Spinning Platters Presents the Official List of the Top 15 Albums of 2009

by Gordon Elgart on December 15, 2009

She's clearly got the best album cover on our list, but where did her album end up?

She's clearly got the best album cover on our list, but where did her album end up?

by The Spinning Platters Staff

The past month at the Spinning Platters offices (everyone telecommutes) was spent passing albums around to try to determine a staff list of the Top 15 Albums of 2009. We chose 15 because we had 15 voters, so maybe everyone would get one of their pet favorites on the list. There was a nomination step, a finalist selection step, a final voting step, some senior staff picks,  and then we had a list. No list is perfect (and we recognize that albums are still coming out this year), but ours is not only pretty darned good, it also manages to represent the wide variety of  musical tastes among our team here (i.e. some of us hate some of these albums). Now, read and enjoy The Official List of the Top 15 of 2009.

15. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)

Wilco the Album

Often, when a veteran singer/songwriter known with a reputation for melancholy finally gets their life in order and becomes happy, it can wreak havoc on their career (Case in point: Nine Inch Nails’ With Teeth and Weezer’s Raditude to name two).  I’m very happy to say that, with Jeff Tweedy sober, married, and raising a family, he has actually grown stronger as a songwriter. This record is perpetually optimistic without sounding sappy. This is also the first Wilco record to retain the same lineup as the previous record, and it shows. Guitar wizard Nels Cline is playing his heart out throughout, and it finally feels like they really understand each other. Although the record may lack some of the experimentation of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, it’s the kind of record that any musician would be proud to say they have completed. [Dakin Hardwick]

14. Music Go Music – Expressions

ExpressionsThis album is a representation of everything that’s right with today’s music. It’s a band thrown together from pieces of other bands as a fun side project. It’s been promoted through clever low budget videos on YouTube.  Even though the band shines more as a live combo than they do here, it’s among my personal favorite albums for this year. There’s really no way to separate the joy I get from watching them from the joy I get listening to this. I’ve written a full review of this album for Spinning Platters, and I think it says everything there is to say about what makes this so wonderful. Just know that it’s the best time you’ll have listening to music in a long while. [Gordon Elgart]

13. Wallpaper – DooDoo Face

Doodoo FaceHave you had a long serious day filled with stressful meetings and angry coworkers? Well then you need a full serving of Doodoo Face, just take it right to the head, it’s just what Spinning Platters’ ordered. The first album from Wallpaper is just what we all need to get out of the funk that half of us tend to carry around. This is bound to make you laugh, dance and smile all at the same time; and when was the last time you did that? Wallpaper’s crafty blend of live drums, synthesizers and, oh yeah, auto-tune are all here for us to just kick back and enjoy, preferably with your favorite mixed drink! [David Price]

12.  his Orchestra – Field Guide to the Wilds

Field Guide to the WildsOn the virtually un-Googleable band his Orchestra’s debut album, Field Guide to the Wilds,you get a glimpse into the beginning of greatness.   You could say they sound like Arcade Fire or Belle and Sebastian and you wouldn’t be wrong, but they are so much more than that. Maybe it is the six band members, including cello and violin, that draw the comparison, but there is something in their youthful exuberance that makes them really special.  The album is full of catchy melodies that jump out at you but it is the clever string arrangements that keep you coming back for more.  This is not a band controlled by a mastermind songwriter, but a project that is made better by the sum of its parts.  It is the kind of album that slowly grows into your soul, and though immediately likeable, the nuances in each song keep the material from getting tired.  Field Guide to the Wilds is a solid and deep piece of work that assures me the future of indie rock is safe. [Marie Carney]

11. Paramore – brand new eyes

brandneweyesIt’s a no-brainer why I chose this album as my Editor’s pick. It’s a masterpiece of pop-punk glory that makes me happy every time I listen to it. I can sing along to all the lyrics and can envision myself singing them on stage. Call it what you will, but no band has had me this excited since I was the tender age of 18 waiting for Interpol outside The Warfield. It’s fun, easy to listen to, and uncomplicated. While at one point they may have been thought of as a Christian band, there’s nothing preachy in the lyrics. Instead, you hear the personal growth the band has gone through. And Hayley Williams is just so darn adorable, how could you not like her? [Caroline Hernandez]

10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!

