Best of 2009…So Far – Part 3 June 19, 2009Posted by Matt in Best of 2009.
Tags: 2009, albums, Best Of, Bruce Springsteen, Green Day, K'Naan, mid year, music, The Decemberists, U2
Over the last two days I have been giving my mid-year music list, first covering the albums ranked 11-15, and yesterday the ones ranked 6-10. Today we will look at the very best of the year, the top five albums at the halfway point of 2009. Let me know what you think.
5. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
There are few bands working today that are as interesting and inventive as the Decemberists. Their sound harkens back to huge, 1970’s prog-rock productions, only with a strange twist that seems unique to them. On this, their second concept album in three years, the band tells a tale of a woman named Margaret (voiced by guest-vocalist Becky Stark) who falls in love with a shape-shifting forest-dweller (voiced by Colin Melloy) and their ensuing conflict with a jealous forest queen (guest vocalist Shara Worden). It’s a very strange piece of work, especially when compared to other contemporary artists, but somehow it works together spectacularly. This is meant to be an album experience, so it is not easy to recommend individual songs, but here goes…
Download: The Rake’s Lament, The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid
4. K’naan – Troubadour
Somali-born rapper K’naan has a message for American rappers – you think you have it tough? On this sophomore album, he exposes the trials and troubles of life in Africa without the gangsta glamorization or braggart talk of those from the West. The world of K’naan does not revolve around nice cars and big houses and women, instead his rhymes deal with people looking for food while trying to avoid warlords and pirates and the other dangers of everyday life for the poor African. His style incorporates elements of modern rap music, traditional African instruments, and reggae, and along the way, he has amassed an array of guest stars on this album, including hip hop legend Chubb Rock, Mos Def, and Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. Whether or not you appreciate hip hop music, this is a great piece of work.
Download: T.I.A., Somalia
3. U2 – No Line on the Horizon
After three decades, U2 have proven themselves to be one of the (if not the) greatest bands in the world. That being said, it has been a long time since I have truly loved an album from Bono’s group. So, it gives me great pleasure to give my endorsement to this work as their best since 1991’s Achtung Baby. The album is full of sonic textures and layers that few other bands can approach and the songs are again top-notch and comparable in quality to much of their early work.
Download: Magnificent, Moment of Surrender
2. Bruce Springsteen – Working on a Dream
It feels almost traitorous to put the Boss’s latest incredible work in second place, for in any given year this would almost surely be number one. I’ve listened to this album over and over again, yet still it continues to astound me. Bruce Springsteen is an American music treasure, on par with legendary artists like Dylan and Woody Guthrie, whose greatness will be recognized for decades to come, long after he has gone from this earth. And, despite being eligible for senior citizen discounts, he still rocks like few others in concert, as I was witness to myself back in April. If you don’t have this yet, smack yourself and get it.
Download: Outlaw Pete, Kingdom of Days, Queen of the Supermarket
1. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown
Let the calls of heresy begin because, yes it’s true, I just placed Green Day’s latest magnum opus ahead of Springsteen, U2, and Dylan. Just put it on, turn it up loud, and enjoy, and I guarantee that it will calm your calls for my head on a platter. Billie Joe’s band has come a long way from their early-mid 90’s roots in songs of self-gratification to today, when they are possibly the most important of all American rock bands. Though they have retained some of their punk sensibilities, this is far beyond anything that has ever been done before under the umbrella of punk rock. 21st Century Breakdown is their second concept album in a row, following 2004’s American Idiot, this time following the lives of a young couple named Christian and Gloria in post-Bush America. It is a tour-de-force of an album and one that is really meant to be heard in its entirety, for this masterpiece may be seen in the future as a defining moment for the first decade of the new millennium, a bookend to an era. Really, it is that good. My 6 year-old’s favorite song of the moment is “Know Your Enemy,” but, if you insist on only downloading individual songs, below are the ones I would choose.
Download: Viva La Gloria!, Murder City, American Eulogy