2009 IN REVIEW: Part One of Our Complete Guide to the Year’s Best Releases, Including Girls, Memory Tapes, The Flaming Lips and 17 More Must-Listens

Florence and the Machine
Florence and the Machine

[Photo by Ivan Jones]

Sorry to break it to you, blogosphere, but we just don’t believe in lists anymore. They’re just so arbitrary, and a couple mouse clicks away from being obsolete, you know?

That’s why we decided to give you a completely random rundown of our favorite ’09 releases–because it’s not as predictable or pointless as an argument over “who’s No. 1 this year, Dirty Projectors or Animal Collective?” Be sure to watch out for a second set of s/t-endorsed records before the clock strikes 12 on Thursday night.

The Artist/Album: 2562, Unbalance (Tectonic)

The Vibe: Tomorrow’s dubstep today.

RIYL: Intercepted space stations; traces of techno; feeling a bit wonky

The Artist/Album: A Place To Bury Strangers, Exploding Head (Mute)

The Vibe: New York’s ‘loudest band’ learns how to bark without losing their bite.

RIYL: Strobe lights; jet packs; hazy hooks

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The Artist/Album: Bat For Lashes, Two Suns (Astralwerks)

The Vibe: A reason to redefine “ethereal,” Merriam-Webster be damned.

RIYL: Kate Bush (with lasers!) at the Planetarium; unicorns; Björk, before she started dating Matthew Barney

Related Reading:

The Artist/Album: Bear In Heaven, Beast Rest Forth Mouth (Hometapes)

The Vibe: A 3-D album for the post-Avatar age.

RIYL: Genesis’ Peter Gabriel era; prog-rock suites; surround sound

Related Reading:

The Artist/Album: Cold Cave, Cremations (Hospital Productions)

The Vibe: The beginning of a beautifully-damaged relationship.

RIYL: Leather-bound poetry/philosophy books; rough sex; the real dark shit

Related Reading:

The Artist/Album: Desire, II (Italians Do It Better)

The Vibe: A moonlit, manic depressive foil to Glass Candy, the fulltime gig of producer/multi-instrumentalist Johnny Jewel.

RIYL: French Canadians with a story to tell; the dark side of the disco ball; driving until the sun comes up

The Artist/Album: The Flaming Lips, Embryonic (Warner Bros.)

The Vibe: Art-rock godfathers uncover secret acid stash, gobble every…last…tab right in front of Karen O and MGMT.

RIYL: Kraut-rock crib sheets; double LPs worth their weight in vinyl; Flaming Lips songs that don’t need distractions like fake blood and man-sized plastic bubbles

Related Reading:

The Artist/Album: Florence and the Machine, Lungs (Island)

The Vibe: Speaking of Kate Bush…

RIYL: Getting smacked by scorned women; Lilith Fair with a Lollapalooza ’94 mentality; the NME getting things right for once

Related Reading:

The Artist/Album: Girls, Album (True Panther/Matador)

The Vibe: Literal love-songs and hang-out anthems from the year’s most fascinating cult-reared songwriter.

RIYL: Parachuting your mom’s Wellbutrin; Soul Asylum’s “Runway Train”; the idea of Marc Bolan covering This Year’s Model


The Artist/Album: HEALTH, Get Color (Lovepump United)

The Vibe: Mind-crumbling aggression delivered with a destroy/build/destroy pathos.

RIYL: Trent Reznor’s co-sign; angst with balls; self-titled cover stories

Related Reading:

The Artist/Album: Hell, Teufelswerk (International Deejay Gigolo)

The Vibe: A day/night diptych saluting Germany’s kosmiche and techno legacies.

RIYL: Peter Kruder productions; gratuitous Diddy banter; actin’ slutty for party photographers

Related Reading:

The Artist/Album: The Juan Maclean, The Future Will Come (DFA)

The Vibe: New York’s finest dance label breeds its very own shiny-skinned Human League.

RIYL: Glow-stick necklaces; sweating through your jeans; the impeccable, propulsive kitwork of the late Jerry Fuchs

The Artist/Album: Kylesa, Static Tensions (Prosthetic)

The Vibe: Crust punks, metalheads and hipsters call a truce in the name of one killer album, then proceed to punch one another in the face because they simply can’t help it.

RIYL: Hydra-headed drummers; psychedelic sludge; metal that could only come from below the Mason-Dixon Line 

Related Reading:

The Artist/Album: Le Loup, Family (Hardly Art)

The Vibe: Animal Collective before dad started blasting Merriweather Pavilion in his Ford pickup.

RIYL: Hippies who leave the patchouli at home; weekend getaways; taking a hit of this

Related Reading:

The Artist/Album: Mastodon, Crack the Skye (Reprise)

The Vibe: Mainstream metal’s freakiest band learns how to sing, loses their mind down a bottomless rabbit hole.

RIYL: Rasputin references; maimed melodies; Jim Beam and Jameson

Relating Reading:

The Artist/Album: Memory Tapes, Seek Magic (Acephadale)

The Vibe: A reason to believe in all that ‘chillwave’ nonsense.

RIYL: Night lights; ecstatic sunshine; to move it, move it

The Artist/Album: Oneohtrix Point Never, Rifts (No Fun Productions)

The Vibe: A long day’s journey into night.

RIYL: Kubrick; pawn shop synths; flashbacks to your sixth grade science class

The Artist/Album: Passion Pit, Manners (Frenchkiss/Columbia)

The Vibe: Twee as fuck.

RIYL: Gossip Girl reruns; pajama parties; frontmen who insist on singing falsetto

The Artist/Album: Sunn O))), Monoliths & Dimensions (Southern Lord)

The Vibe: The first truly-listenable LP from those guys in the robes.

RIYL: Black hole suns; Merlot-pounding druids; watching ‘critics’ suddenly care about ‘drone-metal’

Related Reading:

The Artist/Album: Wild Beasts, Two Dancers (Domino)

The Vibe: ‘Art rock’ that’s so much more than that.

RIYL: Acquired tastes; threatening one’s masculinity; Rimbaud