I did one last year, so I'll do one this year. Here are the songs I'd put on a mix CD for you, if I still did that sort of thing.
Animal Collective / My Girls
They owned the entirety of 2009 with Merriweather Post Pavilion in January and the Fall Be Kind EP in December. I can't talk about this band anymore. They are in a class of their own, and I hope they continue to put out music for decades.
Grizzly Bear / Ready Able
Another timely young band for which everything has already been said. The hype is merited! Veckatimest was not only fresh, but lovingly crafted by proficient musicians. I am still enamored with this live studio video of "While You Wait For the Others."
Bill Callahan / Jim Cain, Too Many Birds
Easily one of the best songwriters of this generation. With his rich baritone voice, he sings with a wisdom and tiredness that belies his age. Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle contains some excellent meandering, thoughtful songs. [I ended up in search of ordinary things / Like how could a wave possibly be..]
The National / So Far Around the Bend
They've been filling in the void left by Sufjan with their gorgeous arrangments, plus a good dose of jaded melancholia. Hard hitting lyrics for listeners on the Dark Was the Night compilation. [Take a bath and get high through an apple / Wanted to cry but you can't when you're laughing / Nobody knows where you are living / Nobody knows where you are]
Dirty Projectors / Stillness Is the Move
Bizzare mix of Dirty Projector's special brand of off-kilter choral melodies and Mariah Carey. The entire Bitte Orca is original and spectacular.
J. Tillman / Though I Have Wronged You
Forgiveness. See previous post.
Kings of Convenience / Boat Behind, Peacetime Resistance
The new Simon and Garfunkel. Makes me want to learn finger picking real bad. Declaration of Dependence is a welcome release in light of their previous hollow-pop one. They have become a more mature band (which just means that I think a song is sad but I'm not sure why).
David Bazan / Hard to Be
A very relevant album to us at this time. In Curse Your Branches, Bazan deals openly with his struggle with Christianity and God.
Loney Dear / Violent
This was a recent discovery. I had joined the guys in seeing them as SXSW in March, but their live performance in the sweaty dungeon of a 6th street bar didn't stick with me. This song is so full of life, longing, joy. The rest of Dear John is noticeably darker.
Great Lake Swimmers / Pulling On a Line
Can't get enough of these Canadian folkies.
Sally Shapiro / Dying in Africa, Miracle (Remix by Bogdan Irkuk)
Bring on the cheese! It's called Italo disco and I couldn't get enough of it. The remix is pop perfection. The only reason it's in this section is because I easily overdose on these songs.
jj / From Africa to Malaga
I felt guilty for liking this band, because it could be in very poor taste. They sound like Caribbean-influenced easy listening world music. But oddly enough, they're Swedish and also socially acceptable to listen to. It must be one of those hipster irony things.
Vampire Weekend / Horchata
Technically, this album doesn't come out until 2010, but the single was already released. I got over the reactionary anxiety over whether I should like this band and find myself enjoying them more and more.
Cass McCombs / The Executioner Song
Le Loup / Beach Town
I don't know much about this band, except that I ignored them this year. And then today I found out that they are up my alley.
Noah and the Whale / Blue Skies
I like this Brit's voice.
Girls / Hellhole Ratrace
This song is quickly growing on me. Saw them at SXSW, revisited now. Lead singer has a fascinating history- he was raised in a cult, escaped, got picked up by a rich dude, was gifted a guitar from an ex-Fleetwood Mac member, started a band.
Telekinesis / Awkward Kisser
Had this song stuck in my head weeks after I first heard it. Like a poppier, riffier DCfC.
Atlas Sound / Walkabout (w/ Panda Bear)
Keep hearing good things about this ugly but talented dude.
Sources: iguessimfloating, said the gramophone, the rawking refuses to stop!, pink teeth, stereogum, tsuru radio, the burning ear, dbf-music, captain obvious, disco workout, chickens don't clap!, regnsky, pop tarts suck toasted, polaroid alla radio, merry swankster