A Year in Review – RRR Staff Weigh In On Their Top Picks of ’09 – Part 1

grammyThe end of the year usually means three things: resolutions, new challenges and opportunities and, of course, lists! Flipping through a music magazine (whether online or in print) at this time of year and not finding a list of the Top 5 This and Top 10 That is pretty much impossible.

So, we here at RRR decided to jump on the bandwagon (after all, we like to give the people what they want!) and bring you the best of the best from the music of ’09, with a twist. Rather than asking staff to fight it out and put together one sole comprehensive list, we decided we’d let everyone sift through the gems (as well as all those painful albums that made you cringe and think “What in the world were they on?”) and put together their own individual Tops.

But before we begin I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year (even though I’m a bit late) and thank you all for making RRR a regular part of your musical intake. (Please don’t leave us in 2010, we love you!)

In Part 1 you’ll find:
1) Top 10 Albums – Stefany Mohebban
2) Top 10 Albums – Bill Sullivan
3) Top 10 Albums (Rock & Metal) – Jon Asher
4) Top 20 Albums (Power Pop) – Aaron Kupferberg

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Top 10 Albums – Stefany Mohebban

10. Japandroids: Post Nothing
Don’t be fooled by the kitschy name, this duo has successfully created a sound that is alternative, punk and very much their own. They’re one of the most refreshing bands to have emerged in the last five years.

9. Sufjan Stevens: The BQE
I’m simply blown away by the juxtaposition of such ethereal music and the thought of the Brooklyn/Queens expressway.  Oh yeah, and the boy can sing.

8. Sonic Youth: The Eternal
With a song titled Anti-Orgasm, how could I have left this out of my list? And it’s the perfect album for a road trip.

7. The Mars Volta: Octahedron
Once again, The Mars Volta have managed to put out an album with a sound that is so unique to them, I’ve never heard it duplicated anywhere else. They aren’t afraid to do their thing and it really comes through on this latest release.

6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It’s Blitz!
This list needed a little dance, and a little fun, and who better than these guys to provide us with that glorious ‘80s energy we all have a soft spot for in our hearts?

5. Dinosaur Jr.: Farm
It’s nice to hear that a band is still making alternative rock music with no pretension and no fluff. These guys have been recording since the ’80s and have not lost their talent to provide good gritty rock.

4. Alice in Chains: Black Gives Way to Blue
Never thought you’d hear from these boys again, did ya? But Jerry Cantrell, the backbone of the original band, has put out an excellent album that retains the spirit of the infamous grunge band, with a fresher, cleaner feeling. Oh yeah, and don’t expect lyrics about heroin withdrawals.

3. Built to Spill: There is no Enemy
Finally! A little pep in these boys’ steps makes their latest album still feel just as indie rock as ever, but with an added layer that had been missing in their last couple of albums.

2. Mastodon: Crack the Skye
They make metal sound oh-so-beautiful with this concept album about Rasputin and alternate universes, written after the death of the drummer’s sister.

1. Them Crooked Vultures: Them Crooked Vultures
A refreshing mix of true rock and roll, funk and groove. If anyone can do it, it’s these brilliant men.

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Top 10 Albums  – Bill Sullivan

I’ve never been all that great at prioritizing things so this list of the ten records (excluding EPs and compilations) that I found myself going back to again and again in ’09 did not come naturally. To make things slightly easier, the albums have been categorized by simple and non-judgmental alphabetical order!
* Click on an album title for a full-length review *

- Lisa Bianco: Post-Data
Bianco is a budding NYC musician who sounds a lot like Nina Gordon (Veruca Salt). Post-Data is a solid collection of charming pop-rock numbers that sink in more and more with every listen.

- Bleu: A Watched Pot
Bleu’s lost “third album” is the charm for me. Some argued it was too slow, but the melodies are just gorgeous and his vocals better than ever.

- The Elms: The Great American Midrange
The Elms make a triumphant return with this one, restoring my confidence that they are one of the most underrated melodic rock bands in America’s heartland.

- Bobby Emmett: Learning Love
A retro power pop dream come true with plenty of ’70s timbre imbuing these tasty pop confections.

- July for Kings: Monochrome
Another grossly underrated rock band that got lost in the mix of major label irresponsibility. After a long break they’re back with a vengeance and an endless assortment of melodies. JFK sounds like Brian Vander Ark (Verve Pipe) fronting an edgier Matchbox Twenty.

- Andy Lehman and The Night Moves: Lowcountry
The unique voice will grab you first, then the intriguing chord progressions, and then the story will hit you. Lowcountry is an intelligent concept album depicting a lover’s triangle gone wrong, but each song stands on its own as a beautifully crafted pop rocker.

- Lloyd Dobler Effect: Lloyd Dobler Effect
This self-titled record is an exceptionally strong set of songs from a band which mixes rock muscle with heartfelt vocals. Not to mention they’ve got one of the coolest band names around!

- Starcode: A Fine Line
A band of brothers, Starcode is kind of like The Rembrandts, but with a kick. Not a bad tune in the bunch.

- Strangefinger: Into the Blue
Another outstanding power pop record released this year by SideBMusic. Fans longing for a Jellyfish reunion can bide their time with this gem from Freddie Lemke a.k.a. Strangefinger.

- Scott Warren: Quick Fix Bandage
A solo release from the Signal Hill Transmission member, Quick Fix Bandage is indeed perfect for healing and/or meditation. All of the tracks are generally mellow and boast an organic sound, which channels the best of Rhett Miller and Matt Nathanson.

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Top 10 Albums (Rock & Metal) – Jon Asher

10. We Came As Romans: To Plant A Seed
9. The In & Outs: Ascending Back and Forth
8. Hatebreed: Hatebreed
7. We The Undersigned: Bleed The Constant
6. The Human Abstract: Midheaven (Ok, so it’s not exactly from ’09 … )
5. Funk Vigilante: Civil Disobedience
4. Emery Street: No Regrets, No Apologies
3. Mastodon: Crack The Skye
2. Baroness: Blue Record
1. Crippled Black Phoenix: 200 Tons of Bad Luck

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Top 20 Albums (Power Pop) – Aaron Kupferberg
* Click on an album title to read the full review *

- Roger Joseph Manning Jr.: Catnip Dynamite
- Roger Klug: More Help For Your Nerves
- Lamar Holley: Confessions of a College Student
- Michael Carpenter: Redemption #39
- The Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder: Makes Your Ears Smile
- The Webstirs: So Long
- Jeff Litman: Postscript
- Curtains For You: What A Lovely Surprise To Wake Up Here
- L’Avventura: Your Star Was Shining
- The Simple Carnival: Girls Aliens Food
- The Shazam: Meteor
- Dennis Diken with Bell Sound: Late Music
- Jeff Larson: Heart Of The Valley
- Bleu: A Watched Pot
- The Secret Powers and The Electric Family Choir: Self-titled
- Chris Richards and The Subtractions: Sad Sounds of Summer
- Thowback Suburbia: Self-titled
- The Wigs: File Under: Pop Vocal
- Valley Lodge: Semester at Sea
- The Resonars: That Evil Drone

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* Get set for Part 2 on Wednesday, January 13th *

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