Best Films of 2009

Although it’s harder for myself to see as many films as I used to the 10 on this list are sure to please all viewers.  2009 was definitely the year of the animated film.  Not only did 2 make this year’s list but there were so many more that were either close or I just haven’t seen yet.  For the first time a war movie ranks at the top of the list.  What better way to get the hearts and minds of Americans racing then to see the best film on the war in Iraq and I must say, one of the better war movies in a decade.  Or maybe we need the sweetness of a 78-year-old curmudgeon.  Nevertheless, here are the best films of the year

1)    The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)

War is a drug the quote reads in the beginning of the film.  Aptly put for anyone that has ever worn a uniform I would imagine.  Kathryn Bigelow’s combustible war film tells the story of 3 men in Bravo Company in the war in Iraq whose jobs it is to disarm bombs in the heat of combat.  This intensely gripping film is told through the eyes of Staff Sergeant William James (brilliantly played by Jeremy Renner) and is so real that one cannot truly imagine what these brave soldiers go through.  Kathryn Bigelow’s camera work is quietly the 4th member of this troupe and you are never at ease as to anything you witness.  SS William James obsesses over what his role is and yes, this is his drug.  Hands down one of the more visceral experiences you will ever experience and one of the better war films since Full Metal Jacket.

2)  Two Lovers (James Gray)

Joaquin Phoenix plays burned out, suicidal Leonard Kraditor in James Gray’s amazingly told and perfectly acted love triangle film.  Leonard is essentially set up with Sandra the homely, sweet and Jewish (like Leondard and his family) daughter of his business partner .  He then meets and instantly falls for the mercurial and shaky Michelle who herself is involved with a married man.  What could easily turn into the stuff of trite filled soap operas turns into a simple story of 2 women that have won the heart of Leonard.  Will Leonard make the right decision?  Will his effects leave one of the girls heartbroken?  A fantastic little film that owes as much to its great cast (Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow as Michelle and Vinessa Shaw as Sandra) as to its effectively shot streets of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

3)   Up (Pete Docter)

The most heartwarming and uplifting (pun intended) tale of true love comes from the genius team that is Pixar films.  They are on quite a role I must say.  Releasing films this decade that are unparalleled by any director/producer team in years.  This story begins as young Carl Fredrickson meets a spirited young girl named Ellie.  Pixar then takes you on a short but ultimately sweet journey of their time together unitl Ellie passes on and leaves Carl alone to remember his time with her and her dream of travelling to South America.  The first 20 minutes of this film are some of the saddest and emotionally filled scenes that I have ever witnessed and I dare you not to shed some tears.  Carl isn’t done though.  He befriends little 8-year-old Russell who is desperately trying to achieve his elderly badge of the boy scouts (or some version).  Adventure ensues.  Those familiar with Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo will find similar themes.  The team at Pixar has really done an outstanding job keeping their films current, interesting and insightful.  Watch it in 3-D if you get the chance.

4)   Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)

Quentin Tarantino’s hilarious and brutally made revenge film is one of his best.  Little Shosanna Dreyfus witnesses the slaughter of her family by Col Hans Landa.  She narrowly escapes until years later she runs into German war hero Frederick Zoller and in turn Landa again.  In addition, there is a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as “the basterds” who have taken it upon themselves to spread fear through the Third Reich by brutally killing and scalping Nazis.  The Basterds then cross paths with the now older Shosanna (now called Emanuelle).  Quentin is one of a few directors that have an uncanny of re-inventing history and able to get away with it.  Part historical text, part farce this is an incredibly made film.

5)   500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb)

An (un)romantic comedy starring the always likeable Joseph Gordon-Levitt and pleasingly pretty Zooey Deschanel as Tom and Summer who one day (after much flirting) decide to go out on a date.  Marc Webb jumps back and forth from date #1 to date #67 (and so on and so on) and we witness the relationship become more than just 2 people dating to watching them deal with their own issues.  He wallows in his self pity while she doesn’t believe in true love and the idea of relationships or boyfriends.  Not only are the 2 stars ultimately believable and easy to watch but I found the film to be the truest (albeit modern) re-telling of the great Woody Allen film Annie Hall.  I could see that the director used this as story telling technique and it just worked for me.

