TLOBF Albums of 2009

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Lists upon lists, upon lists… It really IS that time of the year. We’ve been keeping ours closely under-wraps, but now the time is here to unveil TLOBF’s Albums of 2009!

This year, we got each of our writers to nominate their favourite albums of the year, we counted up the votes, and spewed forth the results below. Easy. Always discussion points, I think our Top 10 is certainly one of the most consistently great lists for a number of years. It’s FELT like a good year for music and, despite or, indeed, because of, the rampant consumerism and X-Factor dominating charts, 2009 has felt pretty fresh. Anyway, enough of my ramblings, here we go…

Key: tiny read TLOBF review // spotify listen on Spotify

50. Why? – Eskimo Snow spotify
49. There Will Be Fireworks – There Will Be Fireworks tiny
48. Teeth of the Sea – Orphaned by the Ocean spotify
47. Sufjan Stevens – The B.Q.E.
46. Steven R Smith – Cities tiny

45. Slow Club – Yeah So tiny
44. Pink Mountaintops – Outside Love tiny spotify
43. Noah and the Whale – First Days Of Spring tiny spotify
42. My Latest Novel – Deaths And Entrances tiny spotify
41. Mount Eerie – Wind’s Poem spotify

40. Micachu – Jewellery tiny spotify
39. Mew – No More Stories tiny spotify
38. Grammatics – Grammatics tiny spotify
37. Florence + The Machine – Lungs tiny spotify
36. David Sylvian – Manafon tiny

35. Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle tiny
34. Antony & The Johnsons – The Crying Light tiny spotify
33. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz tiny spotify
32. St. Vincent – Actor tiny spotify
31. Manic Street Preachers – Journal for Plague Lovers tiny spotify

30. Loney Dear – Dear John tiny spotify
29. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic tiny spotify
28. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career tiny spotify
27. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast tiny spotify
26. Russian Circles – Geneva tiny

25. Future of the Left – Travels with Myself and Another tiny spotify
“The brevity and controlled fury of the songs and of the album as a whole keeps you constantly coming back. A very, very accomplished rock album.”
- Andy Johnson | June 2009

24. We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls tiny
“Imagine if the Twilight Sad weren’t writing songs about their childhood and school years, but actually living them, and making that same epic sound, but with all the exuberance of youth.”
- Adam Nelson | June 2009

23. Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Pains of Being Pure At Heart tiny spotify
“It won’t change the world and it’s not trying to, but sometimes it’s necessary to stand up and assert the importance of the things in one’s own little corner of the world.”
- Angelica Tatam | February 2009

22. Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More tiny spotify
“Mumford & Sons ideals and personal philosophy seep through the lyrics of the record to make it a far deeper and overall more rewarding listen than those made by their more chart-friendly peers.”
- Andrew Grillo | October 2009

21. The Leisure Society – The Sleeper tiny spotify
“The Leisure Society take you on an awe-inspiring musical adventure.
- Lauren Down | March 2009

20. The Horrors – Primary Colours tiny spotify
“Simply put, Primary Colours is the most satisfying surprise that 2009 is likely to deliver.”
- Alex Wisgard | May 2009

19. Girls – Album tiny spotify
“Album proves that Girls might just be the greatest sixties revivalists there has been since the Brian Jonestown Massacre.”
- Alex Wisgard | October 2009

18. Fanfarlo – Reservoir tiny spotify
“Aside from the lush production and ornamentation, these are simply great songs. Ease your feet up and let Fanfarlo take some of the burden for you.”
- Matt Poacher | June 2009

17. Do Make Say Think – Other Truths tiny
“Managing to place itself as a pleasing progression for established fans and an interesting introduction for new listeners. Another fantastic forty-three minutes to shut yourself away with.”
- Peter Bloxham | October 2009

16. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns tiny spotify
“Arguably one of Britains leading talents at a time when most (that’s most not all) of the interesting and alternative music is being made across the Atlantic, we really should cherish her.”
- Andrew Grillo | March 2009

15. Wilco – Wilco (The Album) tiny spotify
“Wilco have never put out a bad record, and Wilco (The Album) furthers this thesis. What’s more significant is the fact that the band knows as much. Wilco’s command of its own songwriting is as adept as any band in music, then or now.”
- Steve Lampiris | July 2009

