Laura Shine’s Top Picks for Albums of 2009

2009 has been an incredible year of good music. It’s been an incredible year for me personally too. Because of that, the albums I have picked have all resonated with my heart quite a bit. This does not cancel out the fact that I have given them a serious critical listen from a technical standpoint as well. But sometimes I wonder the old chicken and egg question with these picks such as would I have liked these albums so much if I had been in a different place in my life right now? Who’s to say and really does it even matter? A song either strikes us or it doesn’t and everything is about timing anyway, I believe. So, with that in mind, here are my picks for 2009:

10. Mountain Meadows – Elliott Brood. Canadian rockers with rootsy, gutsy tunes. This was a surprise find and I love this album.

9.  Build Me This – Joshua James. From Nebraska, he has mega talent as a songwriter. The song “Coal War” is epic in scope and dynamics. The whole album is superb.

8.  Strict Joy – The Swell Season. Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova formed this duo after the making of the film Once. Glen also fronts the Irish band The Frames. He sings with so much passion and soul it really gets to my core. Plus it is an absolutely beautiful album.

7.  Everybody – Ingrid Michaelson. Ingrid is an artist of this place and time in our technical age. Discovered on MySpace, then having a hit song from an Old Navy commercial which propelled her into mainstream consciousness are examples of that. But she’s got staying power and has proven it with this Sophmore release. So many gems on this record esp. “Soldier”, “Everybody” and “Maybe”.

6.  Sunny Side Up – Paolo Nutini. Scottish/Italian is a good mix! This album is all over the map in terms of genres and sounds and textures with a bit of ska, reggae, big band, traditional swing to good old folk, he covers it all superbly. Stand out track is “Candy” but they are all good!

5.  Give Up The Ghost – Brandi Carlile. 3rd album from this Washington State cowgirl who sings with such passion and has pipes of gold in her throat. What a voice! Check her out live when she plays the Brown Theatre on Jan. 22, 2010. I got to see her a year ago with the Louisville Orchestra and was completely won over by her enormous talent. Favorite tracks are “Looking Out” and “Pride and Joy”.

4.  Noble Beast – Andrew Bird. Brilliant, genius, beautiful, sensuous are the words that come to mind when I hear this haunting album by this virtual one man band.

3.  IandLoveandYou – The Avett Brothers. From tender ballads to raucous rockers, the Avetts put their whole essence into this brilliant record produced by Rick Rubin. However, I heard someone on NPR say that Rick is not a producer but rather a reducer: he reduces production so that we get the rawest version of talent an artist has to offer. That is the case on this gorgeous record from this North Carolina band of brothers and friends. I love every single song on this album but esp. “Laundry Room”, “Ill With Want” and “January Wedding”.

2.  Kenter Canyon – Joey Ryan. Another great find this year was L.A. singer/songwriter Joey Ryan. He has only this EP of a few songs but each one is fantastic. He started out as a neuroscience major but then decided to pursue his passion for music, thank God. “Broken Headlights” with Sara Bareilles is a must have on your ipod but so are the other songs on this EP due out Jan. 19th.

1.  Dear Lover – Matthew Ryan. Hands down, my favorite album of the year! I have always liked Matthew’s songwriting and soulful, gravelly vocals but I’m in LOVE with this record. It’s deep, dark, meaningful, heartwrenchingly beautiful, brilliant and gorgeous. It has been a very long time since I have spent so much time listening to one record over and over again like this one. Matthew was also my favorite interview of the year and you can listen to our conversation anytime on our podcast page from “In The 91.9 Studio”.  To be honest, I had barely listened to the album before we had that interview. Even after that I still didn’t expect to fall in love with the record like I did. The album is due out this January of 2010 but is available digitally at Matthew’s website. Favorite songs are “Your Musuem” and “Spark”. I highly recommend this album to anyone who has ever been in a relationship and likes gorgeous music. Wouldn’t that be most of you? Happy New Year and Happy Listening!  Laura Shine

Marion’s Top Ten For 2009

1. The Clientele: Bonfires On The Heath.  Melodic, intimate & lovely. Favorite track is “I Wonder Who We Are”, but it’s all good.clientele-bonfires-on-heath 2

2. Bell X1: Blue Lights On The Runway.  With songs like “The Great Defector” & the awesome “How Your Heart Is Wired”, this one just missed being my favorite CD of the year.

