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Clifton’s Favorites for 2009

January 5, 2010

Hello everyone! I’m here as a guest writer to share my somewhat different musical preferences, and I can think of  no better way to introduce myself and the music that inspires me than sharing my top 5 new albums from 2009 and the albums I am most looking forward to next year. Here we go!

How I See 2009!

My honorable mentions go to Fiction Family‘s self-titled debut, The xx‘s self-titled debut, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart‘s self-titled debut, Monsters of Folk‘s self-titled debut, The Mountain Goats‘ latest effort The Life Of The World To Come, and Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon’s latest project Volcano Choir‘s debut Unmap.

Number five on my list this year is Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear.

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

Before this album was released I was a casual listener of Grizzly Bear but never had developed a full appreciation for their music. This album really displays their top-notch musicianship and songwriting but even more so displays their knack for creating beautiful, organic arrangements. After hearing this album I was compelled to take a deeper look at songsmith Daniel Rossen’s other works which lead me to In Ear Park by Department of Eagles, which was my favorite non-new discovery of 2009. I recommend this album to anyone who likes psychedelic folk tendencies that are low on distortion and high on vocal blends and real-instrument layering and musicianship.

Favorite three tracks: Southern Point, Two Weeks, Dory

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Number four on my list this year is The Sleeper by The Leisure Society – The Sleeper.

The Leisure Society - The Sleeper

I first heard this album a few weeks before it was released and was immediately blown away. The Leisure Society present an album full of beautifully instrumented, lyrically impressive, melodically gorgeous pop folk songs that I feel are hard to come by these days. Some call this album the UK’s answer to US acts like Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes however, while in terms musicality and quality I would agree, I would warn that this album does not have as big a sound as those acts. It is more quaint and relaxing, like the music of pleasantly familiar memories creeping into your subconscious. I’d be more likely to say that this album is what The Boy Least Likely To would sound like after a strong chill pill. Give this album a few listens and the songs will never leave you. I recommend this album to anyone who likes twee, ukuleles, lush harmonies, glockenspiels, and smiling.

Favorite three tracks: The Sleeper, A Short Weekend Begins With Longing, Are We Happy?

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Number three this year goes to Hospice by The Antlers.

The Antlers - Hospice

Like most, I had not heard The Antlers’ previous attempts when I first picked up Hospice. When I first listened to Hospice I shook it off, hearing the heavy noise aspect on the first few tracks. When I came home from college for the summer it was given a second life for me. Sitting in my dark bedroom, lit only by a few strings of colored rope lights, I closed my eyes and listened to the album in its entirety. The experience grabbed me like the first time I listened to In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Neutral Milk Hotel) or Funeral (Arcade Fire). The brass in “Shiva”, the poetry and symbolism of “Sylvia” (which addresses Sylvia Plath), and the chills which the melodic standout “Bear” evokes when followed by the painful plea within soundscape of “Thirteen” are all reasons why this album speaks to me the way it does. Rarely do I feel an album as strongly as I felt this one. I recommend this album to anyone who likes shoegaze, art music, substantial lyrics, slow strobe lights, and floating.

Favorite three tracks: Sylvia, Bear, Shiva

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Number two on the list is The Ruminant Band by The Fruit Bats.

The Fruit Bats - The Ruminant Band

I didn’t have a lot of expectations when I first listened to the Ruminant Band but I soon discovered that I had started listening to one of my favorite albums of the year. I would equate this album with Dr. Dog’s “Fate” and the best of other modern folk acts such as The Mountain Goats. This is the sort of album that I sit down to listen to one song and end up listening to them all. They are all quality songs, even the least of which will be dancing in your head for weeks. I recommend this album to anyone who likes catchy folk rock, 70’s arrangements, and music that feels like sunshine.

Favorite three tracks: Tegucigalpa, Beautiful Morning Light, Singing Joy to The World

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Number one on my list of best new albums of 2009 is Hello Hurricane by Switchfoot.

