My criteria: risk-taking, repeat-listenability, cohesiveness, clear goals and fun.
Be sure to check out our Dec. 17 issue where you can find the Top 15 albums of 2009 according to OW's Justin Strout, Jason Ferguson and Bao Le-Huu, along with the three worst albums.
The following is my personal list.
11. Islands - Vapours
A stunner of synthesized transcendence (â??Devout,â?� â??Disarming the Car Bombâ?�), interpretive verisimilitude (â??On Foreignerâ?�) and subconscious pop-culture inspiration: The albumâ??s opener, â??Switched On,â?� is a virtual cover version of Young Jeezyâ??s New York anthem â??Put On.â?�
12. Eyedea & Abilities - By the Throat
As I detailed here, this Midwest hip-hop duo took the biggest step forward, artistically speaking, of the year.
13. The Ettes - Do You Want Power?
Piledriving '60s rock, this trio meant business this year, as proven by their under-attended Anti-Pop 2009 performance.
14. Jon Snodgrass - Visitor's Band
Former Drag the River guy unites with alt-country heroes from Paw, Groucho Marxists and Two Cow Garage. If Bruce Springsteen didn't turn bitch in the '80s, this is what he'd be making.
15. Flo Rida - R.O.O.T.S.
Dance floor jams still have an indelible place in the music culture â?? as long as its tolerable and not cartoonishly insipid (Black Eyed Peas) â?? and by that measure Florida's own Flo Rida is the most reliable delivery man of anthemic party sounds working today. His debut album last year cranked out the hits at breakneck speed and he improbably followed that up this year with another 50 minutes of wall-to-wall goodness.