Most of good albums for 2009 are already out. I’ve compiled the traditional top 10 list for this year. Any album that is still coming out i doubt will figure in this list since 2009 was such a great year for music compared with 2008.
Please feel free to comment if you think some album in your opinion is missing. I didn’t make the review for all of them because I didn’t want to post too much crap, if you want a specific review in this list let me know.
Total list i listened to was 146 albums for this year, this is the top 10.
1. Riverside – Anno Domini High Definition
Riverside comes back with a the first album of a new trilogy. New sounds, cohesive music changes, innovative and fresh music. Riverside have composed an album which is a perfect reflection of our times. An offering full of symbolism starting with the fact that the title of their fourth release consists of four words and that the album is precisely 44:44 minutes long and an intelligent take on current reality. Anno Domini High Definition is not a concept album in the classic sense, although it features a central theme and a haunting message. “It’s an album about people who know they need to speed up or they’ll get left behind”
2. Porcupine Tree – The Incident
London’s legendary Porcupine tree 10th studio album. Takes the listener on a thrilling audio journey. In turns haunting, desolate, hypnotic and euphoric, its centre-piece is the title track: a stunning 55-minute musical statement that breaks down into 14 separate and often diverse (though interlinked) vignettes. Not the best work of the band but still whatever Porcupine Tree delivers is above anything out in the market. Excellent sound mixing and supreme recording quality.
3. Mastodon – Crack the Skye
Mastodon has taken hold of the leadership of the New Wave of Progressive Heavy Metal. Crack The Skye, its fourth original studio album, mines subject matter from czarist Russia and astral travel to out-of-body experiences and Stephen Hawking’s theories on wormholes for an unrepentantly heavy aural assault that will shake the heavens. Some personal songs for the band members and really really impressive guitar riffs make this the third on the list for 2009.
4. Dream Theater – Black Clouds and Silver Linings
Black Clouds & Silver Linings marks another milestone on Dream Theater’s iconoclastic musical journey, which began two and a half decades ago and now encompasses a hugely impressive body of music that’s established the durable progressive metal outfit as a one-of-a-kind creative force with a fiercely devoted international fan base. The new album – produced by band members Mike Portnoy and John Petrucci, who also serve as the group’s main lyricists – offers a vibrant manifestation of the world-class musicianship, vivid lyrical scenarios and ambitious, multi-leveled compositions that have established Dream Theater as a uniquely compelling creative force.
5. Transatlantic – The Whirlwind
A nice surprise in a year full of nice surprises! Not bad at all! I have to sayI was never a big fan of Transatlantic. Not that they were bad, no way. I have both their first albums and I think they are quite good. But I felt something was missing even if their sound had most of what a prog fan wanted: great musicanship, good songwriting, good production and the right influences (meaning symphonic rock of the 70´s). But it lacked a kind of spark. Besides, Neal Morse was clearly the main protagonist on those CDs, making them sound a bit too much like Spock´s Beard (never one of my favorite bands).Well, I´m glad to say that with The Whirldwind they finally made the album we were all waiting for when we heard those musicians were assembling a group. The record drips with the power and conviction that lacked on the previous CDs. And Roine Stolt definitly takes the spotlight here much of the time. Now the band sounds fully like a band. Peter Trewavas is playing some of the heaviest bass in his career (much in the vein of the great Chris Squire), while Mike Portnoy shows he is a truly prog drummer. Best Transatlantic CD to date! The one the finally fulfilled the great expectations of having such extraordinaire musicians doing something as a group.
6. Lamb of God – Wrath
Wrath is inspired by and based on the 10 plagues from the book of Exodus. After the reflective Sacrament (2006), a deeply personal album that found Blythe exorcising his personal demons, Wrath turns its lyrical focus outward, and returns to more of the breakneck riffing that characterized the band’s early material. A more “raw” sound that revives the metal genre with this excelent release from the pure american metal band, Lamb of God. As always, the musicianship is top notch here, especially the guitar playing, and of course, the drums. I consider Chris Adler to be the druming act that nowadays defies genre.
7. The mars Volta – Octahedron
Hailed by The New Yorker as ‘perhaps the most musically adventurous act currently signed to a major label’ and by Rolling Stone as 2008’s Best Prog-Rock Band, The Mars Volta makes its Warner Bros. debut with Octahedron, the highly acclaimed group’s fifth studio album. Compared to last year Bedlam in goliath this is a completely different approach from the band to a more acoutic music development. Beautifully constructed, with nice melodic sections accross all the album.
My number one complaint (and there were very few of them) about The Bedlam in Goliath is that the band never took a moment to relax on that album. With every song being fast paced and loud I longed for those moments on a Volta record where I could take a breather before the next relentless thirteen minute prog rock latin jazz head bopping track would begin. Octahedron is the Ying to that albums Yang. I for one welcome a much slower album that builds to a more meaningful and impactful conclusion.
8. Sonata Arctica – The Days of Grays
I wasn’t really sure if the finish Sonata Arctica would even make the top 10 this year on the first few listens to the album. However The Days of Grays is a nice consolidation of what Sonata Arctica has done on the past few years. With inventive and accurate musicianship the have managed to place all the pieces of the jigsaw together and make a nice mix of (Silence / Winterheart’s Guild) and ( Reckoning Night / Unia ) which were two different eras in the band’s history. Now the’ve returned more to their roots but seems like after passing through the Reckoning /Unia era they have brought back with them the best of that musical approach to the traditional speedy that is more like the early days that made them known worldwide.
9. The Dear Hunter – Act III: Life and death
Following up where Act II left off Act III is more melodic record with the heavy parts heavier, and the soft parts more serene. Set in a WWI era, “Act III” documents the metamorphosis of a fictional central character as he makes the transition from innocence to impurity. This is heavily produced, highly emotional crossover-prog-rock. A lot of it plays like old time show tunes, or like Broadway musical tunes. There are multilayered harmonies (gorgeous), punctuating horns, and soaring string arrangements, alongside inventive guitar and keyboard parts. The Dear Hunter has been one of the underground bands that deserve more attention due of the crescent quality of their music along with every release. Act III beign the best so far that the band has released.
10. Maudlin of the Well – Part the Second
Maudlin of the Well’s Part the Second is an almost unbelievable testament to what can happen between a truly talented artist and devoted fans. This album was funded by fan contributions (in fact expanded from a limited record of old ideas to a complete album project integrating new and old material) and then returned to those fans over the internet for free. This alone is so mind-blowingly cool, how music should be, that the album will hold a place in history that I hope becomes a model for what can be when we keep the music as the focus. But the fact is that the result is worthy of its historical place, a modern masterpiece. How all these things aligned seems almost divine. But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. The love of music will never die. And not just any music would be able to muster this kind of support. Perhaps it was the fuel of that love that made the music as wonderful as it turned out. Despite being very experimental, melodic themes pass through different parts in classical fashion, moods ebb and flow perfectly, and rhythms evolve from simple to complex without ever announcing their cleverness.
So with this we conclude this years list. Every single album is excellent, hurray for 2009 in music. I just picked them as I like them best. Hope you like the list !!
Some other good recommendations are:
Gazpacho – Tick Tock;
Diablo Swing Orchestra – Sing Along Songs for the damned and delirious;
Between the buried and me – the great misdirect