2009 was a bit of a disappointment for me musically. It's not that there wasn't a ton of great music released…it's more that I allowed myself to get far to busy to truly enjoy a reasonable amount of it. This travesty is something I intend to resolve over the next year.

Anyway, of the stuff I did listen to, here's a sampling of some of my favorites.

Ironhorse – Pickin' on Modest Mouse

Ok, so technically, this was released in 2004. However, I came across it this year, so I'll count it :)

If you're not familiar with the Pickin' On series of albums, it's basically a bluegrass take on popular music. This series covers everything from Zepplin to Coldplay–very fun stuff.

This album is brilliant. I've always liked Modest Mouse AND bluegrass music, so what better combination could there be? In fact, I liked the MM/bluegrass fusion so much that I actually prefer several of the tracks off this album far better than the MM originals…

Deas Vail – Birds and Cages

I swore to myself that I would not like this album, and tried and tried to not enjoy it. However, the more I listened to it, the more I loved it.

The part of this album that I liked the most is the open way in which the production allows the songs to develop. This allows for some very subtle, yet extremely interesting transitions between verses and choruses, as well as finales to songs.

Plus, it's always interesting to takes bets on how high the vocal will get with each successive song.

Duncan Sheik – Whisper House

Duncan Sheik has always been one of those guilty pleasures that I keep around for a rainy day. Admittedly, he's not the most inspired artist, and most certainly not a terrifically compelling vocalist. However, I've always admired his story-telling, and

Whisper House does not disappoint. Written from a ghostly perspective, each track on this album hauntingly feeds off of each other, weaving together a full-album experience that is seldom encountered in contemporary music. This"experience" tackles the deep subjects of death, loss, and pain, at times mocking human perspectives of it, at times commiserating with the the frightful prospect of human mortality. Be sure to check this one out.

Emery – …In Shallow Seas We Sail

Of all artists that I've listened to over the years, I've probably written the most about Emery. Without doubt, they are my favorite band and I am constantly amazed at their musical evolution over the years.

In this most recent release, Emery grows exponentially from "The Question" and continues the progression of their sound begun in the companion album "While Broken Hearts Prevail…" While their sound remains true to their hardcore screamo roots, it is clear that they continue to grow. Each successive album sees the band exploring new ideas while consistently improving and solidifying those things that have brought them success in the past. I'm terrifically excited to see what 2010 has to bring.

David Gray – Draw the Line

David Gray has long been a favorite. His easy flowing folk/acoustic sound is inviting, yet he is talented enough–both musically and lyrically–to separate his music from the glut of other offerings in the genre.

Draw the Line shares many similarities with older albums–the David Gray that I love is still between the lines, creating a smooth, melodic flow from track to track that makes the album a pure pleasure to listen to. However, Gray also experiments a bitwith a few of the tracks, adding yet another facet to this talented artist's already remarkable abilities. Great stuff.

Buddy & Julie Miller – Written in Chalk

Ok, admittedly Buddy & Jullie Miller do not scream "this is something that Joel would listen to and love." Nonetheless, on a recommendation from my father-in-law, I gave this album a try and absolutely loved it!

Honestly, it's difficult for me to describe why I like this album so much. Part of it, I think, is that it's easy to listen to. The production of each track is very simple, removing some of those
otherwise obnoxious over-produced songs that grate on the ears. Another reason I like it, I think, is that it's authentic. Buddy and Julie seem very transparent through each song, so listening is intimate and inviting, like sitting down in the living room with a guitar, a warm fire, and good friends.

Starflyer 59 – Dial M

Starflyer 59 has long (over 10 years) been a favorite band of mine. This most recent release is, in my opinion, the most mature and evolved offering yet. Smart lyrics and ridiculously interesting arrangements imbue every song with life and quell the doubts about the relevance of Starflyer to the post-90's music scene. It's absolutely brilliant, so don't waste anymore time and go pick this one up. You won't regret it. And if you do, it's your own fault 😉