My Favorite Albums of 2009

It’s the end of another year, so that means it’s time to look back on all the music I got during the year and pick some favorites. Most of these albums came out during this past year, though some may have come out a year earlier. These may not be the best albums of 2009, but they are my favorites. There’s no particular order to the list except that one of them stood head and shoulders above the others. So here’s my #1 favorite album of 2009 and 10 more.

Paper Route – Absence
If this year in music was a boxing match, this would’ve been called a TKO in the 4th round. In April I already knew what may favorite album would be in 2009. Paper Route hits a home run with an album of longing, pondering, and hope all wrapped in plaintive singing and groovy beats, loops, and effects laden noises. It’s 80’s music ala New Order and I am loving it. Paper Route is touring with Owl City next year and I’m hoping that takes them to the next level because they are moving up in a hurry among my list of favorite bands.

Derek Webb – Stockholm Syndrome
A total 180 degree turn from the normal acoustic guitar playing, Webb took his oft controversial lyrics and soaked them in percussion and techno beat loops (hmm, I’m sensing a trend in 2009) supplied by Caedmon’s Call teammate Josh Moore. What Derek Webb does so well is make you think. I don’t know that I agree with every song, but I’m glad that he is willing to stand up and challenge our blind religious and political ideas that seem to be held as sacred in America. It doesn’t hurt if the beat is catchy, too.

U2 – No Line On the Horizon
This album started out strong, then I lost interest in it, and now I’ve rediscovered it. It doesn’t have any totally amazing songs and it’s a little dense sounding, but give U2 credit for continuing to push themselves and explore their music. They could’ve very easily released another How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and sold a bazillion records, but they weren’t satisfied to do that, instead exploring Middle Eastern inspiration and even recalling some of their punk rock roots.

Nitengale – Theatres
Depending on who you ask, this album was released last year or has not been released yet at all. It hasn’t made it out on a major label, but it may soon. It’s the simpler parts of Muse mixed with the melodic parts of Keane and it’s beautiful. Since the band is from Alaska, they are a bit of an outsider to the music scene when they arrived in Nashville. They are bold in their faith but don’t succumb to CCM cliches.

All The Day Holiday – The Things We’ve Grown To Love
Maybe no song on their full length CD is as soaring as “Fingerprints” off of their debut EP, but “La Voyage” is a pretty good start. Intricate drums match up with joyful songs. It’s impossible not to listen to this CD and feel inspired.

Jars of Clay – The Long Fall Back To Earth
Is it possible for a band to go from overrated to underrated? Maybe so in this case. After their debut album it seemed like Jars of Clay could do no wrong to the point where there was some backlash, but after that they’ve quietly settled into knocking out solid album after solid album and this one is no different. The album draws heavy influences from bands like The Killers and such, but it’s nonetheless a new direction for the band as they push themselves with new sounds, memorable hooks and the lyrics are as ponderous and questioning as always.

Paramore – Brand New Eyes
It’s not really anything new for Paramore, but it’s a pretty solid follow up to Riot! The band rocks as always and it’s energetic and catchy. Maybe I should call it my Guilty Pleasure of 2009.

Silversun Pickups – Swoon
Shoegaze is back! Long live Shoegaze! “Panic Switch” has a fantastic groove and the whole album makes you feel like it’s 1995 again.

Mute Math – Armistice
After reading the reviews and hearing my friends take on the follow up to Mute Math’s debut CD, I was prepared to be disappointed, but surprisingly this album held up very well for me. No, it’s not as good as their first album and it’s a little more somber and angry, but nonetheless it still grooves and intrigues with complex drum patterns and otherworldly sounds.

New Moon Soundtrack
Say what you will about the movie, but separate the soundtrack from the movie and you are left with a pretty good collection of songs. Lots of great bands like Muse, Bon Iver, Death Cab for Cutie, and The Killers are mixed in with some up and comers like Sea Wolf, Grizzly Bear and other such bands named after animals. It’s a little more subdued that the Twilight soundtrack, but Adriene tells me that’s appropriate to the tone of the movie and I’ll take her word on that.

