2009 Favorites (In chronological order) :
Viva La Vida by Coldplay: This is the first album I ever bought from Coldplay. They never been my favorite, as they appeared to me a little, um... cheesy (for lack of a better word). But I had heard and read great things about this album, and Viva la Vida is a beautiful song that stuck to me by the end of 2008. And so I decided to buy this album very early in January, and it did not disappoint. The atmospheric and relaxing ambient sounds of Coldplay seem to mature to create this memorable album. "Lost!" is one of my favorite songs in the album, Chris Martin singing in the chorus "you thought you might be a ghost, you didn't get to heaven but you made it close." Another hightlight (and probably my favorite song of the album) is Death and all His Friends", with Martin's soothing piano guiding the melody and ambiance, then slowly, the guitar takes control, with the piano following closely. At this point the song ups the tempo, turning into a happy and sunny tune, but quickly erupting into a sad tune, with crying guitars and Martin's voice singing "I don't want to cycle or recycle revenge, I don't want to follow death and all his friends".
Dance or Die by Family Force 5: When this album arrived to my mailbox as part of my monthly recommendation of Christian Rock from BMG music club, I was sort of dissapointed, as I thought, this isn't Rock. It is an odd combination of alternative, rock and dance. The end result is a shiny, candy colored (if such thing is possible) dance-rock. A little bit wacky, pop-ish, but fun. The song "Dance or Die" is instantly likable and catchy, and unlike most catchy pop songs, it has a lasting appeal, as there is more depth to it than initially thought of. The whole album is a fun electric ride, which is not a bad thing.
Working on a Dream by Bruce Springsteen: I never thought I would like this album, at least not to the extent that I do. Reading the good reviews, I decided to give it a try. At first, it was hard to get into it. Not that I didn't like it, but alien to what I'm used to. But then, and almost suddenly, the songs started to grow on me, to an almost magical extent. I listened to this album as I was reading "100 Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the songs are filled with this magical realism the book is famous for, but in their own romantic way. The songs that most express this sense of magical realism for me are "This Life" and "Kingdom of Days".
No Line on the Horizon by U2: My first U2 album. I liked U2, but not as much as to buy an album from them. This album changed my perspective on U2 and now they are one of my favorite bands. This is definitely one of my favorite album. And as Rolling Stones put it, this is U2's masterpiece. I'm surprised and puzzled that the album didn't sell as well as it was expected (and that Magnificent wasn't a radio hit!), but then again, many great albums are unappreciated. From the majestic and serene happiness of "Magnificent"and the devotion of "Moment of Surrender", continuing with the military and yet soulful commands on "Unkown Caller" and the gray-winter atmospheric feel of "FEZ-Being born" to The Edge's crunching and hopeful guitar in "Breathe", this album is quite an experience from beginning to end. There is a raw feel to the whole album, which is more apparent when you read about the recording process. Certainly one album you cannot miss.
Elephant by The White Stripes: Another masterpiece. Certainly an acquired taste. I already wrote briefly about this album in another post (Music I've been listening lately), but my taste of it has somewhat matured since I wrote that post. White's guitar playing is easier for me to appreciate now. His crying (no, more like whining) guitar can be hard to like, but once I did, it really grew on me. I discovered the passion behind it, and how the guitars simply overflows with emotion. Now my favorite song is "Ball and Biscuit" , one that I previously didn't like, but one song that it expresses White's passion about Blues. Definitely recommended if you want to expand your music tastes.
Forget and Not Slow Down by Relient K: Probably my favorite album of the year. I also wrote about this album in my post "Music I've been listening lately". Since that post, one song (well the last two songs can be combined to form one) has really grown on me. "This is the end" and "(If You Want It)" is truly a Relient K masterpiece in itself. It starts with Thiesen's moody and ambient piano filling the beginning of the song, quiclky interrupted by the band in a loud punk-rock style. The lyrics talk of a possible end of a relationship and the hurt associated with it. The second part of the song slows the tempo, the piano guiding the song, the guitar subtly following by the half the song as Thiessien sings "I met the devil and I stared her in the eyes...I took the fire escape and made it out alive, yeah I still burn from time to time but I've a healing hand against my side". It finally slows down, Thiessen tenderly singing: "Blisters on my feet I crawled back home, Frozen from the sleet burned sand and stones, Nourished back to life by life alone, With one shake of the main regain the thrones". There's no better way to end a record.
Hello Hurricane by Switchfoot: And finally I ended the year with Switchfoot's Hello Hurricane. This is a departure from Switchfoot's previous releases. With a change of label and more artistic freedom comes one of the best of Switchfoot's album, and that's saying a lot. It has a more rough and harsh sound to it. "Mess of Me" is a great single, and talks of how we can be led astray by our sins. This album has a more atmospheric and yet harsh sound to it, mixing the electric guitar with synthesizers. This is more evident in "Sing it out", my favorite song of the album. It starts slow, with a synthesized sound following Foreman's voice, the guitar is subtle at the beginning, letting the strings and synthesizers leading the atmospheric sound, but all that changes by the end of the song, with the guitar and the band kicking in and finishing the song. I really recommend this album, although it takes some time to appreciate and adjust to the new sound of Switchfoot, specially if you are a fan of their previous releases.