This is the final installment in the “My Year in Lists” series.

2009 was a great year for music. We saw many bands release career defining albums, artists that continued to release solid material long after their heyday, and many new acts that demonstrated signs of only good things to come. Alas, the year is coming to a close, and as we say goodbye to 2009, I have compiled a list of my choices for my favorite albums this year. This is the fourth year I have done a year end album list, but this is the first time that I have done a write up for every album. It was a long, difficult process. But music journalism is something that I want to do for a living, so it was ultimately a rewarding experience. I now present to you (in alphabetical order) My Top 35 Albums of 2009

Andrew Bird: Noble Beast; Andrew Bird has always been in a league of his own. He has almost single-handedly created a niche for himself in which dense instrumentation, a mesmerizing voice, whistles, and lyrics as heady as they are memorable come together to make albums that are works of art in themselves. This year’s “Noble Beast” was no exception. Bird crafted another fine outing that hits just as hard as his previous works. It’s a joy to listen to from start to finish.

Animal Collective: Merriwether Post Pavilion; 2009 was the year that saw Animal Collective break into the public conscious, and rightfully so. “Merriwether Post Pavilion” finds the band, for which the term “left of center” only scratches the surface when describing their music, at their most accessible. Whether it is the lighthearted bounce of “Summertime Clothes”, the 8-bit organ sounds of “Daily Routine” or the simplistic brilliance of “My Girls,” this album has something for everyone. Swirls of electronics and echoed vocals abound, and it all makes for an album that, while a bit overhyped, deserves an immense amount of respect.

The Antlers: Hospice; The Antlers released “Hospice” with little to no hype or fanfare. A concept album about the events transcribing inside a hospital, it is an album that shows that intense emotion and indie music are not mutually exclusive. Long periods of droning sounds convey the hospice setting and the often delicate instrumentation create an atmosphere best described as fragile and delicate. However, when the music hits at full force, as it does on the chorus of “Sylvia,” it does so with the intensity of a swift punch to the gut. Lead Singer Peter Silberman often delivers his melancholy lyrics in a sort of melodic whisper, his voice barely audible. However, when he does have a vocal outburst, it is both vital and heart-wrenching. In 2009, there were few albums that matched the emotional intensity, grace, and effortlessness of “Hospice.”  Sometimes, the quietest statements are the most stunning.

Antony and the Johnsons: The Crying Light; Antony Hegarty has one of most unique voices in music, regardless of genre. The quiver behind his vocals has an almost haunting effect, and it works to amplify his often heartbroken, deeply introspective lyrics. Even when he was backed by the disco of Hercules and Love Affair, there was still a sense of unbridled emotion in every word he sang. This continues to be the trend on “The Crying Light,” Hegarty’s third album with his backing group, the Johnsons. He weaves songs of suffering and sorrow like few others can, as evidence by standout tracks “Epilepsy is Dancing” and “Another World.” The fact that the music matches the mood so accurately is a testament to the talents of Hegarty and his band. “The Crying Light” is not a feel good record, but one can’t help but feel empowered when listening to it.

Arctic Monkeys: Humbug; The Arctic Monkeys proved again why they transcended the hype that claimed so many of the contemporaries with “Humbug.” This album marked a musical maturation for the band, as they embraced a more heavy sound with hints of psychedelic thrown in. Alex Turner’s lyrics were just as strong as ever, continuing to make a case for him as one of the great songwriters of the 2000’s. His sense of imagery and his way with words is rivaled only by a select few, as evidenced with songs like “Crying Lightning” and “Cornerstone.”  Many were worried that the group working with Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme would be an artistic misstep for the band. However, they emerged with an album that was still very much their own while taking them in a new artistic direction.

Art Brut: Art Brut vs. Satan; So many bands nowadays take themselves too seriously, often to the detriment of their music. However, such is not the case with Art Brut, who continue to hone their winning formula of punk like energy and humorous lyrics on “Art Brut vs. Satan.” Eddie Argos’ tales of alcohol infused nights and desire for the simple things are often laugh out loud funny, but at the same time very detailed and true to life. There are many memorable moments on this album, such as Argos confessing his love for lo-fi on “Slapdash for No Cash” and the fact that he uses sweets as comfort food on “Just Desserts.” This is the sound of a band having fun, and it all makes for another solid album in Art Brut’s already impressive catalog.

