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Albums of the Year '09

This year, as we started to think about the best albums from the past 12 months, it quickly became clear that a Top 10 list wasn't going to cut it—we were only able to narrow it down to 15 standouts. And since we had such a hard time deciding, we were curious to see what the artists on our list were listening to in 2009—so we asked. Some of their answers were surprising (who knew Girls love Mariah Carey?) and some made us think of albums we'd accidentally left off (Atlas Sound), but what was especially clear is that our favorite bands all happen to also be each other's favorite bands. Girls, Phoenix, Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective all show up on each other's lists and, well, everyone loves Dirty Projectors. No surprise there. Happy New Year.

UO Top 15 Albums

The Best Music of 2009

Collaborators

A few of our friends pick their top albums of the year

What 'old favorite' band or album did you find yourself listening to this year?
Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood

Since this year closes out a decade, what were you (probably) listening to in 1999?
Early electronic whiz Raymond Scott's Soothing Sounds for Baby, because our first son was just born.

What was the best show you saw in 2009?
Sonic Youth at United Palace in New York City.

Who was the best new band or artist you discovered last year?
Hush Arbors.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
Seeing Pavement in live shows again.

List your top five new albums of 2009:

1. Sonic Youth - The Eternal
Not many bands can lay claim to making consistently interesting music for almost three decades. This one is part of that tradition.

2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
I'm a fan but I didn't like this new album at first; now it's my favorite dance around the house music.

3. Carla Bruni - Comme Si de Rien N'etait
I know an heiress turned model turned First Lady making her third album sounds like a charade, but listening to it still reminds me of the classic French Chanteuses who can turn the room into a smoky Parisian café just like that.

4. Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy
I like how this sounds a bit unhinged and yet so focused.

5. Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
My favorite song "Eid Ma Clack Shaw" is about how he wakes up in the middle of the night to scribble down the lyrics to what he thinks is the perfect song only to wake up the next morning to find a bunch of nonsense.

leahsinger.com

What 'old favorite' band or album did you find yourself listening to this year?
The Turtles You Showed Me

Since this year closes out a decade, what were you (probably) listening to in 1999?
Beachwood Sparks

What was the best show you saw in 2009?
Tinariwen at Coachella

Who was the best new band or artist you discovered last year?
Girls

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
More melody

My favorite five records of 2009 are ballads of heartache and heartbreak:

1. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
In response to Traceyanne's question in "Other Towns and Cities," ...yes I like the view she's shown me.

2. Taken By Trees - East of Eden
Another favorite chanteuse, Victoria's sweet voice sends me to sleep.

3. Girls - Album
This album shook me. West Coast brilliance.

4. Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle
My kind of poet.

5. Richard Hawley - Truelove's Gutter
The quintessential crooner. Both minimalists, Hawley is the English counterpart to Callahan's tender baritone voice.

owleypatrol.com
dotcomdotcodotuk.com
bestestsongever.blogspot.com

What 'old favorite' band or album did you find yourself listening to this year?
The Neil Young Archives box set reminded me what a great artist he is, and such an inspiration to today's indie rockers.

Since this year closes out a decade, what were you (probably) listening to in 1999?
I was splitting my time between the Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin, the White Stripes self-titled album, and Bonnie "Prince" Billy's I See a Darkness.

What was the best show you saw in 2009?
Surprisingly, it was an Isis/Pelican show in my hometown of Birmingham. We don't get many good metal shows, and after all the indie rock and Americana, that show was a welcome change.

Who was the best new band or artist you discovered last year?
Girls in Trouble-Alicia Jo Robins' storytelling skills are amazing.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
The new albums by LCD Soundsystem and the Arcade Fire are at the top of my list for 2010.

Five favorite albums of 2009:

1. Japandroids - Post-Nothing
This duo plays honest, refreshing, and slyly clever rock and roll.

2. Micachu and the Shapes - Jewellery
Micachu and the Shape's Mica Levi is a budding musical genius, constantly redefining and re-imagining music by her own rules.

