Top 10 Records Of 2009

Merriweather1) Merriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective: This record came out in January and has been a staple the entire year. After getting completely into Merriweather, I went back into their catalog and also got deeply into Strawberry Jam, Feels, and Sung Tongs. And I also went to see them play live – an experience unlike anything else and not for everyone. Merriweather is probably their most accessible record to date and Animal Collective is making some of the most original and interesting music these days. It really wasn't even a contest for number one this year. Merriweather pretty much blew everything else away in my book.

Miike snow 2) Miike Snow – Miike Snow: Like the Shout Out Louds in 2005, Miike Snow came blasting out of Sweden this year with a record that got played non-stop in our home. Miike Snow is not a person and it is not a band, it is a group of three producers and writers who have worked with dozens of artists over the years. This is the first work they've put out under the Miike Snow name and I sure hope it is not the last. With Miike Snow, you get great beats, slick production, and indie pop perfection. That's a killer mix in my book.

Kid cudi 3) Man On The Moon – Kid Cudi: I heard Kid Cudi's song Up, Up, and Away on the hype machine as this record leaked over the summer and I was hooked on Kid's mix of indie and hip hop (a theme for me this year).  There are a half dozen great songs on this record that were all candidates for my top tracks of 2009. The whole record is a great listen end to end. I'm sure it is on many best of 2009 lists and may even be headed for a Grammy. I hope Kid Cudi gets one.

Arctic monkeys 4) Humbug – Arctic Monkeys: In 2005, as the Arctic Monkeys were breaking big with their first record, they wrote "In five years time, will it be "Who the fuck's Arctic Monkeys?" Well it's almost five year's later, and they are still putting out great records. I've always liked Alex Turner's crooner side myself and we are getting more and more of it on each successive record. They still rock out, as Crying Lightning shows, but songs like Cornerstone and Secret Door are the tracks that really got me on this record. I saw them live twice this summer and they still have that hyperactive sonic soud.

Dirty projectors 5) Bitte Orca – Dirty Projectors: Man did I fall hard for this record. From early June to the middle of July, I listened to hardly anything else.  I tried to get my friends and family into it but not many bit. The Dirty Projectors are an acquired taste it seems. I love the idiosyncratic nature of Dave Longstreth's music, the quirky guitar riffs, and the harmonies between him and Amber and Angel (pictured on the cover of the record). I hadn't listened to this record in a while as I moved on to other things, but in relistening as I was putting this post together, I was sucked right back into the magic of Bitte Orca. It's certainly one of the best records made this year.

The xx 6) XX – XX: Indie bands/records break in the blogs these days and this was the indie debut of the year in the music blogs. The signature sound is the back and forth male and female vocals with a heavy bass beat in the background. This is the kind of record you can put on and listen to it over and over. The XX's sound comes out of London's "dubstep" electronic dance scene but this is not a dance record. It is moody and reminiscent of bands like the Cure and the Smiths. It's the perfect record for a slow weekend morning.

Girls7) Album – Girls: In the opening track, Lust For Life, singer/songwriter Christopher Owens sings "Oh I Wish I Had A Sun Tan. I Wish I Had A Pizza And A Bottle Of Wine, I Wish I Had A Beach House. Then We Could Make A Big Fire Every Night" And that's what this entire record sounds like. You want to go to a beach house, kick back with friends, and sing these songs. This record reminds me of the Rural Alberta Advantage's Hometowns record last year. It is a terrific record start to finish.

Neko case 8) Middle Cyclone – Neko Case: I've been a fan of Neko's since seeing her sing with the New Pornographers a few years ago. Her voice and striking red hair leaves an indelible impression. But until this record, I'd never gotten into her solo work. Middle Cyclone is a very fine piece of work. I particularly like Magie To The Morning, People Got A Lot of Nerve, and I'm An Animal. When Neko really goes for it with her voice, it's a sound of beauty.

Swelly 9)  The Swelly Express – Chiddy Bang: I'm a sucker for concept records like The Street's A Grand Don't Come For Free and Green Day's American Idiot. Following the story is as much fun as listening to the songs. And that is what The Swelly Express is. If you click on that link, you'll see that The Swelly Express is not available as a commercial release yet. It's a free downloadable mixtape showcasing the talents of Chidera Anamege (Chiddy) who does the raps and Xaphoon Jones who does the beats. Watch out for these guys. I think they have got some serious talent.