6)   The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)

The story of Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) who has disrupted his family unit for the last time with his hen heckling and turkey taking.  Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) wants him to get a real job and so begins his next chapter of life until he decides that he needs just one more score (and another and another…) that ends up with his whole family and friends on an adventure that tests the perseverance of everyone involved.  Told in stop motion animation that is as true to Wes Anderson’s oeuvre as he has ever done.  The plot comes from the children’s classic by Roald Dahl and is another Anderson classic.

7)   Still Walking (Hirokazu Koreeda)

This small Japanese film comes from the director of Nobody Knows, one of my favorite films of all time.  Still Walking tells the story of the Yokoyama family who gathers together to mourn the death of the eldest son many years ago.  This familial tale of angst, despair and loss is brilliantly told.  The kind of film that resonates more from the Japanese point of view than an American.

8)   Star Trek (J.J. Abrams)

The best blockbuster of 2009 is this re-telling of the Star Trek franchise.  J.J. Abrams reinvents the story of Kirk, Spock and his merry band of co-horts with dignity and respect.  Plus it is just a awesomely done kick ass movie movie.

9)   Adventureland (Greg Mottola)

Although I was slightly disappointed that Greg Mottola didn’t shoot his 1987 comedy about working in an amusement park in the real Adventureland (close to my home and friends/family) but that’s ok.  What he did do right was capture what it was like to be an angst ridden college graduate in 1987 (I myself was a little younger in 1987).  Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart have great chemistry together as James and Emily.  He likes her, she thinks she likes him but really likes the much older Mike.  James comes to realize what is really important in life and the cards that are dealt to us sometimes are better than the ones we wanted to get.

10)  Away We Go (Sam Mendes)

Some critics have described the main characters of Sam Mendes new film as selfish and pitiable.  I thought it was an honest depiction of 2 30-somethings that have no idea what they want from the world and are willing to try and anything to be happy.  Verona (Maya Rudolph) is pregnant and depressed that she won’t be a good mother.  Burt (John Krasinski) is the father (but noy husband, because she doesn’t want to get married) who suggest that they take a trip to various cities and Canada to see how and where they want their next chapter in life to take place.  Written by the husband and wife team of novelists Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, Away We Go is a perfectly told tale of 2 people that love each other and just need a little push to get them where they need to go.  I think it’s rare to find such an unselfish and unflattering film about 2 people in love these days.  Underrated.


Best TV shows of 2009

I added the best TV shows to my annual best of list last year. This year brought better shows and I am thrilled to give you this years crop of great shows. This is a little skewed since I no longer have cable in the house thereby omitting such great shows as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Californication and Big Love.  For that I apologize.  Any way, check these out regardless.  All of which will knock your socks off, make you laugh and realize that kids shows nowadays are much better and advanced then when I was a kid. Here they are…

1)   Mad Men (AMC)

The best show on television keeps getting better.  This season started slow but ends on the highest of notes.  Don Draper and his co-horts continue to be the most interesting characters on television since The Sopranos.

2)   Modern Family (ABC)

I find it rare that new shows have the same effect on me as those that have worked the kinks out.  Modern Family is the type of comedy that we have been waiting for.  Family oriented, smart enough for parents, sweet and saccharine enough for kids and funny as hell.  If the team behind this freshman hit play their cards right this could be the next Cosby Show.

3)   Lost (ABC)

Many have said that this show has lost its mojo and is just treading water until the sad ending in mid 2010.  I say to hell with that.  The creators of one of the most creative and inventive shows ever know exactly what they are doing.  Time travel, living in 1977.  What can’t this show do?  Note to producers, bring back Jeremy Davies.

4)   The Office/Parks and Recreations (NBC)

Thursday nights from 8:30-9:30 equals a good time.  The Office is better than ever with the what could have been scary wedding episode being one of the more tender moments in Office history.  As for Parks and Recreations, this show is on fire.  Laugh out loud funny, Amy Pohler finally has her own show to compete with her friend’s Tina Fey.  But Amy’s is better.