Bat for Lashes: Two Suns; A darker tone dominated Natasha Kahn’s second albums as Bat for Lashes. She did this by introducing the world to Pearl, her alter ego, and getting Yeasayer to provide the instrumentation on several tracks. More importantly though, “Two Suns” saw a maturation in Kahn’s voice compared to her 2006 debut “Fur and Gold.” On songs like “Glass” and “Daniel” her vocals take center stage amidst the beautiful arrangements. She has an incredible range, and her presence is immediately felt throughout the entire album. The songs on this album will likely strike a chord with listeners for a long time to come.

The Boy Least Likely To: The Law of the Playground; Youth and innocence are themes not very often explored in the realms of rock. However, London’s The Boy Least Likely To do this with a great amount of insight and the ability to make very catchy songs. One of the ways they capture the essence of youth is through diverse instrumentation. Xylophones, fiddles and acoustic instruments dominate the musical landscape, giving off a sort of carefree vibe. The lyrics, while occasionally wide-eyed and optimistic, are centered on the trials and tribulations that are involved in growing up. These songs are filled with hooks that will stay in your head for weeks, and the attention to detail despite the childish subject matter makes for a very solid album.

Brother Ali: Us; Proving that he is one of the most important rappers of this generation, Brother Ali has topped his previous outings with “Us.” Ali has a tone to his voice when he raps that makes one feel like they are engaging in a conversation, and his flow is among the most commanding out there. His lyrics on “Us” paint characters that have been through hell and back, with poverty, sexual assault and discrimination littering their experiences. However, Brother Ali tells these stories with an empathetic delivery, and there are several tracks on the album that promote a message of unity, and that at the end of the day we are all people first. This keeps the album from being drawn too far into despair, and it never once sounds cliché. This is rap at its finest; a social commentary from an MC who has seen his share of adversity.

Camera Obscura: My Maudlin Career; Heartbreak is one of the most common themes behind many artists’ music. However, few did it in 2009 with as much effortlessness as Camera Obscura. “My Maudlin Career” continues the bands winning formula of lush instrumentation, Tracyanne Campbell’s sweet, soothing voice, and choruses that have a way of staying with you. Campbell puts her heart on her sleeve for this outing, as some of the lyrics are downright heartbreaking. For example, on the title track, she sings “You kissed me on the forehead, now this kiss is giving me a concussion.” It’s this kind of honesty that makes her pain seem all the more real.  While this album didn’t mark too much of a departure for the band, Camera Obscura have made a damn fine album.

The Clientele: Bonfires on the Heath; The Clientele have quietly established themselves as one of the most consistently good bands of the decade. They write songs that are pleasant to listen to, while at the same time have a quality to them that make them standout compared to other bands. This could be contributed to how tight the band sound, or the fact that Alasdair MacLean knows how to pen a great pop tune. Both of these elements are present on “Bonfires on the Heath.” Many have described the album as very Autumnal, and it is a very accurate description. The music has a very warm quality to it, and MacLean’s laid back delivery accompanies it perfectly. With songs like “Harvest Time,” “I Wonder Who We Are,” and the title track, one can easily get the feeling of being in a park surrounded by yellow, orange and red foliage. The band cap off a decade of making great music with yet another badge on their sleeve, as “Bonfires on the Heath” possesses everything that makes the Clientele one the best bands that almost nobody knows about.

Cymbals Eat Guitars: Why There Are Mountains; New York was a hotbed for talented new artists in 2009, and Cymbals Eat Guitars was one of the first to break open the floodgates. “Why There Are Mountains” is a sprawling affair, filled with many different tempo shifts, musical outbursts, and a lot of energy. The band has a delivery style that conjures up comparisons to Pavement, as they have the same sort of lazy, fragmented instrumentation. However, they wear their influences well, as they make songs that take all the good elements about those kind of bands and make something that is completely their own. Songs like “And the Hazy Sea” sound big in all the right ways, and “Wind Phoenix” is simply stunning. It is moments like these that make “Why There Are Mountains” such a great debut.

The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love; While this was undoubtedly the Decemberists weakest offering to date, “The Hazards of Love” is still an album that can stand on its own. This is because of the fact that the band possesses so much talent that calling an album their least consistent one is still saying a lot compared to many other bands’ output. This is the group’s first full on rock opera, complete with recurring characters and musical interludes. When the band is on, they have few contemporaries. For instance, “The Wanting Comes in Waves/ Repaid” features My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden as a queen who is trying to keep her son from being taken by a woman that he loves. Additionally, Meloy’s skills as a storyteller are still intact, as the characters he has created are memorable, especially the despicable Rake. While the album is best enjoyed in one sitting, there are many songs on “The Hazards of Love” that stand on their own, and this is what saves the album from being a once in a while listen.