Monsters of folk 10) Monsters Of Folk – Monsters of Folk: When I heard that three of my favorite musicians, Conor Oberst, M Ward, and Jim James were working on a record together, I was super excited. And the result lived up to my expectations. Monsters Of Folk is a collection of wonderful songs sung together by these amazing musicians (including Mike Mogis). The Gotham Gal and I saw them perform live recently at the Beacon Theater in  NYC and the live show was just as strong as the record. If you like folk music, you have to get this record.

Honorable Mention:

Hold Time – M Ward: Every record he has made has been excellent and this one is no exception.

Changing Horses – Ben Kweller: Not sure how this didn't make my top ten. It was a tough one.

Three Rounds And A Sound – Blind Pilot: This is an outstanding record.

A few more things:

The Gotham Gal's top ten list is a bit different than mine but since we listen to a lot of music together, it has a bunch of great stuff on it that I enjoyed very much this year.

Bijan's top ten list is also a bit different than mine, but I highly recommend everything on his list. He has the Rural Alberta Advantage record on his 2009 list. It was on my 2008 list so I did not put it on my list this year. It is a great record.

I am going to post my top 25 tracks of 2009 tomorrow (in a streamable playlist) and my top records of the decade on Monday (the list is about 40 long right now, I might cut it down to 25 or increase it to 50).

So lot's of music on AVC right now. I hope you enjoy it.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. bijan

    fantastic list.Middle Cyclone came very close to making my list. that was a tough call.btw, my biggest let down for 2009 was Wilco (the album). Maybe my expectations were too high…

    1. fredwilson

      when i started to put my list together i went to to see what we hadactually listened to this yeari was shocked at how little airtime that wilco record gotsummerteeth and YHF are the two best things they’ve doneother than that, it’s been hit and miss for mebut they are still incredible live

      1. Wesley Barrow

        Wilco is one of my favorite bands, and I also was disappointed by their record this year. But oddly enough, my two favorite records by them are Being There and A Ghost Is Born, which bookend your two favorites.

  2. Keenan

    I like how you used the words “album” and “tape” in this post. Wow! The only thing missing was phonograph.How things are changing.Happy Holidays Fred!

  3. reece

    Totally agree with Animal Collective at #1. Fantastic album.I can’t comment on a lot of the best ‘albums’ because I’m tending towards new music via tracks more and more every year. Also, the mixes people like yvynyl and tuneage have been sharing on Tumblr have been great for discovering new artists (I need to follow through on the albums)….but no mention of Atlas Sound, Passion Pit or Harlem Shakes, huh?

    1. fredwilson

      gotham gal has harlem shakes on her listpassion pit and phoenix were on my listprobably should have put them in honorable mention

  4. reece

    Also, though they’re arguably a little mainstream now, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs latest – It’s Blitz! – is worth mentioning at the very least.They put on an amazing show at Radio City in September. track list:

    1. fredwilson

      my daughter’s favorite record of the yeari’ve got one of their tracks on my top 25 tracks of the year playlist thatis coming tomorrow

  5. Dave Pinsen

    In 2005, as the Arctic Monkeys were breaking big with their first record, they wrote “In five years time, will it be “Who the fuck’s Arctic Monkeys?”Heh, for some of us it’s still “who the fuck are the Arctic Monkeys”. I’ve heard the name — and I think I may have heard their “Who the fuck…” song on Bijan’s blog — but that’s about it. I haven’t heard of most of your top picks. I have heard of Neko Case of course, and she’s great. And I’ve heard the name Monsters of Folk. But it strikes me how atomized popular music is today that no one can keep track of all of it, even if some of the new stuff is quite good.For example, Matt Yglesias mentioned on his blog recently that one of his favorite songs this year was French Navy by Camera Obscura. “Who the fuck is Camera Obscura?”, the Arctic Monkeys might ask*, and I did too. I had never heard of them. But the tune is catchy, even if it sounds ridiculously retro to me. *BTW, Phoenix’s Lisztomania, according to an interpretation I’ve read, may be asking a similar question.

    1. fredwilson

      Camera Obscura is fantastic. I didn’t love their new record this year, butthey have a record called Let’s Get Out Of This Country that is terrific.i think it is possible to keep track of the best songs of the year byvisiting the hype machine every day.http://hypem.comit's not album centric, but i wonder if music is moving away from that formthat’s why i am doing two posts this year, albums and tracks

      1. Dave Pinsen

        I’ll check that song out, thanks.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Listened to the title song. Meh.

      2. Adam Wexler

        “it’s not album centric, but i wonder if music is moving away from that form”for better or for worse, the album format is an outdated model that has been basically surpassed by the singles market since the advent of iTunes.for the artists that i advise, i’ve been a strong advocate of bundling 3-5 songs together at a time. it’s a lot easier to make a common bond between ~4 songs than trying to fill out a 12-track LP. many more reasons that i’ve blogged about, but if nothing more, it keeps things fresh :)-adam w.