5)   Flash Forward (ABC)

Another freshman hit for ABC.  The plot is fairly simple, a mysterious event causes everyone on the planet to simultaneously lose consciousness for 137 seconds.  During this time everyone sees a glimpse of their life approximately 6 months into the future (?!) What drives this plot is the interesting characters, the reason for the blackout and will this happen.  I’ve heard some compare it to both Lost and the X-Files.  Right on the money with that.

6)   The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Another hilarious comedy this one brought to you by the drama filled people at CBS.  Maybe it’s the nerd in me but the 3 main stars have a chemistry unparalleled in most comedy shows.

7)   Southland (NBC/now TNT)

Know when you find a show that you really, really like that ends of being cancelled because the people in charge think the world needs another Jay Leno show?  This is one of those.  A full fledged dirty, gritty police drama that could the next great cop show.  Only 6 episodes aired but they all knocked you on your ass.  Luckily TNT just picked it up and will apparently air the first 6 as well as the rest that was made for the first season.  Watch this show people!!!

8)  Men of a Certain Age (TNT)

I only placed it low on the list because it’s been on for a mere 4 episodes.  I have always found the buddy dramedy (drama/comedy) an interesting take on tv shows.  This one has a great cast that the viewer really believes are best friends.  Mature in their beliefs but immature in their attitude.

9)   Law and Order franchise (NBC)

Those of you that know me well know that I am a huge Law and Order fan.  All of them.  This past season for all 3 was one of the strongest in years.  The granddaddy of them all, Law and Order has as good of a foursome since the mid 90’s, SVU is one of the best dramas on tv.  Period.  And Criminal Intent added the always cool Jeff Goldblum to play opposite Vincent D’Onofrio.  A fit that seems perfect in premise and execution.

10)  Yo Gabba Gabba (Nick Jr.)

I’m probably late to the game with this one.  For those of you that don’t know, Yo Gabba Gabba is a children’s show that enhances kids musical and kinesthetic skills.  There’s a lot of singing about snacking and napping and such.  What there is to adults is Biz Markie beat boxing, Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo) drawing funny animals and guest stars like Jack Black, MGMT and Andy Samberg.  One of those great kids shows that don’t make watching it a total chore.  Check it out on Nick Jr.

Best Books of 2009

The following are just a few of the outstanding books that came out in 2009.  It gets harder and harder to read all of them but the following 10 (actually 11) will surely make you want to run to the Strand, tell a friend or start a book club.  There were so many that I didn’t get a chance to read so don’t be mad at me if next year I include some from 2009.  Cheers to all who still find that buying and reading books will last forever.

1)   The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (Reif Larsen)

It takes a creative mind to base your first novel on a 12-year-old cartographer who boards a train in the middle of the night and travels from the farms of Montana all the way to Washington DC in order to receive a prestigious award from the Smithsonian Museum (?!)  I’m not making it up, this was all through the incredibly inventive mind of Reif Larsen.  What I find most striking about the novel isn’t its perfect (albeit unconventional) coming of age story is that he never makes the T. S. too smart and obnoxious that some novelists do nor does he make the child too young and innocent.  Additionally the author adds in to the mix dozens of illustrations and notes that are meant to clarify the story telling.  Not all of these work but they do make for interesting reading.  An outstanding first novel.

2)   The Baptism of Billy Bean (Roger Alan Skipper)

Lane Hollar is the hero of the second novel from West Virgina native Roger Alan Skipper.  Lane (while fishing with his grandson) thinks he witnessed 2 men drown and murder a fellow fisherman named Billy Bean.  What happens next is stuff of great storytelling.  Roger Alan Skipper leads Lane on a path to the police, local bad guys and a corrupt lawman.  The author has such a keen eye and ear to the Appalachian countryside that one can’t imagine being a witness as well to the murder.  Equal parts country noir and hard boiled crime fiction this novel will grab anyone looking for either.

