2009 is a surprisingly thin year for me. The following albums completely deserve their Top 5 rankings on objective merits. But as I was putting the list together, I came to the realization that I didn’t actually own that many albums from this year, kicking off a three year dry spell (2009-2011) in terms of my new music listening. Strange. If I had to choose a single album I haven’t heard from 2009 that I’d like to, though, it would be Mumford & Sons’ Sigh No More, followed by Noah & the Whale’s The First Days of Spring.
5.RELEASE (Sister Hazel)
On Release you’ve got the propulsive Southern Rock (“Run for the Hills”), waltzing rock ballads (“Better Way”), and singalong choruses (“I Believe in You”) that have characterized every Sister Hazel release since… well, ever. But you don’t come to Sister Hazel looking to be surprised, or even to be blown away by their startlingly original songcraft. You come to Sister Hazel looking for them to put a smile on your face. And Release does that for sure.
4. WORKING ON A DREAM (Bruce Springsteen)
Working on a Dream plays like a companion piece to 2007’s Magic. No overarching theme here, no big statement to be made, just a lot of excellent songs that run the gamut of what Bruce is capable of: upbeat rock (“Surprise, Surprise”), winding Dylan-esque narratives (“Outlaw Pete”), intimate folk songs (“The Wrestler”), classic Phil Spector pop (“Queen of the Supermarket”), even a Brian Wilson homage (“This Life”). It’s not as ambitious as we’ve come to expect from the Boss, but hey, he’s the Boss. It’s all good.
3. THE RESISTANCE (Muse)
In an alternate reality, Freddie Mercury and Thom Yorke got together to write a futuristic rock opera based on the works of Frederic Chopin and hired Jeff Lynne to write the string arrangements. If, by some quirk of Einsteinian physics, that dream project had filtered through to our universe, it would’ve been all but indistinguishable from The Resistance. I mean, just listen to “United States of Eurasia.” Just listen to it.
2. AIM & IGNITE (fun.)
Before they somehow landed the third best-selling song of 2012 with the world-conquering, fist-pumping, arena-filling “We Are Young,” fun. were making decidedly less commercial music. Ornate chamber pop gems like “The Gambler” and “I Wanna Be the Wand” almost sound like a different band, albeit one every bit as deeply influenced by Queen; “Be Calm” and “Take Your Time” are better indicators of the band’s subsequent direction. Don’t be fooled though: Aim & Ignite is still loads of… well, you know.
1. GOD HELP THE GIRL (God Help the Girl)
You wouldn’t guess it from the breezy chamber pop and girl group sounds that dominate the album, but God Help the Girl actually comes closer to being a rock opera than The Resistance does, what with its coherent narrative, multiple characters (portrayed by different vocalists no less), and even an eponymous indie musical filmization. Whatever you call it though, Stuart Murdoch’s tale of a young woman named Eve (given voice by the magnificent Catherine Ireton), and her struggles with identity and depression, might be the most affecting thing he’s ever written. And if you know how Belle & Sebastian affects me, you know that’s saying a lot.
- CD Review: fun., “Aim & Ignite” (kenshane.wordpress.com)
- God Help the Girl (theindiehandbook.wordpress.com)
- Muse’s The Resistance: Reviewed by Me (http://bokunosekai.wordpress.com_
- Album Review: Bruce Springsteen – Working on a Dream (www.consequenceofsound.net)
- God Help the Girl (ginforjuniper.wordpress.com)
- Interview: Sister Hazel (mix941fm.cbslocal.com)