Top (and Bottom) Five Albums of 2009

Okay, so I know I’m jumping the gun a little here, but honestly, the rest of 2009 isn’t looking all that promising, folks.

So here they are, my top five favorite albums of 2009:

5. Mike DoughtySad Man Happy Man
This album has grown on me so much more since the first listen and I think that “Lorna Zauberberg” just might be my favorite Mike Doughty song, ever. Seeing him live promoting this album I’m sure has something to do with the way I feel about it now. Mike Doughty, guitar, small club, little to no security…I’m surprised I didn’t get myself in trouble. (BTW, this guy cracks me right the fuck up, enjoy!)

Mike Doughty’s “Pleasure On Credit” as done by a crazy internet guy!

4. Lily AllenIt’s Not Me, It’s You
That’s so not true Lily, this year’s been all about you. The gap-toothed Brit certainly made a years worth of singles on this album. After the past few years, she deserves to have a good one. It’s such a shame that as of right now, Allen has “no plans” on releasing another album and will be taking the next two years to start her own record label. I’ll miss you Lily, come back soon!

Lily Allen – “Fuck You”

3. The DecemberistsThe Hazards of Love
Current TV‘s Embedded totally did a special on these guys and the hazards of turning this album into a live show (tee-hee, bad joke, I know). I’ll tell you what…I think that made me love this album even more. It’s just so damn good and I really think that I am going to have to see it live. Shara Worden makes me weak in the lady parts. Damn. (Check this out at about four minutes in…)

The Decemberists – “The Wanting Comes In Waves/Reprise” Live

2. Pet Shop BoysYes
Such a fantastic album! Twenty five years of making music and they’ve still got it. I am still convinced that they are the only band who could ever even attempt to sample Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite”. This whole album is so damn good. We also bought our hard copy of it in Miami, so this will now forever be an incredibly happy album for me.

Pet Shop Boys – “All Over the World”

1. PhoenixWolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
This album was the most revolutionary album of the year, hands down. The French quartet is still storming the airwaves with this album and has actually been nominated for their first Grammy (Best Alternative Music Album). I really hope they win, they deserve it. The best part about Phoenix this year is when people I know discover them and tell me that I “HAVE TO HEAR” this AMAZING new band Phoenix. They have really rocked my world this year. Check ’em out.

Phoenix – “Lizstomania”

You know, that was actually a whole lot harder than I thought. Some honorable mentions are Flyleaf’s Memento Mori and David Guetta’s One Love.

Now for the fun part…

The WORST five albums of 2009:

5. Depeche ModeSounds of the Universe
You figure after being around for approximately 1, 010 years, Depeche Mode would either a.) have this musical situation down pat or b.) have made everything good that they will ever make and have run out of ideas. Looks like they went with Plan B. If you have run out of anything good to contribute to the music industry, WHY KEEP MAKING MUSIC!? This is my open letter, begging Depeche Mode to please stop making music.

4. 311Uplifter
God, this is such a terrible album. And as far as I know, I’m not the only one who appears to feel this way. I mean, have you heard ANYTHING out of this album this year? Did they even have a single? This album was simply shameful and I can’t believe they even released it. I swear, now that I listen to this album again, it’s even worse that I thought it was.

311 – “I Like the Way”

3. Dashboard ConfessionalAlter the Ending
Oh Dashboard, how I used to love you and how you’ve failed me. This album is wretched. And you know what’s even worse? That I’m their Myspace friend and get to see all their ridiculous updates and all the gushy heart-filled replies of 13 year old girls who love Chris Carraba. This album is a wicked disappointment.

Dashboard Confessional – “No News Is Bad News”

2. WeezerRaditude
Oh Weezer. How I wanted to love this album. I wanted to love Rivers again. I wanted to love thick glasses and argyle. This album has let me know that unless something drastically changes, I think my relationship with Weezer is over. Yes, Weezer, I am breaking up with you. We had some great times, unraveling sweaters and hanging out in the garage. Oh, those were the times. Good bye, Weezer. Also, this Snuggie situation? It’s gotta go.