Dirty Projectors: Bittle Orca; Making dense art-rock is a risky business. There is a certain pretension associated with the genre that often precedes the music, but oftentimes it would seem that these bands are more interested in making things as avant-garde as possible instead of simply making good music. However, the Dirty Projectors have avoided this with “Bitte Orca.” While leading man Dave Longstreth is a guitar wizard and has a unique voice, what makes this band stand out are female singers Angel Deradoorian, Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle. The three of them possess incredible voices, and they add an extra layer of depth to the songs with their harmonies. The band also plays with an astonishing attention to detail, as every note seems to have been perfectly placed. All of these elements make “Bitte Orca” an album that shows that Dirty Projectors are more concerned with their finished product than with their image.

Dizzee Rascal: Tongue n’ Cheek; There is a lot justified concern when an artist shoots for the top of the charts. Oftentimes, they abandon their sound too much to the point where they are unrecognizable, or the quality takes a severe hit in the pursuit of that #1 smash. However, when you are talented MC like Dizzee Rascal, making a pop album is not a career ending mistake. “Tounge n’ Cheek” sees Dizzee lightening up a little bit compared to his earlier works while still playing to his strengths. The beats are just as tight as they’ve always been, and the voice samples and guest spots make for some very good moments. However, what stands above everything else is the fact that Dizzee is such a relatable figure. Whether he was talking about his upbringing on 2003’s “Boy In Da Corner” or the perils of living large on this album’s “Dirtee Cash,” he never sounds overly preachy or tough, despite his unique delivery. He is simply a man who has a story to tell. Whether or not this is Dizzee going pop, what matters is still intact, and that’s what makes him so endearing.

The Field: Yesterday & Today; Songs by The Field sound almost stupidly simple upon first listen. Axel Willner uses heavy drum machine sounds as the back beat, one word voice samples to provide the vocals, and lots of repetition. However, the beauty of “Yesterday & Today,” as well as 2007’s “From Here We Go Sublime,” is that it rewards repeated listens, the different layers of songs revealing themselves over time, not to mention the fact that many of Wilner’s songs have the ability to hit the right pleasure points. The album only contains six tracks, each last lasting no less than six and a half minutes, but they seem to fly by. This is because Willner’s music has the capacity to put you in a trance and to let the music take hold.  It is this kind of nuance that makes The Field a force to be reckoned with in electronic music.

Franz Ferdinand: Tonight: Franz Ferdinand; The men in Franz Ferdinand decided to make a dance record. People freaked out. This seems like an odd response given the fact that the band is one of those responsible for bringing new wave back in style in 2004. Despite this though, the band came back after a three and a half year hiatus with another fine album. True, the songs here aren’t as immediate on “Tonight:” as they were on their first two albums. However, this does not mean that the band have abandoned the qualities that made them so enjoyable in the first place. The band knows how to write great songs, the rhythm section is one of the tightest around, and lead singer Alex Kapranos still sings with a swagger that few others can. “Tonight:” retains the band’s trademark sound, and tracks like singles “Ulysses” and “No You Girls” rank up there with their best songs. Although they were a little lost in the shuffle this year, Franz Ferdinand ably proved why they survived the new wave revival and continue to remain relevant, five years removed from their breakout debut.

Girls: Album; Every now and again, a band will come along and release an album without any pretense, without some gimmicky sub-genre tie, and one that is flat-out good from start to finish. Girls have achieved this with their debut, “Album,” my personal pick for album of the year. The songs light tones recall early 60’s surf-rock, and can conjure up images of a lazy sunny day. Despite this though, lead singer Chris Owens lyrics are those of a man who has genuine hurt in his past. Owens was raised in a cult, where he later escaped to Amarillo and lived an almost homeless existence until a local millionaire gave him a second chance, with which he moved to San Francisco. The way he sings reflects this, as his voice has a heartbroken and earnest tone that brings to mind Elvis Costello. However, the album never flounders in Owens’ sorrow, as songs such as “Hellhole Ratrace,” and “Lust for Life” are so uplifting in the way that they are executed that you can forget the mournful undertones of his words. This is a powerful, confident statement by a band who know that substance is what ultimately matters.

Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest; While it may be disheartening to some that every note on“Veckatimest” was slaved over, Grizzly Bear still managed to make an album that was nothing short of spectacular. The band has made an album filled with beautiful harmonies, lush chamber-pop instrumentation, and a sense of grandeur that is almost infectious. Each member contributes so much to the overall output musically that you truly feel like Grizzly Bear are four artists at work. The songs on “Veckatimest” reveal more with each listen, which gives the album a high replay value. You can discover a new layer to a song several times after you first listened to it. Additionally, the music has an emotional depth to it that is moving. Songs like “Two Weeks” and “Fine for Now” are performed with such preciseness and earnestness that it is hard not to be taken in. While it does tend to lag in spots, there is no denying that “Veckatimest” is a fine album, and one that warranted the pre-release hype.

Islands: Vapours; For “Vapours,” Islands returned to the sound of their debut, “Return to the Sea,” rather than continue on the epic-sounding path they were on with 2008’s “Arm’s Way.” With original drummer Jamie Thompson back on board, former Unicorns front man Nick Thorburn and company have married the best aspects of both of those albums to form another solid effort. The tight guitar parts, a healthy dose of electronics and Thorburn’s unique voice come together in effortless fashion. And, of course, the songs and melodies are still as catchy as ever. Songs such as “Heartbeat,” on which Thorburn utilizes a vocorder, and “Disarming the Carbomb” demonstrate the amount of depth that Islands possess. “Vapours” is a welcome addition to Islands’ discography.

Japandroids: Post-Nothing; Vancouver’s Japandroids are a resourceful bunch. Armed with only an overdriven guitar and a drum kit, the duo of Brian King and David Prowse made one of 2009’s most rocking albums. Songs like “Wet Hair” and “Young Hearts Speak Fire” chug along at a breakneck pace, and sound like the work of a four or five person band. King and Prowse both take vocal duties, and they complement each other to great effect when they are both singing at the top of their lungs. The band’s whole persona is based around energy, and it is displayed in droves on “Post-Nothing.” The tracks are infectious, and the music is memorable for its’ sheer sense of melody that emerges amidst all the noise. Across the album’s eight tracks, there is no filler to be found, and it all contributes to how special of a debut this is.

Kings of Convenience: Declaration of Dependence; Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience argued with the title of their first album that “Quiet is the New Loud” back in 2001. They specialize in acoustic driven music, with very little additional instrumentation. “Declaration of Dependence” keeps this tradition alive, as this album is a rather quiet affair. The group has often been compared to Simon and Garfunkel, and for good reason. Erlend Oye and Erik Boe harmonize beautifully; their voices coming together like it’s second nature to them. Additionally, their guitar playing is something magnificent in itself. They both display a mastery of the instrument, and when the two come together, it makes for some immensely memorable arrangements. Almost all of the songs here concentrate on heartbreak, and the nature of the music makes it all the more immediate and sincere. For acoustic pop in 2009, you are hard pressed to find an album as good as this.

Major Lazer: Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do; Diplo and Switch, two of the most highly respected producers out there, and the men responsible for M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” taking off, have joined forces to create Major Lazer, a Jamaican dance hall project from which comes one of 2009’s most thrilling albums. The unique sounds, coupled with the voices of some of the biggest names in Jamaican dance music, make for something that is dirty, raw, and infectious. A perfect example is lead single “Hold the Line.” There are so many sounds coming from all sides, including a runaway surf guitar riff, cash machines, cell phones and a few kisses, all over Mr. Lex’s flow and Santigold’s monotone singing. It is this collage of sounds that make the album still sound fresh after multiple listens This is an album that will make even the most reserved individual want to get up and dance. “Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do” is a perfect example of the power of dance music, and what it should sound like in 2009.

Mew: No More Stories Are Told Today/ I’m Sorry, They Washed Away/ No More Stories, The World Is Grey/  I’m Tired, Let’s Wash Away; It’s hard to describe the music that Mew makes. Some have labeled them as art-rock, others have argued that they have more progressive tendencies. The band’s music is very dense, with many different layers of instruments and vocals coming together to make something that is wholly organic. One of the most unique things about Mew has always been that their music can draw you in and make you feel like you are in another world entirely, and “No More Stories…” is no exception. From the epic scales of “Introducing Palace Players” and “Vaccine”, to the tropical infused “Beach” and “Hawaii,” you don’t listen to this album so much as experience it.  Jonas Bjerre’s gorgeous voice adds the final satisfying layer. While Mew have yet to gain popularity in the US, “No More Stories…” is proof that they have plenty of great ideas left. And who knows, maybe one day they will be a household name.

