Top 20 Albums of 2009

He likes their eclectic sounds. Either that, or he prefers jewel cases to digi-packs for chewing on.

Some people look at the calendar and think “doing a year end list over a third of the way through the following year is beyond indulgent”. I’m actually one of those people, but if I cared about being indulgent, I wouldn’t exactly be posting my thoughts about my favourite things to an ambivalent audience of dozens, now would I? This list, like all the lists I’ve been doing since January, was delayed due to personal reasons like being busy with work and my newborn son (pictured – already a developing music snob). With this particular list, there was also the practical reason that I spent most of 2009 listening to the best albums of the decade. So I needed these past few months to really experience and embrace the music of 2009 – and once I did, I must say, it was a pretty good year for music. So good that I couldn’t let it go unlisted (of course, my own compulsions probably wouldn’t allow it to go unlisted even if it were an average year for music).
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Top 25 Albums of the Decade – 15 to 11

Here’s a recap of how we got here. Click on the links to read the write-ups/listen to the song samples.
25. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
24. Jay-Z – The Blueprint (2001)
23. The Cardigans – Long Gone Before Daylight (2003)
22. Radiohead – Kid A (2000)
21. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell (2003)

20. Elliott Smith – Figure 8 (2000)
19. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)
18. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People (2002)
17. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)
16. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)

Click on to find out the next five.
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List: The 15 Most Influential Albums of My Life

This is a meme making the rounds at Facebook (I guess now that everyone is done writing 25 random things about themselves, they need something else to write about). The idea behind it is thus:
“Think of 15 albums, CDs, LPs that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life, dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it. Royally affected you, kicked you in the wazzoo, literally socked you in the gut, is what I mean.”

Okay, first off: IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR AN ALBUM TO LITERALLY SOCK YOU IN THE GUT!!! Contrary to popular opinion, the term LITERALLY does not mean “a term used to express exaggeration”, it actually means the exact opposite, in that it is to be used to distinguish reality from exaggeration (or figurative speech). But, getting back on topic, this is a topic I’ve thought about in the past to use as a blog post, as I’ve seen interviews in some music magazine (maybe Spin?) where they interview musicians asking what albums changed their lives.

Of course, those interviews are generally more interesting because: A) famous people are more interesting than random bloggers (at least that’s what US Weekly tells me), and B) as musicians, they’re probably talking about albums that convinced them to become musicians and influenced their style of music. Whereas for the rest of us, we’re talking about albums that maybe helped you through a break-up/taught you about the mysteries of love/first got you laid. In my case, these 15 albums helped shape my life as a fan of music, making me the audiophile I am today. Allow me to tell you why…
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List: My Favourite Album for Every Year I’ve Been Alive

This is a list exercise that has made the blog rounds of late. I discovered it via Steve Hyden of the AV Club Blog, who in turn picked it up from Idolator. The premise is simple: list your favourite album for every year you’ve been alive.

There’s a couple different ways to go about this, with the most obvious being choosing what your favourite album from a given year is now, but a different way would be to try and recollect what your favourite album was then (at least for years where you were old enough to have an opinion). I’m choosing the favourite album now way to go, since I think it’s more interesting posting opinions I can defend now, as opposed to ones where I can just say “what do you want from me; I was a kid”. That said, in years where I didn’t have a strong favourite, or needed a tiebreaker, I chose albums that defined the year for me at the time.

So here’s the list, with some thoughts about how it all shaped up to follow:
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Top 20 Albums of 2007

Last year, I struggled to come up with more than 10 albums I was passionate enough about to write about, so I decided to stick to ten. No such problem this year, which was a rebound year for art in pop culture in general (as long as you kept paying attention after the summer), bringing me back to a top 20 list. As always, this is a list of how I feel right now, not an attempt to make a list for the ages, which is pointless. I’ve no doubt that this list would change over time were I to revisit it, and in fact hope there’s some great albums out there that I’ve missed, because that would mean there’s more great music for me to hear. I will say that I pretty much ignored any album released in December, so if there was a great album released then that I missed, that’s why.
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Top 10 Concerts I Saw in 2007

Still have to frame this. Maybe that will be my first resolution of 2008.

Once again, it’s year end list time, and once again, I’m kicking things off with a list that no one can quibble with but me and my wife (who goes to all the same concerts I go to). We made it to 11 concerts this year, a personal best, and not bad considering that most bands I listen to don’t come to Calgary, choosing to view the Canadian portion of their tours as two or three cities (Toronto, Montreal, and maybe Vancouver). If I lived in those cities, I think I’d being going to shows every other week, as live music is probably the best thing there is in the world (other than puppies).
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Top 5 Songs by Canadian Artists

Happy Canada Day everyone! This post marks the third year in a row where I’ve written about something Canadian on Canada Day. Sadly, since I just came up with the idea to do this list a few hours ago, it’s hardly the most complete, thought-out list ever. But, it’s kinda fun. Plus, how many of you non-Canuck readers are gonna know the difference anyway? You probably think Canadian music begins and ends with Celine Dion and Bryan Adams. Bastards.
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POST #36: Top 5 Tegan and Sara songs, number one

The moment you've all been waiting for! Or, at least one of you has.

I started this list at 10 in the morning, meaning that I stretched one list into fourteen hours of anticipation! Genius!

