In the spirit of overhyped contests like the Kentucky Derby* and the Superbowl** I'm going to make my adoring readers wait a little while for Round 2 of the Greatest Bracket the World has Ever Known or The Top 30 or So Favorite Album Bracket whatever you're calling it these days by giving you a preliminary, "Albums I've Really Enjoyed in 2009 so Far" List (in no particular order).
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
an eminently enjoyable example of how you can make fuzzed out, shoegazey guitars poppy. They sound like The Jesus and Mary Chain on Prozac.
Middle Cyclone by Neko Case
You hear that pinging sound? It's this album chipping away at my musical misogyny. Also I would marry Neko Case... seriously, like right now. The snarky and at times bleak lyrics contrast wonderfully with the radio friendly instrumentation and harmonies generated by Case and her helpers.
Dark Was the Knight by Various Artists
I need more compilations like this in my life. This collection is absolutely littered with awesome B Sides and some never before released material from some of the best acts in music. Not even one weak link on a massive collection. Standouts include the Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio) dirge With a Girl Like You that melds Motown horns with the drone of Joy Division and wait is that the melody to Up on the Roof by the Drifters that I'm hearing?
The Foundation by Zac Brown Band
Country as it was intended. While I don't listen to a lot of new country because I don't really like much of it, it's not all that tough to make a country album that I'm willing to listen to. Write accessible songs about normal stuff like drinking, smoking weed, and girls and lay off the OTHER stale country platitudes like bull roping and suppressing your deep seated homosexuality*** And for real, if you don't like "Chicken Fried," someone should check you for a pulse
Hazards of Love by the Decemberists
By no means perfect, but it's hard to not to respect how Colin Melloy and the nerdiest band in music go for prog-rock glory in their 17 track rock opera. At best, ("The Rake's Song," "A Bower Scene") it stacks up well with anything off of their previous efforts. At worst, the tracks are endearing in their presentation of the completely over the top narrative.
Why There are Mountains by Cymbals Eat Guitars
Remember when all the Power Rangers would come together and form the one big robot? That's kind of what happens hear, only imagine if every Saddle Creek band formed one big robot torso on top of Pavement and Spoon. Derivative? Yes. Do I care? No.
Grand by Matt and Kim
Just so good. I'm still at a level where I can't talk about how much I enjoy this duo rationally. Imagine the White Stripes if they didn't take themselves seriously and traded Jack White's guitar shredding for A-Ha's synthesizer. Props to GMart for introducing me to them
Welcome to Mali by Amadou and Mariam
Blind couple from Mali make the only world music I've cared about since the Buena Vista Social Club. They're not just playing old school tribal shit though. They're crossing genres with producers like Damon Albarn to make something totally new and incredible. Check out the track "Sabali" then sample it on your DJ Green Lantern mixtape because it's absolutely begging for it.
* 1 minute of pseudo-excitement preceded by 5 hours of stories that basically amount to, "Aren't horsies cute?" and "Horsies cure cancer."
**to the point where I saw a lot of Superbowl coverage this season that was based around the the theme of, "There's too much Superbowl coverage"
*** oh wait, that's just Kenny Chesney