A Really Late Top 15 Of 2009 List
Since I have been far too busy this holiday season seeing old friends and getting too many hangovers, I have really fell away from posting. I had planned on posting 30 of my Formative Albums Of The 00’s. I have made it to number 9. And since I got up early this morning and made my way to college only to find it was closed and I don’t return until Wednesday, I’m gonna furiously try to post something of note.
It seems that every top ten albums of the year I read has a similar theme running through it and I see a lot of the same albums. Well I’m going to warn you mine won’t include some of the biggest hitters of the year. That’s right – no Animal Collective, no Grizzly Bear and no Neon Indian. It’s not that I don’t like those albums, in fact I have listened to all three. But I am going to do what Lauren from Electric Skeleton has done, and post a list that reflects what I listened to most and what I enjoyed. Simple, no? So let’s start this shit:
15. DOOM – Born Like This
Whatever you want to call him, be it MF Doom, MetalFace, Viktor Vaughn or any other of his 5,023 aliases, you cannot fault the guy’s effort. I fucking love him. At a time when even Jay-Z can’t eradicate hip-hop’s most irritating trend despite creating a song purely with that intention, the genre needs mavericks like Daniel Dumile more than ever. Even though this seems like one of his most stitched-together albums, it still stands head and shoulders above the rest of mainstream rap music.
14. We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls
National pride wins through on this list as I have featured two Scottish bands on FatCat Records. And why not? Our nation failed miserably at most sports and even though were had a crazy frumpy virgin break record sales all over the world, we continue to produce promising young indie bands with pop nous coming out their arsehole. WWPJ are a young band who have made, if not perfect, then at least a promising album with one or two outstanding tunes. It all gets a little samey towards the end, but the beginning and middle of These Four Walls is filled with excellent post-punk joy. Guaranteed to make you pump your fist in the air.
13. The Mountain Goats – The Life Of The World To Come
John Darnielle’s run of great studio album continues unabated. Whereas previous EP Satanic Messiah explored themes of deities and worship coloured with Satanic imagery, this album seems to be about Christianity; but not in a preachy or highbrow way. In fact, even though each song is named after a verse within the Bible which inspired it, most songs are not even about religion. They are Darnielle’s usual short stories, and the verses they are named after are only radars as to the message of the story, or the emotions felt by its characters.
12. Mastodon – Crack The Skye
While not Mastodon’s best album (for me its Leviathan or Blood Mountain) Crack The Skye is a major achievement for one of the leading lights of modern metal. Taking their prog influences to new extremes and toning down the screaming/heavy as fuck parts of their songs enraged a lot of fans, but anyone who couldn’t see that the band loved Rush and King Crimson as much as they did Sabbath and Celtic Frost were kidding themselves. This may be their most out-there collection of tunes ever, but it also contains their catchiest in the opening double punch of riffage that Oblivion and Divinations. Where can they go from here?
11. Brand New – Daisy
Brand New return with another album that goes in different directions for the band. Beginning with an old record of a woman crooning, opener Vices storms into town and becomes the most aggressive, fucked up song Brand New have ever put to tape. From there, the record switches from slow burning torch songs (Bed, You Stole) to full on scream-fests (Gasoline, Sink). A dark, some would say depressing tone hangs over these songs which often erupts into aggressive bouts of squalling guitars and screamed vocals. And it’s great. Finally, Brand New sound like the band they always wanted to be.
10. Raekwon – Only Built For Cuban Linx II
It’s been a bad year for hip-hop. While there are small groups of artists pushing things forward, it doesn’t look promising. And the best rap record of the year is a sequel to an album released 14 years ago. Damn, dawg. Oh well, at least OBFCL2 is a triumph. With a ridiculous collection of producers and guests to lend a hand, Raekwon again details the little victories and huge defeats that come with organised crime and illegal activity. The thing is, Rae and the rest of the Wu Tang don’t need to reinvent the hip-hop wheel, they already did that in the 90’s. It’s now up to someone else to show rap music it can be relevant again. But that don’t mean Rae can’t make excellent albums doing what he has done best for two decades.
9. Baroness – Blue Record
If you were unhappy with Crack The Skye and are yearning for a little old-school Mastodon, it wouldn’t be unwise to check out Blue Record. Hailing from he same sludgy scene as their bigger cousins, not only does BR contain my favourite artwork of the year, but also some of the biggest riffs as well. Swollen And Halo has proved to be one of my favourite tracks of last year, even if it rips off Radiohead’s My Iron Lung pretty blatantly. There is plenty to like about this band, and I can’t wait to see where they go next. Metal could have a new major player in their midst.
