A perfect example is Monsters of Folk. Monsters of Folk is a supergroup that should have been the highlight of 2009. Take three giants of modern rock and put them together and you would expect them to produce something earth-shaking. Sadly that wasn't the case. What you have are three dudes who are allegedly pretty talented on their own putting out an average album. Granted I'm only familiar with Conor Oberst's previous work, but I expected to walk away wanting to hear more by Jim James and M. Ward, and that wasn't the case at all.
I was also apprehensive, but excited when I heard the news of The Decemberists epic Hazards of Love. Even though it remains one of my favorites of the year, it still didn't live up to what it could have been.
There were a handful of great albums though. Here is my top ten, in no particular order. I tried to recommend a track for each album for those that want to explore the picks a bit more.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Fun, chanty, hippy bohemian music. I'll be shocked if you're not whistling and tapping your foot when it comes to an end. The best song on the album is Home. Go download it. Now.
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest When hearing Grizzly Bear's first single off this album, Two Weeks, you might think this track was left off the Breakfast Club soundtrack. While it doesn't necessarily live up to all the hype it's been getting, Veckatimest is definitely a great album.
Dead Man's Bones - Possibly my favorite album of the year. Actor Ryan Gosling and his friend Zach Shields join with a children's choir to create an dark and eerie album. The Dead Man's Bones debut looks like a Halloween album on paper, but you'll be listening to it year round. My favorite track is probably My Body's a Zombie for You.
Hockey - Mind Chaos - A friend passed this album to me and it was a few listens before I finally got it. I don't know exactly how to describe Hockey; probably as updated '80s rock. Check out Work.
The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love - I don't know if I would like this album as much as I do had we not seen the songs performed live. It can be a bit to take in. Read my review of the album from earlier this year. The highlight of the record is The Rake Song.
Dananananaykroyd - Hey Everyone - I'm not going to lie to you, part of the reason I love this band is their crazy name. Bizarre name or not, this band knows how to rock. Fun and poppy meets fast and heavy. You have got to hear Pink Sabbath.
Passion Pit - Manners - This is the follow-up to the bands successful EP. Sweet and poppy electronica. Perfect for driving on a sunny day with the windows rolled down. I recommend The Reeling.
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone - Case is my favorite female artist of 2009. At times this album is a bit soft, but her heartfelt lyrics will have you begging for more. The opening track, This Tornado Loves You, is my favorite on the album.
Andrew Bird - Noble Beast - This musical genius combines whistling and violin to make one of the most unique sounds in music today. We managed to catch him live and he is nothing short of a virtuoso. The best track on the album is Fitz and Dizzyspells.
K'naan - Troubadour - K'naan (pronounced kay-non) is a Somalian born rapper that came to America at a very young age. He rhymes are fresh and clever and he's beats are strong. I recommend Wavin' Flag.
Other honorable mentions include the releases from Kid Cudi, Avett Brothers, Girls, Raekwon, xx, NOFX, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, MC Chris Part 6 Parts 1-3, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Dead Weather, I Fight Dragons, Lonely Island, Matt & Kim, A Fine Frenzy and Felice Brothers.
Most overrated album of the year - Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. I love pop music. Critics give Phoenix points for being minimalists when the truth is they're just an average band.
The 'hide the razor blades while I listen to this' album of the year - The Antlers - Hospice. Lead singer Peter Silberman tells the story of watching a loved one slowly die in this dark and moody album. This dark and emotional album is quite a feat, but make sure it's a sunny day when you put it on.
The album I wish I loved as everyone else album of the year - Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion. I like Animal Collective, I really do. And I would never say that this album is not worthy of all the praise it gets. The truth is that it just doesn't do that much for me. And that bums me out, because I loved Animal Collective's last album, Strawberry Jam.
Most listened to track of the year according to iTunes play count: MC Chris - Neville - This year MC Chris released three EPs, Part 6 Parts 1-3. While each EP did include a new Star Wars bounty hunter track, following the tradition of Fett's Vette, Neville was the stand-out track of the year from my favorite 'nerdcore' rapper. Neville, is of course about Neville Longbottom of the Harry Potter books. In the story MC Chris explores the untold story of Neville and the success he finds as a drug dealer at Hogwarts.And since I've already been all whiny about this year's music, here are my top disappointments of the year in no particular order:
Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk
Wilco - Wilco (the album)
Volcano Choir - Unmap
Discovery - LP
Swell Season - Strict Joy
Weezer - Raditude
Cursive - Mamma I'm Swollen
Regina Spektor - Far
While there were a few good offerings, overall 2009 was a bummer. With releases from both Vampire Weekend and Los Campesinos! lined up in the next few months, things are already looking up in 2010.