        1. fredwilson

          I agree. I like the EP format very much

    2. Nick Oliva

      I second that, Dave. I had heard or Arctic Monkeys on Albert or Fred’s blog. That’s about it.Whenever I read about what people are listening to – even though it’s not within my personal tastes – I am happy to be part of the technology industry that has enabled so many musicians to get so much exposure where it all used to be controlled by the few kingmakers. That is very cool… even if I’m not! 😉

      1. Dave Pinsen

        It’s definitely a plus for musicians in that it opens up the field more for them. Jonathan Coulton, on the unsigned end, is an example of an artist who has carved out a living for himself using the new tech and the Internet. Talented guy, for sure, but sites such as Eventful help the cause a lot. Tough to imagine he would have been able to have the same success with this ten or twenty years ago. On the other hand though, something of a common cultural currency seems to be slipping away, with the atomization of music. I’m not a big fan of Billy Joel (in fact, quite the opposite), but I think of that line in Goodnight Saigon where he mentions listening to Doors tapes and imagine that most Vietnam Vets related to that; or Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen, where he mentions Roy Orbison — who would a songwriter references twenty years from now that would be a touchstone for a wide swath of listeners — the Arctic Monkeys? What song is going to come on the jukebox in a bar 20 years from now that everyone will know and sing along to? Perhaps that’s not a big deal in itself, but given that there’s so little that ties our country together culturally these days, maybe it is.

        1. Nick Oliva

          Agreed… up to the point where you seem to imply that we “need” something to tie the country together culturally. I consider all variety in culture to be good for the parts of the US that lie more than a few miles West of the Hudson River… didn’t want to include Hackensack. 😉

          1. Dave Pinsen

            We can always bowl alone, I guess.

  6. Dan Sweet

    New Pandora station now streaming live. Unfortunately you are too cutting edge for half the music to be in Pandora yet. For better or for worse I no longer have enough time to explore much musically. Looks like this list (filtered through Pandora) is sending me in some cool directions though, thanks for sharing Fred!

    1. Adam Wexler

      “I no longer have enough time to explore much musically” isn’t that the sentiment of far too many? for that reason and more, we are crowdsourcing music discovery @ Rank ’em ( ) by allowing the fans to rank their favorite songs from all their favorite artists. in turn, it creates a powerful resource to help you sort through the catalogs of all the artists fred listed & morewe’ll be opening to the public shortly, but ping me if you would like an invite. i guarantee it’ll expedite the music discovery process for ya :)-adam

    2. fredwilson

      Great idea to turn this into a pandora station

    3. davidporter

      Hi @afinanceguy – Check out (shameless plug, as I lead the service). I’ll (almost) guarantee you can find a playlist that includes all of Fred’s picks above. *PEOPLE*, not algorithms, create the programming. So you get everything up/down the tail.

      1. fredwilson

        I posted the list to avc this morning david, using the 8 tracks widget of course

        1. davidporter

          Awesome, Fred. Thanks!

  7. daryn

    great list, between bijan, gg, and yourself it looks like I have a few records to pick up!

    1. fredwilson

      Do you have a list of your favorites this year daryn?

      1. daryn

        I didn’t make a list, but two albums I really like that didn’t make any of you guys’ cut are this year’s releases by Deer Tick (though I prefer their previous record) and Fanfarlo.

        1. fredwilson

          Gotta check out deer tickI do like the fanfarlo record

      2. David Noël

        War Elephant from Deer Tick is great!

  8. Dave Pinsen

    By the way, when I first looked at this list, I though “Bitte Orca” was “Bitter Orca”. “Bitter Orca” would have been a great name, reminiscent of this movie that was actually about a bitter orca.

    1. sethkenvin

      “bitter okra”

  9. rich caccappolo

    Well, the results are in and my Carnac-like predictive skills have proven unimpressive – I only came up with 5 out of 10. Some surprises here – more in terms of who didn’t make the cut (e.g., Ben Kweller) – than who you chose…

    1. Chipotle

      Can I play, too? Although I’m not sure my list is relevant as I don’t listen to many albums in their entirety any more. I download albums, listen to them a couple times, and then cherry pick a few tracks for playlists. Also bands/artists whose live shows blew me away tend to get on my list as I listen to their albums to recreate the high I got from their show.Note: Some of these records came out in ’08 (I’m often late to the party)1) 3 Rounds and a Sound — Blind Pilot2) I and Love and You — The Avett Brothers3) Know Better Learn Faster/We Brave Bee Stings and All — Thao4) Funeral Mixtape — The Pack A.D. 5) Reservoir — Fanfarlo6) Middle Cyclone — Neko Case7) Give Up the Ghost — Brandi Carlile8) Actor — St. Vincent9) Dark Was the Night — Various10) Monsters of Folk — Monsters of Folk

      1. fredwilson

        Awesome list! Almost all of them were candidates for my list

    2. fredwilson

      Five out of ten isn’t bad. If you include the honorable mentions, how did you do?Can you share your predictions with us now?