3. The Dave Rawlings Machine - A Friend of a Friend
Long time Gillian Welch sideman David Rawlings' solo debut is my favorite folk album of the year.

4. The Antlers - Hospice
A dark and wonderful concept album.

5. The Mountain Goats - Life of the World to Come
John Darnielle's Bible verse-inspired album shows the greatest singer-songwriter of our time still growing in his craft.

blog.largeheartedboy.com

What 'old favorite' band or album did you find yourself listening to this year?
Led Zeppelin, full catalog.

Since this year closes out a decade, what were you (probably) listening to in 1999?
I was for sure listening to: Detestation, Motörhead, His Hero Is Gone, Damad, Royal Trux, Against Me! (playing in my living room on buckets) and Johnny Thunders.

What was the best show you saw in 2009?
Motörhead, hands down.

Who was the best new band or artist you discovered last year?
Band: Bridez / Song: Lemmy covering "Stand By Me"

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
Finally seeing RTX live. Tragedy playing in NY again. A new Kills album. My husband starting a new band.

Five favorite albums of 2009:

1. RTX - JJ Got Live RaTX
RTX are totally ripping and have been my favorite band for a long time. It's hard to list all the reasons why I think they shred but take one listen to this record and you'll be hooked.

2. Motörhead - Motorizer
Anything they do is automatically the most amazing thing in existence.

3. S.T.R.E.E.T.S - Invaders From Gnars re-release
Re-releasing all the S.T.R.E.E.T.S. albums has got to be the best move ever. I am all for getting a new generation of kids stoked on them.

4. Morrissey - Years of Refusal
Instant classic for sure. "Throwing My Arms Around Paris" ? Nothing compares.

5. Thorns Of Life - Live at Gilman Street
Not a legit album but a live recording of a show. Daniella, Aaron and Blake finally teaming up to play together in one band totally ruled.

Gnarlitude.com
sexsavagesonwheels.com

What 'old favorite' band or album did you find yourself listening to this year?
Checking the playcounts in iTunes, I always seem to go back to Sigur Rós's Takk, Tournament of Hearts by The Constantines and the first two albums from Halifaxs' Matt Mays. Think it's the Tom Petty fan in me that loves Matt's early work.

Since this year closes out a decade, what were you (probably) listening to in 1999?
Probably Beck, Air and Radiohead. Definitely Radiohead.

What was the best show you saw in 2009?
Three way tie. Andrew Bird at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (Toronto), Frightened Rabbit at the Horseshoe Tavern (Toronto), Efterklang at The Habana Bar (Austin, SXSW)

Who was the best new band or artist you discovered last year?
Really glad I heard about Washed Out, Swimmers (from Philadelphia), the UK's Newislands, Free Energy, and Julianna Barwick.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
New music from The National, Panda Bear, Midlake, Frightened Rabbit.

Five favorite albums of 2009:

1. Foreign Born - Person to Person
Summer albums seem to stick with me the most, even in the cold, dark days of my Canadian winters.

2. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Full of hooks, catchy melodies, sing-a-long choruses and memorable songs from France's best export.

3. Band Of Skulls - Baby Darling Doll Face Honey
Classic sounding, gritty and rockin.

4. Various Artists - Dark Was The Night
Front to back an amazing listen from a stellar cast.

5. The XX - XX
A great surprise which didn't grab me until the fifth listen, and it hasn't let go.

Indiemusicfilter.com

Albums of the Year '09

Buy Select Titles on Vinyl    Main  << #15 #14 #13 #12 #11 #10 #9 #8 #7 #6 #5 #4 #3 #2 #1  >>

No.15

Memory Tapes - Seek Magic

Memory Tapes
Seek Magic
Unsigned

What was the best thing about 2009?
Getting my record out finally.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
Getting out another record hopefully!

Your New Year's Resolutions:
Have an answer for the next question next year.

Best show you played in 2009:
Didn't play any shows.

