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Monday, December 14, 2009


ModFabulous: The Best CDs of 2009

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix album cover

Some friends and I are obsessing over end-of-year lists (and end-of-decade lists!) over on Facebook, so I've started contributing a few. Here are my 20 top albums of 2009...wait, do we even call them albums anymore?

Honorable Mentions, in alphabetical order:
Ray Guns Are Not The Future, The Bird and the Bee; Walking On A Dream, Empire of the Sun; Lungs, Florence + The Machine; Original Soundtrack, Glee (1 and 2); Ellipse, Imogen Heap; Just Like You, Allison Ireheta; Hurricane, Grace Jones; Live in New York, Kylie Minogue; Manners, Passion Pit; Reality Killed The Video Star, Robbie Williams

11. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, Phoenix
The French alternative darlings aren't a natural fit for my iPod, which leans toward dance music. But their sharp-as-a-tack precision and lyrical whimsy won me over...as did their intellect, which has become an increasingly rare commodity on the American pop charts.

10. Pop Noir, Black Room
I'm not sure anyone in America knows this album exists, aside from a few wildly enthusiastic bloggers...in fact, it's only available digitally in this country (on iTunes). But the Norweigan combo formerly named Lorraine put together one of the savviest electronic rock records of the year. They are The Killers for a new, savvier generation.

9. The Crying Light, Antony and the Johnsons
What can't Antony Hegarty do? A minor masterpiece, in a career strewn with them.

8. Heartbreak on Vinyl, Blake Lewis
No CD surprised me more this year than the sophomore disc from the American Idol season 6 runner-up. Now based on Tommy Boy Records (a more suitable and supportive home for dance artists), he's let loose with songs that as are smart as they are catchy.

7. Youth, Kissy Sell Out
I get dizzy listening to the layers in Kissy Sell Out's debut album. Especially about halfway through, when it decides to forego lyrics entirely and reaches mightily for the stars. It very nearly touches them.

6. Music For Men, Gossip
The most criminally underrated record of 2009, Beth Ditto and Company have emerged as superb practitioners of the craft...and under the tutelage of Rick Rubin (who produced), they've blended punk and pop like no one else since Nirvana. 25 years from now, we'll still be talking about this record.

5. Let's Change The World With Music, Prefab Sprout
All hail the return of Paddy McAloon, the reclusive 90's pop genius who dusted off a 15-year-old shelved concept album about faith...and ended up with one of the freshest-sounding records of the year. Exquisite.

4. Yes, Pet Shop Boys
After 2007's dirge-like Fundamental, the Boys needed a little juice. They got it courtesy of megaproducers Xenomania, who imbued the sophisticated elegance PSB is known for with glitz and glamour. It also had one of the best singles of the year (and no, I'm not talking about "Love Etc.").

3. Bohemians Won The Series and the Little Guy Joined The Band, Napoleon
Hands down, the year's most enjoyable recording and its most satisfying debut. Everything about the cheeky, soulful Norway combo reeks of pleasure.

2. The E.N.D., Black Eyed Peas
If Elephunk heralded Will.I.Am as a major new force in pop, the global domination of The E.N.D. has made him the genre's reigning monarch. The best part? Unlike other sub-par dance acts this year, The E.N.D. more than lives up to its hype. Three #1 singles that dominated 2009, and at least a half-dozen more possible follow-ups waiting on the bench for 2010.

1. It’s Not Me, It’s You, Lily Allen
The first time I heard this record, the year was over for me. Witty, savage, peculiar and magnificent, it's a record that captured the damaged spirit of 2009 like no other. "The Fear" is a brilliant chunk of socio-political song, and its lyrics should be taught in economics classes. But "Fuck You," "Not Fair" and the other delights blossoming on this record are equally as marvelous.

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