The 20 Best Albums of 2009--Complete With Downloads!

Artwork by Fanny B,
Here's another edition of our biased and imprecise best albums of the year list. Yet again, rock 'n' roll and "authenticity" receded, pop advanced, and we got to sit back and listen to the two battle it out. In the process, some of our favorite bands of all time released their best material and new great bands emerged. So, without further adieu, 20 albums that kept us rocking our chairs at R29 headquarters all year long…and here are the downloadable songs to prove it!
To download individual tracks click on the MP3 files below, or for almost two hours of continuous listening, mixed by William Rauscher (a.k.a. Night Plane) click here for Refinery29's Best of 2009 Playlist [MP3].
20-washed-out20. Washed Out—Life of Leisure
"Feel It All Around" [MP3]
More indie blissful summer jams. Definitely the trend of the year. We were inclined to hate it but just gave in to the chillness. Buy this album
19-jenny-wilson19. Jenny Wilson—Hardships!
"The Wooden Chair" [MP3]
Most underrated album of the year. Like Bjork with an R&B edge. Buy this album
18-memory-tapes18. Memory Tapes—Seek Magic
"Swimming Field" [MP3]
There's been a rash of indie rockers who put down their guitars to pick up synths and make atmospheric, blissed-out summertime jams. In our opinion, this is the best of the bunch. Buy this album
17-jj-jj17. jj—jj no 2
"Ecstasy" [MP3]
It's great when a band just comes out and tells you what drugs to take before listening to their music. "Ecstasy" is that song, managing to sound more messed up than the Lil Wayne original. Buy this album
16-kurt-vil16. Kurt Vile—Childish Prodigy
"Overnite Religion" [MP3]
Here was this promising bedroom-recording lo-fi artist who released a couple of great songs. He finally gets cleaned up for his big label debut and guess what? He kind of sounds like awesome classic rock! Neil Young fans take note. Buy this album
All MP3s are for sampling purposes only. Please go out and buy the artists' records. If you would like for us to remove a track, please email us at
15. Atlas Sound—Logos
"Walkabout" [MP3]
You kind of make records that sound like Panda Bear anyway. Why not just get Panda Bear to play on your album? The most satisfying indie rock collaboration of the year, hands down. Buy this album
13-the-flaming-lips-embr14. Flaming Lips—Embryonic
"Watching the Planets" [MP3]
Flaming Lips had two choices: go full-on adult contemporary or make a difficult psychedelic rock record. It's to their endless credit they chose the latter and made it work. Buy this album
13-fuck-buttons-tarot-sport13. Fuck Buttons—Tarot Sport
"Space Mountain" [MP3]
Great idea for Rave 2.0—stadium rock trance bands. The Boredoms made the blueprint but Fuck Buttons make it a reality. Buy this album
12-here-we-go-magic12. Here We Go Magic—Here We Go Magic
"Fangela" [MP3]
Acoustic songs sung in a falsetto should seem brittle. That's not the case with this auspicious debut--there's a real weight to these songs. Buy this album
11-fever-ray11. Fever Ray—Fever Ray
"Seven" [MP3]
Half of The Knife with that same quality you've come to expect. But seriously, even 1/8th of the Knife could come out with a great electro-pop album. Buy this album
All MP3s are for sampling purposes only. Please go out and buy the artists' records. If you would like for us to remove a track, please email us at
10. Mos Def—The Ecstatic (The Album)
"Supermagic" [MP3]
For the past 10 years, Mos has seemed more focused on acting than rapping. It took Doom to make him love rapping again and release a loose, rambling hip-hop album with beats from the Middle East and beyond. Buy this album
09-micachu-and-the-shapes9. Micachu and the Shapes—Jewellry
"Golden Phone" [MP3]
British art rock with some serious classical chops. We've seen this before, but it's never been this danceable and fun. Buy this album
08-Mount-Eerie-Wind%27s-Poem8. Mount Eerie—Wind's Poem
"Between Two Mysteries" [MP3]
Sure, the brooding indie rock singer-songwriter from the Pacific Northwest is so '90s. But Phil Elverum is such a consistent, uncompromising artist that we will forever buy his albums. Coincidentally, his newest might be his best. Buy this album
07-raekwon-cuba7. Raekwon—Only Built for Cuban Linx... Pt. II
"10 Bricks" [MP3]
Why did it take Raekwon almost 15 years to realize that all we wanted to hear was drug-dealing tales over old soul samples like his brilliant debut? Sometimes artistic growth is overrated. Buy this album
06-neon-indian-psychic6. Neon Indian—Psychic Chasms
"Deadbeat Summer" [MP3]
Synthesized pop from a group that has a knack for naming things. "Neon Indian"? Could anything be more 2009 than that? Buy this album
All MP3s are for sampling purposes only. Please go out and buy the artists' records. If you would like for us to remove a track, please email us at
5. Animal Collective—Merriweather Post Pavilion
"My Girls" [MP3]
Sandwiched between two of the great singles of the year is a remarkable album that balances AC's pop tendencies and their endless experimentalism. Only thing more transcendent than listening to this album is hearing them perform it live. Buy this album
04-the-dream4. The Dream—Love vs. Money
"My Love" [MP3]
The-Dream is the architect of the current R&B sound. We already knew he was a brilliant songwriter, but his newest record helps him make the leap as a legitimate pop star. Buy this album
03-dirty-projectors-bitte3. Dirty Projectors—Bitte Orca
"Stillness Is the Move" [MP3]
Where do you go after releasing the rare concept album that's both a challenging listen AND very successful? You release a pop album with an R&B centerpiece, "Stillness Is the Move," that was this year's "Umbrella" (without the endless radio play). Buy this album
02-phoenix-wolfgang2. Phoenix—Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
"Lisztomania" [MP3]
"Too Young" seemed destined to be a one-hit wonder for this group until they surprised us—they kept releasing better albums, culminating with one of the great indie pop records of the past 10 years. So, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is their masterpiece, at least until their next record comes out. Buy this album
01-grizzly-bear-veckatimest1. Grizzly Bear—Veckatimest
"Two Weeks" [MP3]
These days we often settle for a few good songs and consider something a great album. GB are one of the exceptions...they make transcendent LPs that are detailed and complex enough to revisit thousands of times. Buy this album
All MP3s are for sampling purposes only. Please go out and buy the artists' records. If anyone would like for us to remove a track, please email us at
Mixed by William Rauscher aka Night Plane, his remix of "Circles" by The Detachments is out now on Thisisnotanexit.

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