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: read TLOBF review // listen on Spotify
35. Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle
34. Antony & The Johnsons – The Crying Light
33. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz
32. St. Vincent – Actor
31. Manic Street Preachers – Journal for Plague Lovers
25. Future of the Left – Travels with Myself and Another
“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
“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
“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
“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
18. Fanfarlo – Reservoir
“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
“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
“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)
“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
12. Fontän – Winterhwila
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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