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Albums of 2009

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

That time of year:

10. Isis – Wavering Radiant. There’s not a whole to say about this one. Isis are good. They have to make a pretty bad album for me not to really like it. This is no Panopticon or Oceanic, but it’s slightly better than In the Absence of Truth. Best song: Ghost Key.

9. Porcupine Tree – The Incident. PT albums are automatically on my top ten lists, the only question is where. The double album idea isn’t a great one; there’s good material on both discs and the first is a coherent whole, but too much of that whole is uninspired. This is really disappointing, as they’ve backed off the heaviness of FOABP and mixed in some older PT sounds. Quality-wise, there’s maybe a top five album between the two discs, even if it wouldn’t be that coherent, but like I said, there’s too much less than interesting material. Best song: Time Flies.

8. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast. This album is missing some of the catchiness of his last two, which were leaner and more accessible, but it’s still a solid album. There’s a lot more layering and depth to the songs which makes up for the lack of hooks. It’s a slightly different direction for him, so it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here. Best song: Anonanimal.

7. Russian Circles – Geneva. That was quick. Station came out last year and was good, if underwhelming. It’s hard to live up to something like Enter. Maybe it’s the added distance between that release and this one, but Geneva is a lot stronger than Station. Best song: Geneva.

6. Mastodon – Crack the Skye. Mastodon have never quite clicked for me. Their past few albums have been good, but not quite great. This one is great. It’s proggier than their past albums and has a ton of great riffs and melodies. Best song: Oblivion

5. Mono – Hymn To The Immortal Wind. Mono are not the most original post-rock band. Half the time, they seem to be channeling Mogwai. This doesn’t mean they’re bad, but they’re not typically a candidate for a top ten list. This one seems different to me. There’s less of the wall of distortion that Mogwai uses on occasion and more, almost Explosions in the Sky-esque sounds. Not that they sound like them. It’s hard to explain. It’s just a damned good album. Best song: Ashes in the Snow.

4. OSI – Blood. OSI still haven’t topped their debut, but this is a good attempt. Their last album, by no means bad, was more focused on the electronic aspects of their sound. This one is a little more in the direction of their debut. Plus, you can’t go wrong with Gavin Harrison on drums. Best song: The Escape Artist.

3. Riverside – Anno Domini High Definition. Five songs filled with up tempo prog metal wackiness. It is glorious. It’s always tempting to hope they go back to the sound of their first album, but full-on prog metal suits them and this album is a nice change of pace after the relatively laid back Rapid Eye Movement. Best song: Egoist Hedonist.

2. Amorphis – Skyforger. I sort of forgot Amorphis existed. I thought they’d broken up. I’ve never been their biggest fan, but they’ve produced some enjoyable music. This one I really love, though. It’s the same enjoyment I get out of Nevermore. Are they doing something completely different, something groundbreaking? No. Hell, Majestic Beast is an all out Opeth ripoff. It’s just a great metal album. Best song: Sky is Mine.

1. Katatonia – Night Is The New Day. This was the least anticipated album from one of what I consider my favorite bands. For whatever reason, The Great Cold Distance morphed in my mind into pure dreck, a colossal disappointment after a string of just fantastic albums. After the first listen, I was ready to consign NitND to the same unappreciated corner of my music collection. But then I got hooked on The Longest Year. Then Onward into Battle. Then The Promise of Deceit. I went back to TGCD and found that it wasn’t as bad as I thought, though it still doesn’t compare to Viva Emptiness. Or this. I’ve been listening to it almost nonstop for weeks. I think it’s better than Viva Emptiness and maybe Last Fair Deal Gone Down. And those are two of my favorite albums ever. It’s dark and depressing metal and it’s stellar. I only wish I could say the same about the video for Day and Then The Shade, which apparently is about a goth girl who lost her contact lens in the forest and starts bleeding and vomiting upwards. I hope Lasse Hoile goes blind. Best song: The Longest Year.

Biggest Disappointment:

Dredg – the Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion. And now we come to my most anticipated album from one of my favorite bands. Catch Without Arms has grown into one of my favorite albums. This…well, this is terrible. Ok, maybe not terrible. I Don’t Know is one of the best songs they’ve ever written (and an agnostic anthem, no less!). Light Switch is damned catchy. Pariah isn’t bad (but something feels off about it) and neither is Cartoon Showroom. But this is a sprawling, 18 track album. There’s not enough solid material to keep it from collapsing onto itself. There’s so much mediocre material that it drowns out the bright spots. There’s only around 25 minutes of solid material (out of an hour); the rest is b-side material at best. I don’t understand it. It’s annoying as hell. And Saviour can go die in a fire. Best song: I Don’t Know.

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  1. S4R
    December 23, 2009 at 8:20 pm | #1

    Where, may I ask, is Devin Townsend’s Ki?! That’s probably my favorite this year, but Night Is The New Day is definitely high up there.

  2. January 17, 2010 at 8:07 pm | #2

    …Don’t know why I didn’t notice this a month ago. Anyways:

    Obviously arguing about musical opinions is pretty futile, but I’d like to state why I disagree with your assessment of Dredg. PPD is intended to be, in my opinion, listened to as a whole. It’s a concept album, and it’s pointless to try and listen to it the same way as CWOA, which is why I think you dislike it so much. El Cielo works in much the same way: It’s 16 tracks with a fair number of interludes, yet I don’t recall you being so irritated by that. I’m also not sure how you’re defining “b-side” material, but interludes and instrumental tracks aside, PPD still has over 45 minutes of “real” songs.

    I think it’s a musically brilliant album, the best they’ve ever done. There are layers upon layers of sound and melody, beautifully written lyrics, and an overall production that is so exceptional it actually stood out to me (a first). That’s what keeps me listening to it, at any rate.

  3. January 17, 2010 at 10:55 pm | #3

    I mean b-side material as in material that isn’t quite good enough (or doesn’t fit, but that’s not the case here) for an album. I’m not saying there are only 25 minutes of “real” songs, just that there’s only 25 minutes worth of material that I consider worth listening to.

    It’s nice that you’ve brought up a counterpoint to your guess as to why I don’t like PPD. I like El Cielo. I don’t want to skip half the tracks when I listen to it. That’s the difference. Maybe I’d be less annoyed with PPD if there weren’t songs like Light Switch and I Don’t Know, where the quality gap with the rest of it seems really obvious. Then it would be a mundane album and I would just be disappointed rather than annoyed.

    For what it’s worth, I have the same reaction to the lyrics, which I rarely care about, as I have to the rest of the album. I Don’t Know’s are pretty good and Saviour’s are cringe worthy. Pariah sort of annoys me as well. It’s typically a bad sign when I get hung up on lyrics (for example, SoaD singing “science has failed our world” repeatedly doesn’t bother me since it’s a good song).

  4. January 18, 2010 at 1:17 am | #4

    I really don’t understand your seething hatred for Saviour, nor do I hear a quality gap between any of the songs. But, that’s your problem. Maybe they can better appease you in another 4 years.

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