(Read the full, badly spellchecked text below for clarifications of bad sound quality and my mush mouth)
To be perfectly honest, 2009 was one of the weakest years for music in recent memory. Thinking back to last year in particular, I had a much harder time deciding the order of my "best of 2008" list. 2009, by contrast, was really a race between three for the top spot and then a rabble fighting for the other 7. You know, sort of like crabs trying to climb out of a pot of boiling water, continually reaching the top and tumbling or being pulled back down.
There were no obvious trends to the year--or at least none that I thought were anything other than forced categorization--so I'll skip the ivory tower monologues about the further blurring of genres and get right to it. This is Whiskey Pie's Totally Inessential, Weeks-Too-Late-To-Be-Relevant List Of The Top 10 Albums of 2009.
10) Album by Girls: While I really hope they come up with a better title for their next album, Girls did put forth the effort for the music of Album. A summery California record that is subtly and sometimes not so subtly recalling 1960s California music, it also has some subtle and not so subtle appreciation for weed and lazy, hazy afternoons.
9) Wind's Poem by Mount Eerie: In my review of Wind's Poem, I described it as "like going for a walk on a late Fall night during a storm, the wind and rain alternately pummeling and gentle." It's too bad that so many reviews describe this as Phil Elvrum's black metal album, since nothing here is heavier than anything from The Glow, Pt. 2 from his Microphones band, but I digress. The album is dense and challenging, but those with patience and a good set of headphones will find much to love.
8) Bitte Orca by Dirty Projectors: It took me a long time to fully come around to Bitte Orca. It is such a unique, experimental take on pop music that I hardly knew what to make of it at first. Much like my initial experiences with Deerhoof and the Fiery Furnaces, I started by giggling at how seemingly random the song structures developed, at how arbitrarily sounds came at me. But with time, it is obviously deliberate and calculated, leading me to conclude that this band is either visionary and basically uncategorizable, or that they're willfully perverse songwriters who don't want to make it easy on the listener. Whatever the case, Bitte Orca is one of those fascinating, divisive listens that I think everyone should hear even if they will likely end up hating it.
7) Tarot Sport by Fuck Buttons: Assuming you ended up liking Street Horrrrsing by Fuck Buttons, your reaction may have been similar to mine: "huh, this is really interesting stuff, but I don't ever feel like listening to it." Tarot Sport, then, plays like a remix and reboot of Fuck Buttons, bringing in post-rock structures of loud/quiet/loud and melodic peaks and valleys while also adding the driving beats of electronic music. Since they took out all of the screams and just enough of the noisier textures, Tarot Sport ends up being a surprisingly compulsive listen for what is, still, a relatively experimental electronic album.
6) Embryonic by the Flaming Lips: While At War With The Mystics was far from a bad album, between its mostly forgettable orchestral space pop and the band's increasing emphasis on elaborate stage shows, everyone had all but forgotten the old Flaming Lips. Their earlier, noisier albums actually aren't the masterpieces that people make them out to be, so it was a relief to listen to Embryonic for the first time and see that they didn't revert to the 1980s so much as tear it up and start from scratch. Embryonic is a LOUD, demanding listen, but even as a double album it moves at a much brisker pace than their two previous releases. Also, any album that has Karen O. from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs making animal sounds rather than actually singing is OK in my book.