5. Booker T., Potato Hole (Anti-) Booker T. Jones, as usual, is having exactly as much fun as he appears to be - in a word, lots. Here he's backed by the Drive-By Truckers, an inspired pairing of sweet and surly garage R&B atop which that exuberant organ emotes more exquisitely than do most vocalists. So: Throw a BBQ. Cue up Potato Hole's cover of "Hey Ya." Crank it up. And bite into a cheese brat at the exact moment when that lead guitar comes surging in. You will see God - who, it turns out, exists after all. Offer him/her a cheese brat, too. 4. Future of the Left, Travels With Myself and Another (4AD) "I'm not bitter; I'm justifiably angry. That's a different thing." So noted FOTL frontman Andy Falkous in a recent video interview (at a laundromat, but never mind), explaining the split from his old group, the much-feared/revered Welsh scuzz-punk outfit McLusky. Travels, his new band's second record, is full of his hilariously unhinged rage, a vicious and erudite suite of throat-shredding, punch-throwing jams with jokey titles ("You Need Satan More Than He Needs You") that only make it that much more intimidating. If you don't believe in Jesus, at least believe in the Jesus Lizard.
3. Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca (Domino) Totally understandable if you're ready to nuke Brooklyn already, what with all the "BK Indie-Rock Explosion!!!" headlines we've endured this year, but here's the one to pull from the fire. A defiantly bizarre mishmash of chirping choral nerdery, art-rock abrasion, globetrotting guitar-hero antics and abrupt hooky delight, this is among the stranger critically beloved records in recent memory. And as Solange Knowles will tell you, the closest thing we had to an "Umbrella" in 2009 was "Stillness Is the Move," which is stranger, and more wonderful, than the rest of Bitte Orca's songs combined.
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2. Oneida, Rated O (Jagjaguwar) Ah, wait - one more from Brooklyn, albeit a slightly less overexposed enterprise. Oneida is made up of distinguished-looking but exhaustingly prolific noise-rock dudes who here offer a three-CD set (!) that serves as the second act of a planned trilogy (!!), and as such is a delightfully sprawling mess of atonal freak-folk screamfests, clattering dub zone-outs and, occasionally, fantastically bad-ass riff-rockers. As for the latter, head straight for disc two's "Ghost in the Room," a muscular and precise headbanger, that, upon reflection, only increases in power and resonance when you wade through the hour-plus of inspired aural flotsam on either side of it. Carve out some time and make your peace with Brooklyn again. 1. Micachu & the Shapes, Jewellery (Rough Trade) Best emotionally resonant use of a vacuum cleaner in 2009. Probably ever.