Switchfoot - Hello Hurricane

It’s no secret among my acquaintances and listeners that Jon Foreman is my favorite songsmith and high in the running for my favorite human being in our lifetime. His EP Collections was one of my musical highlights of the decade and probably the single greatest influence on my early songwriting of any of musician in existence. Hello Hurricane brings the brilliance that we’ve seen from Jon in the last few years to the Switchfoot side of his music in a way that we haven’t seen before, with his supporting cast of players bringing songs that were already filled with life to a whole new level. Rather than the chaotic wall-of-sound which Switchfoot took shelter in on their two releases following their success with their bass and pop driven “The Beautiful Letdown”, they found their sound this time in the wide expanse of spaces. It’s been said before that this album feels like a journey and it really does, beginning with “Needle & Haystack Life” which arguably introduces the band sounding like they did when we last left them. From there on, they take us to many stops on what feels like a roadmap of styles, concepts, and energies that the band is capable of. This album is Switchfoot’s journey of self-discovery at the beginning of their independence as a band. I can hear it in the celebratory tones of “Red Eyes” and “Hello Hurricane”, in the raw energy of “Bullet Soul” and “Mess of Me”, in the honesty of “Yet” and “Always”, in the triumph of “Free” and “Sing it Out”. This album finds light in the darkness and gives me hope for days to come.

Favorite three tracks: The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues), Hello Hurricane, Bullet Soul

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That’s the conclusion of my list. It was quite a hard one to come to. Looking forward to next year, it seems we’ll have another year of hard choices to make – there are a lot of really good albums coming out. My top anticipations of 2010 are Realism (January 2010), the “no-synth trilogy” conclusion from Stephin Merritt’s The Magnetic Fields; Contra (January 2010), the highly anticipated follow-up to Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut (which most of us have now heard); The Monitor (March 2010), the follow-up to vastly underrated Titus Andronicus’ New Jersey rock debut The Airing of Grievances; and the as-of-yet-untitled third album and follow-up to “Neon Bible” from Arcade Fire (May 2010).
Clifton's Most Anticipated

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Crisbaj permalink
    January 8, 2010 12:12 AM

    found a trippy bit of wierd Christmas music… I guess that every year people gather in dozens of cities and bring boom boxes and all cue it up at the same time and walk thru the city wiht the music going, so i’t a moving work of sonic art… called UNSILENT NIGHT by Phil Kline…. reminds me of Sigur Ros or the in-between stuff that Thom Yorke comes up with… emotional, sometimes ethereal… but very cool!

  2. Crisbaj permalink
    January 8, 2010 12:15 AM

    Hello Hurricane MAY BE the best rock album of 2009… diverse, textured, HONEST, satisfying in it’s musical depth but disturbing in it’s blunt honesty… Jon and Tim and Drew and Romy and Chad have become a band in the best sense of the word, and WE are the better for it!!

  3. January 8, 2010 6:27 PM

    I like this list quite a bit, and I am especially excited because I was previously unaware of three of the bands you mentioned.

    New music for everyone!

    Happy 2010!

  4. Adam permalink
    February 22, 2010 12:58 PM

    sorry, but i don’t like this list at all. i think the year 2009 offered a very small amount of decent music and just a handful of good albums, but i don’t see one here, with the exception of the pains album. switchfoot’s weak, fruit bats are boring, and grizzly bear is overrated. i could offer the albums which i feel are deserving, but it’s all subjective.. however regardless of music preference, it is abominable to not mention merriweather post, especially in such a musical drought as 2009. you don’t even have to like it to respect that has more innovation in it’s first track than any album on this list.

  5. Sean G. permalink
    February 22, 2010 1:33 PM

    Not bad but also not very good. Switchfoot is ok but album of the year? Come on… that’s like putting the Wilco album or Cass McCombs at the top.

  6. February 22, 2010 3:20 PM

    thats cool guys. I was just here as a third outside opinion because I have different musical tastes. Feel free to comment on what you think your best of 09 should be. In my opinion 2010 has already seen more amazing albums than 09 had altogether

  7. February 25, 2010 9:50 PM

    nothing special

  8. February 26, 2010 11:24 AM

    Hey guys, I put Merriweather on my best of 09 list, and the three of us agreed to not all talk about the same albums simply because there is a lot of music out there!
    But I like Clifton’s list, and agree that Animal Collective has gotten really overrated lately. Why should he agree with everyone else when he has his own opinion?

    Anyway, yeah, go ahead and tell us what your best albums of 09 were!

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