Top 10 albums of 2009

Originally posted on Birmingham Box Set

Every year I find myself going through phases with different albums. There are songs that show up on every playlist I make, others that bring me back to a specific moment. I think that’s one of the captivating powers of music, and for me, it’s also why it’s so fun to reflect on a year of music. I know there are dozens of albums I’ll fall in love with in 2010, some that I’ve already begun to review and can’t wait for you to hear. But these are 10 albums that will always bring me back to 2009.

  • Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew
    During a ski trip last winter, I was immersed in this long-anticipated album from Damien Rice’s former side woman. Hannigan lived up to my high hopes with a beautifully crafted album that instantly takes me back to the ski slopes-appropriate for what sounds to me like a very wintry album.
  • Loney Dear – Dear John
    Dear John
    is a similarly seasonal-sounding album, and I’ve returned to it often as temperatures have dropped this month. Emil Svanagnen layers instruments and vocals so densely that I’m still discovering more about these songs, nearly a year later.
  • The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
    Hands down, this is my favorite album of 2009. I received a review copy in mid-January, and was still so excited about this rock musical that I was chattering incessantly about it when friends finally got their hands on it after its March release. The already-large band combined with Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond) and Jim James (My Morning Jacket)  to create an epic album and, with Worden and Stark, one of the best live shows I’ve seen.
  • Maria Taylor – Ladyluck
    I was late to the Maria Taylor game, as I didn’t discover her songwriting until her second solo release in 2007. But this Birmingham-bred musician is captivating with each release, and I often find “Time Lapse Lifeline” playing in my head. Incidentally, Taylor was also one of my more memorable interviews this year. I’ve got to like a musician who admits that getting nervous onstage helps keep her from crying during very personal songs.
  • Derek Webb – Stockholm Syndrome
    Derek Webb has been one of my favorites through the years, beginning when he was one of the principle songwriters of Caedmon’s Call and continuing as he’s moved through a number of genres. His latest, Stockholm Syndrome, is sonically a complete departure from his past work, but Webb’s lyrics continue to challenge me.
  • Iron and Wine – Around the Well
    Collections of rarities and unreleased tracks are generally not thrilling for anyone but the biggest fans of a band. But Iron and Wine is an exception, and this two-disc collection plays almost as well as a carefully thought-out album.
  • The Beatles – Stereo Box Set (remastered)
    It’s the Beatles and it was worth every penny. Do I really have to expand on that?
  • The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
    The Avett Brothers have generated a well-deserved buzz over the years, and it reached a crescendo with their major-label debut this fall. I and Love and You is a beautiful collection of songs, combining the band’s raw energy and musicality. Their live show is also great, as anyone who caught their set at Sloss Furnaces would attest.
  • The Duke and the King – Nothing Gold Can Stay
    Although the songs were largely born of a difficult time in band member Simone Felice’s life, on this album pain is tinged with hope.
  • Fink – Sort of Revolution
    I listen to a lot of different types of music-not everything, to be sure, but a variety-but mellow folk music tends to be what I listen to the most. Fink made an impression on me by combining some of those sounds with a groovy, lounge vibe. (Though I’m not including him on this list, Robert Glasper was also a contender for the same reason.)

Other contenders: Great Lake Swimmers, Sara Watkins, Robert Glasper, A Fine Frenzy, Dave Rawlings Machine.

Earlier this month, I surveyed my Twitter followers for their favorite albums of the year and received some great recommendations:

bhamboxset: Working on my top albums of 2009 post and would love to include reader picks. What’s your favorite? 4:05 PM Dec 11th from TweetDeck

mattplanet:@bhamboxset tough one…Kings of Leon would have to be up there…I’ll get back to you. 4:07 PM Dec 11th from TweetDeck in reply to bhamboxset

coflegel:@bhamboxset vulture whale, reigning sound, bondy, eels, deep dark woods, spiral stairs 4:27 PM Dec 11th from web in reply to bhamboxset

wchandlerparker:@bhamboxset fun., Passion Pit, The Damnwells, Sarah Siskind, Derek Webb, Imogen Heap, Manchester Orchestra were some of my faves… 4:44 PM Dec 11th from Echofon in reply to bhamboxset

Julie100178:@bhamboxset I like Brandi Carlisle’s Give Up the Ghost. 4:54 PM Dec 11th from TweetDeck in reply to bhamboxset

clayconner:@bhamboxset fav 2009 album: Bondy’s “When the Devil’s Loose” 8:44 PM Dec 11th from Tweetie in reply to bhamboxset

jamieparris:@bhamboxset The Low Anthem’s Oh My God Charlie Darwin and Andrew Bird’s Noble Beast 9:59 PM Dec 11th from TweetDeck

spitballarmy:@bhamboxset Farrar/Gibbard’s “One Fast Move…;” Dawn Landes’ “Sweetheart Rodeo;” Damnwells’ “One Last Century;” GLSwimmers’ “Lost Channels” 8:51 AM Dec 12th from TweetDeck in reply to bhamboxset

kristenmstewart:@bhamboxset Noble Beast, I & Love & You, Veckatimest, One Last Century, When the Devil’s Loose, No Line on the Horizon… 1:48 PM Dec 12th from Tweetie in reply to bhamboxset

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