Posted by: Dave on December 22, 2009 at 5:39 pm

RuralAlbertaAdvantageHometowns.jpgAs the decade draws to a close, the future of the album is as iffy as it’s been since the early ‘60s. Commercially, album sales dropped another 13% in 2009 (after declinining steadily each of the last several years) while digital single song sales continue to rise. At the same time, more EPs are being released and—most alarmingly—there’s been a major influx of commercially successful albums getting the “deluxe” re-release treatment. This beefed-up, re-packaged album trend makes it difficult to determine which is the actual album—the original or deluxe release—particularly when the updated versions contain several top-notch, brand new hit songs (most notably Lady GaGa’s The Fame and Rihanna’s Good Girl Gone Bad.)

I assume the album concept will survive throughout the next ten years, but I think we’ll see increasingly fewer true and great full-lengths. Classic albums often take time, money, and commercial/label pressure to produce. In many cases, that energy will go towards making a great song or handful of songs, instead of a complete 8-to-15-song artistic statement.

Naturally, though, there will still be some musicians that strive to make a great album. 2009 could very well be indicative of the future. Below is a list of solid artistic statements—all of them. But none of these will rank as all-time classics. None of these are likely to end up in the upper fourth of my Top 100 Albums of the ‘00s (coming very soon to New Music Nation). Every one of them is a quality listen, though.

Here are my picks for the 20 most complete, ambitious and well-executed albums of 2009 (followed by 20 honorable mentions), focusing primarily on rock, hip hop, metal, pop, electro/dance, r&b and alternative country. Enjoy the list.

1. The Rural Alberta Advantage Hometowns (Saddle Creek)
2. Kid Cudi Man on the Moon: The End of Day (Motown/G.O.O.D.)
3. Brother Ali Us (Rhymesayers)
4. Psapp The Camel’s Back (Domino)
5. The Decemberists The Hazards of Love (Capitol)
6. The Mars Volta Octahedron (Warner Brothers)
7. Grizzly Bear Veckatimest (Warp)
8. Jack Peñate Everything Is New (XL)
9. Shakira She Wolf (Epic)
10. M. Ward Hold Time (Merge)
11. Neko Case Middle Cyclone (Anti-)
12. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (Lightning Rod)
13. Franz Ferdinand Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
14. Handsome Furs Face Control (Sub Pop)
15. Electric Owls Ain’t Too Bright (Vagrant)
16. Chali 2na Fish Outta Water (Decon)
17. UUVVWWZ UUVVWWZ (Saddle Creek)
18. Thrice Beggars (Vagrant)
19. P.O.S. Never Better (Rhymesayers)
20. N.A.S.A. The Spirit of Apollo (Anti-)

Honorable Mentions

21. Them Crooked Vultures Them Crooked Vultures (Interscope)
22. The Black Crowes Before the Frost… (Silver Arrow/Megaforce)
23. Gossip Music for Men (Columbia)
24. The Features Some Kind of Salvation (429)
25. Sunset Rubdown Dragonslayer (Jagjaguwar)
26. Peter Bjorn & John Living Thing (Almost Gold)
27. Monsters of Folk Monsters of Folk (Shangri-La)
28. Heartless Bastards The Mountain (Fat Possum)
29. Lily Allen It’s Not Me, It’s You (Capitol)
30. St. Vincent The Strangers (4AD)
31. Morrissey Years of Refusal (Attack/Lost Highway)
32. Matt & Kim Grand (Fader)
33. Beast Beast (Verve Forecast)
34. Manchester Orchestra Mean Everything to Nothing (Favorite Gentleman/Canvasback)
35. Wilco Wilco (the album) (Nonesuch)
36. The Fiery Furnaces I’m Going Away (Thrill Jockey)
37. Bishop Allen Grrr… (Dead Oceans)
38. U2 No Line On the Horizon (Interscope)
39. Eminem Relapse (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope)
40. Empire of the Sun Walking on a Dream (Astralwerks/Virgin)

One Response to “Top 20 Albums of 2009 (Plus 20 More)”

  1. New Music Nation » Blog Archive » Top 20 Songs of 2009 Says:

    […] Somali-born rapper/singer K’naan appears on this list far more than any other artist. His ambitious, global hip-hop/rock/pop sound and unique lyrical perspective made him one of the most exciting newcomers here in the U.S. in 2009. But you won’t find his major-label debut Troubadour on my Top 20 Albums of 2009 list. When all the elements align properly, he’s excellent. When they don’t, he’s overbearing and awkward. His best work—along with 16 other highlights from the last year of the decade—is listed below. […]

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