Prix Fixe No. 2: Albums From 2009 That We’re Still Listening To

    Welcome to the second edition of Prix Fixe, a column that allows our contributors to neatly assemble and categorize a menu for your delectation. These lists explore the connections between music and pop culture, among artists, within an artist’s body of work, or anything else we think might amuse you and start conversations about music.


    This week: 10 albums released in 2009 that have stuck with us — all the way to the end of 2010.

    01 The Big Pink: A Brief History of Love
    At the end of the day, all we need is a big meaty guitar hook, and that’s what makes A Brief History of Love so easy to return to. It is not nuanced, or subtle, or even all that smart — but it certainly knows how to rock your world. Supplying both churchy, U2-ist raptures (“Too Young to Love,” “Velvet”) as well as massive guitar-smash, rock-rave bangers (“Dominos”), the Big Pink is the kind of band that aim for sky-high euphoria with every song they write. Luckily, they hit that lofty goal most of the time. Adjectives like “rewarding” be damned: This is pure instant gratification. ~Luke Winkie


    The Big Pink: “Dominoes” from A Brief History of Love



    02 Blu: Her Favourite Colo(u)r
    Blu’s knack for jazzy, mid-tempo beats and his ability to kill it on them effortlessly may not be more apparent than on the sample-heavy, after-hours Her Favourite Colo(u)r. Here, the Los Angeles MC is unguarded, candid and at his loosest. No choruses, no guests, and only one track longer than three minutes, Her Favourite Colo(u)r sounds more like a random night in the lab with a sack of Cali green and some comfy love seats. Just where we wanna be sometimes. ~Saxon Baird


    Blu: “Amnesia” from Her Favorite Colo(u)r


    03 Future Of The Left: Travels With Myself And Another
    Travels With Myself And Another was something I knew I liked in 2009, with its mix of rock, noise, and electronics that was just as inspired as its mix of political invectives, humor, and quasi-religious musings. After watching Observe and Report, I backtracked into Mclusky’s catalog and began to appreciate Future Of The Left’s second album on a whole new level. Andy Falkous is as emotionally intense as he is intelligent and insightful, and it results in some of the best songwriting I’ve heard in quite some time. Songs like “The Hope That House Built” and “Yin/Post-Yin” — which, even as a fan of musicals, I thought cheesy on first listen — all of a sudden become glaring social commentaries too deep to ignore. Favorite lyric of recent years: “Yeah, sure, Satan rules but/ That doesn’t mean I can’t be practical.” ~Ethan Stanislawski

    Future of the Left: “The Hope That House Built” from Travels With Myself And Another

    04 Freddie Gibbs: midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmusik
    Although Freddie Gibbs has put out a series of great music since midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik, the 2009 mixtape may be Gangsta Gibbs at his rawest. Backed by a eerie collection of dark beats from a DJ Skee on his game, this mixtape is vividly lyrical and dense with bleak, urban tales that make it sound as if the crack era of the late ’80s never left Gary, Indiana. We may have a black president, but in Gibbs’ world, ain’t nothing changed. ~Saxon Baird


    Freddie Gibbs: “Murda On My Mind” from midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmusik


    05 The Intelligence: Fake Surfers
    Whether or not Fake Surfers is meant as commentary on clownish indie Beach Boys revivalists (as its opening lyric implies), it’s the best fuck-off to a self-aggrandizing subculture I’ve heard in my life as a rock fan, perhaps the best of its kind since the Fall’s Hex Enduction Hour (a clear inspiration). Last year, Fake Surfers was an antidote to Brooklyn debates on the merits of bands I thought dangerously overblown. In 2010, I can listen to and enjoy Merriweather Post Pavilion without inhibition, but I’m more likely to listen to Fake Surfers; it’s just as weird, about 10 times smarter, and, surprisingly even to me, kinder to the ear. With the much different but no less great 2010 release Males, the Intelligence is catnip to those who prefer music that’s off-kilter rather than consensus-building. Fake Surfers is the highlight of a discography I’m sure will have many more. ~Ethan Stanislawski

