Eric’s Top 25 Albums in 2009

As always, you are free to agree or disagree. This is the stuff I like that was released in 2009. I based the list on what I’ve listened to the most and what I’ve enjoyed listening to … if I pick it and play it that means more than random shuffles.

(For the record, I’ve listed in them alphabetical order by artist first name. Because I’m weird like that. You are free to format your list any way you want it.  A lot of this stuff I found on eMusic … send me an email and I’ll hook you up with 50 free DRM-free MP3 downloads just to try it out. And, yes, eMusic has changed their policy … most single albums with 12 or more songs are now 12 credits and they’ve added bands like REM and Springsteen and lots of mainstream stuff.)

Anyway … here’s my list. And if you read carefully, you’ll find I did pick one favorite, despite not wanting to rank albums this year. It was *that* good I couldn’t resist.

Angel Taylor – Love Travels

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This popped up as a suggestion from an eMusic friend based on some things in my list. I’ll admit when I was listening to the previews it really hit me as a “wow can this girl sing”  … then when I got into the album it was like “WOW … this girl CAN sing!”  Although it is mostly mainstream pop, the lyrics are great and it’s fun to listen when you’re in the mood for love songs and straight out pop music. She’s in the Brandi Carlile /Cobie Caillat genre of young, talented female singer songwriters …this album is is a lot about getting over lost love and looking for new love.

Favorite Songs: Too Good For Words, Lightning Strikes

Austin Lucas – Somebody Loves You


I saw Austin Lucas on the Suburban Home tour with Two Cow Garage and Jon Snodgrass. There’s a lot of twang and bluegrass in his sound, he’s soft, he’s loud, he says a lot with a little. I like it. A lot. The songwriting is very free-form, not stuck in the traditional verse, chorus, bridge structure. It’s way to indie to be country, but there’s a lot of country influences here.  Give him a listen … if he’s friends with the boys from Two Cow Garage and toured with Chuck Regan, that’s good enough for me!

Favorite Songs: Somebody Loves You, Precious Little Heart

The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You

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It’s not often someone says, “Hey, you should check out” … random band name and I do. I’m a music elitist. I’ll admit it.  But a friend said, “Check out The Avett Brothers. You’ll like them.”  And wow, was she right. The harmony, the melody, the guitar work … this album is outstanding from top to bottom and one of my favorites for the year … well beyond Top 25.  I can (and have) listened to this for hours on end.  And their show at the Beachland Ballroom was outstanding, too.  This one is not to be missed if you’re a fan of Americana.

Favorite Songs: I And Love And You, Ten Thousand Words

Bob Mould – Life and Times


Bob Mould became a favorite of mine when Andy Gray invited me to see Sugar.  I was a Husker Du fan in high school (wasn’t everyone? No? Just me. And Dan, probably), but wasn’t aware of Bob’s solo records. I immediately picked them both up (Black Sheets of Rain and Workbook).  I’ve seen Bob solo four or five times now, including one of my favorite shows ever at Little Brothers where he did a half-acoustic, half-electric two-hour show then hung out after talking to people, signing anything you purchased and taking photos with damn near the whole crowd.  This album was a long time coming, and worth the wait.

Favorite Songs: I’m Sorry Baby, But You Can’t Stand In My Light Anymore, City Lights (Days Go By)

Chantal Kreviazuk Plain Jane


Another long-time favorite of mine just keeps putting out another collection of great songs. This album is a bit different, she’s branching out into some jazzy riffs (“Plain Jane”) and piano-heavy ballads (“5000 Days,” “Say The Word”), but my favorite is the simple acoustic stylings of “Halfway Around The World.”  The CD ends with perhaps her strangest stretch … “Na Miso” … which is in both English and Swahili … regardless, it’s a keeper.  Chantal just keeps getting better with each album.

Favorite Songs: Halfway Around The World, Invincible

The Clarks – Restless Days


For 20+ years The Clarks have just kept putting out music that helps define Americana … Scott Blasey’s voice, Greg Joseph’s lyrics, Rob James on the guitars and Dave Minarik on drums. It kills me how a band can put out such consistent music and still not get noticed anywhere outside of 100 mile radius of Pittsburgh.  After both Greg and Scott released solo albums, the Clarks come back with another collection of solid rock songs that will be rocking bars and small stages for years to come.

