My 30 Favorite Albums of 2009

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11. Mastodon – Crack the Skye

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One of the strongest, most accessible metal albums of the decade, even with its (super-badass, albeit kinda confusing) fantasy concept about the wild adventures of a paraplegic who travels out of body. Also features some vicious guitar playing.
Essential Track: Divinations

12. Bloodkin – Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again

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Easily the most under-appreciated rock ‘n’ roll band of the last 15 years, Athens, Ga.’s Bloodkin is finally getting some much-deserved attention with this soulful, demon-expelling record. I should let you in on a little secret—all of their albums are this good. Daniel Hutchens is a master songwriter; he and bandmate Eric Carter’s tunes—outsider character studies that would do Carson McCullers proud—drip with an intoxicating humidity. Essential Track: Wait Forever

13. Circulatory System – Signal Morning

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Olivia Tremor Control co-founder Will Cullen Hart is nothing short of brilliant (after spending an afternoon this past summer watching him improvise live four-track mixes of unreleased music he’d made years ago with former bandmate Bill Doss and Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum, I can personally vouch). Signal Morning is an epic sonic journey, as Hart confronts his diagnosis with multiple sclerosis the best way he knows how—with an arsenal of esoteric sounds at his disposal. Essential Track: Round Again

14. Fiery Furnaces – I’m Going Away

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More often than not, I’ve found The Fiery Furnaces’ experiments interesting but a little forced. Still, there was something there, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on until this (relatively) more conventional album finally brought it to the surface: they’re actually great songwriters, and here they deconstruct a little less, which works in their favor. Essential Track: Drive to Dallas

15. Wale – Attention Deficit

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Fueled by his lyrical chops and soulful, horn-anchored sound, Young D.C. rapper Wale has been gaining momentum since 2007—first with his mixtape 100 Miles & Running, and most recently with this impressive major-label debut. Essential Track: Mirrors

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