Five Favorite Albums of 2009:

1. Chris Bell - I am The Cosmos (reissue)
I think this record is probably better than the second two Big Star records. "Speed Of Sound" is my jam.

2. Nigeria 70 - (reissue)
There are so many comps like this at this point but they're always worth grabbing.

3. The Dream - Love vs. Money
Dude's got it.

4. Hyperdub - 5
Couple jams on there... "Joker" especially.

5. JJ - J no 2
My Swedish label-mates...best album cover of the year.

No.14

Port O'Brien - Threadbare

Port O'Brien
Threadbare
TBD Records

What was the best thing about 2009?
Well, the best thing about the year for us was probably the recording process for Threadbare. It was really difficult and frustrating, but it really saved us. Working with Jason Quever was especially important. He kept us grounded in a time that we needed nothing else.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
We are looking forward to seeing where things go. We have a lot of cool touring opportunities coming up that sound promising. But I think we're most looking forward to working on new material, and seeing where the next direction is for Port O'Brien. Obviously, also very much looking forward to Urban Outfitter's fall line. [Editor's note: Ha ha.]

Your New Year's Resolutions:
I would say it's the same as it is for every year... to be true to where we want to take things with the band and constantly try to improve things and not let them stagnate. It's essential that we stay passionate about the music we're performing, otherwise we have no fun.

Best show you played in 2009:
I think the best show we played this year was at the Borderline in London this August. It's a really cool small room that was at capacity with amazingly into-it people. Something just clicked that night, and it's stuck in my head ever since. It was just really, really fun.

Five Favorite Albums of 2009:

1. Papercuts - You Can Have What You Want
This is our Record of the Year. I don't think there would be a Threadbare without this record.

2. Cass McCombs - Catacombs
Another gorgeous record filled with heartbreaking songs. It's not my favorite Cass record, but its easily one of the best of the year.

3. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
This was our go-to happy record. We've listened to mostly sad music this year, so it was important to have something a little more upbeat to go to.

4. Megafaun - Gather, Form & Fly
We just played with Megafaun in Brussels and we were so amazed. We traded CDs and we've been listening ever since.

5. Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle
I was never too into Smog, but this record hit hard. It still does.

- Van Pierszalowski

No.13

The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa

The Very Best
Warm Heart of Africa
Green Owl

What was the best thing about 2009?
There's been so many exciting things with The Very Best, taking it on the road has been great, doing festivals, etc. Having the album finally come out and being very well received has been amazing, too. Another trip to Malawi and The Lake of Stars festival where we headlined was unbelievable... Life is good. =)

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
Vampire Weekend's second album. MIA's follow up to Kala. Whatever Diplo and Switch do next. Starting on our second The Very Best record: Ricky Blaze, Uproot Andy, Marina Vello, which we've been working on for the last year. African Boy album. Next K'Naan record. Bermuda (amazing band on Green Owl we're working with), the new Kano album, which we've been working on as well...

Your New Year's Resolutions:
Follow our bliss wherever it may take us!

Five Favorite Albums of 2009:

1. Papa Kourand - Les Merveilles de la Sanza Vol. 2
Finally, a second album from our favorite grand daddy from Kinshasa Congo. He must be about 80 by now and he's the ultimate king of the sanza, a thumb piano instrument.

2. Douster - Triassic EP
This kid has got it all: his style is unique, he mixes raw sci-fi sounds with Chinese restaurant music melodies and makes the freshest club tracks at the moment. His homemade videos are amazing, too.

3. R. Kelly - The Demo Tape Gangsta Grillz
A big inspiration for The Very Best comes back with a mixtape better than most of his last albums.

4. Janka Nabay - Bubu Music
Sierra Leone's finest. Another older guy that still rocks it on the dancefloor. He's one of the inventors of a crazy sound called 'Bubu'.

5. Karen O and the Kids - Where The Wild Things Are
We haven't seen the film yet but the soundtrack is really awesome. Fantasy folk.

