Friday, December 18, 2009

Favorite Albums of the Year

My choices for albums of the year. Go to for the full list.

13. Dinosaur Jr.
At least one indie reunion didn't destroy the band's legacy in the process. If 2007's Beyond demonstrated that the trio could reunite without wrecking its reputation, this year's Farm proved it was no fluke. Whereas other bands have tried to recreate their classic sound and failed miserably, Dinosaur Jr. didn't even attempt to rehash its past on Farm; those expecting a redux of You're Living All Over Me or Bug were surely disappointed. Instead, the album played to the band's strengths while still sounding original and unique: the intricate guitar workouts, bass and drums of songs like "I Want You To Know," "Plans," "Over It" and "Pieces" couldn't be mistaken for any other band, and never felt forced or redundant.
J. Mascis won't ever be confused with a smooth crooner, but his vocals and lyrics were as evocative as anything from the band's back catalog, especially on slow burners "See You" and "Said the People." Myopic listeners may have tended to zero in on the band's instrumentals - and really, who could blame them? - but Farm contained some of the strongest lyrics and vocals to grace a Dinosaur Jr. album. In a year that regrettably saw too many ill-conceived and poorly executed band reunions, Farm proved such efforts can result in something more than a shitty single and even shittier album. For once, a reunited band didn't simply mail it in; with Farm Dinosaur Jr. created an album that came damn close to matching their best work. -

4. The Antlers
The Antlers created one of this year's - if not this decade's - most complex and profound albums with Hospice, an elegy to loss and remembrance as well as a statement of hope in the face of tragedy. Regardless of the actual events that inspired the record - in interviews lyricist Peter Silberman has downplayed much of the mythology now attached to Hospice - the album is most notable for its dense and varied musical template and richly poetic lyrics. Built around inter-connected storylines of a terminal cancer patient and a disintegrating relationship, Hospice remains a deeply moving album whose standing as one of indie's most fully realized works is assured.
Its songs are alternately devastating and uplifting; empty cancer ward beds, childhood nightmares and dissolution of relationships are contrasted with hopeful defiance and to an extent, guarded optimism. Events are mentioned but the story's complete picture remains elusive and dreamlike, as perspectives and timelines shift to the point that most songs are left open to the listener's interpretation. Silberman's voice and the band's layered instrumentals hold the songs together, never settling on one style for very long but still giving the album an overall tone and consistency.
The world of Hospice is one of transience and fragility, but also one of devotion and, however tentative, optimism. Its characters down mortality and separation squarely and honestly; the album doesn't bullshit and never gives in to resignation. With Hospice, The Antlers managed to take something deeply personal and shape it into a truly universal album. As 2009 ends, the album still is quite simply that type of rare work that serves as a reminder of just how powerful, heartbreaking and comforting music can be.


Underground A said...

Saw Dino Jr. recently and it was one of the loudest shows I've ever been to. Played a great mix of "Farm" as well as older "hits". "The Wagon" "The Lung" etc. Great list

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