20 Watts

20 Watts’ Best of 2009 by 20watts

20 Watts brings you the Best Albums of 2009!

So, the champagne’s out, the fireworks have stopped, the ball has dropped. The year 2009 may be long gone … But the music is still here — vibrant and waitng for masses who have yet to consume it! Naturally we want to help y’all out. Here’s 20 Watts’ list of the 20 best albums of 2009, from us to you! Enjoy!

Love and stereo,

20 Watts

20 Watts Best of 2009 #1: Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion by jluposello

Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion is #1 on our Best of 2009 List

PREVIEW: VISIT Animal Collective’s MySpace
TOP TRACK: “Brother Sport

After eight studio releases, it’s safe to say that Baltimore’s Animal Collective have hit their pinnacle on 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. Following 2007’s Strawberry Jam, guitarist Josh Gibb went on hiatus for “personal reasons,” pushing the rest of the band back into the studio to record a batch of songs to be performed without guitar.

The result is the unmistakably synth-heavy construction of Merriweather Post Pavilion. Upon dropping from Domino Records in January, the album met instant critical acclaim, hailing praise from the scene as one of the best of the year. We couldn’t agree more.

While the record feature’s a distinctly “poppy” sound from the Maryland natives, it also possesses an inherent appeal in it’s more visceral pleasures. Vocalists David Portner (a.k.a. Avey Tare) and Noah Lennox (a.k.a. Panda Bear) reach a dynamic untouched by their previous efforts.

The theme of the record is one based on basic human needs and desires, giving the album an undoubtedly cohesive feel. Each song builds on the exceptional qualities of the one that came before it, shattering the concept of “Oh, this is my favorite song on the album!” quite well.

It’s tough to deny the exceptional writing on the album, regardless of your musical tastes. The synth-heavy questions of life appeal to the rave junkie and neo-hippy alike, and summarize the album marvelously. It’s as though Animal Collective were telling us that sometimes, to get to where you’re supposed to be, you need to go back to square one. And yes, even if it takes you eight albums to do it.

— John Luposello

20 Watts’ Best of 2009 #2: Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest by jluposello
December 31, 2009, 10:23 am
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Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest is #2 on our Best of 2009 List

Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest is #2 on our Best of 2009 List

PREVIEW: VISIT Grizzly Bear’s MySpace
TOP TRACK: Two Weeks

Few indie bands have managed to do what Grizzly Bear did this year. In just twelve songs they catapulted themselves from an obscure critical soft spot to independent music legends. Time and again, pundits have harped on about what makes Veckatimest such a triumph, and they’ve all been right. It’s Grizzly Bear’s world; we just live in it.

Accessible and technically masterful, Veckatimest maintains a consistent, almost-understated emphasis on melody. The closing guitars on “Southern Point” that call to mind DeVotchKa’s “You Love Me” and the harmonizing that draws listeners into “Fine for Now” serve to nuance an effort showered in clanging cymbals and coordinated bass beats.

And the percussion is beautiful on this record – both in terms of their production and placement within the individual songs. Would “While You Wait for the Others” be nearly as effective a ballad – or even a song – if the harmonic vocals weren’t complemented by torrential drum fills? Moreover, was anyone surprised when Veckatimest officially dropped at why Grizzly Bear were peeved at the low quality of the early leaked version of the album? The album’s multifarious percussive meandering was what had suffered.

What’s shocking is that this little band from Brooklyn began so unassumingly. Their debut Horn of Plenty isn’t terrible as much as it is mediocre, and Yellow House is by no means a perfect record either. Though most fans knew good things would come from them in the future, could anyone have predicted them to be the band to play during the credits of New Moon?

— Eric Vilas-Boas

20 Watts’ Best of 2009: #3 Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 by 20watts
December 30, 2009, 10:08 am
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Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 is number 3 on our Best of 2009 list

TOP TRACK: “Empire State of Mind”

In 2009, Jay-Z proved once again why he’s still one of the hottest rappers in the game today. With a string of three hit singles already, including arguably the fall’s biggest song, “Empire State of Mind,” Jay proved that he still has what it takes to be one of the strongest forces in music.

The buzz around The Blueprint 3 started in June with the release of “D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune).” Built largely on a slick guitar riff and Jay’s singing of Steam‘s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” the return-to-form track was just the tip of the iceberg.

Alicia Keys’ stunning vocals on “Empire State of Mind” provide a perfect backdrop for Jay’s love letter to the city that raised him. Other shining moments of the album include the attention-grabbing beat that lays the foundation for “On to the Next One.” Along with “Off That,” which features Drake, either song could easily be considered the album’s most party-centric. Another highlight could be the laid back “Already Home,” which features Kid Cudi, and perhaps helped set the stage for Cudi’s own release later in September.

Eight years after releasing The Blueprint, Jay-Z hasn’t faded a bit, as exemplified by this, his latest in a string of successes.  As one of the most accomplished artists of the decade, we wouldn’t expect anything less from him– the man who helped open the doors to hip-hop’s strongest decade yet.

