – Obsolite?

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Pixelh8 is not only the leading artist of the 8-bit-centric Chiptunes genre, but a cultural anthropologist for the electronic world. Obsolite? is a concept album of electronic music unlike any other, conceived by Pixelh8 and funded by the British National Museum of Computing and the Performing Rights Society Foundation. Every bleep, bloop and mechanical hum on the album comes from some of the earliest computing devices mankind ever devised, such as the Colossus Mark II — the world’s first programmable digital computing device, used for code breaking in World War II. It’s a beautiful gesture for these forgotten machines and an amazing album of harmonies, rhythms, and secret messages in electronic tongues. -Cap Blackard

79. The Raveonettes – In And Out Of Control

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The Danish duo’s fourth album proves their worth in musical expression and not just in tasty pastries. The Raveonettes offer a sardonically dark record with just enough elegant bubblegum rock to gloss its dark soul that on first listen, they’re easy to cast off as any old pop rock band. Definitely an underrated release of the year and worth a few spins if you’re driving down the highway and especially stuck in traffic. -Jay Ziegler

78. Protomen – Act II: The Father of Death

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The Protomen retell the story of Mega Man- but not the goofy blue robot, no, this Mega Man is humanity’s robot savior in a Cyber-Punk Western and it’s deadly serious. This second act, a prequel chronicling the advent of the mechanical man and humanity’s downfall, is overwhelming in its scope. The Father of Death has a sound so big it belongs on Broadway with songs so raw they could’ve come from the crumbling concrete of Asbury Park. It’s Mad Max rock ‘n’ roll – Blade Runner meets Bruce Sprinsteen. Just one listen and you’ll want to join the resistance. -Cap Blackard

77. Megadeth – Endgame

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In another year of comeback thrash, none delivered more than “Comeback King” Dave Mustaine’s decades-old experiment known as Megadeth.  Since the days of Countdown To Extinction, Megadeth promised us a world of no return and political apocalypse — now encompassed by 2009’s Endgame.  This album was a half-star shy of classic metal status, and as we kiss the new decade hello we pray that Mustaine’s imaginative riffs and lyrical decimation are mere cries of dystopian fiction and not another Year Zero prediction waiting to happen. -David Buchanan

76. The Doves – Kingdom Of Rust

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Their last two albums were littered with great anthemic songs but with Kingdom of Rust, Doves have stepped back from stadium rock with a record of rare subtlety. The melodies creep up on you while diverse influences and nods to musical styles are worked in cleverly. An epic grower and progressive rock at it’s finest. -Tony Hardy

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