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My favorite CDs of 2009

When you look at 2009 best-of lists from the nation’s music critics, one thing you often find is an ability to recognize the merits of music from a range of genres. Eclectic would be the word. In addition, you often notice a desire to look cool in the eyes of fellow critics by listing CDs that nobody — nobody! — has heard.

I buy and listen to a lot of CDs in a year, far more than the average person. I also venture beyond my comfort zone, acquiring quite a few CDs by bands and musicians that are not well known. But because I’m not a working music critic, I don’t feel any particular expectation to sample CDs in genres I’m not particularly interested in. As a result, the following list very much reflects my musical interests and doesn’t attempt to cover the full spectrum of popular music produced in 2009.

Unlike some critics, I’ve chosen to include new studio albums, live recordings and anthologies all in one list. If it was released in calendar year 2009, it was eligible for inclusion here.

1. Neil Young, Archives Vol. 1

2. Leonard Cohen, Live in London

3. Drive-By Truckers, The Fine Print

4. Cage the Elephant, Cage the Elephant

5. Wolfmother, Cosmic Egg

6. Dan Auerbach, Keep It Hid

7. Neil Young, Fork in the Road

8. Patterson Hood, Murdering Oscar

9. Lucero, 1372 Overton Park

10. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Live Anthology

11. Bruce Springsteen, Working on a Dream

12. Todd Snider, The Excitement Plan

13. Bob Dylan, Together Through Life

14. Steve Earle, Townes

15. Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard, One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Songs from Kerouac’s Big Sur

16. Rosanne Cash, The List

17. Richmond Fontaine, We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like a River

18. Lyle Lovett, Natural Forces

19. The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love

20. Drive-By  Truckers, Live from Austin, Texas

21. Cross Canadian Ragweed, Happiness and All the Other Things

22. Nirvana, Live at Reading

23. Arctic Monkeys, Humbug

24. Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown

25. The Hold Steady, A Positive Rage (live)

26. Neil Young, Dreamin’ Man Live ’92

27. Heartless Bastards, The Mountain

28. Wilco, Wilco (The Album)

29. Son Volt, American Central Dust

30. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone

31. Blakroc, Blakroc

32. Mark Knopfler, Get Lucky

33. U2, No Line on the Horizon

34. KISS, Sonic Boom

35. Justin Townes Earle, Midnight at the Movies

Disappointments of 2009

Some critics really liked a few of the following albums but I just couldn’t get into them. Others I had high hopes for but they just didn’t work for me.

– Monsters of Folk, Monsters of Folk

– Them Crooked Vultures, Them Crooked Vultures

– The Dead Weather, Horehound

– Mastodon, Crack the Skye

– Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Self-titled

– J.J. Cale, Roll On

– Levon Helm, Electric Dirt

– Sonic Youth, The Eternal

– Adam Lambert, For Your Entertainment

– The Derek Trucks Band, Already Free

– Ace Frehley, Anomaly

– Booker T. Jones, Potato Hole

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