Originally published on November 29, 2009 (and, by the way, this was the list that was featured in New Yorker)…
2009 was a good year for music, if you don’t count most of what was played on the radio this year. I discovered some great music early in the year, and other favorites of mine released new stuff in 2009 as well. And of course, there was the Beatles box set… Here are my favorite albums of 2009…counted down, naturally.
10. Regina Spektor, Far — More gorgeous, quirky pop from Regina. This album is a pretty ambitious undertaking in both music and subject matter. Tackling concepts both earthly and eternal, and combining nearly nonsensical songs with chamber-pop masterpieces, Far is typical Regina Spektor with far more hits than misses.
9. Sugarland, Gold & Green — When I first read that Sugarland was releasing a Christmas album, I was skeptical; I honestly didn’t think that they would have enough of the seriousness that a truly good Christmas album needs. I’m pleasantly surprised by Gold & Green. Lovingly arranged and produced versions of traditional and more modern carols accompany heartfelt originals, and there’s noting cutesy-silly about the record, save for an ultra-twangy take on “Nuttin’ For Christmas.” A true Christmas treat.
8. Pat Green, What I’m For — One of the earliest new releases in 2009, this was one that I really looked forward to. After the first single, “Let Me,” which was one of my top songs of 2008, I expected something truly amazing. For the most part, What I’m For is a top-notch album, with a few lackluster tracks sprinkled throughout. The good songs, from “Let Me” to “Footsteps Of Our Fathers” to the title track, the net result of What I’m For is a truly great addition to Pat Green’s career.
7. David Crowder Band, Church Music – Anyone who is familiar with DCB knows to expect thought-provoking, fascinating, musically challenging worship music, and Church Music doesn’t disappoint. From modern hymns, to quirky electronic stylings, to classic rock influences, to the amazing single “How He Loves,” DCB have created another one-of-a-kind album.
5. Hillsong United, Across The Earth: Tear Down The Walls – I’ve been a fan of Hillsong United from some time now, and Eastridge has used too many of their songs to attempt to count. Across The Earth is another incredible collection of powerful worship songs. We’ve already done three songs from it this year at Eastridge (“Tear Down The Walls,” “Desert Song,” and “Freedom Is Here”); I wouldn’t expect anything less than moving, compelling stuff from Hillsong United.
4. Future Of Forestry, Travel (EP) & Travel, Volume 2 (EP) – I discovered FOF early this year; their 2007 album Twilight and their Advent Christmas EP (which is apparently no longer available on iTunes…) became favorites of mine quickly. This year, the band released two EP’s, and both releases combine epic sounds and clever lyrics with a travel metaphor. From “Traveler’s Song” and “Hallelujah” on the first EP to “Holiday” and “Hills Of Indigo Blue” on Volume 2, the songs express spiritual truths in creative and beautiful ways.
3. Peter Mayer, Goodbye Hello– In November, I was surprised to find out about Peter Mayer’s Beatles cover album the day before it was scheduled for release. On this album, Peter combines faithful, loving renditions of Fab Four classics with his own, inimitable folk/pop/jazz style, creating a truly special record.
2. Immanu El, Moen – Immanu El was another band I discovered this year; this Swedish band’s 2007 debut They’ll Come, They Come is a treasure. Moen builds on the beautiful soundscapes of the previous album with spacious sounds reminiscent of Explosions In The Sky and charming, broken-English lyrics. Moen is a breathtaking, beautiful experience.
1. Gomez, A New Tide — Gomez have been creating excellent music for over a decade now, and I knew they had a classic album in them somewhere. When the single “Airstream Driver” was released in March and I was underwhelmed, I didn’t expect the classic to come this year. To say I was pleasantly surprised is a major understatement! Although it’s not an easy listen, A New Tide is chock full of great songs. Clever tempo shifts and mood changes abound on this album, and the instrumentation and vocals are top-notch, particularly Ben Ottewell (whose voice I wish I had). Songs like “Very Strange,” “Little Pieces,” and the perfect trilogy at the core of the album.–”Lost Track,” “Win Park Slope,” and “Bone Tired”–are strong throughout, and even the weaker songs (like “Airstream Driver”) are still good. A New Tide is without a doubt the best album to come down the pike in 2009.