The Best Albums of 2009

By Kate MacDonald

As 2009 is coming to an end rapidly, we should look back at the better parts of the past 12 months in music. It was a year of huge headline-grabbing concerts and uber-popular singles. It was not really a good year as far as albums go. Many released this past year were lack luster at best.  

It was quite the year of ups and downs. We saw the degradation of our society via Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers albums, as well as the reemergence of the popularity following the sudden death of a great performer.

2009’s main problem? Almost all of the great singles Americans blared on their stereos this summer were from albums released in 2008 by artists such as Beyonce, Kings of Leon, Taylor Swift and The Ting Tings.

Maybe 2009’s selection wasn’t all bad. Here are some of the better releases of 2009, in no particular order:

“No Line On The Horizon” – U2

Five years after their last studio album, Bono and the boys came back onto the scene with fervor this spring with “No Line On The Horizon.” While their voices have aged, their songwriting and playing abilities are just as good on this new CD as they were 20 years ago.

“So Far Gone” – Drake

As Lil Wayne’s slated prodigy, Toronto native and former child actor Drake lit up the airwaves with his single “Best I Ever Had” this past summer. He manages not to come off as repetitive and has decent lyrics. As one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year, no best album list would be complete without it.

“The Boy Who Knew Too Much” – Mika

Many thought that Brit Mika couldn’t get any better than his 2007 debut. They were wrong. The happy go lucky songs are evident hits, including first single “We Are Golden.” Emotional slow song “I See You” trumps them all though.

“The Fame Monster” – Lady Gaga

The ridiculously popular singer is an obvious choice for any “best of” list. That being said, if this album didn’t include a rerelease of her first CD, these that wouldn’t have been the case. “Bad Romance” is trendy now, but the rest aren’t that great. The exception is a collaboration with Beyonce, “Telephone,” which actually showcases Gaga’s decent voice, not just her eccentricities.

“Play On” – Carrie Underwood

Released more recently, Underwood’s album doesn’t bring much new to the table. This, however, is not a bad thing. She’s proven she has the pipes and ability to stay relevant for years after her American Idol win. Fret not; single “Cowboy Casanova” does not define the album. Better songs like “Undo It” and “Unapologize” bring real oomph to the CD.

“Lady Antebellum” – Lady Antebellum

Today’s country is no longer the country of the 20th Century: singing about broken tractors, runaway dogs and cheating wives all in the same day. Lady Antebellum’s self-titled EP brings emotion and good times to the table, and not one flaw can be found in the voices of this threesome. If anything, it’s more contemporary than country, and most definitely worth a listen.

“Veckatimest” – Grizzly Bear

One of the most underappreciated bands of our time, Grizzly Bear displays great songwriting talent and natural voices in their newest album. With the inclusion of one of their best songs on the “New Moon” soundtrack, hopefully 2010 will bring the recognition these guys deserve.

“Waking Up” – One Republic

Most seem to be ready to write One Republic as a quasi pop-R&B group based on their summer singles. Anyone who listens to their second album will realize their full rock/pop potential. The album is held together by the lyrical stylings of lead vocalist Ryan Tedder, who wrote every song on the record. “Everybody Loves Me” and “Secrets” are the standout tracks on the album.

“The Blueprint 3” – Jay-Z

Any UMass student who went to or even heard about Jay-Z’s Mullins Center appearance can’t question his place on this list. Virtually every song on this CD is good. This album is wildly popular, and his tour is selling out. Even though he’s been around for a while, Jay-Z is quite literally unstoppable.

“This Is It” – Michael Jackson

In a list of 2009 albums, this one is a given. The late MJ’s release features an unremarkable new tune and the rerelease of many old, legendary songs. One of the biggest sellers of 2009, thanks in part to the singer’s untimely demise, the status of “This Is It” can’t be denied.

Though 2009 wasn’t as great music wise as 2008, albums released this year have been accepted pretty well. Some honorable mentions have to go to the new CDs from Muse, Pitbull, and Weezer.

Competition is tough, mostly because we live in an age where no one buys albums anymore; they get their tunes offline, and not always by legal means. This probably won’t change any time soon, but at least listeners can look forward to downloading some great new songs from various artists in 2010.

Kate MacDonald can be reached at [email protected]