Sufjan Stevens – The BQE
I’m pretty sure the definition of pretension is writing a 40 minute orchestral suite about a freeway, but you know what? Sufjan Stevens makes it work. It’s a beautiful piece that draws from modern composers like Copeland, Cage, and Reich and then Stevens drops in a little electronica into the middle of the set. It’s a gorgeous piece of work in a music genre that is sorely needing an injection of youth.

So there you have it, my favorite albums of 2009. What did you listen to this year that you loved?

Thank God The Year Is Finally Over

I saw you there on Christmas day
In my ear I heard you say
Thank God the year is finally over
– Paper Route

This past Sunday was a long day. The girls both were both sick so everyone was packed in the house all weekend. Since we couldn’t take them to church, we missed the service. The girls became listless and grouchy as the weekend went along and because of that, mom and dad became listless and grouchy. By the end of Sunday, everyone was in a pretty dark mood, but the girls had finally recovered enough that we could renew an age old tradition of driving around looking at Christmas lights.

We packed up the girls in their pajamas and blankets, picked up some coffee, put on some Christmas songs, and drive around some of the nearby neighborhoods, knowing which ones have the best Christmas lights. When we entered Walker’s Ridge, the girls exclaimed “pretty lights!” and “woah!” and after a tumultous day, there was peace and joy in the car in the evening.

Sunday was a pretty apt metaphor for this whole year. If Sunday was a long day, then this year has been a long year. I find it funny that I boldly declared in last year’s Darkest Night of the Year essay that I would not subject myself to fear and anxiety when it seems like fear and anxiety smothered me this year. I fought worry, anxiety, depression, frustration and disapointment at work and contended with the caring of two two-year olds at home. I ate poorly and stopped exercising. It was not a good combination. By the time my winter vacation started from work, I was limping across the finish line and just glad for the year to be effectively over. I know there are still a couple weeks left in 2009, but all that’s left to do is be a father and that’s a lot easier when you aren’t logging hours and hours of time at the office.

Twelve years ago, when I first took the Winter Solstice (The Darkest Night of the Year) to stop and reflect on my life, I decided there were things in my life that needed to change, both circumstances around me and also my attiude in coping with things. Here I am again, twelve years later, needing to make changes again, both in cirmcumstances around me and in my attitude. Some things will surely change, the girls won’t always be terrible twos, but I’m not sure in what else is going to change. Nonetheless, change things must. I’ll be taking a good hard look at how I’m handling life and what I can change over the next couple of weeks.

I’m thankful for the Darkest Night of the Year and that Christmas immediately follows it. I’m thankful that Christmas and New Year’s represents newness and a fresh start. January 1 may not really be any different of a day than December 31, but at least it’s a chance to think about making changes. I’m thankful God gives us a chance to make changes in our life and throw away the the parts that damage ourselves and damage others. I’m thankful that the baby, the Christ, takes those things and bears them on his shoulders for us, for without the cross, there can be no Christmas.

I’m not making any bold declarations this year on The Darkest Night of the Year. I don’t know what 2010 is going to bring. What I do know (and hope) is that the end of 2010 will be different from the end of 2009.

Orange Bowl Bound


When Georgia Tech lost to Georgia last weekend, I had a sinking feeling this year was going to go down like 2006 where a promising start dissolved into a disappointing season. Once again, I underestimated the mental tenacity of a Paul Johnson coached team. Despite playing with a porous defense and against a phenomenal star in C.J. Spiller who was absolutely unstoppable, Georgia Tech pulled out a 39-34 victory in Tampa. I don’t know if there are enough superlatives to heap on Spiller for his 301 yards of total offense (233 yds rushing), but the resolve of players like Josh Nesbitt, Jonathan Dwyer, and Demaryius Thomas could not be stopped. Fortuitous interceptions by Jarrard Tarrant and Dominque Reese and four great field goal kicks by Scott Blair (including three over 40 yards, wow) were the difference in the game.

So now, it’s off to Miami, Georgia Tech’s first trip since 1967. We’ve booked our flights and ordered our tickets. I’m hoping to meet up with some old friends from my days of living in South Florida. I can’t wait to start the new year off with a big-time football game and some fun in the sun in the middle of winter.