Canada's Media Magazine

Top Ten Albums of 2009

10. Mary J. Blige, Stronger with Each Tear: Released to mediocre reviews, Mary J’s latest made the list simply because I love listening to it. The production is faultless, the beats pounding and, of course, Blige’s performance although polished is always soulful and commanding. Is this her best work to date? Perhaps not – but somehow, Stronger with Each Tear, dares you to let go and dance. (Geffen) — Jason Gladu

9. Justin Vasquez, Triptych: Triptych is an epic listen that challenges listeners, but those who get it are greatly rewarded. Some jazz artists are too mild in their arrangements, while others can turn their experimentation into pure chaos; Vasquez pulls off a solid mixture of both that results in a catchy, pop listen that still forces you to pay attention to the little nuances and subtleties that he and his band have laid down. Watch out for Triptych II and III coming up in the New Year. They will surely blow some minds. (Triptych Works) — JG

8. K’naan, Troubadour: The Somali rapper’s sophomore album is just as fearless and honest as his debut. This time around he brought along some famous guests: Chubb Rock, Damian Marley, Adam Levine (Maroon 5), Kirk Hammett, Mos Def, and Chali 2na (Jurassic 5). With this varying crowd, it’s pretty easy to say that K’naan can take on any genre and make it hip-hop. What makes Troubadour a fascinating listen is his talent of turning a personal experience into a universal understanding of the pain and love for his homeland. (A&M) — JG

7. Oceanship, Oceanship: 2009 was a big year for Toronto’s Oceanship – from rave reviews, the inclusion of single “Hotblack” on the hit television series One Tree Hill to being the subject of an online science fair project; Brad Lyons (vocals/guitar) and Carly Paradis (keys/vocals) never lost focus of the music. As with all great albums, Oceanship’s debut is intended to be listened to straight through. As I said in my initial review, they capture catchy radio-pop, experimental audio freak-outs, and epic piano-driven rock all at once. After hours of listening, Oceanship still rewards with every listen. (Independent) — JG

6. Bob Dylan, Together through Life: This has been Dylan’s decade. Releasing a string of solid albums and continuing on his never-ending tour, he has lead old and new fans to jump on board. On Together through Life, Dylan continues to explore the troubled (but hopeful) stories set firmly in themes of love and romance. At a mere 10 tracks, Dylan and collaborator Robert Hunter have written a lean and breezy album that features some light acoustic arrangements, which is a huge change from the doom-laded Modern Times. The result is Dylan’s most spontaneous album since 1970’s New Morning. (Columbia) — JG

5. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone: Neko Case’s follow-up to 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood proves that she is a major tour de force. Like its predecessor, Middle Cyclone is still influenced by rustic Americana and country-roots music, but is balanced out by stuttering indie pop harmonies (check out “People Got a Lotta Nerve” and “This Tornado Loves You”). Besides the music, (as with the rest of her back catalogue) what will instantly capture your attention is her astonishing voice as Case easily channels the melancholy of Patsy Cline with the freighting range of Aretha Franklin. (Anti) — JG

4. David Guetta, One Love: Before this album, Parisian producer David Guetta was a well-known house DJ and remixer with a few club hits under his belt. But with One Love, he tweaked his production style, adding harder electro synths and hip hop beats, and hit the sweet spot for both the club and mainstream. (He also lent this sound to the Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling.”) From start to finish, One Love is a hit-loaded, marathon mix and includes the top three dance tracks of the year: international No. 1 hit “When Love Takes Over,” the blisteringly fierce electro of “Gettin’ Over” and the current top 10 U.S. hit “Sexy Bitch.” Almost as amazing are “Memories,” “Missing You,” “On the Dancefloor,” “One Love,” and “I Wanna Go Crazy.” Count ’em: that’s eight massive club hits in one album. (Virgin) — Robert Ballantyne

3. Antony & The Johnsons, The Crying Light: Antony’s third album was released very early in 2009 and has been missed on many top 10 lists. The Crying Light is a devastating listen – and I mean that in the best possible way. Musically, the band explores the soft, lulling textures of neo-classical and chamber pop. All the while, Antony’s astonishing voice reaches out for the listener to consider themes of death and spirituality with an honest (not always optimistic) view. The Crying Light is a deeply passionate piece of work that exceeds all expectations brought on by 2003’s Mercury Prize winner I Am a Bird Now. (Secretly Canadian) — JG

2. Lily Allen, It’s Not Me, It’s You: Shelving the cute ska-influenced sound of her 2006 debut, British pop star Lily Allen took a risk by making an old-fashioned album, consistent from start to finish in both production and songwriting. Working with only one producer, Greg Kurstin of The Bird and the Bee, It’s Not Me, It’s You is dreamy in sound and rich in melody, but still includes Allen’s trademark profanity-laden attitude throughout. The first single, “The Fear,” may not have hit as big as “Smile” but is a far better song with verses as strong as the chorus. Aside from “The Fear,” surprisingly the best tracks didn’t end up being released as singles, which include the thoughtful post-break-up track “I Could Say,” the skittering beats of “Back to the Start,” the soaring chorus of “Who’d Have Known” and the sweet ode to Allen’s mother, “Chinese.” It’s Not Me, It’s You is immediately accessible, yet thrives upon multiple listens – one of the best pop music albums not only of the year, but of the decade. (Regal/EMI) — RB

1. Mastodon, Crack The Skye: Mastodon are a bunch of Southern bad-asses with a fixation on mythology. 2004’s Leviathan is based on Moby Dick and their massive 2006 breakthrough Blood Mountain includes a Cysquatch (a one-eyed Sasquatch that can see into the future). From what I can gather, Crack the Skye’s concept is based on wormholes, out of body experiences and Rasputin. While the bands concepts are ambitious, what makes them so relevant is that they are bringing old-school metal back to the mainstream. The band boldly brought in hard-rock producer Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam) to help tighten up their sound and focus on creating heavy songs with elements of prog and, most importantly, classic rock. The 10-minute, four-part opus “The Czar” is the perfect example of O’Brien’s influence – featuring ominous pump organ and intricate guitar arrangements that segue into a bone crushing, driving beast that would make Black Sabbath proud. Simply put the pure ambition and sonic barrage is so raw and heavy that it will have fans hawking their tired Metallica records. (Reprise) — JG

Content Creator
Related Topics

Related Content

Editors' Picks