3 and 4)  A Meaningful Life (LJ Davis) and Hard Rain Falling (Don Carpenter)

I paired both of these novels together not only because they are bravura story telling at its finest but because they were both re-released by the New York Review of Books this year after many years out of print.  Those familiar with the NYRB know that this is what they do, they find some of the greatest written works in the world and re-issue these lost treasures for us to read and enjoy.  A Meaningful Life is the 1970’s story of young do-gooder Lowell Lake and his quest for the perfect life.  He gets a good job, marries a good Jewish girl and wants to do what any strong-willed man does, he buys a house.  What happens next is not the hope and dreams of most.  A black and often bleak story of Lowell’s mission to restore his dream home to its past grandeur is scary, funny and harrowing.  Hard Rain Falling is essentially the story of Jack Levitt, an orphan who never caught a break in his life.  He steals, grifts and does whatever he can to stay out of jail.  That is until one unfortunate set of events throw him right back in the big house.  There he meets an old acquaintance who he befriends and eventually falls in love with.  I have always found prison novels interesting but what I really love about this one is its lonely man just trying to redeem himself in this life.  Don Carpenter writes in Jack’s voice in such a sad tough guy manner that one can’t be driven to his story.  The novel is a true vision of what the 60’s were in America.  An ultimately devastating novel.

5) Sag Harbor- Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead has always seemed to have a pulse on the African-American culture and community.  This his fourth novel, billed as “semi-autobiographical” tells the story of 15-year-old Benji Cooper, one of the few black students at his elite Manhattan private school spends the summer in beautiful Sag Harbor which is home to many African-American urban professionals.  Benji gets into trouble, works at the ice cream parlor and does what all 15 year olds do when minimally supervised.  Benji is a Smiths loving, Brooks Brother wearing kid who comes from money.  This type of story is seldom told and when the biggest African-American story of 2009 on film is the obnoxious and indignant tale of Precious it makes this novel even more of a wonder.  Want a further telling of the novel?  Read the following review from the NY Times

6)  Zeitoun- Dave Eggers

Some much negative has been said of Dave Eggers and I can’ t put my finger on why.  Here is the perfect paradigm of a successful writer.  He donated his first big payout to start the 826 NYC (and subsequent cities) writing workshop, he releases all of his books via his McSweeney’s the publishing house that he founded.  In 2009 he released 2 books and 2 of his screenplays were made into movies (Where The Wild Things Are and Away We Go).  His other book was a novelization (in the truest sense) of the kids book called just Wild Things.  I chose his Zeitoun as one of the best books of the year because his heartwarming and incredibly harrowing tale of Abdulraham Zeitoun a successful Syrian born contractor who is arrested amid the post hurricane Katrina may lay.  Eggers writes in his voice via interviews instead of fictionalized speculation.  He captures Zeitoun’s experiences as if he were there the days after one of America’s most tragic events.  A truly must read.

7)  Love and Obstacles (stories)- Aleksandar Hemon

The author of last years incredible The Lazarus Project, Love and Obstacles is a powerful collection of stories told chronologically and all but one feature the Hemon-esque narrator Bogdan.  Fierce, robust and daring is a great way to describe the Sarajevo born author.

8)  The She-Devil in the Mirror- Horacio Castellanos Moya

A murder has happened in the living room of Laura Rivera.  Nobody knows what happened but Laura won’t quit looking for clues and answers.  The first person tale of Laura is all things political, sensual, chaotic and sobering.  This Latin American writer, with a big positive claim of Roberto Bolano creates a gripping and often paranoidly funny account of Laura’s exploits.  A short novel that will leave you wanting more.

9)  The Way Through Doors- Jesse Ball

A Kafka-esque journey through a cul-de-sac that is the brains of writer Jesse Ball.  Drug like curious and ultimately eventful trip of pamphleteer Selah Morse who witnesses a car accident that leaves Mora Klein an amnesiac.  Selah, who tells the hospital staff that he in fact is Mora’s boyfriend brings her home to try to find out who she truly is.  The novels tells the story(ies) of Mora through often dizzying circles is most interesting for its final redemption.

