2009’s best albums and artists so far

By Amelia England, Staff Writer

Despite competition from the shock wave of 2008 newcomers8212;Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend and Santogold, not to mention stellar follow-ups from Okkervil River, Dr. Dog, TV on the Radio, Kanye West and a double take by Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s8212;2009 is still shaping up to be a formidable year for album releases. As the approaching Fall Semester puts a downer on your hot-dogs-and-smoothies-camping-trip buzz, stay positive with some new additions to your album collection.

For those of you looking for more swaggering albums, I recommend Sun Gangs, by The Veils, and Face Control, by the Handsome Furs. Check out Wavves, by Wavves if you’re interested in adrenaline-charged surf rock and need to unload some aggression. Put on Hot Chip’s A Bugged Out Mix, Passion Pit’s Manners or YACHT’s See Mystery Lights if you feel like dancing. For calmer nights, track down Songs of Shame, a dusky campfire album from the Brooklyn-based folksters, Woods; Department of Eagles’ In Ear Park8212;released last year, but still highly relevant8212;and Deerhunter’s Rainwater Cassette Exchange, a charismatic EP full of lush instrumentals and irresistible shoegazer melodies.

Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion is a rich, joyous, and surprisingly first-rate album that could easily become a playlist necessity, if not a crucial part of your psychology. Psychedelic freak-folksters Akron/Family released their fourth characteristically ambitious album Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free, and the Dirty Projectors continued their wildly inventive tradition with Bitte Orca, possibly their best album to date.
Of course, older favorites have given us new material; Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ It’s Blitz! swapped the band’s usual avant-rock punch for more synthesized polish but still delivered an energetic and thoroughly enjoyable LP. French alt-rockers Phoenix released Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, a breezy, pop-toned summer treat, while Morrissey proved he could still deliver with Years of Refusal. The indie compilation album Dark Was The Night is also chock-full of stock favorites, including Nick Drake, Sufjan Stevens, Conor Oberst, and The Decemberists.

The Salt Lake City Arts Council came through with another incredible lineup for this year’s Twilight Concert Series. Wisconsin singer-songwriters Bon Iver stopped in Salt Lake City as part of their 2009 tour to generate interest for next year’s highly anticipated sophomore album8212;check out their Blood Bank EP even if you haven’t already fallen in love with last year’s For Emma, Forever Ago. You’re also bound to find something you like from other Twilight Concert Artists: N.A.S.A.’s Spirit of the Apollo, an album bursting at the seams with collaborations from Tom Waits to Lovefoxxx to Ghostface Killah. Iron & Wine released Around the Well, a two-disc collection of sultry tracks unreleased on any of Sam Beam’s preceding albums. M. Ward’s stop in Salt Lake City was to promote his latest album Hold Time, one of 2009’s lesser-known but totally worthwhile releases.
But despite all the album releases and music festivals, I haven’t found anything that has lived up to Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest. Besides being my favorite album of 2009, debuting in Billboard’s Top 108212;a much-needed breath of fresh air, considering the rest of the Top 10 included Miley Cyrus and Kenny Chesney8212;and embarking on a North American tour alongside Feist, the band is shaping up to be one of the most talented, intelligent, and emotionally nuanced group of musicians taking over the music scene. Veckatimest is by far the most intriguing and addictive album this year.

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