#1 “My Number” from This Business of Art
Another Tegan song! All but number five were Tegan songs, which I guess tells me that she’s my favourite of two. She’s also the sexier one, whereas Sara is the cuter one (although, it’s kinda like talking about who’s the oldest twin. The difference isn’t big enough to be statistically significant). I first heard this song from their performance on Last Night with David Letterman (which I downloaded) and instantly fell in love with it. It’s got a fantastic structure, building in intensity until it crescendos in the final chorus. My favourite lyric is “He grabs me by the hand, and drags me to the shore and said ‘maybe you don’t love me, but you’ll grow to love me even more'”. One of their longest tracks, and most percussively impressive with a great assist from the piano. It is an atypical song for the duo, with a darker tone and tempo and pulsating sense of urgency. If you only listen to one Tegan and Sara song, let this be it (of course, if after listening to this track, you’re not interested in hearing other Tegan and Sara songs after that… then we can’t be friends).

POST #27: Top 5 Tegan and Sara songs, number two

I'm running out of alt comments here.
To read the review I wrote of Tegan and Sara’s 2002 album, If It Was You, click HERE.

2. “I Hear Noises” from If It Was You
This is the first song I ever heard from Tegan and Sara, and I still love it as I did then. Actually, I love it more than I did then. What a great pop song. Jangly pop a la The Smiths, with a driving chorus. It’s insanely catchy and THE Tegan and Sara song to hear to get the truest sense of their musical style. Although, what probably put this track over the top was hearing Tegan perform it love with a breathy, ultra-sexy delivery. I kinda fell in love that night. Which isn’t as bad as it sounds, since my wife was next to me, falling a bit in love herself.

POST #18: Top 5 Tegan and Sara songs, number three

This one's for Lucky 13.
If you’re interested in reading my first ever album review, which was on Tegan and Sara’s 2004 album So Jealous, you can read it HERE.

3. “Where Does the Good Go?” from So Jealous
I think So Jealous is their best album to date, but this is the only track from that album on this list. It could easily be replaced on this list with other strong tracks like “You Wouldn’t Like Me”, “I Bet It Stung”, and “Wake Up Exhausted”, because the album is strong throughout. However, I like “Where Does the Good Go?” the best because it’s an excellent blend of love-lorn longing that picks up in tempo after the first verse. It an excellently crafted pop song that is a perfect just-dumped track.

POST #11: Top 5 Tegan and Sara songs, number four

Who doesn't love lesbians? You know, besides hate-mongers.
Along with having all their albums, I’ve also seen Tegan and Sara in concert twice. The first time was with them as headliners, which you can read about HERE, the next time was when they opened up for The Killers, which you can read about HERE.

4. “Divided” from Under Feet Like Ours
I first heard this song at the first concert of theirs I went to, since I wasn’t able to buy Under Feel Like Ours until that night (it isn’t available in stores, only at shows and Ebay and stuff). It’s representative of their earlier, acoustic-based music, when they were more Alternative Folk than Indie Pop. Recorded in 1999 (at a studio about two minutes away from my house), the song leads off the album with a recording of a young Tegan and Sara, then breaks into a quiet, acoustic ballad. The song is nothing more than two girls with guitars, with no other accompaniment, with Tegan on lead vocals. It shows that they two can do quieter, more serious songs along with the more uptempo, catchy numbers. My favourite lyric is the first one, “Go downtown to catch the early moive. The shows are cheaper there and they don’t mind if you put your feet up”, simply because I’m pretty sure I know which theatre she’s talking about, and I loved that place. I miss it (unless she’s talking about the ones that still exist, in which case, I love them too and go all the time).

POST #7: Top 5 Tegan and Sara songs, number five

No, I'm the cute one!
For this blogathon, asked me what my favourite band was (and why) as a possible blog topic. Instead of a simple answer, I’ve decided to post my top five favourite songs by my favourite band, Tegan and Sara. I’ll spread them out over five posts to make it easier for myself.

I’ve loved Tegan and Sara’s music now since I discovered it in 2002. Given their asthetic, I’d have to classify them as indie pop, but in truth, they just make pop music. Sadly, in our day and age, pop music has become synonomous with sterile, manufactured, simple music made for crappy radio stations. It used to be about music with a certain structure and feel. The Beatles made pop music before it became a bad word.

Tegan and Sara Quinn are twin sisters from my hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They actually grew up in the same community as me (Marlborough Park), but I’ve never met them (I’m older than them, and went to Catholic school, whereas they went to public school). They have four albums, including the self-released Under Feet Like Ours. Of course, I have all of their CDs, and will soon have all three of their label releases on vinyl (just waiting for If It Was You to arrive in the mail). They’ve gotten more popular in recent years by having their songs featured on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Veronica Mars, and The L Word, but still aren’t as popular as they probably should be. They mostly make love songs, both bouncy fun ones and sadder ones, full of clever lyrics and dueling harmonies. If you’re not listening to them, you really ought to be.

5. “Underwater” from If It Was You
This one is a Sara song, and has what is probably my favourite Tee and Ess lyric ever in it: “I would go to jail with only boys just to prove I was as tough as you. When I get out for good behaviour, I’ll be writing love songs. Silly bangin’ knee songs”. It perfectly captures what their music is about: sure, they could write more serious, feminista anthems to establish their cred (and they did so more with their first two albums), but what they do best is love songs, they’re not ashamed of that, and nothing is gonna stop them from doing so, and doing so with wit and charm. The track is backed by a jangling guitar that is pretty much impossible to resist, much like Tegan and Sara’s music in general.