Its Blitz!What would be a Best of 2009 list without a Karen O project? Before working on the music to the overly hipster spectacle that was Where the Wild Things Are, Karen and the rest of her regular band worked on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs third release, It’s Blitz!   With each album, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs sound gets more mature and technical while still keeping their punky dance aesthetic, and that bit of heart that makes it more personable. Songs like “Zero” and “Dull Life” keep you bouncing throughout the album, which is why this is one of our picks for Best Albums of 2009. [Vanessa Romero]

9. Late of the Pier – Fantasy Black Channel

Fantasy Black ChannelWhat happens when you take British top 40 circa 1985, synthesizers and semi-world-famous DJ Erol Alkan, and mix them all together with a bit of cream? You get Late of the Pier’s album Fantasy Black Channel. It’s just a fact that synthesizers make everything better; it’s like oh you stubbed your toe? Here play with the vintage 1975 Oberheim 4voice. See? Instantly happy! Just about every track is delightfully danceable in the way that The Beatles were danceable to our parents. Just like how there are people out there who think food that comes from France is generally better, that’s how we all should be with the British.  Music that comes from the Brits is just better, end of story! [David Price]

8. Little Boots – Hands

untitledSix months ago I went to a show.  It quite possibly was the most enjoyable show I have ever been to.  That show was Little Boots.  After having only heard about 30 seconds of a song I was quickly convinced to go.  My expectations of the show were simple, a fun night of danceable pop entertainment.  However, the performance blew my mind.  As a performer, Victoria dazzles the audience with her energy and passion.  By the end of the show the songs were so memorable that they were excitedly running through my head for the rest of the night.  As a result I was impatient to add Little Boots to my iPod so that I could listen to her again.  And thus began my obsession with Little Boots.  I listened to her album, Hands, over and over and over again for at least a month before listening to anyone else.  It was as if no other music existed. You may be sitting there wondering why I became so obsessed.  Little Boots is not your typical pop fluff.  The lyrics are moody and emotional but delivered in a upbeat, thought provoking fashion.  My favorite track on the record, “Ghost,” is hauntingly melodic, but not in a depressing way.  The fact that Victoria writes her own lyrics may be the reason that they go deeper than most pop songs.  This album is multi-talented, it can cheer me up when I’m feeling down and it can give my happiness a boost with its cheerful beats. [Heather Beaudry]

7. Gossip – Music For Men

Music For MenMusic for Men is the fourth full length release from Portland based dance-punk band The Gossip and it is their most polished to date.  The fans from the beginning may say they are selling out or other such nonsense, but seeing as the actual message and music is just as strong, this is simply untrue.  Rick Rubin’s production adds a level of accessibility the band did not have previously.  I approve of anything that can bring punk rock ethos to the masses, and this album has genre crossover spray painted all over it.  Moreover, The Gossip’s particular brand of punky dance rock has a depth of experience that many others in the genre do not.  They hold on to their punk roots with the message, mostly of equality, and the raw driving energy powering every song on the album.  Above all the beats and guitars is the real crowning glory: Beth Ditto’s voice, like an angel of punk rock soul.  This is soul music in the truest sense, for you feel her pouring every ounce of herself out through her lungs and vocal chords straight into your ears and heart.  There is a power there that few other bands can muster, which is what makes Music for Men something great. [Marie Carney]

6. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Wolfgang Amadeus PhoenixWhen I first reviewed this album, I was only slightly more than positive about it, but as time has passed, I keep coming back to it over and over again. There’s a bounce in the step of this record that can make the dreariest days a little brighter. Then there’s the epic “Love Like a Sunset” which carries me on an emotional journey each time I listen to it. And the drumming on this album is top notch, start to finish. Phoenix had always been a ho-hum band to me in the past, but now I’ll be anticipating everything they do from here on in. This is a testament to what time and experience can do for a band. Give a band a few albums, and eventually they’ll find their voice. Phoenix’s voice is clear, strong and fun. [Gordon Elgart]

5. Metric – Fantasies

FantasiesI first became acquainted with Metric after listening to Emily Haines’ (and the Soft Skeleton) solo album, Knives Don’t Have Your Back.  I really liked her voice and was curious about another Broken Social Scene branch-off. After listening to a few songs, I knew this was going to be one of my new favorites bands.  I couldn’t really compare their sound to anything I had heard before. Since then, I’ve had to keep myself content with the Metric albums I have, because for one reason or another, I’ve never been able to see them play live. Fortunately for me, I was delighted with their newest release, Fantasies.

