Best unsung albums of 2009

By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  December 22, 2009

• Bat for Lashes, Two Suns (Astralwerks)
• Bachelorette, My Electric Family (Drag City)
Sometimes you feel like a rut, sometimes you don't. Two Suns was absolutely pretty, absolutely well crafted, absolutely commendable — it was just kind of a bummer. Natasha Khan's no full-time buzzkill, but it's hard to figure how her gloomiest songs earned her default it-girl status this year, especially when this year was defined by innovative ladies. (Mica Levi of Micachu and the Shapes, Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards, Florence Welch and her Machine, and Victoria Bergsman and her Taken by Trees all come rushing to mind.) I was especially annoyed to see New Zealand's Annabel Alpers absent from much of the year-end memory; My Electric Family had enough noir-fi whispers ("Mercurial Man"), cleverly wrought retro-electro ("Her Rotating Head"), and dramatic punch ("The National Grid") to steal any Khan fan's ear — though it does bring with it the hazard of putting you in a better mood.

• Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca (Domino)
• Cryptacize, Mythomania (Asthmatic Kitty)
Look no farther for a bigger fan of Bitte Orca than this guy. My right brain gets a 41-minute hot-stone massage every time I put it on. Still, it's not fair that Orca's pristine weirdness got more play than the modest masterpiece that is Cryptacize's Mythomania. Or is that modesty — like everything else suggested by its title — just a ruse? Like a dryer-shrunk version of the Projectors' epic, Mythomania maintains a rate of at least three WTF moments per tidy little song — but the relentless sweetness of Nedelle Torrisi's sunshine coo and Chris Cohen's uncertain croon distracts you from each track's truly treacherous footing. Most of the album feels held together by faith alone: "Gotta Get into This Feeling" is part pop, part hymn, and part self-help. A wild guitar bucks freely in the overgrown fields of "The Loving Sun," and the somnambulant "What You Can't See Is" may be the only song you'll ever need to take with into the shower. Both of these are albums you have to learn to like — but you might find yourself learning to like Mythomania a little more.

• Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz! (Interscope)
• Yacht, See Mystery Lights (DFA)
Disclosure: I've not really been a Yeah Yeah Yeahs person for a long time. I liked "Bang." That was 2001. I shook my head at all of you when "Maps" came out. Really? I thought. Hmm, I concluded. Sometimes our wiring differs, and that's fine. However, I draw the line when It's Blitz gets propped as one of this year's best — "Heads Will Roll" did way more for my cardio routine than it will ever do for the electropop canon. Apart from that, It's Blitz! offers a title-appropriate dose of gusto but an equally appropriate feeling of desperation. If it was a step forward, it was in the way one steps into cold water. Meanwhile, Portland's Yacht jumped right in. See Mystery Lights was one of this year's most charmingly damaged chunks of fuck-all electropop, channeling equal parts XTC, Liquid Liquid, and, well, Wang Chung. Although the likelihood that Yacht's year will be wrecked by YYYs' is decisively un-, I'm taking a stand for progress — whereas the former are here to surprise, the latter are there to survive.

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