Guest Entry - David Biel's Favorite Albums of 2009

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. Merriweather Post Pavilion-Animal Collective

They may not be labeled as such, but the men of Baltimore quartet Animal Collective are the true mash-up maestros of our time. Especially in regards to 2005’s Feels and 2007’s Strawberry Jam, David Portner, Noah Lennox, Brian Weitz and Josh Dibb crafted collages of music, with influences ranging from Brian Wilson-esque pop to tribal drumming, resulting in often beautiful but often perplexing music.

After almost a decade of recording, Animal Collective made the big step the music world has been waiting for with Merriweather Post Pavilion, by far the group’s greatest work to date and arguably a major moment in indie music history. What makes Merriweather Post Pavilion so brilliant is that, unlike the majority of Animal Collective’s past work, the complexity of the music results in true, simple euphoria. The heavy tribal beat/atmospheric synth section of “In The Flowers” and the group chanting of “Brother Sport” and “My Girls” are as beautiful as anything you’ll hear in music today.

Veckitamest-Grizzly Bear

In the age of music when good looks seems just as important talent in the commercialization of pop groups and lip-syncing no longer considered a travesty, its quite pleasant to listen to the a group like Grizzly Bear display such an admiration for vocal harmonization and phrasing on the consistently gorgeous Veckitamest.

Don’t be fooled by their indie credentials: Veckitamest, in addition to the band itself, is as accessible and easily enjoyable as a chamber pop album can get. Like the Beach Boys before them, Grizzly Bear master the concept of using simple song arrangements to create deep emotional connections with the listener. Opener “Southern Point” builds you up, the unbelievable “Two Weeks” is as joyous as any song this year, and the haunting closers “I Live With You” and “Foreground” slowly bring you back to earth. Veckitamest is truly a stunning journey listeners will experience from the first go-around to the last.

Backspacer-Pearl Jam

In the Clinton era, we saw Ed Ved and co. rise up against the music and concert industries (see: 1994 Ticketmaster boycott). During the Bush presidency, they protested the, well, Bush presidency (see: “Bu$hleaguer”). So with Barack Obama entering the White House in 2009, what would Pearl Jam bring to the table?

The answer: their most hopeful songs to date and their best album since 1998’s Yield. For the first time since Ten shook up the world in 1991, it sounds as if Pearl Jam is having real, genuine fun making an album. For those of you that may not believe me, let me say that again: Pearl Jam really is fun again, and it’s an awesome thing to witness. The raucous opener “Gonna See My Friend” sounds like what would happen if Roger Daltrey fronted Soundgarden. And “Amongst the Waves,” Pearl Jam’s most beautiful track in a long time, brings to mind Ten’s “Oceans” when Vedder compares love to waves crashing on a beach. Let’s hope that the Obama era brings more music as enjoyable and uplifting as Backspacer.