    The Intelligence: “Debt and ESP” from Fake Surfers


    06 Obits: I Blame You


    Nothing will ever replace the sadly departed Hot Snakes in my mind or heart, but head Snake Rick Froberg’s latest band, Obits, sure comes close. Sure, this gem of an album, which dropped in early 2009, is some of the most streamlined-sounding stuff Froberg has ever been associated with (he was also a member of Pitchfork and the almighty Drive Like Jehu), but the sinewy and cleverly constructed guitar hooks and Froberg’s further development as a tuneful vocalist resulted in one of the most repeatedly listened-to albums in my collection, both last year and this. ~Erik Ziedses des Plantes

    Obits: “Fake Kinkade” from I Blame You


    07 Pissed Jeans: King Of Jeans

    This is an album that I predict will stick with me not just through 2009 and 2010, but also for my foreseeable future. Quote me on that. King Of Jeans is the Allentown, Pa.,  sludge punks’ absolute peak, marrying the frothing rage of 2007’s Hope For Men with far more relatable subject matter. Vocalist Matt Korvette rails off against societal norms, hair loss, and job frustrations with such gnashing conviction, all while possessing a certain scared innocence that keeps things from careening into the deep end of cynicism. It’s the real soundtrack to growing up and advancing through adulthood, with every nasty bit left intact. ~Erik Ziedses des Plantes

    Pissed Jeans: “False Jesi Part 2” from King of Jeans

    08 Jay Reatard: Watch Me Fall

    09 Vic Chesnutt: Skitter on Take-Off
    There are lots of great albums from 2009. Brother Ali’s Us is still in heavy workout rotation, and no matter how many “dad rock” epithets are thrown around, I still like Wilco: The Album, if only for genial goofiness of its title track. The albums from last year that made the biggest impression resonate on a whole other level. I interviewed both Jay Reatard and Vic Chesnutt not long before their deaths. I listened to Chesnutt’s Skitter on Take-Off quite a few times preparing for an interview, and found the songs, particularly “Unpacking My Suitcase” and “Worst Friend,” compelling for the way they added a layer of tenderness and levity to Chesnutt’s dark point

    of view. Now that he’s gone, I go back and revisit the record, trying to reconcile its wry optimism with Chesnutt’s eventual end.


    My wife told me she had some sad news. Of the infinite possibilities that tore through my mind, that Jay Reatard had died, too, was not one. I was still shaken from Vic Chesnutt’s death, and to have the next artist I interviewed die so suddenly was jarring. Chesnutt’s death was tragic, but not wholly unexpected. Reatard’s death was a total blindside. In the months that followed, I’ve found myself returning to Watch Me Fall in the same way I’ve continued to listen to Skitter on Take-Off: looking for answers and finding solace. The odd part is that Reatard seems eerily prescient of his own demise. It’s not that I missed this part of the album initially, but such dire predictions don’t often come true. ~Mike Burr


    Jay Reatard: “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me” from Watch Me Fall

    Vic Chesnutt: “Worst Friend” from Skitter on Take-Off



    10 Washed Out: Life Of Leisure EP

    Forget chillwave — Life Of Leisure is one of the stickiest pop albums released in recent memory. The sun-dazed beach-bum tribute “Feel It All Around” caught most of the hype, but Ernest “Washed Out” Green showed the world that he wasn’t afraid to get up and dance every once in a while. “New Theory” gleams with electro-ballad divinity, “You’ll See It” uncorks a waterfall of euphoria, and “Hold Out” bumps pure electro-funk hedonism. Green may be remembered as bedroom-pop’s first champion, but Life Of Leisure’s continued brilliance has earned an entire anesthetic’s credibility. ~Luke Winkie


    Washed Out: “You’ll Feel It” from Life of Leisure EP

    Prefix’s Best Of 2010: 

    Best Albums / Reader’s Best Albums / Staff Best Albums / Best Guest Appearances / Albums From 2009 We’re Still Listening To / Top 10 Mixtapes & Free Rap Albums / Best Reissues / Rap Verses / Worst Album Covers / Best Album Covers