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The Best Albums of 2009

Posted in music, top 10 lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on Wednesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

It’s that time of year when self-absorbed bloggers and music geeks prepare their Top 10 Albums of the Year lists. Of course, the mainstream media trots out Beyonce and U2 while the hipsters try to out-obscure each other by only choosing albums by artists that no one has ever heard of. I guess I’m somewhere in between, so some of you will find my list a bit too mainstream (Pearl Jam, Jay-Z) while others of you will raise an eyebrow at the lesser-known stuff (Polvo? Magnolia who?).

Since I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10 albums, I cheated creatively by breaking it into categories plus two Top 10’s. It doesn’t matter. I think there are more albums on this list than there are readers of this blog.

Best Rock Album
Polvo – In Prism

Best Americana/Alt.Country Album
The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You

Best Hip-Hop Album
Raekwon – Only Built For Cuban Linx 2

Best Jazz Album
Allen Toussaint – The Bright Mississippi

Best Traditional R&B / Rockin Soul Party Album
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears – Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!

The Top 10 Albums

Them Crooked Vultures

The Dead Weather – Horehound

Mos Def – The Ecstatic

Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses – Roadhouse Sun

Sonic Youth – The Eternal

The Black Crowes – Before the Frost/Until the Freeze

Pearl Jam – Backspacer

Regina Spektor – Far

Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard – One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Music From Kerouac’s Big Sur

The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love

The Next 10 (this list goes up to 11!)

Patterson Hood – Murdering Oscar

KRS-One and Buckshot – Survival Skills

Magnolia Electric Co. – Joesphine

John Wesley Harding – Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead

Mars Volta – Octahedron

Wilco (the Album)

Eminem – Relapse

Ben Kweller – Changing Horses

Jay Z – Blueprint 3

Levon Helm – Electric Dirt

Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South

Best Remaster/Reissue
The Beatles catalog 09.09.09

Best Re-imagined/Re-recorded Album
Stephen Marley – Mind Control (Acoustic)

Best Live Album
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – The Live Anthology

Best Collection of Outtakes/Unreleased Odds’n’ends
Drive-By Truckers – Fine Print


Pearl Jam – Backspacer

Posted in music with tags , on Monday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

This week, Pearl Jam’s new album Backspacer finally shows up in stores. Listening to it now and it’s a fine little rock record for sure. There’s a certain clarity to the mix as well as energy and diversity in the songs. The guitar work is crisp and tasteful throughout. I haven’t listened to it enough for it to really sink in yet, but I’m diggin it.

Also, much has been made about Pearl Jam releasing Backspacer independently, with out a record label. And of course a lot more has been made about the fact that they cut an "exclusive" deal with Target to promote/sell this album. But, to clarify: yes, Target will be the only "big box" retailer to carry it, so you wont find it at BestBuy, Walmart, or the big chain mall record stores. But in true Pearl Jam fashion, they insisted on an interesting clause in the deal that allows the album to also be sold at independent record stores. I love that move, and hopefully those of you planning to buy this will hit up your local record shop while it still exists.I think some indie stores might even have a special edition with different packaging. Two sites to help you find your closest indie store are: and So check the record store before Target.

Finally, here’s a little behind-the-scenes look at Pearl Jam making Backspacer. This short film was done by Danny Clinch. He’s a great photographer, and his artistic eye certainly lends a nice beauty to this little film. His shots just look great, and his edits can sometimes be choppy to coincide with the music, but never too fast or annoying. Interesting stuff, especially the part where Eddie Vedder says he approached his role on this album as "Participating as instrument, rather than as a storyteller. Writing’s great, but there’s too many words."