So between now and the end of the year, I’ll be bringing you my 20 favorite albums of 2009. These 20 albums aren’t in any particular order, aside from the fact that I put them into four groupings of five albums each. There’s nothing scientific or measured about this, it’s mostly just an order based on which albums popped into my head first. The posts themselves are in alphabetical order. Because I hate ranking things, so there.
Without further ado, I bring you the first five albums.
Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster.
I guess this spot on the list really is more for Lady Gaga in general, not entirely for The Fame Monster, but whatever. It’s my blog, I do what I want. There is no good reason for me to love her music as much as I do. It’s not particularly original or deep or ground-breaking, but it is just some damn fun music. Time will tell as to whether or not she’s a flash in the pan or if she’ll be sticking around for a while, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts. With its inventive and catchy songs, The Fame Monster showed that hopefully it’s going to be the latter. She’s definitely a talented woman, that’s for sure. Even if I am bitter that she’s younger than me.
If you don’t like folk/Americana/banjos/bluegrass, this probably isn’t the album for you. This release takes a look at the catalog of Charlie Poole, a banjo player and singer in the 1920s who drank himself to death. Listening to it, you feel as though Wainwright gets the material, both the original source material (Poole didn’t write any original songs) and Poole’s interpretations. In addition to the covers of old material, Wainwright and friends threw in a handful of fabulous original songs, which fit in so well that it would be difficult to guess which they were. This album would rate higher on my list if there simply wasn’t so much material – there are 30 tracks over 2 CDs, and it’s hard to get in-depth with something that lengthy. High Wide & Handsome was a great cap on the decade for Wainwright, who’s received a Grammy nomination for the project, which would be a well-deserved win.
Honestly, I sort of forgot about this album for a little while, despite the fact that I listened to it a whole lot after I first got it. I saw it pop up on a lot of other best-of lists and decided to give it another chance. I’m listening to it right now and am having a moment where I’m all, wow, how did I not listen to this all year? It would have been a great album to listen to on days where everything else is crappy. This is a really strong collection of pop-rock songs. They may not be the most memorable (see: the fact that I forgot about the release for a while) but it shows that Emily Haines and Metric still have it, four years after their last release.
This album is almost too precious for me. Everything about it is cute and adorable and I just want to squish it. She even makes “Shankhill Butchers”, a cover of a Decemberists song, sound cute. But seriously, this is a fantastic debut album from Sarah Jarosz, a bluegrass musician/singer-songwriter from Texas who is just eighteen. Please hold while I have one of those moments where I wonder just what in the world I’m doing with my life. Listening to this, you would never know that this is a girl who has just graduated high school. Her music is much older than her age would suggest.
Zee Avi, Zee Avi.
This is another album that’s just absolutely adorable. I have to be in the right frame of mind to handle adorable, though, which is probably why both this album and Sarah Jarosz’s don’t rank higher on my not-really-ranked list. With her ukulele and sweet-sounding vocals, Zee Avi’s created a great summertime record. Don’t let the cuteness fool you, though; this is a very grown-up record. Behind the upbeat vocals and instrumentation are terribly serious songs like “Poppy” (“My baby, he don’t act like himself no more … he spent his nights slapping his veins”) and a cover of Morrisey’s “First of the Gang to Die” (“You have never been in love until you’ve seen the sunlight thrown over smashed human bones”).