Despite my best intentions, I wasn’t able to post this list yesterday, so you get it on January 1st. What better way to welcome 2009 to the world than to show it what it will have to live up to.
1. Adele/19 – I went back and forth between the top 3 for weeks, but in the end, the impact of a new artist releasing a solid, soulful and substantive disc won out. One moment sassy, the next downright depressed, Adele takes you on an emotional rollercoaster throughout “19”. There wasn’t a lyric sung this year that resonated with me more than “should I give up/or should I just keep chasing pavements/even if it leads nowhere”. This is definitely the start of a substantial career.
2. Jason Mraz/We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things – Don’t get me started on this one. If Oprah can have her muses and advisors, then I call dibs on Mr. A-Z. “Live High” became my mantra, “I’m Yours” held multiple meanings through the year, “A Beautiful Mess” hit a little too close to home, and “Details in the Fabric” walked me through my darkest moments.
3. Will Young/Let It Go – I “found” Will this year. It’s not like I didn’t know who he was, but Will Young found a body of songs worthy of his interpretation. The title song moved me like few songs this year, and the rest of this opus didn’t disappoint, either. I may have to admire him from afar for years to come, but it will be worth the effort. Key tracks are “Changes”, “Let It Go”, “Love”, and “Won’t Look Down”.
4. Keane/Perfect Symmetry – Watching Keane grow as a group has been an interesting activity, especially with the way that their music has evolved. While many were more focused on watching lead singer Tom Chapin for some type of stumble after his time in rehab, I was more concerned about the music, and it didn’t disappoint. In addition, “Symmetry” inspired some pretty unique videos.
5. Solange/Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams – I’ve seen a lot of slogging of Beyonce this year when Solange’s album is mentioned, and while I have my issues with “I Am…Sasha Fierce”, I won’t play into those negative comments. Solange was in the enviable position of having the money behind her as a new artist to create a record that had musical integrity, and she definitely made the most of it. “Sandcastle Disco” was a revelation, “I Decided” stands as a tribute to those Motown legends that paved the way, and “Cosmic Journey” turned out to be a perfect pairing between Solange and Bilal. Solange, you are now forgiven for your debut record.
6. Kanye West/808s & Heartbreaks – “Graduation” was my #3 CD last year, and it’s very possible that, had this come out earlier, “808s” may have been higher, but I hope that doesn’t detract from my respect for the disc. Kanye decided to take his pain and channel it into his work, and the results are, at times, breathtaking. “Paranoid” is a personal best for him, “Love Lockdown” is sonically stunning, and “Heartless” does a great job of bridging the gap between the current sound of hip-hop, and some new territory that only Kanye can take us to.
7. David Cook/David Cook – This disc was a grower, for me, as I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by it on first listen. But Cookie won me over, and it is now one of my most-played records in my car. As I noted in my review, this is the CD that David was meant to record, and he doesn’t disappoint. It rocks, but with a bit of class that many of the cookie-cutter (no pun intended) rock groups can’t seem to find. Highlights include “Declaration”, “A Daily Anthem”, and “Come Back To Me”.
8. Killers/Day and Age – For me, no release this year was as fraught with expectations as the Killers’ third CD, due to the amazing impact of “Human”. Would they be able to carry it off and deliver a consistent record, or would they have one flash of inspiration, surrounded by mediocre filler? Hopefully, you’ll gather my decision based on its ranking. “The World We Live In”, “Joy Ride”, and “Neon Tiger” all carried the torch. My only complaint about “Day” is the closing track, “Goodnight, Travel Well”, which just seems out of place. Anyone want to wager on Stuart Price coming back for disc #4?
9. Ne-Yo/Year of the Gentleman – I referred to this record as Ne-Yo’s version of Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous”, and I meant that as a high compliment. Not only did Ne-Yo come up with his most cohesive record to date, but he did it with style and diversity. “Year” is not a cookie-cutter of his hit formula; instead, there are multiple styles all working together to show some serious personality. It’s good to know that Mr. Yo wasn’t giving away all of his hits.
10. Keyshia Cole/A Different Me – Wow…the newest CD on the list, and I’m just blown away. Keyshia and her producers definitely stepped up, adding a level of sophisticated to her music that threatens to add credibility to the “next Mary J Blige” title that people have been throwing around for the past few years. Highlights include the trifecta of “Playa Cardz Right”, which features a downright spooky cameo from 2Pac, “Brand New”, and “Trust”, a beautiful duet with Monica.
Now for the rest of the Top 25:
11. Alanis Morissette/Flavors of Entanglement
12. Aimee Mann/@#%&*! Smilers
13. Ferras/Aliens & Rainbows
14. k.d. lang/Watershed
15. Sam Sparro/Sam Sparro
16. Shelby Lynne/Just a Little Lovin’
17. Coldplay/Viva La Vida
18. Lady Antebellum/Lady Antebellum
19. Mark Broussard/Keep Coming Back
20. Michelle Williams/Unexpected
22. The Script/The Script
23. Sheryl Crow/Detours
25. Alphabeat/This Is Alphabeat
And while I don’t include EPs on this list, there were two this year that really rocked my world. Check out my write-up on Raining Jane here, and look for a write-up on Georgia Wonder in the next couple of weeks.
26. Raining Jane/Paper Nest EP
27. Georgia Wonder/Hello Stranger EP