Favorite Songs: Inside, Midnight Rose, True Believer

Cracker – Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey


David Lowery is one of those guys that could sing the ABC Song and people would either trash or praise it.  Every time you think Cracker is dead, he whips up a bunch of classic Lowery tunes, turns up the amps and lets it rip. This album is your typical 11-track with all eleven of them showing up on favorite lists of Crumbs all over the planet. Quirky lyrics, sweet guitar riffs and hooks for days.  Yep, that’s Lowery, in a nutshell.  And that’s why we love him.

Favorite Songs: Show Me How This Thing Works, Turn On Tune In Drop Out With

Craig Lyons – On Reflection


“Dude. Walk with me. I have something you have GOT to hear.” This is how Mark Nye introduced me to the new Craig Lyons CD. Well, two songs, as it wasn’t officially released yet. The first was Craig’s incredible cover of the Beatles “Across The Universe” … which has some amazing strings and “If It Helps You Sleep” … I was hooked. The album has two distinct feels to it, which works when listening straight through, and the songs stand out enough on their own for a shuffle. The writing is top notch, and the production of this is amazing. If I was ranking, this would be up in my top 10, easily.

Favorite Songs: Moonburn, Across The Universe

The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love

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The Decemberists have such a distinct sound you instantly know who you’re listening to as soon as Colin Meloy starts singing.  “The Hazards Of Love” is a great conceptual album that shows the growth of their songwriting and delivery and musicianship … and how it’s possible for an indie rock band to still make indie rock despite being on a major label. And anytime you have a line like “The prettiest whistles won’t wrestle the thistles undone” I’m hooked.

Favorite Songs: The Hazards Of Love #I, Annen Water

Elvis Costello – Secret, Profane and Sugarcane


Every couple of years you hear there’s a new Elvis Costello album coming out and you wonder …  what’s left?  The 70’s and 80’s were angry, and mellow, and questioning. The 90’s were all over the place and I was starting to wonder if his sun was setting.  Then he hooks up with T-Bone Burnett for this collection of acoustic, bluegrass, Americana and some country stylings that made me realize that yes, Elvis Costello’s still got it.

Favorite Songs: She Was No Good, Sulphur To Sugarcane

Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown


The first three times I listened to this CD I wasn’t impressed.  I was confused to see how it all fit together.  Then … I got it. This album is just the opposite.  Covertly political, even more ideological than direct … more about how we got here than where we are.  Billie Joe Armstrong has described the album as a “snapshot of the era in which we live as we question and try to make sense of the selfish manipulation going on around us, whether it be the government, religion, media or frankly any form of authority.”  That’s about as good as it gets. I listened to this CD more than any other in 2009. It just resonates with me.

Favorite Songs: East Jesus Nowhere, Last of the American Girls

Gomez – A New Tide


They drift from acoustic to psychedelic to melodic, but they don’t drift far from their format: Hooky indie rock that benefits from having three different vocalists in the band.  We have horns, upright bass, lots of great lyrics and songs that could be on any of their previous releases … staying the course is good when you’re one of the pioneers.  The only thing I didn’t like about this album was it checks in just under 44 minutes … Gomez has always been a bit of a jam band … but they don’t jam much here, at all … not a song over five minutes on the CD.

Favorite Songs: Natural Reaction, If I Ask You Nicely

Heartless Bastards – The Mountain


Once of two bands from Cincinnati I can spend hours listening to is Heartless Bastards (Over The Rhine is the other).  Sometimes softly acoustic, sometimes driving, this album shows off the growth of Erika Wennerstrom, the only member of the band from start to finish.  The album was produced by Spoon producer Mike McCarthy and shows off some of the more broader elements of Wennerstrom’s lyrics by simplifying the music behind them.

