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Music to their ears

Christmas shopping is fun but there’s always the inevitable freak-out:What the heck am I gonna buy (Insert Name Here)? Luckily, you’ve gotmusic on your side.

Christmas shopping is fun but there’s always the inevitable freak-out: What the heck am I gonna buy (Insert Name Here)? Luckily, you’ve got music on your side.

For many, music is actually at the top of their wish list. With others, it’s a safe, keep-on-giving bet ... provided you know their aural tastes. Regardless, navigating music store shelves can be daunting, with the thousands of albums released this year. That’s why we here at Metro have compiled what we believe to be some of the strongest releases of 2009. Hopefully they’ll give you ideas and your beloved audiophile endless holiday cheer.

Pop

Britney, Beyoncé and Pink released albums in 2008, so this year has seen more touring than new music from the major pop sensations. Still, one could do worse on the PG Richter scale than to pick up Hannah Montana’s latest album 3 (Walt Disney Records). If your kids prefer her sans a.k.a., Miley Cyrus’ The Time of Our Lives (Hollywood) was noted as a strong affair, as was The Jonas Brothers’ Lines, Vines And Trying Times (Hollywood).

Rock

For beneficiaries above driving age, surf the rock section. Back for another instalment of anthemnic radio tunes, Bruce Springsteen issued his 16th album Working On A Dream (Columbia), garnering a Number One slot on sales charts. Similarly, Irish rockers U2 had their own chart-topper with 12th effort No Line On The Horizon (Interscope) and former grunge boys Pearl Jam’s ninth Backspacer (Monkeywrench) hit the mark as well.

Holding up the independent world, alt-country crooner Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone (Anti/Epitaph) simply rocked reviewers and public alike, whereas brash garage rock revivalists The Black Lips scored with 200 Million Thousand (Vice).

Extreme
As for metal, did Metallica’s Death Magnetic (Elektra) reign supreme? Not exactly. It sold well, but in terms of value, rivals Megadeth out-metal their colleagues with Endgame
(Roadrunner). Still, they’re both no match for thrash metal giants Slayer and ravenous, could-scare-the-heck-out-of-Stephen-King affair World Painted Blood (American). Back home, Toronto-based outfit Sacrifice returned from a 15-year silence to woo head-bangers universally with their newest The Ones I Condemn (Sonic Unyon).

A heartbeat away from metal, punk was just as active this year. There were a plethora of great records, but Winnipeg’s political activists Propagandhi particularly nailed us to the wall on Supporting Caste (G7 Welcoming Committee), a rousing blast of expedient music with intelligent messages. On the lighter end of the spectrum, renowned pop/punkers Green Day will bring smiles to the greenhorn/curious punk fans with their acclaimed rock opera 21st Century Breakdown (Reprise).

Country

Is that special someone more line dance than head bang? No worries. Old country held its own this year: Brooks & Dunn (Cowboy Town, Arista Nashville), Hank Williams Jr. (127 Rose Avenue, Curb), Rosanne Cash (The List, Manhattan), Randy Travis (Around The Bend, Warner), Reba McEntire (Keep On Loving You, Starstruck) and George Strait (Twang, MCA Nashville) all released albums worthy of their legacies/kept up with the new country heroes who won't be mentioned here.

Box sets

Something a little more glamorous is necessary? Fear not. 2009 has some of the greatest repackaging in history. Rockers will flip their wig (pun hopefully not intended) at Aussie mainstays AC/DC’s Backtracks (Columbia), a collection of album and live rarities spanning their 35-year career, housed in an amplifier-shaped case and boasting too many bonuses to comprehend.

A jaw-dropping “wow” is inevitable with indie rock founders The Pixies’ debut box set Minotaur (4AD). It features 24K gold-plated CDs of their entire catalogue, video discs of performances and more. For the die-hard, a limited edition has all the music on vinyl, 72-page hardcover book and other bonuses housed in, get this, a custom clamshell.

Not to be outdone, The Beatles have their own collection for the discerning music fan this year. Stereo Box Set (Apple/EMI) finds the Fab Four in, well, stereo. Each of their 15 studio albums has been digitally re-mastered/packaged with album art, liner notes, rare photographs and short documentary films. If that’s a bit much, no sweat. Re-mastered versions of each album will also be sold individually.

These are but a few examples of 2009’s wonderful onslaught of music for all tastes. Yet it might make navigating music store shelves — and employees — a little less stressful.

 
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