- Esau Mwamwaya

No.12

St. Vincent - Actor

St. Vincent
Actor
4AD

What was the best thing about 2009?
2009 felt like what I dreamed of in 1994.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
Bringing the jams to New Zealand, Singapore and China.

Your New Year's Resolutions:
I want to be the oldest kid in my university courses.

Best show you played in 2009:
Such a difficult question. I will say my favorite shows have been the ones where I had no expectations whatsoever. St. Louis, Missouri and Ithaca, New York this October, where I didn't know a soul but was thrilled to find sold-out shows of actual fans. Magic moments.

Five Favorite Albums of 2009:

1. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
Elements of Arvo, part Ali Farka Toure, Led Zeppelin, R. Kelly, all combined into one genius band.

2. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Haunted and epic. "Dory" slays me.

3. Antony and the Johnsons - The Crying Light
Antony has such an iconic voice, presence, mind. This is a wonderful record to have epiphanies to.

4. Fever Ray - Fever Ray
Opaque, Scandinavian lyrics about crab claws and the sickest laser light show this side of Mannheim Steamroller.

5. Animal Collective - Merriwether Post Pavillion
Kids, don't drop acid. Just listen to Animal Collective.

No.11

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Dirty Projectors
Bitte Orca
Domino

At press time, Dirty Projectors were, according to their aide de camp, "incomunicado in the jungles of South America." We're not kidding.

No.10

A.A. Bondy - When The Devil's Loose

A.A. Bondy
When The
Devil's Loose

Fat Possum

What was the best thing about 2009?
Buying a motorcycle.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
Riding my motorcycle and buying a nice bed.

Your New Year's Resolutions:
I've never made a resolution before.

Best show you played in 2009:
I like The Pilot Light in Knoxville a lot. Never had a bad time there.

Favorite Albums of 2009:

1. James Blackshaw - The Glass Bead Game

2. The Felice Brothers - Yonder Is The Clock
Winner ding ding ding.

3. Radiohead - In Rainbows
This came out last year, but who cares?

4. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - The Score for The Road
I haven't heard it yet, but I know it will be good.

No.9

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - S/T

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Slumberland

What was the best thing about 2009?
It's been a pretty surreal year and we've gotten to go to a lot of foreign places. Most of us had never been to Europe outside of England. But I'll get specific and say that I had a really great time at SXSW.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
Having a '90s Eurodance party on my birthday.

Your New Year's Resolutions:
5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables, not beef jerky.

Best show you played in 2009:
I have a really fond memory of playing the Irish Chorlton Center in Manchester, England. The kids were so rowdy and it was just a super sweaty, intense show. Afterwards, the parking lot was just littered with kids, hanging out on the hoods of cars-a sight I hadn't seen since Lollapalooza '92. We sold merch out of the back of our van. Living in New York, you take things for granted like, hanging out in a parking lot.

Five favorite albums of 2009:

1. Girls - Album
Sometimes I just want California and sunshine and pretty hair and slacker charm and melodies that you remember forever. It's not as easy or accidental as they make it sound, but it's very, very welcome.

2. Atlas Sound - Logos
Bradford Cox is one of those people who you want to hear every thought from. This record is probably my favorite of his to date, and it got quite a lot of spins on our long van rides this summer...

3. Smith Westerns - Smith Westerns
Perfectly bratty, glam-influenced garage-pop. The focus on these guys is how young they are, but it doesn't much matter, the songs sound classic and fucked up at the same time and I can't get enough.

4. Raekwon - Only Built for Cuban Linx II
Shocker of the year. Expectations were not super high after a million delays and lackluster mixtapes, but this delivers. Really dark, really intense, really consistent.

5. Hunx & His Punx - Gay Singles
The most fun you can have on one record. Bubblegum punk with a million hooks and super nasaly vocals from the guy who used to be in electro scuzz band Gravy Train!!!