Morrissey: Years of Refusal; Morrissey continues to age gracefully with “Years of Refusal,” another strong outing for the former Smiths front man. While there are the usual songs of heartbreak and sorrow that are to be found on a Morrissey album, several of the tracks on “Years of Refusal” contain the singer acknowledging his age, and his struggles in dealing with it. For example, on “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” he feels that he has to dedicate his efforts to city life because “Only stone and steel accept my love.” As they did on Morrissey’s previous two albums, the backing band turns in another excellent performance. The fact that Morrissey is still making music years after the Smiths heyday is an accomplishment in itself, but that it’s of such high quality is something else entirely.

The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World to Come; John Darnielle is without question one of the greatest songwriters of this generation. He paints characters and situations with finesse and vividness, while at the same time remaining completely relatable. Some of his lyrics are deeply personal, while others take an outsiders perspective to tell the story. For “The Life of the World to Come,” Darnielle decided to make an album entirely dedicated to personal interpretations of Bible verses. While this could have come off as overly saturated or somewhat gimmicky, when in the capable hands of Darnielle, that should not have even been a concern. His delivery has shifted to a more of a whisper than his trademark yell, as has been the trend on his last few albums, but it’s the power of his words that carry “The Life of the World to Come.” The attention to detail in his lyrics is something that few others can ever hope to achieve, and it is this that makes the Mountain Goats such a beloved and consistently good band.

Neon Indian: Psychic Chasms; Sometimes, you want a record that doesn’t require too much thinking on your part, an album that you can just sit back and enjoy for what it is. Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo has you covered. On “Psychic Chasms,” he takes the chillwave sub-genre of electronic music and runs with it. There are many 8-bit sounds to be found here, and it’s all presented in catchy, upbeat way. The production gives these songs a sort of open space feeling to them. Songs like “Deadbeat Summer” and “Ephemeral Artery” will be in your head for weeks, and it is not likely that they will leave soon after.  Even Palomo’s laid back and often times distant vocals make you just want to grab a chair and sit back. This is an album best experienced with your eyes closed, and maybe some heavy sedatives, but you didn’t hear that from me.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart; It seemed that lo-fi and noise pop was in this year, as many new bands resorted to making music that sounded like an old record from your Regan-Era parents’ attic. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart somewhat fall into this category, but they separate themselves from their contemporaries by actually writing very good songs rather than try and ride the trend solely for the sake of doing so. The band would sound right at home in the late 80’s or early 90’s, when shoegaze and twee was the norm for many indie bands. The wide-eyed, almost too sweet lyrics, and the heavy amount of distortion and use of keyboards that were a staple for this movement are utilized by the band to near pop perfection. Songs like “Come Saturday” and “Everything With You” are some of the catchiest you will hear in 2009. The band may not be doing anything too original, but I’d be damned if this isn’t a great debut by a band who know their history.

Patrick Wolf: The Bachelor; The sheer amount of talent that Patrick Wolf possesses once again shines through on “The Bachelor.” Musically, the album is both diverse and beautiful. Flurries of violin, electronics, percussion and guitars paint the darker landscape that Wolf went for with this album. Songs such as “Damaris” emit a more electronic version English folk, while the sense of urgency on “Hard Times” can be credited to a simple violin outburst. Wolf’s baritone continues to be a commanding force, as he emits the perfect amount of emotion into each song. Lyrically, the album explores themes of lost love, the lack of human interaction in the digital age, and the struggle to find one’s own identity. It’s a wide array of subjects, but Wolf handles them all quite nicely. The end result is an album that sounds as fresh and original as Wolf’s previous works, a high honor considering his back catalog. “The Bachelor” demonstrates that Wolf is continuing to grow as an artist, while releasing excellent album after excellent album along the way.

Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix; Phoenix are a damn good pop band, plain and simple. The fact that it took the Parisian group until 2009 to finally receive the widespread respect they deserve utterly baffles me. Then again, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” is by far the band’s best work, proving that attention to song craft has its rewards. The group has always sounded relaxed and confident in their playing, as they have tight instrumentation and simple, yet effective, arrangements. Add to the fact that Thomas Mars has such a soothing voice, and you end up with songs that are near perfect. “Lisztomania” and “1901” are easily two of the best songs of the year, and the two-part “Love Like a Sunset” works because it displays the powers of Phoenix as a group of musicians. There are no real risks taken or anything particularly different for the band on “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” but when you are this good at what you do, there is no need for change.