3. Silversun Pickups: Swoon.  “Panic Switch” and “There’s No Secrets This Year” are just two of the highlights off this CD.

4. Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.  The stand out track for me is “Fences” but “1901” also rocks all over the place.

5. Fastball: Little White Lies.  A nice come back CD from these guys.  “Mono To Stereo” really won me over.

6. Great Lake Swimmers: Lost Channels.  I have a crush on the song “Pulling On A Line”, but again, it’s all good.

7. Company Of Thieves: Ordinary Riches. Lead by vocalist Genevieve Schatz, the song “Oscar Wilde” is but one of many stand out cuts from this new band with a bright future.

8. Gomez: A New Tide.  “Airstream Driver” and  “Little Pieces” are but two highlights from this prolific band’s latest work.

9. Various Artists: Daptone Gold.  If The Budos Band’s “Up From The South” don’t get yer junk in the truck movin’, you might need to get your trunk fixed.

10. Harper Simon: Harper Simon.  “Berkley Girl” makes me want to cry, it’s so beautiful.  ‘Nuff said.

Kyle’s Top Ten for 2009

Kyle’s top ten albums of 2009.

The Decemberists – Hazards of Love

I was a big fan of the last couple releases from The Decemberists, but I’ll be the first to admit that my first round through Hazards of Love left me with a feeling of weight.  It was dense, confusing, and while there were obvious moments of brilliance, I just couldn’t penetrate the wall of pretension.   That all changed with two events: first was my grabbing a copy on vinyl.  Separating the entire opera into individual parts opened the entire story up and let the songs, and themes, shine and offered each song in a more personal light.  The second was finally seeing the full deal go down on stage.  Not only does this land as my top album of 2009, but seeing The Decemberists run through a non-stop performance at the Palace Theatre will live as my top concert moment of the year.  Simply amazing from start to finish, and hearing (and seeing) The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid is still a jaw-dropper eight months after its debut.

Pearl Jam – Backspacer

If you’ve been playing along, it’s no secret of my fandom for all things Pearl Jam.  Along with having multiple hundreds of CD’s, tapes, and records, i’ve spent many a buck following them around.  All that to say that the last few years haven’t made it extremely easy to stay passionate.  The last couple records had fine moments, but paled in comparison to the five records of the 90’s, or even the three-quarters-great Binaural.   This all changed when they returned to producer Brendan O’Brian, who produced Vs., Vitalogy, No Code, and Yield.  The results were some of the best music the Seattle quintet have made in quite a long time.  Not only were the songs concise and punchy, but it felt urgent!  Urgency that you’d be hard pressed to find in most young bands.  And along with the fire, Ed Vedder also pulled out two amazingly beautiful acoustic tracks (Just Breathe and The End) that only elevated the work he had done with the Into The Wild soundtrack.

Fun – Aim & Ignite

Sometime around March, Sean Cannon from Buzzgrinder.com passed along the song “At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used To be)” and I was pretty sure that I had just heard the Second Coming.  It was grand, it had movements, and it was unabashedly POP!  And it was all packed into four minutes.  I believe James Bickers said it best when he asked “how dare they?”  In this day and age of popular music, bands don’t usually take chances like Fun has done with the album Aim & Ignite.  Dive into songs like “Be Calm” or “Benson Hedges” or “All the Pretty Girls” and what you’ll find is the best pop record of 2009.

Oceanship – Oceanship

The guy and gal Canadian duo that make up Oceanship had contacted me early in the year about helping them out in getting some recognition nationally.  I looked over the homemade packaging and didn’t put much faith into the whole thing, I mean, not much more than I would anyone else I’d never heard of.  But one of the most instantly striking things was how the tracks blended together in arcs and valleys to make up a beautiful concept record.  Accompanying was a video for the song Hotblack that featured a great wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing theme done through animation.  Most overlooked this one, and it’s a real shame.  Go treat yourself.

