Timmy Awards- The Best Albums of 2009

Happy to have this year's list done far before the last few years. Breaking this up into smaller pieces to make it easier to load.

Surfer Blood

50. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast- So many rock sub-genres have found a homes as influences in 21st century alternative rock, so it was really just a matter of time before surf music had it's- ahem- day in the sun. Surfer Blood doesn't infuse surf music as much as other acts do, but it's definitely there. Sunny and bright, but with an occasional flash of toughness and a touch of feedback.


49. Nocando - Jimmy The Lock - Famed L.A. battle rapper Nocando comes out swinging on his debut, mixing street cred and intelligence for a solid start to his recording career.

Sleigh Bells

48. Sleigh Bells - Treats - A male/female duo that has more in common with M.I.A. than White Stripes- in fact, Sleigh Bells is on M.I.A.'s label. There a lot od the simple, playground-style chant found on M.I.A.'s records, but with a loud indie guitar base and N.Y.C. hipness replacing the London/Sri Lanka/global influences.

Deer Tick

47. Deer Tick - The Black Dirt Sessions - Rhode Island's Deer Tick mines Americana like so many other acts today, but sharp songwriting sets them apart.


46. M-Phazes - Good Gracious - M-Phazes own website declares him "Australia's #1 hip-hop export", a claim that's a potent as saying the "America's leading boomerang manufactuer." The music speaks for itself- M-Phazes is the producer, crafter of catchy tunes and driving beats, and this album has a lot of nice- if unknown - guest rappers and singers from down under.

John Grant

45. John Grant - Queen of Denmark - The former singer of The Czars teams up with Midlake for an 70's influenced singer-songwriter collection that has a fair share of old school synths and occasional resemblances to Rufus Wainright. Not everyday listening- it can get really moody at points- but occasionally funny and often quite striking.

The Duke and the King

43. The Duke and The King - Long Live The Duke and the King - So I use the terms "rootsy" and "Americana" a lot and that certainly applies here, but I can get more specific here. Think Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with a twist of soul, harmonizingand strumming on their front porch.

From their previous album, which I never even knew about (after 30 seconds of applause for Gladys Knight)

The Parting Gifts

43. The Parting Gifts - Strychnine Dandelions - Of the many consistencies on the Timmy lists year in and year out, there always seems to be at least one catchy as hell 60's garage rock revivalist band. Meet the 2010 version, led by the head of The Reigning Sound (see last year's list) and Coco Hames of The Ettes.

42. The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream - Wait, I did say at least one 60's garage rock revivalist band, right? Meet #2, The Black Angels. The song "Telephone" is one of my favorites for the year, and could fit right in on the Nuggets compilations. They leave the garage for the stratosphere with more than a passing hint of psychedelia- call The Parting Gifts mid 60's garage, and The Black Angels late 60's.

Dum Dum Girls

41. Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be - OK, while we're on the 60's throwback kick, let's squeeze in Dum Dum Girls. While the last two were revivalists, Dum Dum Girls are two noisy to be taken as authentically 60's. Think girl groups meet the Ramones meet Jesus and Mary Chain meet Vivian Girls. Sloppy but melodic.

Justin Townes Earle

40. Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues - It's got to be hard following in your parent's footsteps as a performer. but Justin Townes Earle does a fine job stepping out from his father Steve Earle's shadow. There are moments where the son sounds like the father, but more often than the best comparison of the two would be like two different generations of singer/songwriters who share the same record collection.


39. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest - Deerhunter has found a regular home on this list. While this new record is mellower than previous albums, the psychedelic influence and hummable melodies remain.

Das Racist - Shut Up, Man
Das Racist - Sit Down, Man

38. Das Racist - Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man mixtapes - Smart, funny rap that's sometimes purposely dumb and sometimes political. They released two mixtapes in 2010 and there's very little filler on either. Both can be download from dasracist.net. Bonus points for sampling both Billy Joel and The Doors.

Field Music

37. Field Music - Field Music (Measure) - Two brothers from Sunderland, England pulled together 20 intricate pop songs which are very reminiscent of XTC.

