5.) “Dark Shades of Blue” by Xavier Rudd
Aussie Xavier Rudd released this gem to the world in August and has literally been touring the globe since. As the album title would suggest, “Dark Shades of Blue” comes off a bit edgier and, well, darker than his previous recording endeavors. The opening track “Black Water” is a lyric-free onslaught of squealing guitars and powerful drums and leads right into the title track. While many of the jams are heavy in instrumentation, Rudd does not abandon his beautiful slide guitar work and harmonies, heard on “Shiver,” a seven-and-a-half minute opus, and the Dave Matthews-esque “Hope That You’ll Stay.”
4.) “The Eventually Home” by Right Away, Great Captain!
3.) “Gossip In The Grain" by Ray LaMontagne
LaMontagne shone on his breakthrough “Trouble,” but lost a little of himself on his follow-up “Till the Sun Turns Black” But, LaMontagne shut the critics up and proved why he is one of the best contemporary songwriters out there. From the opening horns of “You Are The Best Thing” to the closing smoky whisper of “Gossip In The Grain,” this release is a knockout of emotion. The piano and guitar work alike are mesmerizing, as they wrap you into each word LaMontagne croons. Also, who else can get away with writing an unambiguous love song for the drummer of The White Stripes? (Go listen to “Meg White” and wish it was written for you.)
2.) “Anorexia Nervosa” by Showbread
Showbread released quite the labor of love this year with two albums dropping on the same day. They are concept albums, written and orchestrated around intertwined storylines about two sisters, Anorexia and Nervosa, and their quest for self-fulfillment.
The accompanying linear notes are meticulous, detailing the siste
rs’ tales by giving time markers to read a paragraph at a specific point in each song. In true Showbread fashion, both albums are remarkably heavy and grotesque, both lyrically and musically. And this is where the project truly shines. Every word and note of every song is purposeful and important, whether haunting and disturbing or elegant and worshipful. They prove that even amongst the harshest and noisiest of chaos, God can be found and praised.
1.) “Canopy Glow” by Anathallo
And the winner for best album of the year is Anathallo’s “Canopy Glow.” I’ll admit I was pretty excited for this record to come out, but also hesitant that it wouldn’t be able to compare to their previous EPs and other full-length “Floating World.” I knew they had it in them, especially after seeing their passionate artistry live a few years ago. But, I was unsure whether or not Anathallo would deliver. As soon as I got “Canopy Glow” in the mail one fine November day, I knew all my fears were quelled. The grace and sophistication of this record outweighs anything else I have had the pleasure of listening to this year. This band utilizes everything from basic guitar, bass, and drums to piano, organ, hand bells, trombone, flugelhorn, shakers, strings, glockenspiel, and many more. They are used in precision, not overbearingly, and then, when the lyrics are overlaid, they are delicate and harmonizing, as an instrument, one with the rest of the band. Anathallo creates a lush and sunny appeal with musical depth and intensity, while being able to conjure up images of death and passing from this world to the next. Every song is its own highlight. Support this band. They will be touring nationally this spring and summer!
DOWNLOAD ONE SONG FROM EACH ALBUM
Runner-Ups: AKA the Almost-But-Not-Quites-But-Still-Worth-Mentioning
Ben Sollee “Learning to
William Fitzsimmons “The Sparrow and the Crow”
Mates of States “Rearrange Us”
Sigur Ros “Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust" aka "Butt CD"
Punch Brothers “Punch”
Well, that's all folks! The bar is set high. I look forward to a strong 2009!!!