8. Girls – Album
Think Elvis Costello fronting The Replacements and your somewhere close to the sound of this excellent release. Girls play shimmering summery guitar pop that does what all good pop music should: make you feel both happy and sad at the sane time. Sweetly melancholic lyrics dance over music that gently brings you in with breezy melodies only to cleverly invert its sound. The sounds veer from 50’s rock to My Bloody Valentine and yet never feel mismatched. And it’s all underlined by the majestic centerpiece Hellhole Ratrace.
7. Twilight Sad – Forget The Night Ahead
The Twilight Sad had the most unfortunate job of following up their awesome debut album Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters last year. And they did suffer from the widespread critical acclaim that their first album garnered, as Forget The Night Ahead was seen as a disappointment even though it is a very impressive record. They released what is perhaps my favourite track of the year in I Became A Prostitute, and they crafted their most catchy-yet-amazing songs yet with the anthemic Reflection Of The Television and the epic Seven Years Of Letters. It’s just a shame that, like bands such as The Strokes and The Stone Roses, they suffered from debut-album-was-too-good-itis, or this record would have ended up on much more end of year lists.
6. Soulsavers – Broken
I came late to the party on Soulsavers, and it was the last album I bought in 2009. And what a great soundtrack it was for the cold winter nights. If you were to listen to Broken with no knowledge of who it was, you would probably assume it was a Mark Lanegan solo album, as he features on pretty much every song. But this is the work of electronic producers Soulsavers, who enlisted Lanegan and a collection of other alternative icons (Mike Patton, Jason Pierce, Gibby Haynes, Richard Hawley and newcomer Red Ghost) to give a voice to their rock meets electronic ambience. It is a record for dark, lonely nights and long nights of the soul, and is much richer for it. Some may say depressing, but I say it is one of the best collection of songs released this year.
5. Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
Being a Monkeys fan, I was both happy and a little sad with the release of their third album. I love musical progression with my favourite bands and I can’t fault some of the tunes on Humbug. At the same time, I fell in love with the band for their kitchen sink tales of British working life, and that has pretty much been eradicated from their sound. In fact, the b-sides that have been released on the Humbug singles are more in the vein of their early work, with crisp riffs and Alex sounding a lot less like a crooner and a lot more like himself of old. See what you think.
4. Florence And The Machine – Lungs
I jumped on the Florence bandwagon quite early, back when she was just hanging out with Dev from Lightspeed Champion, before she released her EP A Lot Of Love, A Lot Of Blood. Lungs is an excellent debut by a precocious talent and having seen her live last year, the songs truly live and breathe on stage. From the huge, epic Howl to the fragile lesbian undertones of Girl With One Eye, the album has never really left my stereo since it was released.
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Its Blitz!
Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of my favourite bands, and they continue to change things up with every album with excellent results. They first jumped into the early 00’s garage rock scene with their scorching hot riffs and Karen O’s squeals on Fever To Tell. But even then, with songs like Maps, fans could see there was a band willing to push themselves and their listeners as much as possible. Second album Show You Bones was a brilliant, understated slice of desert rock, and now, Its’ Blitz! transforms them into a synth-led electro-rock outfit. As always, there are a few heart-on-sleeve ballads with Skeletons, Runaway and Little Shadow, as well as the dancefloor rippers like Heads Will Roll and Zero. Just what kind of band they will morph into next no-one knows.
2. Them Crooked Vultures – S/T
There was a lot of crazy talk when the members of TCV announced they were starting a band together. “It’s gonna be Queens Of The Led Fighters!”, “They are gonna be the best band EVVVUUU!!!!” The hype went through the roof, and naturally, a lot of people were let down by the resulting album. I for one wasn’t, because I removed myself from the hype. I listened to the album as I would any other. And guess what? It’s great. If any other band released it, it would be hailed as a great modern rock debut. Most people scorned it as a second rate Queens album. In fact, I prefer it to Era Vulgaris. It is the sound of three rock n’ roll lovers arsing about and jamming. And with no Queens album this year or probably next, this will do just nicely just now.
1. Frank Turner – Poetry Of The Deed
Frank Turner’s rise has been a long and crazy one. From being the singer in a severely underrated British post-hardcore band, to now being mentioned on CNN and selling out venues across the world. I remember seeing Frank in a small pub in Glasgow when he was just starting out his acoustic touring, and even then he was great, full of witty banter and smart songs. And now, as it seems like America has great folk musicians to spare, Frank is doing the UK proud. Poetry Of The Deed is his most accessible and downright catchiest album yet. Full of politics (personal and societal) and a new Springsteen-like heart-beating feel on songs like The Fastest Way Back Home and The Road, the world is Frank’s to take over. As great as all his previous records Love, Ire And Song, Sleep Is For The Week and Campfire Punkrock are, you have to see him live. It will restore your faith in music again.