- Kip Berman

No.8

The XX - XX

The XX
XX
Young Turks

What was the best thing about 2009?
Getting to put out our first record and having people say such nice things about it. It justified the four years we had spent prior to the release working on these songs.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
We are gonna be on tour for a long time, it's exciting seeing these new places and people, but most of all we're looking forward to setting up a space in London in which we can start work on our second album. There's not enough time or space to be as creative as we want to be on the road.

Your New Year's Resolutions:
We are hoping to put together a mix tape involving all the people and artists that supported us and who we supported while making this record. We want to try and get it done in the new year. Also, quit our addiction to Wii sports on tour.

Best show you played in 2009:
We've had a lot of fun touring over the past few months and had too many favorites. Yesterday we were in San Francisco, the crowd was amazing and it turned out to be one of the most memorable shows for me.

Five favorite albums of 2009:

1. Micachu and the Shapes - Jewellry
The best album to be experienced live this year.

2. Clubroot - Clubroot
Beautiful ambient two-step, it's amazing how a genre that was at the height of pop culture almost a decade ago can be made to sound so fresh still.

3. Nosaj Thing - Drift
A very innovative and evolved take on hip-hop.

4. The Dream - Love vs. Money
A surprise.

5. Fever Ray - Fever Ray
Relevant contemporary electronic music that remains interesting as well as weird.

- Jamie Smith

No.7

The Cave Singers - Welcome Joy

The Cave Singers
Welcome Joy
Matador

What was the best thing about 2009?
For the band, I think we would all agree that being invited to play at Littlefest in the Slocan Valley is pretty high on the list. It was a magical night for sure.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
Peace

Your New Year's Resolutions:
Change

Best show you played in 2009:
Littlefest

Five favorite albums of 2009:

1. Fever Ray - Fever Ray
Dark and beautiful, with really great lyrics.

2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
Such a feel-good record.

3. Vetiver - Tight Knit
Super good morning music.

4. The Almighty Defenders - The Almighty Defenders
I think 'badass' is the best description for this album.

5. Lightning Dust - Infinite Light
Our best buds made a really sweet record. "The Times" is a jam.

No.6

The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

The Flaming Lips
Embryonic
Warner Bros.

What was the best thing about 2009?
For the world ...it would have to be Barack Obama. For the world of music and art and culture...maybe that would be Lady Gaga's cool sunglasses...Pitchfork T.V. ...Mad Men on AMC...3-D stuff. For me personally...I started to do yoga everyday.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
Humans all around the world will, finally, start being kind to animals.

Your New Year's Resolutions:
To be the first band to play in outer space. To not dye our hair. To find a device that shoots rainbow lazers out my fingertips.

Best show you played in 2009:
At the Greek Theatre in L.A. Seeing Karen O in the fifth row smiling the whole time.

Five favorite albums of 2009:

1. Atlas Sound - Logos
I saw him (Bradford Cox) do his set at All Tomorrows Parties. He seemed like he was over-dosing on mushrooms. But I saw him later and realized he's like that all the time. It was cool.

2. The Beatles - Remastered
Any time a great group like The Beatles is re-introduced to the world and to a new audience I am reminded of just how beautiful their stuff is. I hadn't listened to "Tomorrow Never Knows" for bit. And hearing it again, even though I've heard a billion times, I was still alarmed by how freaky and pulsating the drums and bass are. Like hearing fireworks in jello.

3. Stardeath and White Dwarfs - The Birth
My nephew Dennis is the singer in this cool group. The riff in the song "The Birth" is like Black Sabbath meets Throbbing Gristle. It's powerful but it's shattered.

4. Girls - Album
They have a video where the singer is singing into some other person's erect penis. It is disturbing but very funny.

5. The XX - XX
It sounds like this group is very sad. And even though they have a lot of machines and computers they still feel helpless.

- Wayne Coyne

No.5

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

Grizzly Bear
Veckatimest
Warp

What was the best thing about 2009?
That it's not 2012 (AHH!!!)

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
Two years left until 2012 (YAY!!!)

Your New Year's Resolutions:
To take a break, followed by making more music.

Best show you played in 2009:
Paris and Bonaroo...but hard to say really, there have been many shows.

