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Joan Anderman's top albums of 2009

Globe critics name their top 10 list (and a surprise)

By Joan Anderman
Globe Staff / December 20, 2009

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THE AVETT BROTHERS “I And Love And You’’ Instead of mucking up their major-label debut, the South Carolina sibs made a thing of beauty, replete with soul-searing ballads, mountain-punk rave-ups, and timeless country-rock.

GRIZZLY BEAR “Veckatimest’’ It’s like the angels floated down and whispered into Grizzly Bear’s collective ear: Just glow.

NEKO CASE “Middle Cyclone’’ “I’m an animal/You’re an animal, too,’’ Neko Case reminds us on her fifth album, and the alt-country siren makes her case with a clutch of gracefully primal songs.

DIRTY PROJECTORS “Bitte Orca’’ You can’t be too smart or too weird in indie-rock circa 2009, a truism wack Yalie and band mastermind Dave Longstretch epitomizes on this scintillating, shapeshifting gem.

IDA MARIA “Fortress Round My Heart’’ An irresistible debut from a Norwegian pistol who pens infectious hooks, sports a feminist agenda, and isn’t above cracking a rib on stage in the service of a song.

WILCO “Wilco (The Album)’’ Clarity and gratitude are hardly the pillars of rock ’n’ roll, but in Jeff Tweedy’s seasoned hands, good health couldn’t be more elegant or defiant.

THE DECEMBERISTS “The Hazards of Love’’ A 17-part song cycle that fuses British folk and classic metal and features a jealous forest queen and lascivious rake. ’Nuff said.

ANDREW BIRD “Noble Beast’’ Fourteen slices of sublime chamber-pop from rock’s most literate tunesmith. Doesn’t this guy ever run out of ideas?

PHOENIX “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’’ Modern rock greets the disco floor with the exuberance of a pop idol. Extra points for being French.

THE BEATLES “The Beatles: Stereo Box Set’’ I know, I know, it’s not as ear-bending or mind-opening or historically significant as the mono box. But it sounds so good.

BIGGEST SURPRISE
REGINA SPEKTOR “Far’’ Too many cooks reduced Spektor’s sharp, winsome quirks to a perfunctory muddle of mid-tempo pleasantries. Here’s hoping she loses the hired help and finds her voice again.

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