Big Star - Keep an Eye on the Sky This kicks any record off any desert island list I've made in the past. There's so much on this collection that I hadn't heard, all of it good -and I call myself a fan -- that my skull cracked open from such pop delicacy. These guys threw away demos and songs most bands would suffer amputation to have back.
Mission of Burma - The Sound the Speed the Light Sometimes it's so hard to say goodbye. But goodbye.
Lou Barlow -- Goodnight Unknown I can't get enough of this record. It sounds great, and LB smartly varies the instrumentation for his best batch of songs since Sebadoh called it a day.
Vivian Girls -- Everything Goes Wrong Disclaimer: I usually prefer the sophomore releases from meteoric overrated phenom bands. That said, album #2 justifies VG's zombie-girl harmonies with improved songwriting and leavens their psych-garage stomp with surprising turns of guitar sqwuak. There's some there, there. Henry Darger is proud.
The Clientele - Bonfires on the Heath I always knew they had a funky drummer underneath their Al Stewart-sings-for-the-Zombies wistfulness. A nice style reinvention. May I have some more, sir?
Reigning Sound - Love and Curses The second-best garage-rock record you'll buy this year, next year, or last year.
Marmoset - Tea Tornado Don't sleep on 'em. Their albums of about ten years ago populate my lost-and-unfairly-unsung files along with the likes of Ganger and Polvo. Creepy post-pop with a Pavement influence.
Sally Shapiro - My Guilty Pleasure Not as boringly pleasurable as her nuwave disco throwback debut, but I admire this one more for its dark impulses and colder tones. Still forgettable, overall.
Yacht - See Mystery Lights I don't see it. Trusted people recommend this, so I'll give it a second shot, but there's no there there. In a year, no one will listen to this.
Robert Pollard - Elephant Jokes A good one! He makes so many, that's all you need to know.
Kings of Convenience - Declaration of Dependence Simon and Garfunkel via Jobim. Alright, I'm down, but KoC increasingly risks outright soft rock, even if this sounds wonderful at dusk while making dinner in an empty house.
Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs Not among their usual excellence. I'm trying. Really. But it hurts.
Cold Cave - Love Comes Close In the top five for 2009 so far. For me to enjoy the bloopy bleepy, it has to sound DIY and misguided. The tone is retro, even 8-bit, but the song composition is far-thinking, fun, and spooky-good.
The Soft Pack (formerly The Muslims) -- s/t Didn't get booked much under the original name, ay guys? And you wimped out? No matter. You've made a dynamite rock record. Stay snotty.
Delorean - Ayrton Senna EP Believe the hype. Like a Lighting Seeds album covered by Cut Copy.
JJ - No2 Nah. A wind blew, and this left my memory forever.
Skygreen Leopards - Gorgeous Johnny Less a keeper than their last record, Gorgeous Johnny suffers from a case of the Accessibles, or the high stakes disease, and thus we get the Straight Folksy, sans weird.
Dodos - Time to Die Quality aside, is this truthfully a new album? I can't tell it apart from the previous release.
Jay Reatard - Watch me Fall Fall you did, but I'll keep watching.
Jandek -Skirting the Edge Whatever's said, you can't listen to him alone while drinking, or you'll kill yourself. No other artist can claim that.
The Clean - Mister Pop & The Bats - The Guilty Office You can have your anti-folk, your glo-fi. For me, the prettiest two albums this year hail from roughly 30-year old groups from New Zealand who also share bassist Robert Scott. The Clean improve upon their relaxed yet ornate altar ego, al la "Unknown Country," and the Bats continue the lush, elegaic ballads of "Couchmaster." Punch me with kiwi.
Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another There is no better album of abrasive, catchy, and funny post-rock also named after a memoir by war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. Few albums of anything else, this year, were better. Mclusky, I gladly hail your fading memory.
The Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away Please do.
Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue What street is this?
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix Like a pop music bon-bon. Radiohead gets high on Steely Dan's stash. I like it, but I need a shower.
Julianna Barwick - Florine I'm won over by choral oddness. Less Enya, thank god, than it is Kate Bush, but it sings a fine, fine line.
Gossip - Music for Men Like their name, there's no good reason for them. But like their name, I enjoy Gossip now and then. Someone who thinks they're hip will recommend this to you in about four months.
Lydia Lunch - Big Sexy Noise Made it with Gallon Drunk! Who cares how bad?
A Sunny Day in Glasgow - Ashes Grammar My goodness: a winner of swirling, atmospheric psychedelicism. I still haven't absorbed it fully, but that's my fault, not theirs.
The XX Another guilty pleasure, this one a studied-cool batch of hip-hop inspired guitar lounge with spookiness produced-in. Young Marble Giants with an Aaliyah fetish after too many Cure records.
Grizzly Bear - While You Wait for the Others (feat. Michael McDonald) [single] I love them for this. Although an obvious career-restarter-coup by MM's agent, I'll take this ex-Doobie Brother's low register take on GB's melt-rock.