You can hardly scan a news source in January of any year without seeing a “best of [insert prior year here] list. I reviewed a few “best of” music lists for 2009 and decided to put together my own list of music released last year that I enjoyed hearing over and over.

Then I realized that some of the albums were actually released in 2008, but took me awhile to become aware of. That kind of delay happens when you aren’t a teenager and have responsibilities other than keeping up with the latest tunes. Anyway, here’s my lists, in no particular order of preference, along with a few comments interspersed along the way for your enjoyment.

Favorite albums of 2009

Barton Hills Choir – Holiday Songs ’09

What can I say other than there’s nothing more uplifting than a children’s choir singing bouncy Christmas songs? I guess in the interest of honest journalism I should disclose my daughter is in this choir. You can download the entire album with a printable cover at the Barton Hills Choir web site.

The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love

This album is one that demands to listened to from start to finish since it tells a story. Both narrative and orchestral, it’s something that has to be experienced to believe. Few people have time or feel compelled to spend it listening to “concept” albums nowadays, but the range of musical styles is vast and the story complex, so each additional listen brings deeper understanding and appreciation. Favorite track: The Wanting Comes in Waves

Demi Lovato – Here We Go Again

So here I have to admit that my daughter’s love of Disney Channel artists has apparently warped my brain or the “Camp Rock” star has talent. I’d like to believe it’s the latter.  Favorites include: Falling Over Me, Here We Go Again and the catchy So Far So Great.

The Leisure Society – The Sleeper

The best record you’ve never heard of. This has been described by some as “British folk,” but ultimately it’s melodic and features a fascinating collection of instruments. Hard to listen to this without relaxing and just enjoying the beautiful harmonies and clever lyrics. Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

Favorite albums of 2008

Priscilla Ahn – A Good Day

This singer has the most amazing voice I have heard in a long, long time. Favorite cuts: Red Cape, A Good Day (Morning Song).

Lenka – Lenka

Another female singer with a voice that captures. This cheerful record is one you can’t help smiling to while listening. Favorite cuts: Trouble is a Friend, Knock Knock, We Will Not Grow Old.

The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing

I first heard the Ting Tings by way of a live NPR broadcast and was knocked over by their energy and hypnotic rhythms. The studio version loses none of the energy and leaves you amazed that all of that sound could come from just two people. Highly recommended. Favorite cuts: Keep Your Head, Shut Up and Let Me Go, That’s Not My Name.

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