10)  The Humbling- Philip Roth and The Year of the Flood- Margaret Atwood

2 of my favorite authors released novels in 2009.  The Humbling is the story of one Simon Axler a 65-year-old actor who is undergoing a crisis: he can’t act.  His wife leaves him and being suicidal, checks himself into a psych ward.  Axler, one of the most Rothian figures he has created is going to fix himself.  He befriends and old friend’s lesbian daughter and begins an affair with her.  Sadly this doesn’t work out for Simon.  He loses her and once again loses his will to live.  Much has been said about the misogynistic view that Philip Roth views the world but read this book as more of a swan song to his stellar career and know that it’s a cry to the world more than a savage story on sex about the 60 something Axler.  Said what you want about Roth but his ability to invoke discussion is the stuff on truly great writers.  The Year of the Flood is Margaret Atwood’s dystopian tale of race, social impact and environmental stability.  Nothing that Atwood does is easy and concise and this novel (which would rank higher only because I’m half way through) is a another adventure.  Incredibly inventive.

Best Albums of 2009

An outstanding year of music comes to an end.  Below are just 40 of the great records that came out this year.  Some on the list are obvious and you’ve heard them to death but I hope you find a few more that haven’t been given their day in the sun.  Take a listen to each and pass it around.  In this day and age even the most earnest simple sound can get their song on an episode of Gossip Girl (hah!).  Here’s to hoping that 2010 brings us more of the same great music.  Enjoy!

1)   Animal Collective- Merriweather Post Pavillion

One of the earliest released albums of 2009 is also its best.  Hyped to an almost unheard of degree the latest opus from Animal Collective collects all that is great about experimental music: interesting sounds, heartfelt personal lyrics and an outstanding commitment to teamwork.  The fact that the band members have been friends since high school makes you like them even more.  This is their Pet Sounds, their Exile On Main Street.  A ridiculously outstanding album.

2)   Au Revoir Simone- Still Night, Still Light

The Brooklyn based female trio creates beautiful electro-pop music.  Sweet and sensitive lyrics and breathtaking harmonies are just a few words to describe their sound.

3)   The xx- The xx

The xx refers to the ages of the band members.  Yes, 20 years old.  I defy you to find a more mature view on love and emotions in the music world.  Incredibly hyped they are worth all the press they’ve been receiving

4)   Grizzly Bear- Vecatimest

What hasn’t been said about the Brooklyn based band’s 4th album.  Perfectly orchestrated with 2 outstanding vocalists.  Moving into indie rock stardom as well as the mainstream with accolades by THE power couple Jay-Z and Beyonce.  Not a bad year.

5)   Neko Case- Middle Cyclone

The most beautiful voice in music comes from this part time New Pornographer. Fewer artists have her chops, her range and her uncanny ability to write amazing rock songs.  Here’s hoping she gets back in the studio for other band.

6)   Here We Go Magic- Here We Go Magic

The Brooklyn based band (who doesn’t hail from Brooklyn nowadays?) mixes up indie folk, electro and rock with droning yet sometimes hypnotic vocals.  A band to watch for years to come.

7)   Throw Me the Statue- Creaturesque

So much has been made about the new Phoenix record (and rightfully so) but my favorite indie pop record of this year is this lo-fi gem.  Essentially a one man band this incorporates all that is good and fun about pop music.  Perfect at any point, not nauseating like most pop records and always interesting.

8)   Atlas Sound- Logos

To be honest, I like Deerhunter.  Don’t love them but like them.  This solo project of front man Brandford Cox lets him go a little outside the box, strips it down and really lets his vocals shine.  It also helps that 2 of the better songs are sung by his friends Noah Lennox (of Animal Collective) and Letita Sadier (of Stereolab).

9)   Dirty Projectors- Bitte Orca

It’s been a long strange trip for Dave Longstreth, the brainchild for the experimental, cerebral yet always interesting Dirty Projectors.  On practically every best of list for this year, his lo-fi meets hi-fi sound will be big for years to come.

10)          Fever Ray- Fever Ray

Karin Dreijer aka Fever Ray (also of The Knife) bellows her Swedish voice in almost sad like moments.  Her beautiful accent shines through in this record.

