As evidenced by the number of quality releases this year from every sector of the scene, local music continues to thrive here as we close out the decade. Reflecting back on our favorite records of 2009, we noticed some welcome trends:
More and more acts opted to release EPs over full-lengths, suggesting that they're wisely placing a premium on artistic restraint. Rather than packaging a cluster of so-so songs just for the sake of making a long-player, they zeroed in on their best material, leaving listeners wanting more rather than walking away underwhelmed. But on the flipside, many of those acts that did release LPs justified their running time.
Responding to steadily declining CD sales across the country, an increasing number of area artists made their music available for free download this year, in an effort to bolster their live shows rather than rely on a clearly dying format to serve as their lifeblood. Pretty Lights, led by Derek Vincent Smith, had one of the most enjoyable albums of 2009 with Passing By Behind Your Eyes, and Smith continues to build audiences organically by giving away his music to all takers. And from the looks of the capacity crowds that Pretty Lights is drawing across the country, this approach has worked like a charm.
Keeping up with everything that's been released locally over the past twelve months is a daunting task, but one we relish, thanks to albums like the ones listed below, the Backbeat writers' favorites from 2009. As always, there was quite a bit of crossover, with several albums appearing on multiple lists, including Pictureplane's Dark Rift, Gregory Alan Isakov's This Empty Northern Hemisphere, Hello Kavita's To a Loved One, various installments of Houses' seasonal EPs and Moonspeed's Flowers of the Moon. Keep reading to see what else mooved us this year. For more write-ups, visit backbeatblog.com. — Dave Herrera
A Shoreline Dream, Recollections of Memory (Latenight Weeknight). "Ethereal" is a word that people toss around fairly indiscriminately when describing anything dreamy. In the case of A Shoreline Dream, however, the word is entirely fitting. Recollections of Memory is like the de facto soundtrack of astral projections. Some might call it shoegazing, but it's hard to stare at your shoes when you have stars in your eyes. — Herrera
Accordion Crimes, A Higher Quality Version of This (Self-released). Forget the ex-member status of Accordion Crimes and fixate instead on the fledgling trio's go-for-broke, Archers-of-Loaf-like take on blistering, dynamic songcraft. Indie rock — both as a term and a movement — meant something once. With bands like Accordion Crimes around, it might just mean something again. – Jason Heller
Action Packed Thrill Ride, Best I've Felt (Self-released). Best I've Felt feels so apt as a title for this EP, as it finds the band more comfortable than ever before and breezing through a handful of just-right rock tunes. The act's just giving this one away, maybe because the Thrill Riders know if they can entice someone to one show, they'll have earned a new fan. — Kiernan Maletsky
Alan Alda, Alan Alda (Ferret Release Records). The four songs on Alan Alda's freshman EP elegantly capture the trio's wide range of sounds and lyrical imagery. Even as songs like "Characters Numbers" boast Chris White's driving bass lines and Matt Grizzel's flurried drums, Luke Goodhue's vocals display an affecting amount of vulnerability and earnestness. — A.H. Goldstein
Aloft in the Sundry, FORE (Self-released). The Mile High City's brightest diamond in the rough, Aloft in the Sundry fell short on time while recording at the Blasting Room and ended up being pinched between two other acts with just five short days. The added pressure produced FORE, the band's most eclectic and powerful release to date. — Brian Frederick
Bad Weather California, Young Punks (States Rights Records). Young Punks has a gloriously homemade feel. In an era when polish and poise are currency, Bad Weather California is printing its own money. With a captivating air of carefree exhilaration, the act crafts backroads spirituals that are as refreshing as receiving a handwritten letter from a friend. — Herrera
Beauty Flash, Beauty Flash 2 (Self-released). If you haven't heard of this gem, it's because it was released online only, with zero fanfare. Don't let that fool you: This is a quirky slice of lo-fi electro-pop genius. Imagine a less maudlin Alanis Morissette fronting the Blow and you're in the right neighborhood — and a great neighborhood it is. — Cory Casciato
Blackout Pact, Wolves in the Lazarette (Eyeball Records). Building on its 2005 debut, Hello Sailor, the Blackout Pact returns with four more songs of uncertainty and self-doubt. This time, without the help of producer Geoff Rickly, Wolves shows a more stripped-down side of the band that still pulses with the energy and urgency the guys possessed before their initial demise. — Andy Thomas