— Eric Hoffman

20 Watts’ Best of 2009: #4 Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by 20watts
December 30, 2009, 10:07 am
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Phoenix's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is #4 on our Best of 2009 list

PREVIEW: VISIT Phoenix’s MySpace

Months after its May 2009 release date, Phoenix’s fifth album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is still everywhere.  Considering the album’s subject matter — this feat is hardly surprising.  With references to classical musicians (“Lisztomania”) and ancient ruins (“Rome”), Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix transports you first-class to a sophisticated European city from which the band hail.

While their songs radiate a certain cosmopolitan aristocratic air, Phoenix’s lyrics never fail to hit close to home.  No matter who you are, lead singer Thomas Mars belting, “Do you remember when 21 years was old,” will go straight to your gut and induce a deeply nostalgic feeling.  Like these sentimental lyrics, much of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is subtly heart wrenching, but luckily, these lyrics aren’t accompanied by sappy acoustic melodies.  Instead, they are proudly shouted along vivacious synth-beats presented in a Strokes-like intensity.  Phoenix make reminiscing a fleeting dance club celebration, rather than a drawn-out tearjerker.

Recently nominated for a Grammy, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is extraordinarily accessible without sacrificing originality.  While considering their recent bombardment of Cadillac commercials, Entourage episodes and your not-so-music savvy friend’s iPod this accessibility may be a bit much, it just further displays the universality of emotion that Phoenix convey in Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – a mark they missed on previous albums yet hone on their latest effort.

— Carly Wolkoff

20 Watts’ Best of 2009: #5 Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca by tjwell01
December 29, 2009, 2:06 pm
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Dirty Projectors' Bitte Orca is #5 on our Best of 2009 list!

PREVIEW: VISIT Dirty Projectors’ MySpace.
TOP TRACK: “Stillness Is the Move”

The thing I love most about Bitte Orca is that it’s so blantantly different and it doesn’t give a damn. How many bands can incorporate an acapella and still jam like they’re ambassadors of indie rock? Not many, and it’s this album that launched Dirty Projectors to stardom.

The strength of the album is its delicate details, like long-hanging vocal notes and the thin, twangy guitar chords like in “Stillness Is the Move.”  Not until the multiple listens does one appreciate these intricate details — it’s the kind of music you’re forced to study and slowly digest. Listening to Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian sing in harmony is sexy as hell.

Another great thing about this album is its body of work — there’s not a bad song on the entire album. Songs like “Cannibal Resource” keep the pace, and add funky rhythm. The flow of the album stays constant; not too fast or two slow, while still keeping an upbeat mood and a somewhat sassy flavor.

It’s not even fair to compare Bitte Orca to other indie rock or pop albums, because Dirty Projectors are in a league of their own. It’s not even about quality, it’s the style they approached with and how they excecuted it so masterfully. Few albums can play so gently in your ears and still make you want to dance so savagely.

— Jett Wells

20 Watts’ Best of 2009: #6 Passion Pit’s Manners by dana20watts
Passion Pit’s Manners is #6 on our Best of 2009 list

PREVIEW: LISTEN to Passion Pit on their MySpace
TOP TRACK: “Sleepyhead
Music-wise, 2009 could easily be deemed “the year of the synthesizer.” Countless artists have somehow incorporated the music machine into their tracks, from Lil Wayne and Kanye West — whose recent singles sound like T-pain’s spawn — to electro-pop bands like Phoenix, MGMT and, of course, Passion Pit.
Passion Pit’s highly anticipated debut album, Manners, was released in May 2009, a year after their EP Chunk of Change created a ton of buzz in the indie music scene. The album’s first single, “The Reeling,” peaked at number 29 on the Billboard charts in October. It’s easy to see why, since the song encompasses what Passion Pit is all about. The European-esque electronic background music has a hint of ‘80s pop mixed in, that when combined with lead singer Michael Angelakos’ falsetto and a chorus that won’t get out of your head, it’s hard for people to ignore the band.
The rest of Manners will not disappoint, since most of the tracks have the same fun, electro-pop sound as “The Reeling.” Tracks like “Make Light” and “Little Secrets” are dance favorites. The best thing about the album is that every track is fun and refreshing. It managed to escape the trend of many new artists who have one good song, and then fail to release anything like their debut single.
There are also a few more laid-back songs on the album, such as personal favorite, “Eyes As Candles.” If you’re one of those people who like ballads, “Moth’s Wings” and “Swimming in the Flood” could constitute for a slower vibe- although they definitely have a little more zing that the normal, self-pitying ballad.
It would’ve been smart for Passion Pit to put one of these songs last on their album, so listeners could catch their breath from how hyped this CD makes you. But I have a little inkling that most people don’t mind going a little crazy to some good music. If you’re one of those people who like to listen to new tunes to prepare for a night of mayhem, pop in Passion Pit’s Manners. I guarantee a good night will follow.
— Dana Mikaelian