Throughout the month of December we’ll be posting lists of the best music of the year as determined by the volunteers that make CHIRP what it is. Today’s is from CHIRP DJ, Austin Harvey.
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
A classic example of an album that seems to touch all the bases without trying too hard. Phoenix manage to marry catchy choruses with an inherent dancefloor sensibility, tying the whole thing together with an unmistakably French cool.
Fanfarlo – Reservoir (Atantic)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Picture this: Arcade Fire fronted by a Swedish David Byrne, in London, without electric guitars. Sounds like a noble experiment if anything else, right? Kitchen sink instrumentation and irresistible melodies all come effortlessly on an album that can’t possibly be a debut.
The Antlers – Hospice (French Kiss)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
If 2009 was a complete bummer of a year for you (as it was for me), then maybe a heartbreaking album detailing the protagonist’s struggle – watching a lover die in a cancer ward – brought a little bit of release into our seemingly bleak existence. At once hauntingly intimate and stunningly epic.
Pisces – A Lovely Sight (Numero Group)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
A frequent member of my cohorts’ top 10 lsits, this rediscovered local nugget from the 1960’s serves as a fitting companion to the rest of the decade’s lost gems. Come for the psychedelic freakouts, but stay for “Are You Changing In Your Time”, and “A Flower For All Seasons”, two of the finest ballads from any decade.
Montee – Isle of Now (Strømland)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Combining the danceable bliss of Duran Duran’s Rio with the polyrhythms and musical deftness of Talking Heads’ Remain In Light. This might be the best new wave album made in 25 years, and it’s from a bunch of harmonizing Norwegians who care little for anachronism. Self-assured, yet precocious.
Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (Domino)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
“Cannibal Resource” was my summer jam, especially that part in the opening guitar riff where the Moogerfooger effect takes over. “BITTEORCA / ORCABITTE” was my scream-along lyric of 2009. it was a weird year. pop at its most disjointed and unhinged. lovely.
A Sunny Day In Glasgow – Ashes Grammar (Mis Ojos Discos)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
A shoegaze album worth getting excited about? From Philly? Yes. They do it with dream-pop interludes between the longer tracks, and heaps of sonic depth. An added bonus: this album also knows how to dance, check out “Close Chorus”.
Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue (Warp)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Wikipedia’s genre classifications for this album are “Ambient music” and “Jangle Pop”. You could throw in “Alternative Hip-Hop” and “Folk” into the recipe for this incredibly singular and exciting album from Stephen Wilkinson. The VGM-inspired “Sugarette” jumps to the gorgeous folk of “Lovers’ Carvings” without a chance to catch your breath.
Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career (4ad)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Tracyanne Campbell sounds more assured with each record, and with good reason. Her band is peaking on this collection of chamber pop tunes with plenty of blue-eyed soul influence, perhaps even a bit of country. The upbeat songs, though, steal the show with a time-honored mix of heartbroken lyrics and euphoric instrumentation.
The Big Pink – A Brief History of Love (4ad)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Though I’m not the biggest fan of Robbie Furze’s vocal style, I can’t argue with the gigantic hooks on this album. They don’t sound much like The Band, but I hear Screamadelica-era Primal Scream fed through electroclash’s brattiness, or a more hard-rocking version of Cut Copy. Whatever the description, the results are lush and highly rewarding.
Reissue of the Year: The Vaselines – Enter the Vaselines (Sub Pop)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I will admit that I missed the boat on these guys when I was first getting into Nirvana back in middle school. I’ll turn in my indie-rock cool-kid card and write “‘Son Of A Gun’ might be the best song ever written” 50 times on the chalkboard. This is truly ahead of its time, indie pop clatter that’s at once catchy, messy, and irreverent. Perfect.