Stranded In Stereo: SIS The Best of 2009 ... So Far, Part Two

Friday, July 3, 2009

SIS The Best of 2009 ... So Far, Part Two

As we approach the 4th of July weekend, we take a look back at the second half of what we started yesterday: the best albums of 2009 ... so far, that is. These 10 albums, listed in nothing but alphabetical, could be and are the top contenders thus far for the Top 10 of '09, but we still have many months to go, and many albums to come yet to shake things up. But until then, if the year ended today the Top 10 would include these fine albums.

Japandroids / Post-Nothing / Polyvinyl
The first time I heard this record, it was loud and it was abrasive and I couldn't find anything I really liked about it. But with every subsequent listen, I found the melodies hidden beneath the maniacal playing of this Vancouver-based duo. And then on headphones, besides the musical jewels, you listen to the lyrics and you realize this must be a concept record. All this talk of girls and their homeland, getting the sweats and the shits and "x-o-x-o-x" that end letters and text messages. I was listening to it just yesterday and "Sovereignty" and there was one lyric that sealed the deal on this being a great album and a great concept on that I dubbed Teen Angsty Love, Canadian Style: 'It's raining in Vancouver / But I don't give a fuck / Cause I'm in love with you tonight." But their not in love with just girls, but a city, a place far from home that is their hearts.

Peter, Bjorn & John - Living Thing - StarTime / Almost Gold
For their fifth album, the Swedish trio drop their guitars, fire up the samplers and drum machines, and make the best record the 80s just couldn't handle back then. Choruses of kids belt out there's nothing to worry about, and it's true: for those who feared the band wasn't the same band, they still are. All the catchy melodies are there just presented in a different form. The title track with it's nod to Graceland and the first UK single yelling out 'Hey shut the fuck up boy' are just some of the gleaming moments. "I'm Losing My Mind" veers back to what we can now call classic PB&J with a psychadelic guitar riff driving the album, but that's its low point. I much prefer the dark and ominous jams like "4 Out of 5" that will protrude from my car stereo all summer long.

Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer - Jagjaguwar
Those who say this third album from one of Spencer Krug's many guises is his most accessible are truly right in their sayings. But for me, I always thought Sunset Rubdown was accessible and easy to get in to. This album features everything you'd want - epic prog moments ("Dragon's Lair," "Black Swan") and driving, hard hitting anthems ("You Go On Ahead," "Idiot Heart"). For me, what I like most is picking up on subtle nuances or just taking in the things no one else would. Like the swirling keyboard notes that open the record on "Silver Moons" or the way everything starts to collide on the aforementioned "Swan". Hell, even their cover of "Paper Lace" (cover because it was originally done by one of Krug's other outfits, Canadian indie supergroup Swan Lake) is worthy of debating whether their version is better than the original. As prolific and as talented as this band is getting along with a spot in the limelight, makes you wonder if this could become Krug's day job over some Wolf group he plays in.

Telekinesis - Telekinesis! - Merge
It's not just because of my allegiance to the infamous label that turns 20 this year, but every year I feel they always put out a new record from an up and coming up that just resonates with me like no other. This year it Michael Benjamin Lerner, aka the Seattle-based Telekinesis. On this record, Lerner teams up with producer Chris Walla to brings us tales of obsessions with foreign lands and time zones that, while it appears he's visited on the surface, his bio will tell you otherwise. And boy are the songs catchy - we all know my love for "Awkward Kisser," but the acoustic punch of "Great Lakes" and the soaring guitars of "Tokyo" all give way to the 'I'm in love with you, return the favor' serenade of "I Saw Lightning." Dare I say this is a perfect record?
Wilco - Wilco ( The Album) - Nonesuch
So, yeah, everyone's favorite band from Chicago caught a lot of flack for the Dad-rock infused Sky Blue Sky. I know back upon its release two years ago I wasn't a big fan of it; I never even blogged about it once! But their new album, it just immediately stuck with me. It's not this mid-tempo 70s record like Sky, and it definitely veers from their meandering ways of A Ghost Is Born. It's not Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, though - but it's on par with the now legendary album. "Bull Black Nova" builds and build over repetitions before exploding. "You Never Know" is driven by a clanging honky tonk piano. "Sonny Feeling" is just that and essentially tells the entire tale of an album full of upbeat moments, and tongue-in-cheek-ism's down to the title track and band theme song.

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