Favorite Songs: Early In The Morning, Wide Awake

Madeline – White Flag


Madeline Adams has one of those unique voices that you just don’t confuse with anyone else.  Her tales of heartbreak and happiness mixed with a folksy blend of music behind them highlight her Athens roots but allow her to branch out into the bluegrass, folk and country styles … I love when a song from this CD comes up in shuffle mode.  Simple music, great lyrics, smooth delivery … she’s grown significantly since her 2007 release “The Slow Bang.”

Favorite Songs: You Can’t Break My Heart, Rain, Fire and Brimstone, Shotgun Wedding

Madison Square Gardeners – Don’t Name The Pig


How could I NOT have this in any top album list I ever make?  Aaron Lee Tasjan and Ramblin’ Rob Heath and John Kengla and Mark Stepro and Rich Hinman and Bryn Roberts? That’s six helpings of musical genius all on one CD.   Lyrics by Tasjan, tunes by those boys? Hell, they’ve backed some of the biggest names in Americana … I’ve driven probably thousands of miles to see them in various arrangements with or without each other … so yeah, in my world, this is all good.  (BTW, did you see Tasjan on Letterman with Findlay Brown? Sweet). Rumor has it the follow-up is even better.  I’m just sayin’ …

Favorite Songs: My Ex-Girlfriend Is A Bad Lesbian On Drugs, Lightnin’ Don’t Strike Twice, Lean On Into Me

Marykate O’Neil – Underground


I first heard the name Marykate O’Neil when talking to Kate York in Pittsburgh when Kate was opening for Katheleen Edwards.  I went home and grabbed her self-titled debut.  I’ve been a fan ever since. Underground is recorded with, as she calls them, the usual suspects, including Ken Maiuri (Pedro The Lion) and Mickey Grimm (Over The Rhine) and is really a great piece of work.  Her voice is kind of Aimee Mann-like in a couple of places, but she’s far from being a clone of anyone.  This is a great collection of wonderful songs.

Favorite Songs: So Long, One Thousand Times A Day

Matt Hoover – Talking To Ghosts


I’ve seen Matt Hoover solo and with two bands (The SuperSaints and The Peachbones).  He’s always delivered good music and great lyrics. But on his solo debut, he really hits both right out of the park. “Talking To Ghosts” is amazing from start to finish. It’s great songwriting, but the arrangements and choice of instruments and how they’re played show Hoover’s ability to create good music, not just play it. Still, that being said, for me, the lyrics and voice are what make this CD so amazing.  Matt’s vocal delivery is top notch.  I know I said I wasn’t ranking albums this year, but from the open notes of “Nothing’s Fair” to the final fade of “Pass You By” … “Talking To Ghosts” is far and away my favorite of 2009.  Oh, and it’s my mom’s favorite, too. She asked for a copy!

Favorite Songs: Talking To Ghosts, The Whiskey, Pass You By

Razorbliss – American Gomorrah


If you want my attention … reach out through the speakers and grab me from the opening note. And don’t let go.  If you’re going to rock me, rock me from the opening note. And don’t stop.  This album does both of those.  From the crashing intro of the title track until the end of “The Mark You Leave” I can’t think of a better three songs to entice you into an album that that.  Add in “A Brand New Creature” and “Year of the Dead Celebrity” and you’ve got a total keeper of a rock and roll CD. The grown on this album in both words and music from “A Comedy of Errors” is readily apparent and exponential. Well done, boys!

Favorite Songs: Arsenic Angel, A Brand New Creature, A Brand New Creature

The Receiver – Length Of Arms


It’s hard for me to write about this album because it’s so good it just frustrates me that people don’t get what Casey and Jessie Cooper are trying to show. Music can be complex, yet simple. Astonishing and subtle. Loud and soft. And all at the same time. The way these two have changed up everything they did on their debut “Decades” yet left it all the same for “Length of Arms” shows their amazing grasp of the music they’re making.

Favorite Songs: Strength In Numbers, Castles In The Air

Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles – The Stars Are Out


It’s no wonder that Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles captured the Americana Act of the Year for 2009 from the Boston Music Spotlight. “The Stars Are Out” is an outstanding piece of rock and roll like nobody else is making. Interludes in songs with soft vocals mixed with straight out rock and roll … it’s tough to call this anything but American music. Sarah Borges reminds me of Jennifer Trynin NOT in the shadow of Alanis Morrissette.

