We've already broken down our Top 10 Best Albums of 2009, but with the plethora of highly talented musicians right in our backyard, how could we ignore these amazing Bay-Area based achievements? Since we're already on a list-making roll...
10. Scene of Action, 20 Minute Hourglass: Already dominating the scene, and beating out several other talented local bands for the opening slot in this year's Not So Silent Night (Muse, Vampire Weekend, Metric, 30 Seconds to Mars, and AFI), Scene of Action is making quite the name for themselves in a relatively short period of time. The looped power nods from this alt-rock trio sound forceful enough to come from a five-person band. Scene of Action is definitely treading their upward climb.
9. Or, the Whale - Or, The Whale: Easily one of the top Americana bands out there right now, our very own Or, The Whale has aged, and gotten a teensy bit more serious with their songwriting aspects. If you think Americana/indie-country isn't for you, then you clearly haven't listened to this album yet. Their accessibility is just one tiny fraction of their charm.
8. K. Flay - MASHed Potatoes: This Stanford grad has been dubbed the "Suburban Rap Queen," by her peers, but looks can be deceiving. She's backed MC Lars, shared starring roles with Zion I, and collaborated with the likes of Del the Funky Homosapien and Gift of Gab. Ok, so this mixtape isn't exactly full originals (we're patiently awaiting her Amplive-produced freshman debut), but the fact that she can pretty much do anything on the turntables, sing, rap, strum a mean acoustic, mix and produce an entire album all by herself, and find a way to creatively twist all of the above...Let's just say we're impressed.
7. Birds & Batteries - Up To No Good EP: We were still in a dreamy trance from I'll Never Sleep Again (2007), when we were rudely awakened by the shockingly funky new sound in this delightful EP. Birds & Batteries have swapped their indie-country sound, delving deep into experimental electronic, weaving the most intriguing and intricate musical combinations orchestrating Sempert's gorgeous vocals on top of meticulously placed arrangements. A bold move on their part, but one we hope we'll be seeing more of in the near future.
6. Vetiver - Tight Knit: On their long-awaited Sub Pop debut, Andy Cabic and longtime Vetiver cohort, Thom Monahan pump out a mid-tempo classic that finally hits home the points that Cabic has been crooning all along. The ever-rotating, and very high-profile list of collaborators include, but are definitely not limited to Devendra Banhart, Little Joy, The Shins, and Fruit Bats among many others.
5. Wallpaper - Doodoo Face: This is the full-length debut we've all been waiting for over here at 7x7. There is absolutely no way you can take Wallpaper seriously, especially with an album name like that, but their unique club-destroying and remixing abilities are quite honestly somewhat supernatural. Listen to tracks such as "T REX," "I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted," and non-album hits, "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," or the controversial DOA and Jay-Z "99 Problems Wallpaper remix," and suddenly your entire life will make sense.
4. Thee Oh Sees - Help: Starting out as something completely different, Thee Oh Sees have morphed into a tight-knit foursome deeply in love with garage psych-rock. In turn, we've fallen deeply in love with them, and all their progressions as a band. It's by no means anything new and fresh. In fact, it's kind of like if you woke up hungover outside The Fillmore in the '60s only to be awoken by Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters trying to administer an acid test all while Thee Oh Sees were blasting in your headphones - a trip on every level. It's not really re-living the moment that distinguishes this album, but the mastery of such a defining era in music is a noble skill outright.
3. John Vanderslice - Romanian Names: San Francisco's very own pioneer of indie, captain of Tiny Telephone, and in general just the nicest guy on the planet really just doesn't know how to quit, and that's certainly not a problem for us. His sixth studio installment is quite a shift in focus from his previous, this one being the most introspective by far. Between producing The Mountain Goats, Spoon, and Tiny Telephone's other stellar artists, we're not sure when he sleeps let alone create such a beautiful piece of work. Full of boisterous melodies, lots of instruments (marimba, viola and the Swedish nyckelharpa just to name a few), and surprisingly well-paired compositions make Romanian Names just one of many great things John Vanderslice has produced that we could never get sick of.
2. The Dodos - Time To Die: Meric Long, Logan Kroeber and newbie Keaton Snyder are some of the most focused and serious musicians we've seen in a while, and with more growth in the last year than most bands see in a lifetime. Emphatic finger-picking, diligently perfected vibraphones, and intensely sentimental lyrics, shot Time To Die to the very top of our list. No questions asked. Perhaps their new producer (also responsible for The Shins, Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses) has something to do with this album's success, but when it comes down to it, the raw talent these three produce together is just purely magical.
1. Zion I - The Take Over: Within the first ten seconds, it's very obvious that this album is going to hit you hard. The very versatile Amplive (recently working with everyone from Tapes 'n Tapes to Radiohead) may be one of the most underrated producers out there, but his talents with MC Zumbi's far superior conscious poetics is something unlike you've ever heard. Plain and simply, Zion I is taking hip hop to another level, to a place where hip hop hasn't really explored yet, well, at least successfully. Look for cameos from our #8 K. Flay, and Codany Holiday among others. This is an album that will resonate with us for years to come.