Bin Laden Blowin' Up

36. Bin Laden Blowin' Up - Fear of a Clear Channel Planet - I can't say I know much about the juke or footwork sub-genres which came out of Chicago neighboorhoods several miles from where I live, but I still enjoy listening to this hyperspeed off-shoot of hip-hop. Don't expect me to ever try to dance to it, I think two broken ankles would be the end result.

The Rebeatles Project

35. The Rebeatles Project - Get Back! - I'm a big fan of both cover versions and The Beatles, so this album definitely intrigued me. This German foursome takes The Beatle early period look and sound and applies them to modern hits. They get pretty in-depth with the concept, infusing "Love Me Do" into "Get This Party Started" and "That Boy" into "Eternal Flame." Gear!

Peter Wolf

34. Peter Wolf - Midnight Souvenirs- Yes, it's THAT Peter Wolf, the former singer of the J. Geils Band. It's no surprise that he has some soul and blues influences here, but guests Shelby Lynne, Neko Case and Merle Haggard (!) help him add country flourishes to this rootsy collection of tunes. A pleasant surprise.


Free Energy

33. Free Energy - Stuck On Nothing - It is the 21st Century, right? Free Energy still seems to think it's 1979, with it's Boston and Journey inspired riffs and sing-along choruses. Good, poppy fun with the occasional hint of 21st century indie-rock creeping in, especially in the vocals. Don't anyone give them a calendar.

Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings

32. Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings - I Learned The Hard Way - Speaking of not telling people what year it, definitely don't tell Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. They keep on cranking out album after album of pure soul. If it was revealed that they own a time machine, I would not be shocked.


31. Rumer - Seasons Of My Soul - I'm in a retro block here, I guess. The best comparison I can give to Rumer's overall sound and (especially) her voice is Karen Carpenter. No wait, come back! This is a really good collection of ealy 70's styled soft rock songs, and it's no surprise the Burt Bachrach himself is a huge fan and gave her one of his songs.

Here she is again, covering Burt Bacharach's "Alfie"


30. Grinderman - Grinderman 2- Nobody does Southern (Hemisphere) Gothic like ol' Nick Cave. Grinderman- a split personality of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is dirty, smoky, swampy, rocking music you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley, under a full moon or at a crossroads.

Kelley Stoltz

29. Kelley Stoltz - To Dreamers - Kelley Stoltz keeps cranking out melodic throwback guitar pop that owes a ton to the The Kinls and The Zombies..

Blitzen Trapper

28. Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void - A solid follow up to their awesome album Furr, more folky, bearded guitar tunes from this Portland collective. I'd start with Furr if you were new to this band, but there's a lot of great stuff here as well.

Best Coast

27. Best Coast - Crazy For You - Sunny indie pop that owes equal debts to girl groups and surf music, and a low-fi indie streak rounds out this catchy full-length debut.

Cee-Lo Green

26. Cee-Lo Green - The Lady Killer- I guess if you record a catchier-than-hell song called "Fuck You", you're a lock for the Timmy Awards (see Lily Allen last year.) Nothing else on the album matches that song, but few songs in 2010 did. The rest of this album is solid, from the spy music of the title track, the 80's keys on Bright Lights Bigger City and the tender cover of Band of Horses' "No One's Gonna Love You." Cee-Lo is definitely an artist to keep watching.


25. Yeasayer - Odd Blood - Yeasayer is back with album #2, an interesting blend of dancy, world music inspired rhythms and electronic flourishes. Fams of MGMT's debut who were put off by the psychedelic noodlings of their 2010 follow-up may find a nice replacemt in Yeasayer, especially with tracks like "O.N.E."- the most infectious song about recovering from alcoholism that's likely to ever be written.

The Hold Steady

24. The Hold Steady - Heaven is Wherever- The Hold Steady keeps cranking out solid albums that owe no small debts to both Bruce Springsteen and Minneapolis bands like Hüsker Dü- and even Thin Lizzy at points. Stay Positive was a mis-step but still decent, and Heaven is Wherever shows maturity as well as recapturing some of the spark of Boys and Girls in America and Stay Positive. Their greatest work may still be coming...


