Rick, if I had to willy-nilly pick my five favorites of the year, they’d be (in no order):
Micachu & the Shapes—Jewellery
Neko Case—Middle Cyclone
Dirty Projectors—Bitte Orca
I’d give honorable mention to albums by Woods, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Califone, Jarvis Cocker, Bill Callahan, Tune-Yards, Sunset Rubdown, Wu-Tang Clan (Chamber Music), and Bibio.
Not a very original list (I didn’t discover anything no one else did), but the top five are solid and Animal Collective/Grizzly Bear-free. I like both of those bands okay, but don’t go ga-ga for them like everyone else. Overall, though, I didn’t think 2009 was an amazing year for music.
Best value of the year (free) would be:
Venable—Where’s The Happy