1. Butch WalkerSycamore Meadows
So, technically, this album was released in 2008, but it sucked so hard it kept on sucking right through 2009, plus, I didn’t review it until this year. Also, bringing him up to first place is the fact that he produced TWO of the other four albums on this worst of portion. Oh Butch…not only are you ruining your own albums, now you’re ruining the entire future of music by churning out this garbage. This mass produced crap is getting out of control and Walker is certainly not making the situation any better.

Honorable mentions for the worst album of the year include Marilyn Manson’s The High End of Low and Ben Lee’s The Rebirth of Venus.

Well, that’s it for the year in review folks. What was YOUR favorite album this year?


I <3 The Decemberists

Hardcore. It’s bad. It’s obsession on a Phoenix level. Have some awesome videos and lyrics. It’s July, how appropriate for the first video, and as for the second…one of the most disturbingly romantic songs ever. It’s on The Crane Wife, which is actually based on the old Japanese folk tale. Watch!

July! July!

There is a road that meets the road that goes to my house and how the green grows there. And we’ve got special boots to beat the path to my house and it’s careful and it’s careful when I’m there.

And I say your uncle was a crooked French Canadian! And he was gut-shot runnin’ gin, and how his guts were all suspended in his fingers and how he held ’em,  how he held ’em held, ’em in.

And the water rolls down the drain, the water rolls down the drain, oh what a lonely thing! In a lonely drain!

July, July, July! Never seemed so strange
July, July, July! It never seemed so strange

This is the story of the road that goes to my house and what ghosts there do remain. And all the troughs that run the length and breadth of my house and the chickens how they rattle chicken chains.

And we’ll remember this when we are old and ancient, though the specifics might be vague. And I’ll say your camisole was a sprightly light magenta when in fact it was a nappy blueish grey.

And the water rolls down the drain, the blood rolls down the drain, oh what a lonely thing! In a blood red drain!

July, July, July! Never seemed so strange
July, July, July! It never seemed so strange

Oh Valencia!

You belong to the gang and you say you can’t break away, but I’m here with my hands on my heart. Our families can’t agree, I’m your brother’s sworn enemy, but I’ll shout out my love to the stars.

So wait for the stone on your window, your window.
Wait by the car and we’ll go, we’ll go.

When first we laid eyes I swore to no compromise, ’til I felt my caress on your skin. Well, how soon we were betrayed, your sister gave us away and your father came all unhinged.

So wait for the stone on your window, your window.
Wait by the car and we’ll go, we’ll go.

Oh Valencia!!! With your blood still warm on the ground. Valencia!!! And I swear to the stars, I’ll burn this whole city down.

All I heard was a shout, of your brother calling me out, and you ran like a fool to my side. Well, the shot, it hit hard, and your frame went limp in my arms, and an oath of love was your dying cry.

So wait for the stone on your window, your window.
Wait by the car and we’ll go, we’ll go.

Oh Valencia!!! With your blood still warm on the ground. Valencia!!! And I’ll burn this whole city down. Valencia!!! With your blood getting cold on the ground. Valencia!!! And I swear to the stars, I’ll burn this whole city down.

The Decemberists’ Site

The Decemberists – Hazards of Love

Decemberists - Hazards of LoveThe Decemberists fourth studio album, Hazards of Love is an epic tale with a narrative to battle Ziggy Stardust.

Inspired by Anne Briggs’ 1966 EP of the same name, Hazards of Love was originally intended to be a musical, but frontman Colin Meloy opted to go for a rock album. I, personally, think it would make a killer musical, but what do I know?

Guests on this album include Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark as Margaret,  My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden as The Queen, with the Decemberists own Colin Meloy as both William and The Rake.