Fantasies came true with 10 catchy tracks of indie rock that kept up the momentum 2005’s Live It Out left off with. As always, Haines delivers clever lyrics in her signature feminine monotone layered with plenty of synth, and up-tempo guitar riffs. My favorite track on the album, “Satellite Mind”, is a song that makes me want to dance in front of the mirror while getting ready to go out. Every song is great, and the album is plain awesome. [Caroline Hernandez]

4. Florence and the Machine – Lungs

Lungs“Dog Days Are Over” features some amazing chops, and the accompanying music dovetails nicely with it. It’s quite amazing. And I can’t help but think that I am in the act’s target demo, because tracks like “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” bring to mind such famous acts as Sinead O’Connor and Bananarama. The third great song on this album is “Kiss With a Fist.” The beat sounds like KT Tunstall, but it has vocals that match the rest of the album. Musically some comparisons could be made with White Stripes as well. “Girl With One Eye” is also good, and not just so I can feel better about picking out a song on my own. “Drumming Song” sounds like a saner version of something Ruby would do. “Hurricane Drunk” sounds like something that would have played in an early-’90s teen movie. I really enjoyed this album a lot more than I thought I would. Its pandering to me did not feel like it, so it let me focus on being entertained. [Joel Edelman]

3. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

Bitte OrcaOnce in a very rare while does a record come along that indulges the senses quite like this one. It is equal parts complex and accessible. Instrumentally, we have a solid band that works in elements of reggae, afro-beat, and Velvet Underground-esque pop music, but the vocal harmonies add a layer to this like no other.  The vocals are beautiful and swirling, and the rhythms are complex and delicate. This record is the audio equivalent to a top spinning:  the vocals are balanced on a delicate rhythm base, and the effect is stunning; but if something were to fall out of whack, the whole thing could tumble to the ground. The beauty is what makes the record, but the suspense is what completes it. [Dakin Hardwick]

2. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

Middle Cyclone

On Middle Cyclone, Neko Case’s guileless voice soars into the first song with a warning and does not relinquish the floor until she deigns proper — ceding the final track to just over half-an-hour of frogs chirping in a pond at night.

Where other singers may strain, Case simply does. Her voice courses across the spare hook-laden country-kissed rock songs as surely as a river across flood-plain; natural and frictionless. Gears in the same music box.

Each track’s narrative leans in and intimates “No, it’s not quite like that — it’s like this.” Unreliable narrating characters bend or break with the wend of chance. Case points her pen at where preconception parts with reality. Consequences differ in both tempo and cost. This album’s arcing alchemy is an immensely delicate musical task to pull off, and Case makes it all feel so effortless. She makes difficult sound so easy. [Christopher Rogers]

1. The Bird and the Bee – Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future

Bird and the BeeNo matter how jaded the music listener, in everyone’s heart of hearts, even the music nerds, they crave a really good record that combines lyrics they can sing along to, grooves that instill a little booty shaking desire, thoughtfulness that can spark a little emotion, and pure excitement that just gets happy with you when need it to.  Inara George’s warm, syrupy sweet, and playful vocals blends with Greg Kurstin’s perfectly constructed and stylized melodies made of every possible combination of electric instruments to accomplish these feats with such elusiveness, you don’t realize it’s happening until the music stops.  It’s very difficult to write a pop album that stands the test of time, meriting repeated listens, but it seems The Bird and The Bee have found the ideal formula to craft the closest thing to a “real” pop record that not only seems genuine in spirit, but authentic as it draws you into its mod-retro-loungy fun-loving electro wonderfulness. [Raffi Yousouffian]

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Alan December 15, 2009 at 1:44 pm

WTF?! Where’s SLAYER??


Gordon Elgart December 15, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Probably on tour somewhere.


Joel December 16, 2009 at 10:28 am

Or in the back banging teenage girls.


Jenny Torode December 24, 2009 at 12:23 am

I checked out that band His Orchestra, and I found out they were playing a show near me and I went down and checked them out and I stuck around to talk to the band afterward and I found out Douglas Smith writes all the songs for the band, which I was really surprised by because he by day is an actor, so cheers to him for being so insightful and writing such wonderful tunes! good pick Marie!


Marie Carney December 24, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I’m glad you enjoyed it, though I’m jealous you got to see them!
I think they’ve only played here in SF that one time. *sobs*


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