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The best and worst of 2009: Pop music

By Chris Richards
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 20, 2009; E06

Best

1. Maxwell, "BLACKsummers'night" Maxwell's R&B masterstroke (pictured at right) topped charts with a poise that evoked past, present and futures unknown. And while the neo-soulman's falsetto can bend time, heartbreak remains inescapable.

2. jj, "jj no. 2" From Gaga to Glambert, eccentrics ruled 2009. So it only makes se nse that the year's best debut came from crypto-genius Swedes who sound like Enya covering Lil Wayne at Lilith Fair 2015. Right?

3. Animal Collective, "Merriweather Post Pavilion" A hallucinogenic formlessness has always throbbed at Animal Collective's gooey center, but the band's glorious new album flickered and quaked toward something resembling pop.

4. DJ Quik & Kurupt, "BlaQKout" These left coast rap vets didn't rest on their laurels so much as mutate them into a new g-funk dialect. The masses ignored it, but let's hope Dr. Dre won't.

5. Paramore, "Brand New Eyes" Having survived the teenage wasteland that is Warped Tour, Paramore tackled young adulthood with a snarl that made the pre-fab angst of its peers feel like kid stuff.

6. Brad Paisley, "American Saturday Night" Hopeless romantic. Unbridled optimist. Caring dad. Carefree dude. With his strongest album yet, country's leading man felt like a natural in every role.

7. Phoenix, "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" Dormez-vous, America? After running a sleeper campaign for rock-band-of-the-decade, these fabulous Frenchmen finally dropped an album that stateside eardrums couldn't ignore.

8. Wale, "Attention Deficit" The Washington rapper's long-anticipated treatise on beats, rhymes and life in the DMV was totally worth the wait.

9. Aventura, "The Last" Melding traditional Dominican bachata with prickly sweet pop hooks, this Bronx foursome may have invented a new kind of sugar high.

10. Jon Hassell, "Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street" With his 15th studio album, the esteemed jazz trumpeter evaporated Miles Davis's cosmic slop into a resplendent sonic mist.

Worst

1. Jay-Z, "The Blueprint 3" "BP3" still leaves me cold. Doesn't the greatest rapper who ever lived have better things to do than shake his cane at the Auto-Tune generation?

2. Grizzly Bear, "Veckatimest" The only thing more exhausting than listening to the hosannas heaped on this band is listening to this band. Masterfully sung, but suffocatingly pretty.

3. Chris Cornell, "Scream" Forgive me for hoping the decade's chief pop architect (producer Timbaland) and the most under-utilized larynx in rock (Cornell) might actually make something awesome.

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