Five favorite albums of 2009:

1. Abner Jay - The True Story of Abner Jay
Simply one of the best blues records I've ever heard. It's older material, although it was released this year, but so special to me I had to include it.

2. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
The sound of New music; unlike anything I've ever heard. Not that all music should sound like this, but I am glad that it now exists.

3. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
I have loved this band since 2000. They constantly challenge me as a fan. I have always picked up every record they have put out, the day that it's out. This album surprised me, but has grown on me every time I listen to it. I am so thankful that there are creative spirits out there like these guys, as they have made good music popular again.

4. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Albeit a silly album title, I love listening to this album when waking up, making dinner, cleaning my room, driving...basically the album that usually always feels good to listen to.

5. Atlas Sound - Logos
One of the most prolific and talented and creative and interesting spirits I've ever come across. He makes things like Santa's Elves in the North Pole: All year round making new and beautiful shiny objects that always make your heart warmer and eyes bigger. His youthful creativity is something many lose touch with, and I love Bradford (Mr. Cox) because he in some way reminds me how beautiful that creative spirit can be.

- Chris Taylor

No.4

Cotton Jones - Paranoid Cocoon

Cotton Jones
Paranoid Cocoon
Suicide Squeeze

What was the best thing about 2009?
Love

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
More love

Your New Year's Resolutions:
To be good peeps.

Best show you played in 2009:
Jackson Hole, WY

Five favorite albums of 2009:

1. The Clientele - Bonfires On The Heath
There's a warm, dark rush of beautiful in Clientele songs that doesn't exist elsewhere.

2. Cass McCombs - Catacombs
A very real, and confident record, from front to back - and everchanging from song to song.

3. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
I've heard their records before, but this was me being properly introduced to what Animal Collective is.

4. These United States - Everything Touches Everything
Part 'next' in the ever-expanding, forward-leaping TUS machine. I'm honored to call these dudes my amigos.

5. Vetiver - Tight Knit
"Hey Mom, doing fine... yea, I miss you too - I'm real into this Vetiver record. I don't know why... it's just good - be home soon."

No.3

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion

Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavillion
Domino

Instead of reading an interview with Animal Collective (because it's not here) we suggest staring into the album cover until the room starts to spin and you begin to question your own sanity. This should take approximately 10 seconds or less.

No.2

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Phoenix
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Glassnote

What was the best thing about 2009?
People playing Michael Jackson everywhere.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
On a personal level many things that I can't reveal yet... but music festivals, side projects etc... also, The World Cup.

Your New Year's Resolutions:
Watch more TV at home.

Best show you played in 2009:
It's hard to choose but personally I would pick the Chicago show at the Aragon-best looking crowd in a giant hacienda. It was a very special night.

Five favorite albums of 2009:

I can't list them. Too hard... But here are three we really love: emotional, Avant Garde records.

Bitte Orca by The Dirty Projectors

Phrases for the Young by Julian Casabancas

Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear

- Thomas Mars

No.1

Girls - Album

Girls
Album
True Panther

What was the best thing about 2009?
Releasing our debut Album.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?
Recording more music and playing in Japan!

Your New Year's Resolutions:
We don't believe in resolutions, we believe all things will change. Let it be.

Best show you played in 2009:
The Swedish American Hall in San Francisco. Having all our friends there is the best feeling in the world, especially since we're not home much anymore.

Five favorite albums of 2009:

1. The Pet Shop Boys - Yes
Its great pop anthems that I can't get enough of, perfect pop aesthetic and sensibility.

2. Cass McCombs - Catacombs
You saved my life.

3. Smith Westerns - Smith Westerns
These are the coolest kids on the block, be my girl diamond boy.

4. The Oh Sees - Help
This is San Francisco. They've always been a huge support and influence to us, GO SEES!

5. Mariah Carey - Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel
Just think this is a solid record and I think Mariah is an underrated artist. I am obsessed with you cause I love you Mariah!

- Christopher Owens