I consider 2009 to be one of the best years of music so far in my lifetime. In my opinion the top 9 albums here are all worthy of 5 out of 5 stars and are true masterpieces in their own right. So, here are what I consider to be the best albums of 2009:
10. Anno Domini High Definition- Riverside
This album is short but packs quite a punch. After the first three albums, which were part of a trilogy, it seems Riverside felt ready to just go for it and make a hard-hitting, heavy album. It is a great little album full of fun progressive metal that seems to never stop.
Highlight: “Left Out”
9. The Hazards of Love- The Decemberists
This was a late find in the year, but it has become quite the little masterpiece for me. It is a concept album that tells a story of two young people in love and the “hazards” they face. The story is unique and interesting and it’s set to the perfect kind of music. The music isn’t overly complex, but it doesn’t need to be. It has a simple beauty that is quite lovely and always captivates me for each listen.
Highlight: Great touching conclusion of “The Hazards of Love 4”
8. Frequency- IQ
I was not a huge IQ fan, but I decided I wanted to give this album a chance and I’m glad I did. This album has a brilliant opener and then only gets better from there. I love Peter Nichols vocals, he does an incredible job throughout the album. This album has all I love about the band, emotion, upbeat fun, and creativity. “The Province” is particularly a strong highlight in my eyes.
Highlight: Guitar solo at the end of “The Province”
7. Destined Solitaire- Beardfish
I love Beardfish because they are a band that knows how to have fun. I love their Gentle Giant/Zappa influenced sound and although this album took some getting used to, it eventually grew on me until I couldn’t get enough of it. All the songs here our strong and have a certain playfulness that keeps them interesting even through repeated listens.
Highlight: “Until You Comply”
6. Number Seven- Phideaux
This is a very special album to me, and I feel that Phideaux is really growing as an artist. I’m not completely clear on the story line (something about a dormouse, shrew and crayfish) but it is executed beautifully throughout the three movements of the album. The thing about Phideaux is that he is a true artist, he is not just creating progressive rock, but a masterpiece of art. Everything from the ability of the musicians to the lyrics is completely brilliant.
Highlight: “Love Theme From Number Seven”
5. The Incident- Porcupine Tree
This album seems to garner mixed opinions, but I feel it is one of Porcupine Tree’s strongest. I am a sucker for epics and concept albums, but I feel the main piece flows together brilliantly with many interesting and lovely sections. I particularly like “Blind House,” “Time Flies,” and “I Drive The Hearse” which seem to be the main pieces of the album. I also enjoy each of the songs on the second disc. Steven Wilson conveys his message clearly and beautifully.
Highlight: “I Drive The Hearse”
4. The Darkened Room- IZZ
This album was a latecomer, but I eagerly awaited its arrival and it truly delivered. It may be IZZ’s best effort to date (although “My River Flows” is extremely strong as well). All the playing is brilliant, I struggle to point out who gives the strongest performance. It is a short album, but it all fits together brilliantly and I absolutely love all three parts of “I Can’t Feel The Earth”. There is such a great sense of melody and fun in these compositions.
Highlight: “I Can’t Feel The Earth”
3. Act III: Life and Death- The Dear Hunter
It’s hard for me to describe how much I love this album. It is the surprise hit of the year for me because I bought it without knowing really anything about the band. Casey Crezensco is the genius behind this band and the concept is executed flawlessly and the music blends seamlessly although it goes through many different styles. I love the vocal harmonies and the interesting musical instrumentation. It brings a more modern edge to prog, and I love that.
Highlight: “Go Get Your Gun”
2. Black Clouds and Silver Linings- Dream Theater
I feel that this album is a return to form of sorts for Dream Theater. It is their best effort since their masterpiece “Scenes From a Memory.” I love how Dream Theater plays to all their strengths here, there is heaviness in many of the tracks, but there is also a strong prog element. I love “The Count of Tuscany” and consider it one of their best epics. It has all that I come to love in music. I also love the heartfelt “Best of Times” written by Mike Portnoy for his father that passed away this past year.
Highlight: “The Count of Tuscany”
1. The Whirlwind- Transatlantic
I already wrote a huge entry about this album, which I feel is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. The music and lyrics work perfectly and you can tell the band members had a ton of fun creating this album. I am so grateful that my favorite band was able to reunite to create this masterpiece.
Highlight: The whole thing