[True Panther Sounds 2009]
Perhaps Album should have snuck onto my top 10 of '09 list. Because if anything, it is probably the most honest album I heard last year. It's honest to a throwback '60s mentality, both in the "bubblegum rock" sound (with modern flourishes) and in lyrics about finding the forever kind of love. And more than that, it's emotionally honest. Listen to Christopher Owens' weathered-but-still dreaming voice on "Lauren Marie" and tell me it's not personal.
The Dodos: Visiter
Visiter isn't what I would typically call "acoustic", with its forays into abrasive experimentalism, but that's the feeling I get from every second of it. Meric Long is a young ace on the acoustic guitar, and each song is liberally guided by his steady hands. Logan Kroeber's earthy rim drumming complements the strings, and together the Dodos accomplish an off-beat indie folk that charms in places (welcoming opener "Walking") and bites in others (the mental breakdown in "The Season"). The band's interplay of sonic elements is genuinely satisfying. Just don't let your guard down.
Live: Mental Jewelry
"Pain Lies on the Riverside" is an absolutely bitchin' song. But it's after you've listened to the rest of Mental Jewelry that you realize why Live didn't hit it big until their 1994 follow-up Throwing Copper. Aside from the aforementioned epic, you won't remember the rest of this, with "Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)" and "Brothers Unaware" being possible exceptions (and I'm being generous with those). Released only three months after Nevermind, Mental Jewelry shows Live had a headstart on the aesthetic that would make much of post-grunge so bland and forgettable.