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

“1901” will go down as THE song of 2009, as already evident in most year-end lists and publications, and I would agree 100%.  The first three songs on this album (the band’s fourth) are three of the most perfectly retro-fitted songs crafted this decade (a decade that love to retro-fit).  Unfortunately, they were so good that they overshadowed the rest of the disc until I finally made myself dive deeper.  And while the other songs may not have been as instant, they all had layers that were an adventure to pull away.  Also, its worth noting that this was probably the most remixed album of the year, which eventually led the French band to release an official remix disc.

Handsome Furs – Face Control

I’ll always associate this album with the South By SouthWest festival.  I had been drooling over it for the weeks leading up to the 2009 outing and waited anxiously in line to see them play it live in the 100 degree heat under a small white tent in the middle of Austin, TX.  It sounds cliche to say, but it really was mind blowing.  The song “I’m Confused” reminded me a lot of Split Endz “I See Red” in all of the right ways, and in a decade that loved to praise the 80’s, it seemed fitting to have an anthem like “All We Want Baby Is Everything”.  Go past the indie sound and electronic lo-fi and you also get a great concept record about modern day Russia, inspired by the band’s travels there and the influence that country had on the duo.

St. Vincent – Actor

If I could give an innovation award, it would go here.  I slept on this record for the first half of the year, not seeing past the assumed novelty of the Disney-like sounds that came from the single “The Stranger”, but after seeing her play it live at Bonnaroo, and later at Austin City Limits, I saw there were many more things going on than what’s obvious.  You definitely can’t put this on as background music, but that’s the great thing about it.  It’ll demand your attention and pull you back to the first time you heard someone like PJ Harvey, late on a Sunday night when Matt Pinfield used to show you all of the coolest music videos.  In fact, you’ll understand what I mean if you go watch the live video of the song “Marrow”.

U2 – No Line On The Horizon

Life is really fun when there is a new U2 album.  There is ton’s of hoopla, hyperbole, comments and criticisms.  I’m a rare breed in the U2 community, in that I really like the album Pop, but I also realize that it was under-cooked.  No Line felt like the band put it back in the oven for a while and casseroled it with the sound of the Atomic Bomb disc.  This is the Unforgettable Fire of their third decade, and while it may not have included something as soaring and universal as “Pride”, it is an album that’s just as thought out, interesting, heart-pulling, and timeless.  Try it again, it’s already aged well.

The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You


I had really been looking forward to this one, but was a relatively newcomer to the band, having jumped on the wagon after hearing the song “Shame”.  Given that they were working with Rick Rubin, the stakes were only heightened.  Of course, there were fans who grumbled about the major label move, and were rewarded with the lyric, “They say, ‘don’t take your business to the big time.’ I bought us tickets there,” from the uptempo “Slight Figure of Speech”.  They were quickly forgiven when the world heard a wonderment of ballads and rockers.  Songs like “Laundry Room,” “Kick Drum Heart,” “January Wedding,” and “Tin Man” are all reasons why this rarely left the turn table.

As Tall As Lions – You Can’t Take It With You

“Its better to die on your feet than live down on your knees.”  That may be a Zapata quote, but here it’s executed by a reincarnated Jeff Buckly (Dan Nigro) fronted by a rock band in the song “In Case of Rapture”.  Reportedly, the band had one of those crisis moments while writing and recording You Can’t Take It With You, and like other similar times in art history, we all benefited from it.  While they were almost breaking up, a masterpiece fell onto tape.  And there really are moments where you could swear you were hearing long, lost Jeff Buckly, especially in songs like Duermete.  I’m excited to see the next steps from this act, but hopefully it doesn’t end in the despair they began with.

Duke’s Top 10 of ’09

Hope the Holidays are treating you well…here are my top 10 in no certain order…

1. Andrew Bird/Fitz and Dizzy Spells…from the first time I heard this last January it had me hooked.

2. The Iguanas/If You Should Ever Fall On Hard Times…this cd just feels good to me…I really have to stop myself for reaching for it when I’m looking for something to play.

