December 29, 2009
I've researched all year to give you these recommendations. I guarantee each one is a great listen for all fans of rock of new music. Even indie-hipsters will find something they love on this list. I've considered over 150 records (found on CMJ, Good Records, Amazon Genius, word-of-mouth, numerous publications). I purchased about 40 of them after a full preview on LaLa. The pile sifts down to these ten records. NOTE: I purchased 6 of the 10 at my favorite local record shop. I bought 3 of them on iTunes. I only purchased one through Amazon (Silversun Pickups). I'm going a little digital this year (30%), but still love the convenience of popping the CD into my player (and enjoying the artwork or packaging).
By modern rock, I mean all rock that isn't a retread of last year's/decade's big hit. I'm looking for new, indie, fresh, retro-but-innovative rock that I want to turn up in my car. I'm also looking for great albums, from beginning to end. Each one of my picks has a minimum of eight great tracks. In a future post, I'll share my top 12 songs of 2009, which will likely come from a different group of artists than this list.
TOP 10 MODERN ROCK RECORDS OF 2009
1. Fruit Bats - Ruminant Band: Eric Johnson, the creator of the Fruit Bats, hails from Chicago and now lives in Seattle where his label (Sub Pop) HQs. You might have seen Johnson as a touring sideman for the Shins. Ruminant Band really grew on me with repeat listens. It fills that "Shins-Arcade Fire-Deathcab" indie-sensitive category for the year. The songs blend turned phrases with southern rock guitar riffs and rare instruments to create my top find of 2009. Every single tracks glistens with taste and the gestalt of this year's crop of new music.
2. Kasabian - West Ryder Lunatic Asylum: This bad-boy UK electro-rock group lit up the summer festival circuit in Europe. I read about them in a music mag I purchased in London in July. Their much anticipated record features Sergio Pizzorno's sensibility and dark point of view. This is the best british modern rock record since Blur's Think Tank. Much like it, West Ryder Lunatic Asylum takes you on a sonic journey from the boom-boom beats of Underdog or Vlad The Impaler to the thoughtful organic tunesmithing of Thick As Thieves.
3. Built To Spill - There Is No Enemy: I've been a fan of this band for over a decade because of their brown guitar sounds, uber-indie chordings and great lyrics. Doug Martsch is one of the songwriters of our time. There Is No Enemy is perhaps their best record yet, which is hard to deliver after all of this time. This will fill your My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses or Modest Mouse requirements for the year (and then some).
4. Thao - Know Better Learn Faster: This is a new band that came on strong at the end of the year (thanks to CMJ's charts for alerting me to their rise). Lead singer Thao Nguyen is enigmatic, bombastic, soulful and stands out as one of this year's new fresh faces in indie-land. She's as strange as Cat Power, yet as forceful as Perry Ferrel. Check out track 2 (Cool Yourself) and you'll buy the record.
5. Monsters Of Folk - Monsters Of Folk: Are you kidding me? Combine Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes, with Jim James from My Morning Jacket, then throw in M. Ward just to make this indie-folk-supergroup debut a ringer. Man Named Truth and Dear God are instant classics. This record is rare in that it perfectly blends several big egos to produce a collaboratively huge sound.
6. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career: This band hails from Scotland and shares an instrumental bent not too far from fellow Scots Belle & Sebastian. TraceyAnn Campbell has a Mama Cass meets Portishead/Beth sound that is both throwback and modern at the same time. French Navy is one of the most engaging and smile producing tracks of this year. Their US tour was the highlight of the indie circuit this summer.
7. Arctic Monkeys - Humbug: Alex Turner is one of the most special writers to come from the UK in a long time. He's got a knack for transposing his point of view into snap catchy songs. Their first CD was a fresh delight and Humbug, their third release returns them to top form.
8. Silversun Pickups - Swoon: One of the top alternative rock records of 2009 from one of my favorite Los Angeles acts. Swoon is the band's full on Gish (Smashing Pumpkins) and shows incredible growth both in song writing and tone production. The opening track, There Are No Secrets This Year, sizzles with a freshness of a newly signed band.
9. Passion Pit - Manners: Michael Angelakos is the master mind behind this twisted pop band from Boston. He combines vintage instruments with otherworldly vocal arrangements to create this year's MGMT. Much like MGMT, the band's production sparkles with a cherubic sound. Sleepyhead was a top college track this year.
10. Sonic Youth - The Eternal: Yes, they are back in black and more accessible than ever. Somewhere along the way Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon decided to combine their decades of experience into a wise record that stretched the boundaries of tone and tune. From beginning to end, each track will engage you and remind you why Sonic Youth is one of the most influential bands of rock and roll.