      1. rich caccappolo

        My tactical mistake was to anticipate that you would subconsciously weight recent releases (or those you discovered at the end of the year) more heavily and forget how much you liked the records that came out early in the year – you know, the way the voters do with the Oscars (the studios play to this human nature sort of thing). That said, Chiddy Bang made it (and I think that record deserves it), but Girls and any mention of Surfjan Stevens didn’t. Yes, the honorable mentions swung it – I thought for sure that M Ward and Ben Kweller would be on the list (didn’t have Blind Pilot).I correctly guessed Arctic Monkeys, Animal Collective, Chiddy Bang, Kid Cudi, Monsters of Folk. As mentioned, I also had Ben Kweller and M Ward. Thought you would find a spot for Surfjan Stevens and Girls and Conor Oberst Thought there was a chance you would put on Lupe Fiasco, just to make a point. Eels were another one recent release I considered, though you did not speak much about it once it came out (and most people considered it “just ok”). I was going to go with Neko Case, but changed my mind for Conor Oberst (probably because I am a big fan of almost everything he does – Desperacidoes anyone?). I didn’t anticipate Bitte Orca, but should have seen Miike Snow…I’m glad you didn’t put Phoenix on the list – I didn’t like this release.BTW, II’m looking forward to the next two lists:1. This year was more about singles from new bands than albums for me2. Many of the bands I most enjoyed over the course of the decade didn’t put out an album in 2009thanks for doing the lists – I really look forward to it/themRich

        1. fredwilson

          Girls made the list so you were six out of ten and with the honorable mentions, you were eight out of thirteen. that’s not bad.the top tracks will not surprise you

          1. rich caccappolo

            ahhh – yes, number 7 on the list – I saw it at first as I scanned quickly, then missed when going back through to tally up. 6 of 10 – not bad. Almost 8 of 10 – but those first 5: Arctic Monkeys, Animal Collective, Chiddy Bang, Kid Cudi, Monsters of Folk – those were easy!!! 🙂

          2. rich caccappolo

            I’m looking for some tracks that you didn’t comment on a great deal – like “I’ve Got Friends” by Manchester Orchestra and Gaslight Anthem’s “Old White Lincoln”

          3. fredwilson

            Neither of those made it. The list is up now on AVC

  10. AlanPearlstein

    Fred, some great stuff on your list and few albums that are new to me. I would download the new stuff now, but I am out of the country and I am not allowed to download outside of the US. I think this further illustrates the idea that you don’t really “own” anything when you buy a song on itunes but the right to use the song according to the rules set by the real owner of the music. More proof (at least in my mind) that the subscription model is the model of the future for music.

  11. Chris Kurdziel

    Fred, Great list. A few of these are new to my eye so I’ll have to check them out. Particularly interested in Monsters of Folk and Miike Snow. Out of curiosity, what do you think of Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest?

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t love grizzly bear. I know I’m in the minority but its just doesn’t grab me

  12. StephanieSmith

    Love this list! I would add Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest, which makes the long California drives totally sing.

    1. fredwilson

      I couldn’t get into that record as much as I tried

      1. David Noël

        Same here, didn’t get it.

  13. AlanPearlstein

    I also really like Holly, by Justin Nozuka. Didn’t see that one on any lists this year. some great tracks on that album.

    1. kidmercury

      i agree two thumbs up for justin nozuka

    2. fredwilson

      I’ll have to head on over to hypem and check it out

  14. Ajay Mehta

    Glad to see Miike Snow and Merriweather Post Pavilion on here – those were my most played this year too.But what about Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix? Album of the year for me. Grizzly Bear was great too.On first listen, I thought Humbug was the first sign of downfall for the Arctic Monkeys. But then I listened to it a few more times, and soon it became a morning ritual, listening to the majority of the album on my bus ride to my summer internship every morning. What an amazing album. Unbelievable.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      “But what about Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix?”Haven’t heard the whole album yet, but Lisztomania and 1901 FTW. Great stuff.