Favorite Songs: No One Will Ever Love You, Better At The End Of The Day

Son Volt – American Central Dust


“The truth is not free and everyone must pay the price,” sings Jay Farrar on “Dynamite” … the opening song. Someday, when the truth is free, I hope people look back at the great American voices of this generation and give Jay Farrar his due.  There’s not a single song on this CD I skip past. From the simple and complex arrangements to Farrar’s lyrics and voice, this CD needs to be heard.  Outstanding isn’t good enough to describe it. If this isn’t in your CD collection you’re missing a great piece of work.

Favorite Songs: All of them. Every.Single.One  (Especially Dynamite and Dust of Daylight and No Turning Back)

Stephen Lynch – 3 Balloons


Comedy is hard work. Musical comedy is harder. A man like Stephen Lynch makes it look easy. From the whorific “Waiting” to the album-ending tribute to 36D breasts “Hallelujah” Lynch tackles a lot of humor in short tracks, reflections of his career as a teacher, reflections of diary entries of famous people and the Ballad of Scarface … but the topper is America: “Our human rights record is something of note / We freed all our slaves and gave women the vote / Everyone’s equal forever always / Unless you’re one of them gays” … some of the most biting sarcasm you’ll find!  Lynch is amazing in his ability to point out the obvious in a unique song.  And his take on the Peanuts Gang is as outrageously funny as it is offensive.  Which makes it priceless!

Favorite Songs: America, Crazy Peanuts, You (Prettier Than), Halleluhah

Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men


For a short album (8 songs / 41 minutes) this collection of songs from London-based Sweet Billy Pilgrim is the sonic equivalent of a slam dunk. Every single sound is just perfect.  From the distortion microphone intro of “Here It Begins” to the end of “There Will It End” this is a total treat to the ears.  It’s no wonder it’s received the awards it has (5 stars/CD of the Week by the London Times and 4 stars from Mojo and Uncut).

Favorite Songs: Here It Begins, Longshore Drift, Future Perfect Tense

Todd Snider – The Excitement Plan


I could spend days talking about how Todd Snider is the Jack Kerouac of my generation, but armed with a six-string and a sharp sense of what’s going on … but I won’t.  From his debut in 1994 (Songs From The Daily Planet) nobody has captured the past 15 years in song and mood like Todd Snider. Paycheck aside, he’d rather play for 10 people who dig him than to 5,000 who may or may not. He’s toured everywhere  you can play with a guitar, from redneck hole-in-the-wall bars to small arenas to folk festivals to farmhouses.  And his songs and on-stage banter show that off. This CD continues in the tradition of wonderfully entertaining lyrics, great stories, good fun and a great mix of serious and silly.

Favorite Songs: Unorganized Crime, Slim Chance

Wilco – Wilco (The Album)


It’s kind of normal to name an album after yourself.  But a song, too? Then again, it is Wilco. And I feel the same about this album as I did Sky Blue Sky … it’s a great collection of songs that you can assemble in any random order and enjoy … There’s your typical experimental stuff, the steady-on Tweedy tunes and the quirky two or three tunes you can always count on from America’s Radiohead, as they’re called.  I think they’re well beyond Radiohead, but that’s just my opinion.

Favorite Songs: You Never Know, I’ll Fight


4 Responses to “Eric’s Top 25 Albums in 2009”

  1. Adam Says:

    Where the hell’s “Endgame”?

    • Eric Broz Says:

      I’m sorry … ever since Mustane and Lars had a good cry on “Some Kind Of Monster” for events that happened 22 years PRIOR to the filming of the greatest unintentional comedy movie EVER, I’ve lost a bit of respect for him.

  2. Kre Alkalyn Pro Says:

    I really enyojed this brilliant blog. Please keep them coming. Greets!!!

    • Eric Broz Says:

      Thanks for reading! I’m on a big project at work that’s killing my free time, but try to sneak in one or two reviews a month.

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