(Again, read the badly spellchecked full text below for clarifications of bad sound quality and my mush mouth)
5) I'm Going Away by the Fiery Furnaces: The 2009 releases from Wilco and Yo La Tengo left me feeling pretty meh, so even bands that are normally reliable helped contribute to the general weakness of the year. That said, I ended up loving I'm Going Away by the Fiery Furnaces more than I thought I would. Since this is a release that strips away almost all of the song structure experiments and crazy instrumental workouts of the band's sound, I was initially underwhelmed by the album. But the Furnaces always had the songwriting and melodic hooks beating at the heart of their music, and by focusing on that aspect--and a live-in-the-studio production style--they ended up making one of their best albums. The Friedberger siblings recently issued the digital-only Take Me Round Again, which sees them re-making the songs from this album on their own. In the process they ended up emphasizing that, hey, these are great songs no matter what their form.
4) Beacons Of Ancestorship by Tortoise: "Fun" is not a word I associate with post-rock even if it's obvious the dudes in Mogwai, at least, have a sense of humor. But Tortoise have always given off an intellectual air of clinical studio perfectionism that brings to mind Steely Dan. Yet Beacons Of Ancestorship is the clearest example I heard all year of a band very obviously just trying to have fun with music. Because of this, Beacons may lack the cohesiveness or flow of other Tortoise albums, but it's by far the most fun to listen to and sports a variety of sounds. Call it their "much needed shot in the arm" release if you must, but I never thought I'd be so excited about a Tortoise album after 2005's sleepy, workmanlike It's All Around You.
3) Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear: Yes, I'm not entirely sure how it's pronounced either, but I feel like that was the point. Much like with Dirty Projectors, you have to come up with multi-syllabic phrases to categorize the music of Veckatimest. Indie rock folk pop chamber vocal music? Whatever, the point is, this is an amazing album with a timeless quality to it, bursting with ideas and melodies that never sound obvious or cliche.
2) Merriweather post pavillion by animal collective: Merriweather post pavilion was the best reason to start 2009 just as their recent Fall Be Kind EP is the best reason to let it end. As such, Animal collective felt like they owned the entire year, setting the bar high early for other albums to match and then closing it out in style with a great EP. Every fan seems to have their personal "dude, this is totally the best" Animal Collective album--even if it happens to be Panda Bear's solo release, Person Pitch--yet everyone seems to at least agree that Merriweather is brilliant and rivals their own personal pick. I'm a Sung Tongs man yet there are times while listening to Merriweather when I begin to question my loyalty. It's that good. On a final note, those people who complain that the best songs are at either end of the album--'My Girls' and 'Brothersport'--are neglecting 'Daily Routine' and 'Lion In A Coma', not to mention....well, hell, the whole album is great, so shut up already.
1) Dragonslayer by Sunset Rubdown: Around June of this year, it seemed obvious to me that either Animal Collective or Grizzly bear were going to take this top spot. But then--confession time--I downloaded a torrent of Dragonslayer, and within a couple days I bought every Sunset Rubdown release I could get my hands on. Spencer Krug has always been my favorite member of Wolf Parade, but his contributions to this year's Swan Lake album were sub-par. Furthermore, in retrospect I overrated At Mount zoomer even if I still like it. But I digress. Dragonslayer catapulted Krug to being among my favorite artists. The opening and closing tracks of the album are perfect mood pieces with vibrant imagery, while all the songs are intricate mini-suites that have two or more different pieces that fit internally together, and with the rest of the album as a whole. Furthermore, the subtle or overt nods to Sunset Rubdown's previous album, Random Spirit Lover, are clever and fascinating attempts at further tying together Krug's already inter-connected body of work. I actually had to take Dragonslayer off my iPod because for a long time it was all I wanted to hear. It is a joy to listen to, an album full of interesting ideas and brilliant songs within songs that I never seem to get tired of. In a year with a highly contested top spot, Sunset Rubdown managed to become my obvious and only choice.