Jay-Z: The Blueprint 3; David Bowie: Best of Bowie; David Gray: Draw the Line; Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest; Andrew Bird: Noble Beast; Owl City: Ocean Eyes; Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon; The Bird and the Bee: Please Clap Your Hands; The Black Eyed Peas: The E.N.D.; U2: No Line on the Horizon
My favorite album of 2009 was undoubtedly Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix which I previously wrote about. Of the albums listed above–and previously unmentioned in this space–none quite captivated me in a way that inspired me to write about it until I wanted to solicit recommendations after receiving a bounty of amazon gift cards for Christmas. I am probably to blame for this phenomenon because my selections over the last two years have overwhelmingly been indie/arty/folk/chamber pop type selections. To earn the recommendations I seek, I will post some brief thoughts on each of the albums pictured above.
Jay-Z: The Blueprint 3
“Empire State of Mind” is an awesome song, probably my favorite of the year. The piano, the beat, Alicia Keys, Jay’s rapping, they are all perfect. Stephen Colbert tried to give Jay a run for his money with his own version of the song with Alicia Keys and the performance is hilarious, but just doesn’t compete. “D.O.A. [Death of Auto Tune]” is another great song, one that I particularly appreciate because I only like auto-tune when the Gregory Brothers auto-tune the news. Honestly I can only stomach three or four Jay-Z songs at a time before I get bored. The third song that I usually choose from this album before finding something else to listen to is “Run This Town” which features Rihanna and Kanye West and is fun and catchy.
David Bowie: Best of Bowie
How weird is it that I went to a U2 concert and saw Muse and U2 and yet walked away not able to get “Space Oddity” out of my head? U2 walked onto stage to the song, and it intrigued me. I’ve been meaning to check out Bowie ever since Nirvana covered “The Man Who Sold the World” on Unplugged in New York, and it only took me another chance encounter and 15 years to do it. I’m glad I finally did, and not just because I learned “Heroes” was not written by Jakob Dylan. The songs are rich and diverse, and make me want to explore Bowie further.
David Gray: Draw the Line
I’m a big David Gray fan and while I enjoy this album, I was not immediately grabbed like I was when I heard White Ladder and Life in Slow Motion. It may take a couple more listens to grab me and that’s just fine.
Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest
What strikes me funny about this album is that I only ever remember one song from it, “Two Weeks”. I never regret listening to the album, but it is too easy to forget. It’s possible that I’m just not hipster enough (at all) to appreciate chamber pop. Maybe next year.
Andrew Bird: Noble Beast
Armchair Apocrypha gets better with each listen. I hoped Noble Beast would also, and it does. It is a very polished album: I need to listen to it more. I never thought I would appreciate onomatopoeia, but I do. Bird is very creative with every part of his music from the instruments he uses, the way he turns a phrase, to his lyrics, and timing. I am really impressed.
Owl City: Ocean Eyes
Owl City is not my cup of tea. The lyrics are inane and the music is bland. If it’s not auto-tune, it is a poor imitation of auto-tune. I got talked into buying this album and I regret having it. It reminds me of bad music I listened to in high school and early college like Something Corporate and Stroke 9.
Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon
I bought this album because it was available for just $5 when it was one of amazon’s daily deals. It seems like it’s one of those albums that I should own so it was too hard to pass up at that price. I’ve listened to it twice, and it’s good. Maybe someday I’ll understand why it is such a profound album.
The Bird and the Bee: Please Clap Your Hands
For some reason I am drawn to male-female duos. I like The Bird and the Bee mainly because of Inara George’s voice, but also because of the excellent keyboarding and programming by her partner in crime Greg Kurstin. It’s like a delicious mixture of Regina Spektor, Andrew Bird, Luscious Jackson and M Ward/Zoey Deschanel. “Polite Dance Song” is my favorite song on the EP: it borders trite like The Gourds’ cover of “Gin and Juice” or “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Travis where the singer’s voice and the music doesn’t fit with the lyrics, but on this occasion it works well.
The Black Eyed Peas: The E.N.D.
The Black Eyed Peas know how to make me want to shake my moneymaker. I’m not a fan of Oprah, but this was cool. The album has a lot of filler, but just having the songs “I Gotta Feeling” and “Boom Boom Pow” available to play when I crave something fun and upbeat makes this purchase worthwhile.
U2: No Line on the Horizon
I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, for U2 to make one song as good as any of the songs on their albums pre-1991. That may not be fair. For me, when I want to listen to U2 I am not going to choose this album.
Happy New Year!