Royksopp: Junior; Nearly four years after their 2005 release, “The Understanding,” Royksopp retuned with “Junior,” an album that demonstrates why they are one of the best groups in an oversaturated electronic scene. The duo utilize synthesizers, strings and pulsing beats to create a sound that is at once urgent and laid back. Perhaps the biggest strength of “Junior” is the fact that Royksopp combine the music with some excellent guest vocalists. Robyn lends her voice to album standout “The Girl and the Robot,” while The Knife’s Karin Dreijer contributes her unique vocal styling to “This Must Be It” and “Tricky Tricky.” Lykke Li and Anneli Drecker round out the lineup.Though the instrumental tracks are great in and of themselves, the guest vocalists contribute an added layer of depth to the music, and make for some of the albums most memorable moments. As a whole, “Junior” differentiates itself from other electronic albums this year by virtue of the fact that the men in Royksopp have such an uncanny ability to construct songs that are both unique and fun to listen to.

The Swell Season: Strict Joy; After turning in excellent acting and musical performances in the movie “Once,” Glen Hansard, who fronts the Irish band The Frames, and Marketa Irglova decided to use their talents to form The Swell Season. While their self-titled debut featured many of the songs from the film, “Strict Joy” is their album of all original songs, and they demonstrate the power of Hansard and Irglova as a musical duo. The two started dating shortly after “Once” was released. However, they had broken up at the beginning of 2009, and it would seem that this is reflected in Hansard’s lyrics. For example, on “Low Rising,” he sings “there’s no further for us to fall,” implying that he, or the character in the song, is desperate for anything that will fix what has been broken. He and Irglova harmonize beautifully, and the mostly acoustic music works perfectly to set the tone. All of it goes to prove that The Swell Season are an act that can exist independently of the movie that brought it’s two members together.

The Thermals: Now We Can See; How does a band follow up a concept album that questions religion and those who blindly submit to it? If you’re The Thermals, the answer is simple; you release another fine album of straightforward rock. The band sounds a bit looser this time around, and it suits them very nicely. While there is nothing quite as urgent as many of the tracks on “The Blood, The Money, The Machine,” songs such as the title track and “When I Died” still manage to encompass the group’s trademark sound. Wisely, lead singer/songwriter Hutch Harris decided to move away from the politically charged lyrics of album number three, and instead decided to explore more universal subjects, such as death, existence, and even love. Him and the rest of the trio play with an intense amount of energy, even on slower songs like “At the Bottom of the Sea.” The Thermals sound content with being consistently good, and if “Now We Can See” is any indication, this group will be around for many years to come.

The xx: xx; London’s The xx have unleashed something special with their self-titled debut. While the band won’t win any image awards, the substance of their music is what sets them apart. They use the “less is more” mentality to fuel their approach, as their sparse instrumentation creates an atmosphere that is at once gloomy and expansive. Electronic drums, picked guitar parts, simple bass lines, and synth melodies all contribute to this overall vision. The xx’s biggest weapon, though, is the vocal play-off between singers Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft. Most of the songs revolve around love and heartbreak, and the dual vocal attack makes for a male-female dynamic that allows for great emotional depth. While the music may sound simple, the delivery is what really matters. The band effortlessly utilized every note to its greatest possible effect, and the results include some of the best singles of the year, including “Basic Space” and “Heart Skipped A Beat.” From start to finish “xx” grabs you in and doesn’t let go until the last note of “Stars” fades away. It showcases a talented young band concerned with nothing more than making music, and in a scene dominated by image conscious groups, that is downright refreshing.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It’s Blitz; I have to admit, I was a bit nervous when I first heard that the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s were going for a more synth heavy sound with their third album. These fears were quickly put to rest within the first minute of opening track “Zero.” Karen O, one of the most dynamic front women in rock, turns in one of her best vocal performances, and the electronics are a welcome addition. The rest of “It’s Blitz” follows suit, with stunning results. Several of the tracks are a bit more introspective, but these softer moments are just as important as their louder counterparts, as evidenced by songs like “Skeletons.” The band sounds incredibly tight here, with Nick Zinner providing the synths and guitar playing, and Brian Chase continues to display his talents as a drummer behind O’s energetic vocal delivery. “It’s Blitz” shows that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will continue to write good music, no matter what direction they take.

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