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Top 30 Albums Of 2009 - Part 3

This is a day late because I had to put up a Christmas tree and shovel through 12-15 inches of snow this morning. But here it is, hope you find something on here you agree with!
1Between the Buried and Me
The Great Misdirect


10. After Between the Buried and Me released "Colors", considered by many to be the 'magnum opus' of their early career, the big question was raised: how the hell are they going to top this? While "The Great Misdirect" falls short of Color's absurdly high watermark, the band put forth a commendable effort that continues the epic nature of their music with slight adjustments, including more sensible transitions between segments and a wider variety of influence, from world music (the intro to "Swim to the Moon") to alt-country ("Desert of Song"). "Obfuscation" shows what is best about BTBAM, with a tight blend of progressive metal that is much more to the point than anything on Colors was, while "Swim to the Moon" shows their worst: sounding more like a shelved Dream Theater experiment than anything else. Regardless, the band has put forth another solid effort, and prove that another masterpiece may not be far out of their reaches.
2As Cities Burn
Hell or High Water


9. This probably was my biggest surprise of the year. While "Come Now Sleep" showed a mass amount of potential with their moody post-hardcore flavored blend of rock, "Hell or High Water" delivers in a big way, delivering songs that are both emotional and fun. "Lady Blue" is a wonderful example, a quiet electronic- sounding opening gives way to chain clanks, female backing vocals, and memorable guitar hooks in a song that evolves at a constant pace. It is a shame the band broke up, this album showed a focus on songwriting that was both surprising and endearing. They could have had more big things ahead, if this was any indication.
3Manchester Orchestra
Mean Everything to Nothing


8. I got this album pretty late in the 2009 game, but how high it ended up already shows how good of an album this is. Andy Hull is an absolute monster here, as his vocals cover the gamut from a quiet somber quiver to a disconcerting yell. The instrumentation is also just as dynamic, pounding guitars and drums peak at all the right times, while they also know just when to back off and offer some new textures. This album suffers from some repetition in the songwriting department, but top tracks like "I Got Friends" and "Shake it Out" really stand out and grab the listener. A great listen for anyone who likes indie/alternative music.
4fun.
Aim and Ignite


7. Rarely does a band's name explain their ethos, but fun. did just that. From the opening track "Be Calm" which sounds like an epic introduction to a musical to the underrated "Take Your Time (Coming Home) which boasts great lyrics and rocking instrumentals, fun. has brought to the table an enjoyable indie pop record. Nate Ruess takes command here and brings a strong vocal performance, though some may find his high pitched singing to be irritating. But whether the band is using tubas for flavor or delivering some Queen-esque vocal harmonies, the point is clear: they are having fun, and so should you while listening. Also props goes to guitarist Jack Antonoff for FINALLY getting some recognition after receiving barely any credit for his awesome work in Steel Train.
5The Antlers
Hospice


6. And I thought "For Emma, Forever Ago" was depressing. The Antlers have put an album that embodies the idea of desolation, from the dark keyboard tones to the perfect lo-fi production of the album. Songs like "Bear" show that The Antlers can rock, but the slower tracks like "Kettering" and "Atrophy" really show The Antlers at their best, creating a somber mood that fits the subject matter of the album almost painfully well. Not an album for the easily depressed (my girlfriend refuses to listen to this after I told her what the album was about), but for the rest, we get a great record that really surprised this year.
6Isis
Wavering Radiant


5. Post-metal is a kind of genre that is really hard to deviate with in terms of sound, with heavy dropped guitars churning out nine minutes of droning chords and minimalist riffs. Luckily, Isis is a band that continues to push this genre to new heights, and "Wavering Radiant" is the product of minor tweaks really working effectively. For starters, there are really great grooves on this album, especially in the polyrhythmic "Ghost Key" and the slow moving monolith "Hand of the Host". Every instrument has a place in the mix, and even Aaron Turner's vocals have a modal quality within the overall sound. Turner's clean vocals have improved a great deal as well, he sounds much more in command as a singer than in past efforts. Even Isis' worst albums are great, but "Wavering Radiant" is very much worthy of a top-five spot in this list.
7Rx Bandits
Mandala


4. Its amusing to think that Rx Bandits used to have more in common with Reel Big Fish than progressive music, but "Mandala" shows a band that has a truly evolved sound. From the sweeping electronic piano sounds that open the album to the absolutely insane Mars Volta-inspired mess that closes "Bring Our Children Home or Everything is Nothing", the Bandits have hit on a very successful sound. While the album shows incredible musical proficiently, especially in the drummer, the band also excels at grooving and textures in tracks like "White Lies". The ska inspired energy from their past releases may be missing, but it doesn't even matter: Rx Bandits have crafted an excellent work here.
8Grizzly Bear
Veckatimest


3. With a name like Grizzly Bear, one would not expect to hear 60's influenced baroque pop being played, but that is exactly what the band is all about. "Veckatimest" shows a band that has crafted their musical styling to absolute perfection. "Southern Point" is the best example of this: loud/soft dynamics are constantly being thrown at the listener in a song that is just as much about bombastic percussion as it is classically inspired acoustic guitar parts. Textures are the reason why this album works so well, as every single instrument in effectively placed within the overall soundscape. The dynamics of the songs are also important as shown with "Southern Point", because the tension between lush choruses and stark verses creates a wonderful effect. There is a definite craftsmanship that can be derived from this album, and that is something to be commended in a musical world where big hits seem to come from artists who experiment the least.
9mewithoutYou
It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All


2. Aaron Weiss is one quirky dude. His vocal performance is barely even musical, while his lyrics range from parables about animals to sailing a banana boat across a tapioca sea. But somehow, he makes it work better than most vocalists could ever hope to do. MWY's 2009 release sees the band take on a more indie influenced sounds, and it does a lot for the band. The focus on auxiliary instrumentation creates a story- like soundtrack to Weiss' zany lyrics, which really puts an emphasis on his incredible knack for storytelling. "The Fox, The Crow, and The Cookie" is a perfect example, mixing incredible metaphors with comical situations and somehow still arriving at a moral ending. I don't even care that Weiss' subject matter is essentially Judeo-Christian in nature. Anyone who can create songs like this deserves an immense amount of credit.
10Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion


1. Don't you just hate it when a band that is super hyped makes the top spot on a year end list? AC's detractors must be terribly sick of hearing about them this year, but let's face it: these guys deserve every inch of credit they get. "Merriweather Post Pavilion" is the perfect blend of psychedelic pop and manic electronic ambiance, and looking past single "My Girls" only strengthens this opinion. The lush electronic textures of tracks like "Bluish" are absolutely stunning, while the energy of "Brother Sport" creates an exciting crescendo to the ending up the album. The only thing that may be better than this album is their "Fall Be Kind" EP, but that goes to show you that Animal Collective as a reviewer here stated is "truly on top of their game", and we as listeners are the true beneficiaries of this.
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