Posted by: Dominic Umile | 12/18/2009

Predictability and Albums of the Year, 2009

My Maudlin CareerI was putting together some ideas for a New Year’s Eve playlist — you know, the types of things I’ll want to have going while I finish dinner on 12/31, and while I enjoy my last few beers of 2009 (I’ll be having Beck’s). I got to thinking more closely about my 2009 favorite albums list — which numbers will soundtrack my closing-out this year? There’ll have to be loads from the past decade, too, right? This list encompasses all that I’ve enjoyed in 2009, which includes pop & rock stuff as well as the electronic and related stuff that I’ve written about here and elsewhere.

This differs almost entirely from my ‘electronic favorites’ list, as these picks span several albeit popular other genres. This is not the list I submitted to my editors at PopMatters for my contributions to their diverse Best Electronic Albums of 2009 feature, but I have submitted these choices to them for the overall Best 2009 Albums list, as well as to the Village Voice and to Blurt. My choices for this year’s best techno, dubstep, and others begin here, as I hope you already know. The overall favorites are below, and this rundown is LOADED with crossovers from the other list, obviously.

20. 2562, Unbalance (Tectonic)
19. Bowerbirds, Upper Air (Dead Oceans
18. Swimmers, People Are Soft (Mad Dragon)
17. Bibio, Vignetting The Compost (Mush)
16. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)
15. Worriedaboutsatan, Arrivals (Gizeh)
14. Madlib, Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6 (Stones Throw)
13. Black Moth Super Rainbow, Eating Us (Graveface)
Lightning Dust, Infinite Light (Jaguaguwar)
Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest (Warp)
Nosaj Thing, Drift (Alpha Pup)
9. Diego Bernal, For Corners (Exponential)
Lotus Plaza, The Floodlight Collective (Kranky)
Clubroot, Clubroot (Lo Dubs)
Yagya, Rigning (Sending Orbs)
Gui Boratto, Take My Breath Away (Kompakt)
Somfay, A Catch in the Voice (Archipel)
Elvis Perkins, In Dearland (XL)
Falty DLLove Is a Liability (Planet Mu)
Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career (4AD)

So readers here are seeing my overall Best of 2009 list for the first time — you’ll see my top ten in a couple of other places, I think, in the coming weeks, as I voted in a couple of polls aside from the PopMatters huge end-2009 list. My recent posts regarding the Memorable Electronic stuff were culled from that genre (and its related genres) only, and covered largely the kinds of things I write about. While I occasionally will pitch something to an editor that falls outside of an electronic/techno/beat music release, I’m interested more often in discussing electronic stuff. I listen to a great deal of music that isn’t electronic in nature; I’m just not that interested in writing about it, comparatively.

VeckatimestPerpetual eye-rollers, be advised: Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear made the cut. These impact of these two records (and a few others that I’m really not in love with) has really resonated when it came to list-making time — See Drowned in Sound, Pitchfork, FACT Magazine, NPR’s listeners’ choices, The AV ClubResident Advisor, and XLR8R. I know that this upsets a lot of folk who’ve taken to unleashing in the comments section of every website about perpetual predictability in end-year music lists. Complaints of this nature are, ironically, quite predictable.

You’re not going to find a lot of people who don’t find these end-year gatherings of music scribblings to be predictable. The “my god, this is a predictable list” is as inevitable as the list itself. Ask anyone who’s made a list, of any kind.

In January of this year, the Animal Collective record was issued to great acclaim. People really liked it. They discussed it all year, they blogged about it, there was a really interesting WIRE piece, a surprisingly funny (but not really intellectually stimulating) Fader feature — Animal Collective‘s record saw a lot of critical praise. The fact that it’s scored a place in a number of end-year lists isn’t really predictable, when you think about it. It’s inevitable. Of course it’s going to be on these lists. It’s a great record, and everyone said so. The lists, at least the ones I’m familiar with, are based on polls that their staff/freelancer critics have submitted about their favorite records of the year. Merriweather Post Pavilion is a really commendable effort — take this from a fella who’s not exactly an Animal Collective cheerleader — it’s as psychedelic and as rich with ideas and hooks as it is accomplished on the songwriting end. Even following that triple threat of hits on the front end of the record — “Bluish” and “Guys Eyes” are both pretty spectacular songs. I’m sure a lot of people voted to include Merriweather on whatever publication’s list that they normally contribute to. I’m sure they voted for The XX debut, too, even though that will puzzle me until at least the end of 2010. I’m really not understanding the universal appeal of that one.

Anyway, AC’s MPP made it on the big PopMatters list, and a whole lot more records were included over there, too. The appearance of the other choices I imagine some people will find predictable, too, especially because we heard about how good they were all year. I think the point is that some or all of us can take away at least a few really new ideas from these lists, or maybe consider them in a fashion that had otherwise escaped us all year, right?

I wrote entries for the PopMatters compendium about the Camera Obscura LP as well as Falty DL‘s, my favorite electronic album released in 2009. Go have a look. I’ve got to get back to my New Year’s Eve playlist. Will Elvis Perkins‘ “Doomsday” have a special place in the set? Absolutely.


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