11)          Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Another “best of 2009” band.  A truly great indie pop record.  Don’t get me wrong I love the album but I just hope that they don’t explode into an average band after all the hype and accolades that were bestowed upon them this year.

12)          Washed Out- Life of Leisure

Equal parts ambient trip pop and electro fun this is a 6 song ep that is a big “one to watch” in 2010.  I can’t wait to see what they do.

13)          The Antlers- Hospice

Sad, melodic tones tell the story of a man befriending a cancer patient in the Sloan Kettering Hospital.  Depressing, heartbreaking and beautiful.  Perfect example of a “concept album”.  Listen to the kettering and feel the bands emotions.

14)          The Big Pink- A Brief History of Love

England’s very popular The Big Pink hit it big here in 2009.  I’ve heard comparisons made to Spiritualized and My Bloody Valentine (albeit a quieter version).  Not bad company to be compared to.

15)         Bishop Allen- grrrr…

Another kick ass pop record that brings great melodies between their male and female voices.  Why is it so hard to make a great pop record these days?  Brooklyn band via Boston.

16)         The Drums- Summertime!

Guitar driven indie rock they invoke an updated Kinks sound.  Equal parts British and American sounds.  Another great ep that came out this year.  I hope to see more of them in 2010.

17)          The Pains of Being Pure at Heart- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

This quartet has been in the biz for a while and they finally hit it big with not one but 3 total albums released this year (1 full length and 2 ep’s).  Hard working Brooklyn band done well.

18)         Sunset Rubdown- Dragonslayer

One of my favorite bands working today releases another gem.  Spencer Krug is the indie rock version of Jack White.  This is just one of 4 bands/units that he is associated with.

19)         The Dodos- Time To Die

Simple yet elegant sounds come from this trio that hails from California.  This is a great little indie band that continues to make outstanding records.  2007’s Visiter also made my best of list.

20)         Matt & Kim- Grand

The Grand is in relation to the street that they live on in Brooklyn.  Matt and Kim are boyfriend and girlfriend respectfully and they sing like they are in love with each other and with the world.

21)         Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros- Up From Below

The whole country hipster scene is big now and this collection of musicians is proof.  Made up of a bunch of people (I have no idea how many) they bring the hippy sounding southern California scene to fruition.  Reminiscent of The Polyphonic Spree.

22)         Woods- Songs of Shame

The most lo-fi sounding album on this list is perfectly orchestrated and stripped to its core.  Echoing choruses of spooky camp fire folk (as stated by Pitchfork).

23)         St. Vincent- Actor

the one time Sufjan Stevens band member released her critically acclaimed 2nd full length album this year.  What drives me to her sound is her musical flexibility.  She plays the guitar as well as she sings.

24)         Franz Ferdinand- Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

I have to be honest, I’ve always just liked this band.  This record seems grittier and more real sounding than the popular music that they created on their first 2 records.  The whole record is consistent.  One of the more underrated albums of the past year.

25)         Antony and the Johnsons- The Crying Lot

The beautiful and understated sounds from Antony Hagerty and his bandmates.  There’s no doubt that he would fit in a theatre piece as he would the most indie of rock shows.  Droning never sounded so beautiful.

26)         A.C. Newman- Get Guilty

The second New Pornographer to make this year’s list.  Get Guilty keeps the same guitar driven indie sound that make the New Pornographers (as well as his first band the underrated Zumpano) so amazing.

27)         Dinosaur Jr.- Farm/Sonic Youth- The Eternal

2 of indie rock royalty they both produced some of the best music of their career.  J. Mascis’ vocals have never sounded more original while Sonic Youth still makes the best feedback driven guitar rock probably ever.  All the young kids should bow down to these 2 great bands.

28)         Passion Pit- Manners

Infectious electronic music from the Boston based band.  Great anthems for all seasons.  This album was played endlessly at work.

29)         Micachu (and the Shapes)- Jewellery

Experimental almost trip like sounds bellow from Micachu.  Each song on this record is as interesting as the one before.  Almost unclassifiable this is an artist I would love to see live.

30)         Yacht- See Mystery Lights

Techno served up in the dueling vocals of Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans.  I wondered why this album was more popular.  If I ever decide to go dancing again I’m bringing this record along with me.

