Color lithograph titled Dancing Lesson by Raphael Soyer, 1969
Here's the second part of my Top 25 of 2009 list, continuing the ill-advised single-sentence capsule review format that I debuted yesterday. If any of these albums is your favorite of the year, you will no doubt justifiably feel that my "blurb" gives an excellent album the short shrift.
#20 Get Guilty by A.C. Newman (Matador Records)
Distilling his experiences in retro-pop (Zumpano), 90s-alternative (Superconductor), and post-alternative power-pop (the New Pornographers) into a pure and powerful songwriting gestalt, Newman's second solo record only has one weakness - it sounds exactly like an A.C. Newman record.
#19 Watch Me Fall by Jay Reatard (Matador Records)
Watch Me Fall features Jay trying to mash together the mismatching puzzle pieces of snotty punk and kiwi-pop, but watching him flail around is all part of the fun.
#18 Now We Can See by the Thermals (Kill Rock Stars Records)
Hutch and Kathy deliver a kinder, gentler concept album this time around - unable to summon the same level of indignation they displayed on their "politics" record and their "religion" record when it comes to the subject of death, the Thermals trade some of their attitude for a more thoughtful pop approach, and it works.
#17 Two Suns by Bat for Lashes (Astralwerks)
Natasha Khan is a reincarnated Kate Bush (what do you mean, "she's not dead yet"?) fronting a Cure cover band and replacing Robert Smith's lyrics with a convoluted story about a guy named Daniel, a girl named Pearl, and some very confusing astronomical propositions - recommended for people to whom that description sounds appealing.
#16 The Pains of Being Pure at Heart by the Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Slumberland Records)
Delivering chirpy, fuzzy pop songs that don't quite sound retro but also definitely don't sound new, these kids dodge comparisons to their shadow-casting forebears by writing high-quality songs that are just plain fun to listen to.
"The Tenure Itch" by the Pains of Being Pure at Heart