Sunday, December 27, 2009

Favorite Albums of ‘09

With another year over, I enjoy looking back and comparing some of the new music that was released over the course of the last 12 months. 2009 saw CD sales take another hit while digital downloads surpassed physical CD sales. Plus, some of this year’s biggest sellers were from a fallen king (Michael Jackson) the one of the newest groups to have their own video game (The Beatles). I noticed a trend in many of this year’s releases, so instead of listing my favorite albums, I decided to group them together based on similarities.

Two albums that were sure to be special were the newest albums by Bob Dylan and U2. While Bob Dylan’s “Together Through Life” was not his strongest album of the decade, it was still a lyrical masterpiece. Songs like “I Feel A Change Comin’ On” and “Beyond Here Lies Nothing” sound like lost B-sides to some of his classic songs. Back in 2008, U2 announced that they would be holding back the release of their newest album “No Line On The Horizon” until 2009 because of a musical overload of ideas. Their gamble paid off with one of the band’s best albums of all-time. Songs like “Moment of Surrender” and “Breathe” added another level to Bono’s and The Edge’s songwriting.

A big trend this year was to put together a super group of musicians, record and album and go on tour and see how they are accepted by the masses. Some bands sounded better on paper (Chickenfoot, The Dead Weather) while others made us forget for a moment that they were ever in another band. One of those super groups was a trio called Them Crooked Vultures made up of Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Josh Homme (Queens Of The Stone Age) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin). Their music brought back that 70’s hard rock sound as well as having fun performing with friends. Another super group, who has been overly compared to the Traveling Wilburys, is the Monsters of Folk. The harmonizing of the voices and instruments of Jim James, Conner Oberst, M. Ward and Mike Mogis make their debut album hard to resist.

Anticipated albums by Alice In Chains, Phish, Dave Matthews Band and Pearl Jam brought these superstar groups back into the spotlight. With the death of lead singer Layne Stanley back in 2002 it seemed that Alice In Chains would be no more. But with the discovery of William DeVall, the band’s new album “Black Gives Way To Blue” sounds as if it fits perfectly into their musical catalogue. Phish returned with “Joy”, the band’s first album in five years. They finally figured out how to bring some of their energy from the live shows into the studio. The wonderfully written ”Kill Devil Falls” and the epic “Time Turns Elastic” help make “Joy” the band’s best album since ”Billy Breathes”. “Big Whiskey and The Groogrux King” gave the Dave Matthews Band the respect they lost with past album failures and gave fans hope on a bright future. Pearl Jam released their new album ”Backspacer” exclusively through Target stores and even though it was the band’s shortest album at just over 35 minutes, it contained more energy and passion than their last five albums combined. It was also the band’s first number one album in over ten years.

In closing, there are some albums that deserve mentioning. Legendary rockers Kiss released “Sonic Boom” back in October. It debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts and features some of the band’s best songs since the late eighties. Speaking of Kiss, former lead guitarist Ace Frehley also released a new album, “Anomaly”, which could be considered his best album ever. There are also a couple of instrumental albums that are definitely worth listening to. One is by Spanish guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela entitled “11:11” and the other is by surf guitar rockers Los Straitjackets called “The Further Adventures of Los Straitjackets”. And let’s not forget some great albums by Wilco (Wilco The Album), Black Crowes (Before The Frost), Wolfmother (Cosmic Egg), David Gray (Draw The Line) and of course Bruce Springsteen (Working On A Dream).

Here’s to hoping that 2010 begins a new decade of some great and wonderful music releases.

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