Best Music 2009: Honorable Mentions

Reissues of the Year
I love the Beatles, but I didn't have $250 to hear the subtle nuances in sound production between the original 1989 and the 2009 remastered versions of "Polythene Pam." I didn't have the cash to pick up the extended reissues of Neil Young, Kraftwerk or Radiohead, but I did have about 15 bucks to pick up each of these this year:

1. The Vaselines: Enter the Vaselines
For a band that gets most of their non-Glasgow love from being "that band that Kurt Cobain likes," the Vaselines' music holds up really well 20 years later. Sharp writing about overtly taboo subjects (i.e. shagging horses), the duo's best known songs via covers ("Son of a Gun," "Molly's Lips," "Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam") are lo-fi gems in the hands of their original creators and work even better with their guy/girl dynamic. The additional live performances are actually pretty entertaining as well.

2. Serge Gainsbourg: Histoire de Melody Nelson 
In 1971, Serge Gainsbourg reached the peak of his talents with this themed songcycle about lusting after a young girl who then dies. Y'know, the classic sad, touching and creepy French tale. You lose some of that lechery in translation, and Serge's voice just becomes another instrument in a particularly sharp band. The opening bassline alone probably influenced thousands of the bands you like. In this age, it's particularly bold to reissue an 28-minute album with no bonus materials, but you'll have to trust me, it's just that good.

EPs of the Year
Short and sweet, I didn't make EPs eligible for my top albums list, so here are a couple noteworthy of honorable mention. I sang their praises in the song portion of the 2009 recap, but in case you missed it, here they are again:
1. Bon Iver Blood Bank
2. The Breeders Fate To Fatal

Honorary Rap Sequel of the Year
Method Man & Redman Blackout! 2
The Wu were apparently feeling pretty nostalgic this year. On top of the "Top 20" worthy Cuban Linx 2,Method Man re-teamed with Redman to create the second best rap sequel of the year. Sorry, Jay-Z. Despite snagging maybe one too many lines from Notorious B.I.G. and Tribe Called Quest, the duo creates a consistently catchy follow-up and it features at least one amazing track - the standout "City Lights" featuring UGK's Bun B. Between this album, his contributions to the last Wu-Tang album and his underrated 2006 album, Meth has been sharp as ever and he always seems comfortable pairing with Redman. Both MCs play off each other so naturally and their matchup always breeds success – a Blackout! 3 is pretty much a given at this point.

More Local Music of the Year
The music scene is Cincinnati has grown deeper, diverse and more skilled in the five years I've lived here. It's easily the strongest original music city I've ever lived in. There are literally too many good band to mention in this space, so I'm going to focus on a few bands that didn't make my top 20, but released excellent full-length albums in 2009:

1 Pomegranates Everybody, Come Outside!
This young indie pop start-up had an amazing 2009, taking the stage as opener for a number of national touring acts, including the Walkmen. Their second full-length album followed up their upbeat and dreamlike style that recalls the Flaming Lips and Polyphonic Spree while following their own set of rules. The chipper title track sets the mood from the start, eagerly coercing out of your cranky Lenoard Cohen-only mope.

2 Bad Veins Bad Veins
One of Cincinnati's better-known indie rock bands broke through with their debut disc in 2009. Bad Veins did an excellent job living up to expectations, expanding their sound beyond their comparatively lo-fi live performances, approaching near arena aspirations on several songs. For me, it's powerful album closer "Go Home" that provides both emotional heft and repeat value that will be key to their future successes.

3 The Chocolate Horse We Don't Stand On Ceremony
The Chocolate Horse has one of the more experimental and inventive sounds I've heard in Cincinnati, largely backed by the vocals of Jason Snell, who can crank up the intensity to match freak folk's finest. Not afraid of varying musical styles or occasionally adding trumpet and flutes into the mix, the band produces a natural and effortless collection of layered songs that often seem to be seconds away from flying off their hinges, then hang on at the last second. In particular, "Every Day Gets Hard" deserves a mention on any Best of 2009 list.

Compilation of the Year
Dark Was the Night
In the age of digital downloads, compilations tend to take the biggest of the big hits - I suppose the idea of someone shuffling around songs you already have seems like a pretty pointless task. Even the collection of previously unreleased songs (aka: the chafe) sounds better in theory than in practice. That's what make Dark Was The Night such an impressive feat. A combination of quality artists with quality offerings (New Pornos, Decemberists, Grizzly Bear) and some inspired collaborations (Ben Gibbard & Feist, The Books & José González and David Byrne actually makes the Dirty Projectors listenable) create something you don't see much these days: an essential compilation.

The "Not Enough Time In 2009" Shout Outs
Regardless of reviews, there are several albums by artists that I enjoy, but just didn't get a chance to hear this year. Unfortunate. Are they essential? I have no idea. I mean, probably not, who knows? Whether they didn't seem to make a dent in critical opinion or the album sounded promising but I only got to hear a couple of song samples, my interest in these artists is strong enough that I felt they deserved some sort of mention. So here it is. Sorry I missed out, I'll catch ya in 2010:
1 Annie Don't Stop
2 Doves Kingdom of Rust
3 The Twilight Sad Forget The Night Ahead
4 The Swell Season Strict Joy
5 Sally Shapiro My Guilty Pleasure
6 Real Estate Real Estate
7 Jay Reatard Watch Me Fall
8 Japandroids Post-Nothing
9 Mos Def The Ecstatic
10 Major Lazer Guns Don't Kill People – Lazers Do