Fitz and the Tantrums

23. Fitz & The Tantrums - Pickin' Up The Pieces - So where Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings authentically recreate 60's soul, Fitz and the Tantrums seem to update it for today- although at times, very, very slightly. Great male/female vocals and an incredible organ sound.


22. Harlem - Hippies - Lo-fi garage rock duo from Austin that doesn't skimp on the fun.


21. Maximum Balloon - Maximum Balloon - In between TV on the Radio albums, band member/producer David Sitek created Maximum Balloon, which essentially sounds like TV on the Radio selling out and making a poppy dance album. David Byrne, Karen O. of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the vocalists from TVOTR are among the many guest vocalists who help keep things interesting.

Elvis Costello

20. Elvis Costello - National Ransom - One of my all-time favorite artists, it's really not so much will the latest Elvis Costello album make the Timmys, it more of how high it will land. Last year he took a turn towards bluegrass and some of those influences are stil here, but it also sounds like a hybrid from past albums: some of the rootsy sounds of King of America, tin pan alley sounds of Imperial Bedroom and some of the New Orleans flavor found on Spike. He's still writing quality songs over 30 years into his career.

Gold Panda

19. Gold Panda - To Dreamers - Electronic one man band Gold Panda is big on sound manipulation and samples, managing to loop a lot of sounds into some very interesting grooves.

Titus Andronicus

18. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor - A concept album about the civil war? Doesn't sound all that promising, but Titus Andronicus' second album is (loosely) just that. On the weight of solid songwriting, tight playing and great guests from The Hold Steady, Vivian Girls, Deer Tick, The Felic Brothers and more, it all works.

Janelle Monae

17. Janelle Monae - The Archandroid - Concept albums are a risky proposition, but a concept that lasts several albums sounds like something to stay away from. So it's a credit to Janelle Monae's songwriting and performing that this so worthwhile. She has Prince's ambition and James Brown's footwork and a soaring voice. Not all songs are awesome, but the ones that are, really are, and you have to admire her gumption in tackling such a sprawling project.

Vampire Weekend

16. Vampire Weekend - Contra- These Ivy Leagers with a love for African guitar sounds are back for their sophomore album, and they keep their streak of success going. Much more of the same as their debut, with enough differences to keep thing interesting.

Ted Keo

15. Ted Leo and The Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks - Ted Leo is one of those artists that finds something he's good at and keeps plugging away with it. In Ted's case, it's punky pop that owes debts to The Jam and 80's hardcore punk, topped with intelligent lyrics.

Against Me!

14. Against Me! - White Crosses - In the same vein as Ted Leo, but turning up the punk quotient and replacing Ted's soaring high vocals with Tom Gabel's melodic shouting. And where Leo looks to Paul Weller, Against Me! has some of The Hold Steady/Gaslight Anthem's punkish take on the Springsteen sound.



13. Marina & The Diamonds - The Family Jewels - Marina and & The Diamonds is the work of Marina Diamandis, and she's wise to have released her debut in 2010 as opposed to 2009. In 2009, she would have been overshadowed by Florence and The Machine, who is very similar and has stronger songs. Think of Marina as a poppier Florence, with as many 80's Madonna references as she does Kate Bush/Tori Amos touch points. There is room enough for both Florence and Marina in the following years.

Arcade Fire

12. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs - What can I say about Arcade Fire that hasn't been covered elsewhere? The darlings of the indie world are back with their third full length, and I feel it's slightly better the Neon Bible and not as good as Funeral. That being said, it's a really good album and worth repeated listens. Their masterpiece is coming soon...


11. Radioclit - The Sound of Club Secousse, Vol. 1 - I generally avoid adding compilations to this list, but I couldn't pass this one by. This is the future of African music, modern dance sounds compiled by two UK DJs. Several countries and styles are represented, and the album has one solid song after another.

Elvis Costello

10. Phosphorescent - Here's To Taking It Easy - Alabama-born, New York City based Matthew Houck is Phosphorescent, and this is his fifth album. His take on Americana has a classic rock twist to it, sometimes reminiscent of The Eagles, The Band and Neil Young.