14. Volcano Choir – Unmap tiny spotify
“Refreshingly inventive…stirs the emotions.”
- Leah Pritchard | September 2009

13. The Antlers – Hospice tiny spotify
“A spectral, messily humane work that is as sophisticated as it is affecting.”
- Tyler Boehm | November 2009

12. Fontän – Winterhwila tiny spotify
“Inventive and beguiling… Surely grounds for Fontän to warrant a chapter in the inevitable hot blooded tribute to the ever surprising and delighting Swedish music scene of the early 21st century.”
- Laura Snapes | September 2009

11. Atlas Sound – Logos tiny spotify
“An album that needs to be taken as a whole, it’s mood simply doesn’t lend to being chopped and changed. Suffice to say, it might be my favourite Cox release yet. Now that’s something special.”
Adam Nelson | November 2009

10. Wild Beasts – Two Dancers tiny spotify
Wild Beasts’ sophomore effort Two Dancers tones down some of the old world camp and eccentricty of their debut without sacrificing any of their singular character. Frontman Hayden Thorpe’ gymnastic falsetto is still there but somehow less of a ‘deal-breaker’, tempered as much by tighter song structures as a reigning-in of their oddball personality. If singing about revelrous modern Britain with a romantic melancholy and humourous eye recalls The Smiths, musically Wild Beasts are also informed by the 1980s ‘Brit jangle’ of Morissey & Co and the propulsive basslines of New Order. There’s lush, epic pop (‘We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues’), dreamy sensuality (‘When I’m Sleepy’), twilight ghostliness (‘Underbelly’), the album is a heady emotional experience, ranging from the achingly nostalgic to the jauntily redemptive – particularly the raffish roll call to “Girls from Shipley, girls from Hounslow” on ‘All the King’s Men’. If you had lost belief in British indie, this is the best place to rekindle your faith.
- James Dalrymple

09. Japandroids – Post-Nothing tiny spotify

The first thing that hits you is the energy of it all. It’s difficult to believe that two people can create this much noise, so the comparisons to Death From Above 1979 are obvious. However, ‘You’re a woman, I’m a machine’ was heavy on bass riffs, Post nothing is a mixture of lo-fi and noise pop. There’s even a hint of humour in there, with opening track ‘The boys are leaving town’ being the perfect thudding antidote to its polished, dad-rock counterpart. In short, it’s an album about being young, and you can hear the passion and intensity running throughout. Live, they’re just as good and it’s hard to feel anything but compassion for two men who’ve made such a tight, compact record filled with lines like “You’re as cold as ice, girl/I should know, I’ve been to the north pole”. Chaotic, messy and utterly, utterly brilliant.
- Matthew Britton

08. Fever Ray – Fever Ray tiny spotify
Karin Dreijer Andersson, the witchier side of brother-sister duo The Knife, slip-skidded back onto our radar with this mechanically-minded dystopian disk, three years after the release of brooding synth-classic Silent Shout. No solo project could have come from a better place. Fever Ray takes a running jump from that cosier womb, peels back the duo’s dancier skins, and plumbs icier depths of the same alien waters. Producing what is undoubtedly one of the most melancholically personal releases of the year, female Swedish artists don’t get more extreme than Karin. Monstrous distortions see her stretched into a Mongolian throat-singer or a gravel-voiced phantom, a fitting herald for the menacing choruses and shivering industrial synths. From the girlish fantasies on ‘When I Grow Up’ to the uncensored cabin fever cries on ‘Concrete Walls’, this record is both inward-looking dream vision and outward-facing excavation. Rarely do we want to listen again and again to death, decay and dirty swimming pools.
- Rosie Jackson

07. The Twilight Sad – Forget The Night Ahead tiny
Forget The Night Ahead found Scotland’s most serious young men using the critical success of debut Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters as a springboard to make a record even deeper, darker and more brutal. While their debut found an almost gleeful abandon in it’s intensity, this follow up was perhaps even more terrifyingly claustrophobic. James Graham’s Glaswegian brogue here recounted tales of “the people downstairs” and sounded at his most content as he promised “you and I will bury them all”. It was clear that the teenage discontent that had previously dominated his lyrics had matured somewhat. From the serrated shards of guitar that envelope lead single ‘I Became A Prostitute’ to the doom laden piano of ‘The Room’ this was a second album that was dense and initially impenetrable but numerous listens revealed glimmers of hope and eventually proved itself engagingly vital.
- Andrew Grillo

06. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix tiny spotify
Phoenix have been darlings of the indie and beautiful set since Alphabetical in 2004, but until this year the albums never seemed to live up to the singles or the band’s sexy aura. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is the sort of definitive statement that comes when a band embraces its sound in a big way. From ‘Lisztomania’ to ‘Girlfriend’, Phoenix stay locked in on their own brand of disco rock: instantly memorable melodies sung with a slight melancholy and the faintest French accent dart through bright synths and sharp guitars, while the laser-focus rhythm section keeps each song as danceable as it is cathartic. It isn’t that Phoenix is doing anything different than before, it’s just that on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart they do it better.
- Tyler Boehm

05. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport tiny
Following the bizarre intensity of Street Horrsing, sophomore effort Tarot Sport was very much the altered beast. Cruising along crushing waves of euphoric static, it’s an album characterised by luscious, spectral interludes and starlight melodies dancing around gargantuan planets and black holes. Both bleak and panoramic, rangy masterpieces ‘Space Mountain’ and ‘Surf Solar’ demanded their own gravitational pull – their insistent electronic pummel succeeding to orbital sound waves that energise the air around you, infinitely marching onwards into the next Solaris film score. Fuck Buttons instilled a surging beauty and harnessed a permeating, lucid power in Tarot Sport that few albums rarely possess – it was the transcendent siren call of oblivion, bewitching and beguiling you, enticing you to lose yourself in its dreamy vista. “Create your own narrative,” they said. And from the glorious slow motion dramatics of ‘Olympians’ to the fizzing synth-fuelled junkyard clatter of ‘Rough Steez’, Tarot Sport’s sonic monsters indulgently deliver on an album of truly biblical proportions.
- Reef Younis

04. The xx – xx tiny spotify
The xx were indisputably the buzz band of the year in 2009. They arrived so perfectly formed that people muttered about them being some put-together producer project, but scraping beneath the surface just revealed a huge songwriting talent, a minimalist’s knack for leaving out the right sounds as well as putting them in, and an intriguing empathic childhood friends story at the band’s core. The album, xx, smoulders away beautifully and wears it’s influences on it’s sleeve, coming on like a stripped-down Cure playing passages from the reverb-ridden hits of Chris Isaak. xx is a perfect late night record – sensual, subtle and spacious. Practically perfect, in fact.
- John Brainlove

03. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca tiny spotify
Surging from Brooklyn in a tangle of primary colours and wacked-out harmonies, Dirty Projectors continued to stake their claim as The Most Exciting Band In Indie Rock Right Now with the triumphant Bitte Orca, who’s skewed, oddly mathematical guitar lines, fluttering croon and yelping, sprawling female harmonies proved itself the most compelling listen of 09. At first listen, Bitte Orca may seem like an artsy, undisciplined mess, but repeat listens reveals a taut logic behind Longstreth’s chaos, each guitar chime perfectly refracted by an impenetrable wall of caterwauls, courtesy of Amber and Angel. It’s no surprise then that such an off-kilter gem of an album has been lauded by almost every artist with a creative bone inside them – it’s sprawling influence ranging from from Icelandic chanteuse Bjork, who performed with Dirty Projectors in New York, to a collaboration with David Byrne and a highly-bloggable R&B re-work of ‘Stillness is The Move’ courtesy of Beyoncés quirky kid sister Solangé.
- Katherine Rodgers

02. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion tiny spotify

It’s warm, it’s inviting, it’s joyful. Merriweather Post Pavilion is Animal Collective’s “pop” album. From the arena-size synth line of opener ‘In The Flowers’ to the swirling samples of ‘Bluish,’ it’s obvious that Merriweather is meant to be AC’s definitive record, a towering statement of candid existentialism: one level of enjoyment is the collection’s propinquity to humanity via childhood glee. That is to say, the songs haven’t become any less complex than previous outings (so some might take a listen or two to stick); instead AC paints its dense compositions with kid’s eyes, something not seen from the band in a long while. When Avey Tare sings, “I want to walk around with you” during the wonderfully elated ‘Summertime Clothes,’ you know he’s being nothing less than swear-on-the-Bible honest. Few albums of the year are able to satisfy listeners immediately while simultaneously rewarding them with repeat spins. Merriweather is one of those. Hell, it’s the best one.
- Steve Lampiris

01. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest tiny

It’s hard to be subtle when the entire music world is waiting to hear your record. But Grizzly Bear managed to not let the hype or anticipation affect them in any way, exceeding all of our grand expectations with the lush elegance of Veckatimest, which is so warm and inviting an album that the only thing inscrutable about it is the title. The songs are gorgeous and restrained; never reaching for anything more ambitious than their structure allows while crafting a sense of tranquility that still requires the listeners full attention. While ‘Two Weeks,’ ‘While You Wait For The Others’ and ‘Cheerleader’ garner most of the accolades, its the luxurious deeper cuts like ‘All We Ask,’ ‘Ready, Able’ and ‘Foreground’ that really makes Veckatimest a complete triumph. The production of Chris Taylor is understated and unobtrusive throughout, with the sonic flourishes added only to vitalize a mood or a movement while never getting in the way of the true spirit of the songs. Grizzly Bear have created a work of graceful refinement and tender charm that comes as close to being flawless as any record this year, without ever once trying to be perfect.
- Erik Thompson

34 Responses to TLOBF Albums of 2009

  1. rich thane December 14, 2009 at 8:37 am #

    i love the fact that the fontän album made it to number 12… that’s word of mouth success for you.

    for those who care / are mildy interested. my top 5 records of the year are:

    Taken By Trees – East Of Eden
    Loney Dear – Dear John
    Fontän – Winterhwila
    jj – no2
    Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

  2. Ash December 14, 2009 at 8:56 am #

    But no hip-hop.


  3. Rich Hughes December 14, 2009 at 9:26 am #

    In our defence, we don’t review them and we don’t get sent them… feel free to help us out!

  4. Tom Whyman December 14, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    A truly impressive zero of my choices grace the top 50. I win at not fitting in!

  5. Nazr December 14, 2009 at 10:01 am #

    No Doves and Arctic Monkeys? This site gave their respective releases good reviews.

  6. rich thane December 14, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    both were in the top 100 shortlist, didn’t quite crack the 50 though

  7. Ash December 14, 2009 at 10:37 am #

    Grizzly Bear and Russian Circles made it into my top 10. Shame not to see Broadcast or Hudson Mohawke. Still, very pleased by the Spotify links.

  8. Shoebox1976uk December 14, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    Great list, many quality albums in there. Surprised that Memory Tapes didn’t make it. Thought there was a lot of love for it here.

    From my own personal top ten, The Lemonheads, Broken Family Band, Decemberists and Ohbijou didn’t make the cut. Which is disappointing but understandable.

  9. ro December 14, 2009 at 11:22 am #

    for what it’s worth….
    Andrew Bird- Noble Beast
    Evening Hymns-Spirit Guides
    Japandroids- Post Nothing
    Dan Mangan-Nice Nice Very Nice
    The Wilderness of Manitoba-Hymns of Love and Spirits
    The Weather Station-The Line
    Timber Timbre-Timber Timbre
    Pale Air Singers-Pale Air Singers
    Patrick Watson-Wooden Arms
    Antony and the Johnsons-Crying Light

  10. AnthonyC December 14, 2009 at 11:43 am #

    4 of my top 10 in yours I thinkk BUT BUT BUT

    No Joe Gideon and the Shark & no Soap & Skin = shame on you. Especially Soap&Skin!

  11. Rich Thane December 14, 2009 at 11:51 am #

    joe gideon is a good album for sure. but i can think of at least 50 albums this year better than it.

    soap&skin didn’t even make the top 100 i don’t think…

  12. Tom Whyman December 14, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    Memory Tapes is too complicated to vote for because of all the different names I guess. Plus the actual album was pretty crap, especially in comparison to the wonderful free stuff they released.

