Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Music of 2009: Part 9

One more to go, and of course, it's my album of the year. When I declared this one the best album of 2009 so far in early May, I didn't really think it would maintain its hold on that honor for the entire year. But, while I haven't changed my opinion that this was a relatively weak year in music, I have decided that this album is truly worthy of #1.

Although the year in music wasn't spectacular, those of you who know me personally are well aware that it was a great year for me. So, thanks again for showing an interest in what I have to say, and indulging the part of me that wishes writing was my full-time gig.

Happy New Year to all of you, and here's hoping that 2010 is as good a year for you as 2009 was for me.

1. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love

As you probably know, I grew up a huge fan of Rush, and that interest evolved into a fascination for the heavyweights of '70s British prog-rock, namely Yes, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. More recently, I've become a fan of quirky, indie pop, particularly of the variety whose influences can be attributed in part to Neutral Milk Hotel's magnum opus, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. One such band that fits into the latter category, Portland, Oregon's The Decemberists, began to delve into their own brand of prog-inspired chamber pop with the release of The Crane Wife in 2006.

I'm also a big fan of a lot of classic rock, and I particularly love the aesthetic of modern music that pays tribute to the classics. Before I branched out and started proactively seeking out new music circa 1994, I listened to more material from the late '60s and '70s than from the '80s. Up until then, I had an anti-'80s bias—with my main exceptions being R.E.M., The Police, and U2—that I've since moved past, for the most part. One such classic rock band, who weren't necessarily one of my favorites but whose best material ranks right up there, is The Who. Of course, they're well known for the quintessential rock opera, their 1969 breakthrough album Tommy. Along those lines, in my Frequent Spins post about The Hazards of Love, I referred to it as an indie prog-rock opera masterpiece.

So, what I'm building up to here is if I was to play the "name three bands they remind you of" game with The Decemberists' latest, I might go with Yes, Neutral Milk Hotel and The Who. That's quite a compliment, in my book, although I realize that describing a non-mainstream act—The Decemberists—by referencing a band who's even more obscure—Neutral Milk Hotel—is a little questionable. Regardless, The Hazards of Love is, unquestionably, my album of the year.

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