The Black Keys

9. The Black Keys - Brothers - It took me a good while to warm up to this one, and I'm glad I did. Recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Brothers takes the blues, pulls in indie rock, and up bubbles a swampy stew that harkens to old blues sounds but remains planted in the here and now. A great step in their career, but more importantly, a solid album.

Eli "Paperboy" Reed

8. Eli "Paperboy" Reed - Come And Get It - Reed is back with more of his retro soul, but this time I detect more of an early 70's type of soul than the more mid 60's Otis Redding style of his past work. Great songs that sound like lost classics.

Band of Horses

7. Band of Horses - Infinite Arms- Some songs sound like you've always known them, even if it's the first time you've heard them. That's what this album sounded like to me. Some country rock, folk rock, classic rock, college rock and plain old rock- some of The Band here, Beach Boys there, maybe a little R.E.M. A really nice effort.

The Soft Pack

6. The Soft Pack - The Soft Pack - The Soft Pack's debut is a very pleasant surprise. The remind me of "college rock" bands from the mid to late 80's. There's garage, surf, punk and rock elements are pushing against and working with each other to create ramshackle indie rock with killer hooks.

Club 8

5. Club 8 - The People's Record - This is Club 8's eight record; they've been around 15 years. This is the very first I've heard of them, and I guess this album sounds a lot different than their previous records. This Swedish pop duo had dabbled in different styles before but recently immersed themselves in West African guitar pop. They embrace the sound fully, and the mix seems quite natural. Sweet female vocals, sunny melodies,chiming guitars.

Against Me!

4. The National- High Violet - Another perrenial Timmy Award favorite, I thought about trying to write this without describing The National's music as "literate" or "cinematic." So much for that. Let me just say if you like your music smart and sometimes moody and you don't know The National, check this out, and start with "Bloodbuzz Ohio."



3. Robyn - Body Talk - I have developed a soft spot for dancable, female vocal pop- Katy Perry, some Kylie Minogue, even the occasional Kelly Clarkson or Ke$ha song. It goes against a lot of what I admire in music, except for being catchy, melodic and fun. Enter Robyn, a bouncy Swedish singer who had some pop hits in the 90's, opened for The Backstreet Boys, had record company issues and became an ambassabor for UNICEF. More record company troubles followed, she bought her contract out, started her own label and came back with and album which was synth-driven dance pop with danceable beats. This year, she released three Body Talk EPs, with the best songs compiled on her Body Talk album. It's really good, ultra catchy stuff with a few key cameos (Snoop Dogg?!) and hummable hooks. Highly recommended for anyone who's caught themselves singing along with any of the women mentioned in the first sentence of this review.

"Cry When You Get Older" from the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival. She was the highlight of the festival for me, she bounced around non-stop for over 30 minutes, Thgis is the best song from the EPs that din't make the album.

and a proper video, this was the "hit" from the album.

LCD Soundsystem

2. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening - This is the second straight year that #1 and #2 on the list were switching back and forth for a while. LCD Soundsystem had my favorite album in 2007- that one is better than this, the follow up. But that was a really, REALLY good alum, where this is a really good album. Keyboards dominate throughout, and it times it's like playing "Spot the Synth"- is that one the same as that Talking Head record? What 80's track sounded like that keyboard riff? A great modern rock record- allegedly it's their last, but I'm sure we'll hear more from leader James Murphy.

Kanye West

1. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West does pretty much everything he can to get people not to like him. His public persona is so over the top, he ego knows now bounds and he generally is hard to like. But...then he releases an album that makes everyone sit up and take notice. I think one of the best things you can say about an artist is that no one else sounds like him. You can certainly say that about Kanye- that he does so and still sells ridiculous amounts of albums is no small feat. His knack for incorporating great samples is unparalelled, making his tracks sound like no other. He's not the most gifted rapper in the world, but his rhymes are solid and easy to follow. To even call this rap album is oversimplifying things- it covers so much musical ground it steps out from that genre in the way few other albums have. If you can somehow avoid what he does as a person, you'll be pleasantly surprised to see what he can do as a performer.


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