Top CDs of 2009 | Laura Hamlett

cd_laura_matt-good.gifAnything Matthew Good releases goes straight to the top of my favorites list.

1. Matthew Good | Vancouver (Universal)

Absolutely my favorite artist ever. Anything he releases goes straight to the top of my favorites list for that respective year. If he can write a clunker, I sure haven’t heard it; even his old demos and b-sides sound incredible. The man’s a musical genius; the crime is that most of the United States hasn’t a clue who he is. (Let this be what inspires you to find out.)

2. As Tall as Lions | You Can’t Take It With You (Triple Crown)

Another band without a misstep—and frontman Daniel Nigro’s voice is heavenly.

3. Bamboo Shoots | Armour (Epic)

Fun. Dance-y. Retro. Upper ranges. Fun to sing along. What more do you need?

4. Mute Math | Armistice (WEA/Reprise)

The first half of this album should be required listening for anyone with a pulse. Put it on "repeat" and enjoy…

5. Moneen | The World I Want to Leave Behind (Vagrant)

I’m late to the Moneen game but oh, so glad I’ve arrived. It’s urgent, it’s yearning, it’s emotionally honest—well, that and it rocks.

6. Stomacher | Sentimental Education (s/r)

Sure, Jarrod Taylor’s voice sounds more than a bit like Thom Yorke’s, but don’t hold that against this Bay Area band with aching, intricate songs, meaningful lyrics and that oh, so beautiful voice.

7. Black Lab (tie) | Give Us Sugar: B-Sides and Demos (

This one’s a late charter. I received it less than two weeks before year’s end and I’ve been listening to it ever since. After a 1997 Geffen Records debut (Your Body Above Me), Black Lab went quietly indie. Thankfully, singer/songwriter Paul Durham has continued to write and release material. This, a B-sides collection no less, is better than most artists’ A-game. Plus, with two discs and 32 tracks, there’s plenty to love.

7. John Nolan (tie) | Height (Doghouse)

The former Straylight Run frontman heads out on his own to great success. Height is an indie rock gem.

8. Tommy Keene | In the Late Bright (Second Motion)

The power-pop god returned this year with quite possibly his finest album. With the exception of an exceedingly awkward rhyme ("Get off the fence/ Hortense"), In the Late Bright is a home run from start to finish. A fine return to form; bravo, Tommy.

9. Patrick Wolf | The Bachelor (R.E.D. Distribution)

Truth be told, this album is only half amazing…but oh, what a stunning first half it is. The cross-dressing, experimental young Brit puts his all into some dance-ready indie tracks that will have you moving.

10. Red Collar | Pilgrim (Suburban Home)

It’s like early Bruce Springsteen meets The Hold Steady. Never mind the fact that I’m not particularly a fan of either of those acts…Red Collar are that good. There’s more heart and grit in this album than in the dirty South.

11. French Miami | s/t (Take Root)

For fans of the dance floor, and singing along, this San Francisco trio piles on the layers of sound, adds a dash of killer vocals (and some repetitive lyrics…but, hey, makes it easy to sing along) and produces an indie gem.

12. White Rabbits | It’s Frightening (TBD)

Who’d have thought this Brooklyn-by-way-of-Missouri indie rockers could have followed up their stunning debut Fort Nightly with such a solid offering? It’s the same band you fell in love with; here’s the next chapter.

13. Black Gold | Rush (R.E.D. Distribution)

This one’s part indie rock, part pop, part boy band…close to being a guilty pleasure but it’s just too good.

14. Carillon | Summer Chemicals (s/r)

Second offering by St. Louis singer-songwriter Jonathan Cour, this time a full-band offering under the Carillon moniker, and wow, is it gorgeous. There are some must-listen tracks here, backed by a solid full-length offering. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

15. a-Ha | Foot of the Mountain (Universal Int’l.)

Sadly, a-Ha recently announced they will be calling it quits, making this, their ninth studio release, their final one. Though it’s not my favorite of their albums, it’s still an a-Ha album; Morten Harket’s wonderful falsetto pushes them over the top of most other acts.

16. Owen | New Leaves (Polyvinyl)

New Leaves is an Owen album, make no mistake. If you’re a fan, you’ll sink right into this album of uncomfortable relationships, brutal honesty and self-deprecation…all backed by Mike Kinsella’s creamy vocals and gentle, layered instrumentation.

17. Maclean | Talker (s/r)

These Canadian indie rockers have produced a quietly shimmering masterpiece. The songs, along with the voice, are soft and gentle, emotionally honest and gripping.

18. Chico Fellini | s/t (s/r)

Louisville dance rockers Chico Fellini have issued a self-titled debut that is bound to get you moving. The voice is just plain sexy.

19. Gliss | Devotion Implosion (Cordless)

These youngsters are heading the mission to take back shoegaze. There’s a bit more pep beneath their songs, though. It’s a debut worthy of a listen…or two.

20. Jimmy Eat World | Clarity Live (Capitol)

This one speaks for itself, right? Even after all these years, Clarity still stands up as the definitive Jimmy Eat World album…the one just before Bleed American, the band’s big break.

Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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