    2. fredwilson

      The Phoenix record just missed the cut. There will be at least on track on my top tracks list tomorrow. I didn’t find the whole album as strong as others but I agree that it was one of the highloights of the yearDidn’t feel the same way about grizzly bear though

    1. fredwilson

      i cannot believe there is no overlap on our lists, including the honorable mentions. just shows what a great year for music it was

      1. songguy

        i agree entirely + thought the same thing. I like many on your list + have many to check out still…

    2. David Noël

      Jaydiohead is a great pick! Did you check out Max’ other project Doublecheck Your Head where he mashes Beastie Boys with – well – the Beastie Boys:http://doublecheckyourhead….

  15. Wesley Barrow

    I did a top 10 post if you’d like to have a look. Monsters of Folk was a great record that for some reason escaped me when I was doing my list..…Cheers.

    1. fredwilson

      looks like we started with the same thirty records and just came to slightly different conclusions about the ten best and where they stand.

      1. Wesley Barrow

        Agreed. Very good music taste, sir.And many great releases to look forward to in 2010: Arcade Fire, Hot Chip, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem, The National, Beach House, etc..

  16. Scott Sherman

    excellent list. I also checked out GG… I love Harlem Shakes as well (great pick by her).While The Eels’ “Hombre Lobo” was a bit uneven (though I really enjoy it – I am horribly partial), I hope you will consider “Prizefighter” on “Hombre Lobo” as one of the Top Tracks of the Year. I think it is quite a song, E at his best.Also, I thought “It’s Blitz” could have made the Top Ten Records (but, I am again horribly partial).

    1. fredwilson

      Both will be on the top tracks playlist tomorrow

  17. Scott Sherman

    I also noted my cousin’s “The Swelly Express”. I will be sure to tell him. He will be very pleased. Thanks. Scott

    1. fredwilson

      Who is your cousin?

  18. ldii

    Interesting summery. I like it, even I need to save this page. Thank you.

  19. Mike Cuesta

    Great list – thanks for sharing!

  20. ShanaC

    I got to say, this is funny that XX is on this list. I have that written down on a paper plate from one of my favorite cafes in Chicago as an album/band I need to listen more to of, after hearing it piped in enough times…Other than that, I’m still a strictly mostly instrumental person. It’s hard to find that personally…not sure what I am looking for at all.

  21. David Noël

    Great list, Fred! Love the variety. Still have to put together my list.

    1. fredwilson

      I need a playlist for that list. There’s a lot on it I have not gotten into

      1. David Noël

        I’ll make one and send it to you, stay put.

      2. David Noël

        Here it is. I’ve added more than one song for some albums:

        1. fredwilson

          Thanks. Can’t wait to check this out

        2. fredwilson

          just listened. the artist that caught my attention the most is Phantogram. gotta get that record.

          1. David Noël

            Really cool! Yes, I liked The Xx and Bat for Lashes and they got all the hype but Phantogram somehow made it.

        3. davidporter

          Would love to see that playlist on 8tracks, D! ; )

          1. David Noël

            Right! I’m on it 🙂

          2. David Noël

            Here it is :)…

          3. davidporter

            Nice, David! Tuning in now. Thx for posting.

  22. Will Chow

    In case the east coasters here don’t know about it, the fantastic LA-based radio station KCRW has a “Top Tune” podcast that gives you a free song each day (no DRM). Most of the hits on your top 10 albums have been given away on it. Hint: be sure to set the podcast to “do not auto delete” in your iTunes.

    1. fredwilson

      Nice tip. Thanks!

  23. michaelgalpert

    we overlapped w/ 5/10 going to give your other 5 another listenMy other 5 i included were Blakroc, Jay-Z, Edward Sharpe, The Antlers, & Phoenixhave you listened to the blakroc album? [The Black Keys with a variety of MC’s]

    1. fredwilson

      The blacroc record escaped me. I’ll have to check it out. I like the black keys

  24. sethkenvin

    surprises me Dirty Projectors considered esoteric. I find Bitte Orca very approachable. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  25. Rob R

    Excellent choices, Fred. Loving xx. Thanks.

  26. efliv

    If you haven’t already, check out Feral Harmonic by Old Canes. I can’t say whether or not it would have cracked your top ten list, but it’s fun record.

    1. fredwilson

      thanksi’ll check it out

  27. richardgibson

    I like the Animal Collective album too. I would also recommend to you the Richard Hawley album; ‘Truelove’s Gutter’ and Bill Callahan’s ‘Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle’ which are two of my favourites.I also saw you liked ‘Panic Prevention’, I actually thought ‘Kings and Queens’ was a better album.

    1. fredwilson

      i know Bill’s record but not Richard’s. i’ll check it outthanks