  13. ro December 14, 2009 at 12:21 pm #

    Also- the more selective it becomes the less likely it will get in to end of year lists that are voted for- in all honesty i’m happy to believe that there are records better than the ones I voted for….but if not enough people have heard them…..then its not going to get there.

  14. Matthew December 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm #

    noah and the whale should be every spot in the top 50. then japandroids can be every spot from 50-75.

  15. AnthonyC December 14, 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    Soap&Skin is in my top 3 I think. Prefer it to Bitte Orca & Vecktamblah everyday of the week!

  16. Adam December 14, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    Not quite sure on the order, but most of my favourite records from the year are in there somewhere. Nice work guys. ^_^

  17. igor December 14, 2009 at 6:54 pm #

    Grizzly Bear DEFINITELY deserves the top spot. Nice one TLOBF

  18. paulo December 14, 2009 at 6:55 pm #

    Soap&Skin will definitely be my number 1 or 2 album from this year. Shame it got no mention. And Dear Reader’s lovely album too.
    I have 13 of the 50 (Loney Dear, My Latest Novel, Fanfarlo, Why?, Mew and Phoenix probably being my favourites in the list), which I suppose isn’t too bad.

    Also disappointed to see no DM Stith (although you didn’t review it! tut!), Ohbijou, or Ramona Falls, plus some other great albums that wouldn’t have been in with a chance.

    and LD only at number 30?! you’ll never make a good vote-rigger, RT!

  19. Thomas December 15, 2009 at 12:35 am #

    I miss “Dark Night Of The Soul” and Desire’s “II”. Thumbs up for the #12 and #8!

  20. madmadcat December 15, 2009 at 2:37 am #

    That’s a decent list, I can live with it… though I’m still waiting for that moment when I get Grizzly Bear. On paper I should love them, but so far nothing clicks. And they were soooo boring at Primavera a couple years ago.

  21. Wade December 15, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

    Love it.

  22. ro December 15, 2009 at 10:19 pm #

    im sad that Magnolia electric co didn’t make the longlist.

  23. BRNLV December 17, 2009 at 6:03 pm #

    My personal list is here.

  24. jeromy December 18, 2009 at 7:35 am #

    what about that Sholi debut you guys raved about earlier this year? incredible record — the songwriting, production, and drumming have to be among the best of ’09. right up there with dirty projectors & grizzly bear in my opinion.

  25. Anthony December 18, 2009 at 7:28 pm #

    Mi Ami’s “Watersports” has beheaded any competition for me this year, a shame not to be seeing this on lists more, HEY & where’s Hudson Mohawke’s “Butter”? best Warp label release in 5 years I reckon.

  26. angelica December 19, 2009 at 7:03 pm #

    Gah, I totes should have voted on this. Agreed with all the peeps going SOAP&SKIN!SOAP&SKIN! above — I’m fairly sure that’s my number 1.

    … So much lovely stuff here, though.

  27. Rmalt December 20, 2009 at 3:50 am #

    The US needs to start giving Dan Mangan the recognition he deserves.

  28. CBQ December 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm #

    Everyone likes a list – here are a few of my top LPs for 2009

    Bidiniband – The Land is Wild
    Depeche Mode – Sounds of the Universe
    DJ Hell – Teufelswerk
    Dream Theater – Black Clouds and Silver Linings
    Jason Lytle – Yours Truly, The Commuter
    Muse – The Resistance
    Pet Shop Boys – Yes
    Porcupine Tree – The Incident
    Eels – Hombre Lobo
    David Sylvian – Manafon
    Morrissey – Years of Refusal
    IQ – Frequency
    The Olympic Symphonium – More in Sorrow Than Anger
    Alice Peacock – Love Remains
    Here We Go Magic – Here We Go Magic
    Portico – First Neighbours
    Transatlantic – The Whirlwind
    Beardfish – Destined Solitaire
    Guilt Machine – On This Perfect Day
    Paul Linklater – Smooth Sailing and How
    Wetton Downes – Icon III
    Editors – In This Light and On This Evening

  29. Air-max-shop July 14, 2010 at 5:20 am #
    it’s my blog .

  30. evil July 30, 2010 at 9:09 am #


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