I’ve tried to be optimistic about the overall state of music over the past year. But looking back at the numerous releases we saw in 2011, even the ones that topped critics’ “Best of” charts on a consistent basis, last year kind of sucked. Sure, we saw Adele run wild, achieving not only universal critical acclaim but also owning the pop charts, but she was just an incredible voice with decent production. Plus it didn’t hurt that “Rolling In the Deep” was one of the most infectious records to come out in a very long while. Right place, right time. Again, I’m not knocking Adele, but when you show up with your A-game when all the other pop artists phone in their work, it’s gonna make you look ten times better.

Adele after the 2012 Grammy Awards

This got me to thinking; what was the last year to produce a slew of albums that really turned everyone’s head in the music world? The answer: 2009. Read on, as I breakdown some of the releases that made for a really promising year musically, and why I am fairly confident 2012 will yield that same success.

2009 was a really good year for music. Indie music was at an all-time high. The world was really starting to realize that you can make great pop music yet still maintain a high standard of artistic integrity. The indie music boom of the 2000s had finally hit its climax in 2009 by including infectious pop melodies with its already-established songwriting and musicianship. 2009 saw releases like Grizzly Bear’s ‘Veckatimest’, The XX’s self-titled LP, Beach House’s ‘Teen Dream’, and Phoenix’s ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’. Artists such as The Japandroids, Girls, Dan Deacon, and The Dirty Projectors also came out with quality, critically acclaimed albums that straddled the line between pop and indie music. People were beginning to take notice. Hell, even Beyonce and Jay-Z were spotted jammin’ out at a Grizzly Bear show. Mainstream acts were starting to cover indie artists like never before and festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella, typically indie and jam-related festivals were bigger than ever.

The xx performing in 2009.

Then there was one album that came out in 2009 that really hit the nail on the head in terms of potent, ambitious pop music; Animal Collective’s ‘Merriweather Post Pavillion’. This album had it all: complex song arrangements, great lyrics, impeccable musicianship, and captivating melodies which drew numerous comparisons to the one and only Beach Boys. Not in years had we seen an album garner such unanimous critical appraisal. This album had it all. Merriweather was released in January of 2009 and it seemed as though other artists that followed felt they had to up the ante in hopes that they could live up to such high expectations. And this is exactly what troubled me about 2011. It seemed like there was no true front runner like Merriweather to set that standard for pop music. Therefore, people just kinda handed Adele the title and artists began focusing on creating the almighty single.

Album artwork for "Merriweather Post Pavillion"

2009 led me to set really high expectations for indie music but that had hype fizzled out, and fast. So what happened? Why didn’t any of the artists that had come out with this amazing music in 2009 release anything worthwhile in the last couple of years. Well, of all of the aforementioned artists only one has come out with an actual full release since 2009, Girls. And to be honest, Girls’ ‘Father, Son, Holy Ghost’ was one of the few highlights of 2011.

This brings me to 2012. All of the artists mentioned above sans Girls have forthcoming albums slated for a 2012 release. Factor in the return of some indie heavyweights like The Shins, At the Drive-In, Yeasayer, and of Montreal and 2012 looks like it’s going to be a pretty exciting year for music. So chin up guys. I have a feeling we’re in for a really good year for music and hopefully other artists begin to take notice as well.

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