31)         Cymbals Eat Guitars- Why There Are Mountains

With comparisons to Modest Mouse this band was originally a Weezer cover band.  Hard to believe that a Weezer cover band exists in this world but listen to this record.  It’s fantastic (and sounds nothing like Weezer).

32)         Girls- Album

Another incredibly hyped band, this one hails from San Francisco and could be the American version of The Smiths or even Spiritualized.  They have that ethereal almost dreamy and druggy sound that makes for really great music.

33)         Jay-Z- The Blueprint 3

Rap royalty releases another disc in 2009 and with a little help from some very big name friends releases one his best records.  What can’t the man do?

34)         The Very Best- Warm Heart of Africa

The most original record on this list.  African music is beautiful when played and recorded to this degree.  I was just blown away by the sounds and music played on the whole record.  Both celebratory and sensual at the same time.  I really recommend this.

35)         Metric- Fantasies

I’ve always loved Emily Haines energetic yet tough sounding voice.  I wish more people liked this pop record as much as I did.

36)         Julian Casablancas- Phrases For The Young

The frontman for The Strokes released his first solo album this year.  As good as anything he has done in his career.  Only down side, a little too short.  Give us more Julian!

37)         Telekinesis- Telekinesis!

Sophisticated indie pop from the Michael Benjamin Lerner who now goes by the band name Telekinesis.  Sometimes the simplest music is the sweetest.

38)         Real Estate- Real Estate

Jersey boys make good indie rock.  Intimate and laid back. Given more listens this is an album that would have climb higher on this list.  A band you will hear more of in 2010.

39)         Camera Obscura- My Maudlin Career

The Scottish ensemble releases another great record.  I think they master the innocent, romantic sentiments that you want in a pretty pop band.

40)         We Were Promised Jetpacks- These Four Walls

Brooding and hard sounding, these guys just belt it out.  Another Scottish band they remind me of a tougher Twilight Sad.

Least favorite album of 2009

Manchester Orchestra- Mean Everything to Me

The Atlanta based quintet makes slow boring southern style music.  I know they are a favorite of one of my best friends but I just can’t take them.  Sorry Thom!

Best Songs of 2009

Here are what I feel are the best songs of the past year.  Some songs you will love right off the bat, some songs will grow on you, all will make you go hmmm…that Kev is on to something.  Listen and watch and as always, play it loud mutha!!!  Enjoy

1)   My Girls- Animal Collective

The best song on the best album of 2009 is a sweet love letter from husband to wife and child about him giving them the house they desperately want.  When Avey Tare bellows “I just want four walls and adobe slabs for my girls” it comes across perfectly beautiful.

2)   1901- Phoenix

There’s no shortage of good tracks on one of the best pop records of 2009 but I chose this one because it has that infectious vibe that you want from a pop song.

3)   Two Weeks- Grizzly Bear

What hasn’t been said about the harmonies and breathtaking vocals from Ed Droste and company.  Grizzly Bear has perfected a sound that is both mature and fun.

4)   Bad Romance- Lady GaGa

Say what you want about Lady GaGa but this chick knows exactly what she is doing in the pop music world.  Totally one of a kind.

5)   Walkabout (w/ Noah Lennox)- Atlas Sound

Maybe it’s Noah Lennox’s lyrics (of Animal Collective) but I just love the echoing beauty of this song.

6)   Islands- The xx

Another “love song” on the list is this ditty from the british group The xx.  This band moves from female singer to male singer with the maturity of singers twice their age.  Oh, and there only 20 years old.

7)   Daniel- Bat For Lashes

I get razzed by friends that I’m too into “chick music”.  Please watch this video and tell me you wouldn’t agree.  She has the looks of a edgier Cat Power but the chops like a Neko Case.  This song is perfection.

8)   Stillness Is The Move- Dirty Projectors

Outstanding harmonies and avant experimental sounds are what set this band apart from everyone else.  So good that Solange Knowles (yes, Beyonce’s sister) did her own take on it.  And it’s just as good.