3.  Neko Case/Middle Cyclone…it’s Neko…big crush on her voice.

4.  Gomez/A New Tide…at first listen had 5 of 11 cuts marked as a favorite…

5.  Dead Weather/Horehound…Alison, Jack and the crew had me wanting more from the first time I heard the opening single…Hang You From The Heavens…makes an old guy feel like I have an attitude…

6.  Levon Helm/When I Go Away…before I knew it I was constantly reaching for this cd for B-Sides.

7. Fun/Aim And Ignite…this cd was fun (pun intended) for me…another B-Side gold mine…

8. Lucero/1372 Overton Park…Ben Nichols’ voice is just amazing to my ears…another cd I have to keep myself from playing over and over…

9. Avett Brothers/I & Love & You…to steal a line from the movie…”White Men Can’t Jump”…they were talking about Jimi Hendrix but it works…Before I listened to the Avett Brothers…this cd aloud me to hear The Avett Brothers…

10. Imogen Heap/Ellipse…when I hear her voice I have to listen…

10 1/2. Monsters of Folk/Monsters Of Folk…this combination of talent and energy really resonates with me and I’ve got my ears crossed for another record…

Honorable mentions…

  1. Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
  2. Bell X1/Blue Lights On the Runway
  3. Bob Dylan/Beyond Here Lies Nothing
  4. Fleet Foxes/Mykonos
  5. Yeasayer/Oddblood
  6. Thao/Know Better Learn Fast

Thanks for reading this and for listening to WFPK…Have a great 2010…Duke

James Bickers’ Top Ten of 2009

Two albums are tied for the top spot in my heart this year, one from back in February, one from just a few months ago.

First, there’s the remarkable “Aim & Ignite” by Fun, which is just unprecedented, IMO. They’ve packed more musical ideas into the first song than many bands come up with for an entire album – and each time you think you’ve heard the most amazing hook, here comes another one.

My other #1 this year was an under-the-radar release by Benjy Ferree called “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Bobby Dee, Bobby Dee.” It’s inspired by the godawful tragic story of Disney actor Bobby Driscoll, but the songwriting here is incredible in a manner similar to Fun – there are truly unexpected melodies in abundance, and one great new idea after another. “Fear,” for instance, reimagines doo-wop through some nightmarish, otherworldly filter. (No videos available, but here’s the audio of the song in question.)

Here’s the rest of my list, in no particular order:

David Gray – Draw the Line

Imogen Heap – Ellipse

Joe Henry – Blood From Stars

The Big Pink – A Brief History of Love

Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career

Roman Candle – Oh Tall Tree in the Ear

Paolo Nutini – Sunny Side Up

Stacy Owen’s Top Ten of 2009

AvettsAs Program Director of WFPK I spend A LOT of time listening to new music, and let me tell you, this was a stellar year.  It makes it hard to choose, but here are the ones I found myself spending the most time with in my off hours.

1. Avett Brothers – I and Love and You (American)
Producer Rick Ruben took the boys to the next level with this album of touching lyrics, beautiful melodies and arrangements with some playfulness thrown in for good measure!
2. The Features – Some Kind of Salvation (429 Records)
All killer, no filler!  King’s of Leon signed them to their label imprint, 429 Records.  Now they’re no longer Nashville’s “best kept secret”.
3. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti-)
With nature as inspiration, she of the flaming hair and remarkable voice knocks it out of the park once again.
4. Silversun Pickups – Swoon (Dangerbird)
The swirling sounds, the overdubbed harmonies and fuzzy guitars…this band’s wall of sound really excites me!
5. Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk (Shangri-la)
I still remember that first listen and my surprise at the excellence of every song on this album.  This all star project is cohesive yet still reflects the personality of each member.
6. Paolo Nutini – Sunny Side Up (Atlantic)
Our little Paolo is all grown up!  His second release is filled with eclectic, soulful songwriting…and that voice makes me melt!
7. Sam Roberts – Love at the End of the World (Rounder)
Rounder released the latest from this straight-forward Canadian rocker early in 09 and he quickly rose to the top of my Waterfront Wednesday wish list.
8. Cage the Elephant – Cage the Elephant (Jive)
Didn’t really pay close attention to this Bowling Green band till my daughter became a fan.  After numerous listens in the car and a great set at Forecastle, must admit its indie/pop/rock at it’s finest.
9. Wussy – Wussy (Shake It)
I’m a long time fan of Chuck Cleaver of the Ass Ponys.  He’s found his songwriting soul mate in Lisa Walker.  Just love ’em together!
10. Passion Pit – Manners (Columbia)
This one took a little while to grow on me, but wow, can’t get these songs out of my head.  They’re danceable, yet deep.