The album begins with the tale of Margaret, a royal concubine who ventures into the wilderness on horseback, as she often does. Margaret comes upon an injured fawn, and despite the impending dawn, dismounts to aide it. Upon closer inspection, Margaret finds that the fawn in not actually a fawn, but shape-shifting William. Apparently it’s love at first sight, because before we know it, they’re shagging like bunnies.

Margaret returns to the castle all swoony and glowing from the escapade and wouldn’t you know it? She’s knocked up. So Margaret decides to return to the taiga to find her baby daddy.  So eventually does, more shagging ensues, then bam, enter The Evil Queen.

Apparently many moons before, The Queen had rescued infant William from the rushing waters of the Annan thus becoming a sort of adopted mother to him. William has the unfortunate curse of only being able to be a man at night. In the day, he is restricted to his fawn form. So needless to say, The Queen goes batshit over this illicit affair and tells William that he can no longer go out at night, rendering him unable to continue shagging Margaret. Unless she’s into bestiality. So William begs The Queen to let him out for one more night. He even tells her that if she lets him go for one night, that he will return by dawn and be hers forever. The Queen lets him go, but only because she has other, more sinister intentions.

The Evil Queen hires The Rake to kidnap Margaret. Since this trollop has tempted her child, she tells the Rake to kidnap her, and in return, The Queen will get him across the wild waters of the Annan, an impossible feat.

Enter: The Rake! Ooooh, such a vile man. A little backstory on the Rake: The Rake was once “wedded and it whetted his thirst”. AKA, he got married, shagged a bunch, and really enjoyed it. The downside to shagging a lot? Babies. He and his wife had three, but said wife died in childbirth with number four. So, burdened with three children and no wife to shag, he kills the children. He poisons Charlotte, drowns Dawn, and even though the little boy fights back, The Rake kills him and sets his body on fire.

So The Rake kidnaps Margaret, William discovers this and follows the trail, leading him to the Annan. He begs the river to let him cross and to rescue Margaret, telling the river that she may take him upon his return.

In one of the more haunting tracks on the album, “The Hazards of Love Three: Revenge!”, The Rake becomes haunted by the voice of his murdered children. In comes valiant William who kills The Rake in his time of vulnerability and rescues Margaret.


The Tragic Ending:
William and Margaret make it back to the Annan, but the river is ready to collect her debt. While the rushing and rising waters attempt to take William, he proposes to her, with only the waves as their witnesses. In their last moments, they profess their love for each other and willingly give themselves to the river. The poor lovers sink below and thus become entwined, sharing eternity at the bottom of the Annan.

On this album, you will find no catchy chorus. You will find no bridges or hooks. You will find an incredibly romantic tale of a forbidden and cursed love. This album is amazing. I have heard of The Decemberists on many occasions, but only recently began listening to them. I honestly don’t know what took me so long. This album has absolutely nothing in common with any of their previous albums, and I doubt it will with any of their future efforts. It’s something all it’s own and it’s simply beautiful.

Musically, I find this to be quite a step for The Decemberists. This is not your average folk album. It’s filled with heavy guitar and snarling vocals and vulnerability and pain and sacrifice. “The Queen’s Rebuke/The Crossing” is a guitar-heavy track with the throaty, plotting vocals of Shara Worden. God, I love her voice. Mental note: check out My Brightest Diamond sometime. “The Rake’s Song” finds normally calm Meloy snarling and becoming a murderous, adulterous wretch of a man. Such a powerful transformation!

While I love Castaways and Cutouts, I love this album, perhaps even more, but for different reasons.

Actually, I had a conversation this weekend about modern cinema. About how when movies first began, they took all the time in the world to develop characters and the relationships between them. Now, the average person’s attention span for that is far too short, and senses overloaded by so much, that the scenes have to change more frequently and we lose that connection. This album is everything a story should be, in the span of an hour.

For once, I think I am speechless. Just go listen to it. A

The Decemberists’ Site

Decemberists on NPR