9)   Home- Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

I can’t wait for the karaoke bars to pick up this gem.  I dare you not to whistle along.

10)    Run This Town- Jay-Z (feat. Kanye West & Rihanna)

Jay-Z was back in 2009 and with a little help from some talented friends released a really great album.  I chose this instead of Empire State of Mind.  No real reason they’re both great.

11)    This Tornado Loves You- Neko Case

No singer has a more beautiful voice in music.

12)    Velvet- The Big Pink

A truly kick ass jam from the british duo The Big Pink.

13)    Let’s Go Surfing- The Drums

Maybe I do want to go surfing.

14)   Pursuit Of Happiness- Kid Cudi (feat. MGMT and Ratatat)

How amazing is the distinctive guitar riff from the boys of Ratatat?

15)    Animal- Miike Snow

Swedish electro-pop band Miike Snow makes a great pop song that works as well in indie rock clubs as it does in an episode of Gossip Girl.

16)   Graze- Animal Collective

The only band to have 2 songs in the best songs list.  Totally worth it.  This one comes from a nearly as good Fall Be Kind ep.

17)   Heads Will Roll- Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I wished I like this band as much as everyone else.  I did love this song though.  You can really here Karen O’s vocals knock this out.

18)   Knock You Down- Keri Hilson (feat. Kanye West and Ne-Yo)

I just love the beat of this song and the Kanye West lyrics toward the end.

19)   When I Grow Up- Fever Ray

Karin Andersson (aka Fever Ray) of The Knife has a sad, shrill sound to her voice.

20)   Lessons Learned- Matt & Kim

The song is accompanied by an even better video.  Watch it.

21)   Young Adult Friction- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The first song from one of the hottest bands of 2009.

22)   Million Dollar Bill- Whitney Houston

It makes me want to go dancing!  Not really but it is catchy.

23)   So Far Around The Bend- The National

One of the more popular singles form the Dark Was The Night compilation.  I’m just a big fan of The National.

24)   Waving At The Shore- Throw Me The Statue

The one band that I can’t imagine why they aren’t more popular.

25)    All or Nothing- Au Revoir Simone

Poetically beautiful electro-pop is the only way to describe this female trio.

26)   Kiss My Name- Antony and the Johnsons

Antony Hagerty cries to you to listen to him.

27)   Sweet Dreams- Beyonce

The only song on the list from an album released in 2008.  Say what you want but Maddie loves it.

28)   The Reeling- Passion Pit

Electro-pop had a good year.  The 2009 summer anthem.

29)   Golden Phone- Micachu & The Shapes

Hard to describe Micachu.  Noise pop? Experimental?  Whatever.  This songs rocks.  My favorite song of 2009 to clap to.

30)   Kettering- The Antlers

One of the sadder or depressing songs you’ll hear.  Profound in its despair yet incredibly beautiful.

31)   Deadbeat Summer- Neon Indian

Keyboards go for broke on this anthem.  Weirdly interesting sounds.

32)    Lust For Life- Girls

The indie hip duo produces an outstanding anthem of youth.  A band I would like to party with.

33)   No You Girls- Franz Ferdinand

An awesome rock song from an underrated album.

34)   Beach- Mew

I just like this song.  Don’t much care for the rest of the album.

35)   My Boys- Taken By Trees

The “re-make” of Animal Collective’s “My Girls” this is the stripped down female side of the song.  Both are beautiful.

36)   Feel It All Around- Washed Out

Call it what you will but this is the best dance song of the year.  Ethereal and echoing.  And a great video.

37)   Suicide- The Raveonettes

Another one of those indie pop songs that works wherever you hear it.

38)    Hell- Tegan and Sara

Sister/singing duo that is Tegan and Sara comes up with another young rebellion hit.

39)    11th Dimension- Julian Casablancas

The Strokes singer released this single from his solo album.  As good as anything he has done with The Strokes.  And they’re a great band.

40)   The Afterlife- Yacht

The female singer reminds me of a voice from the 90’s indie pop band Tuscadero.  Maybe that’s what drew me to her.  Feminine yet tough enough to sing over the beats and sounds that make up the band Yacht.