Filed under: music | Tags: album of the year, and so i watch you from afar, animal collective, dan deacon, danananan, frank turner, fuck buttons, maybeshewill, metric, noah and the whale, nofx, passion pit, slow club, the anomalies, The Antlers, the joy formidable, the pains of being pure at heart, the xcerts, there will be fireworks, tubelord, worriedaboutsatan
Here we are; the not-at-all prestigious list of the best albums of the year as decided by me.
It’s been a good year for music in my opinion and I’ve listened to well over 50 albums of varying quality this year so trimming it down to 20 was no easy feat and plenty of bands only just missed the cut (sorry Cymbals Eat Guitars, Crocodiles, The Strange Boys, We Were Promised Jetpacks etc) but 20 is more than enough for y’all.
I do find these things quite hard to do though asI find it hard to compare an album I’ve been listening to for 6 months to one I only heard for the first time a couple of weeks ago. As such, this top 20 is how I felt on the day of compiling the list (it has in fact changed a fair few times since it was first put together) and there are probably some albums that should be in there that I haven’t heard at all.
As it’s the season of giving and all that (“it’s better to give than to receive” as my university so eloquently puts it) I’ve even put together a couple of podcasts featuring some of my favourite tracks off the albums listed here plus a few extra songs for good measure. Add to that my nervous ramblings and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give it a listen. I’ve put these at the top of the post so you can download and listen to them without giving away the list if you’re that way inclined. Just click on the links below and download them from megaupload.
Best of 2009 Podcast Part 1: Albums 20-11
Best of 2009 Podcast Part 2: Albums 10-1
Apologies for the second one being a fair bit bigger and having some terrible editing at the end but the podcasting software crashed during the final songs so I had to hash the files together. It’s worth downloading though, honest!
And so on to the list!
20 – The Anomalies: Free Soup Social
Podcast track: Oldskool
A fun little album that never seems to take itself too seriously, MC Goldseal, Mouthmaster Murf, Lo and DJ Mayhem have made a cracking little indie hip-hop album.
19 – Fuck Buttons: Tarot Sport
Podcast track: Surf Solar
The first of the ‘electronica’ type bands to make the list, this album gets off to a flyer with the sublime Surf Solar, which is well up there for one of the best tracks of the year. Sadly, I feel the rest of the album doesn’t match this level which is a great shame and which is why I can only put it at 19. A few more listens, and a bit more time, and I will undoubtedly believe it should be higher.
18 – Animal Collective: Brother Sport
Podcast track: Brother Sport
An album that was a real slow burner for me with regards to liking it, I’ve finally come round to the album having originally dismissed it. This is partly after listening to it a lot more after seeing them live and also finding that I much prefered it through speakers to earphones for some reason. This is the only album of theirs I own and the sort of ‘wall of sound’ approach of the album has grown on me massively.
17 – Noah & The Whale: The First Days of Spring
Podcast track: Blue Skies
I never listened to their first album so came into this one fresh. A rather melancholy album, not surprising seeing as it’s almost entirely about the singer’s breakup with his (then) girlfriend Laura Marling, but this doesn’t stop it being a beautiful album. The highlight is easily the track ‘Blue Skies but the track ‘Love of an Orchestra’ sandwiched between two instrumental tracks is brilliantly grandiose and pompous.
16 – Maybeshewill – Sing The Word Hope In Four-Part Harmony
Podcast track: Co-Conspirators
Following on from the immense ‘Not For Want Of Trying’ last year, MSW return with more of the same big post rock tracks with film audio clips interspersed over the top. Sadly it doesn’t quite hit the same heights as the last album and feels a little short at only 9 tracks (2 of which had been previously released as well) but it’s still well worth a punt.
15 – worriedaboutsatan – arrivals
Podcast track: you’re in my thoughts
A band that seemingly hates capital letters, they have produced a neat little ambient electronica album that has really grown on me over the last few months. Annoyingly, they’ve played in London twice recently but have been on dates I couldn’t make. They are, however, on tour in March with Her Name Is Calla and I will almost definitely be in attendance for that show.
14 – Passion Pit – Manners
Podcast track: Sleepyhead
A band that I only got into recently (a bit slow, I know) after a friend’s recommendation. A pretty solid and enjoyable album of which the highlight is obviously ‘Moths Wings’. Up until then, the album isn’t bad but that track takes it up a fair few notches. Only a couple of tracks come close to that song, with ‘Sleepyhead’ being one of my other favourites.
13 – The Joy Formidable – A Balloon Called Moaning
Podcast track: Austere
A good debut album by this band from the valleys, their indie pop sound reminded me of Metric quite a lot. The album is quite short at only 9 tracks but there’s enough variety in there to maintain interest with uptempo songs like ‘Austere’ and the acoustic track ‘9669’ being a couple of the highlights for me.
12 – NOFX – Coaster
Podcast track: We Called It America
Despite all the other stuff in this list, I’m still a little punk rocker at heart and NOFX were on of the bands of my teens. Coaster is possibly my favourite album of theirs since ‘Pump Up The Valuum’ and it seems that they’re well in their comfort zone now (in a good way) with some great tracks here. The normal NOFX humour and drug/booze chat remains but some more serious songwriting is also present in tracks like ‘My Orphan Year’.
11 – Tubelord – Our First American Friends
Podcast track: Propeller
FINALLY Tubelord got round to making a full record and it was worth the wait. The album contains a load of their material which is found in bits and pieces across EPs and singles, such as ‘I Am Azerrad’ and ‘Night Of The Pencils’ but also contains plenty of new material with a different sound, such as the synthy ‘Stacey’s Left Arm’ and the acoustic ‘Cows To The East, Cities To The West’, to give the album another layer that previous releases may have lacked.
10 – Metric – Fantasies
Podcast track: Help I’m Alive
I’d not heard a lot of these guys’ back catalogue before this album but I much prefer this album to some of their previous ones; the songwriting seems much better as is the production (but without being ‘overproduced’). There are some fantastic tracks with my highlights being the album opener, which is on the podcast, and ‘Gimme Sympathy’ which also sounded great live too.
9 – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart -s/t
Podcast track: Young Adult Friction
Another shameless indie pop album in the top 20 of mine, I first heard the album early on in the year and it was constantly getting plays on my ipod. That’s tailed off a little bit but I still never tire of hearing this album because of its dreamy, upbeat nature. Even songs with lyrics like “you’re my sister, this love is fucking right” seem to be happy, bouncy tracks. A little disappointing when I saw them live but this album has been featuring in many an end of year list for good reason.
8 – Slow Club – Yeah So
Podcast track: Giving Up On Love
A band I really do want to catch live, Slow Club’s debut album is an interesting mix of indie tunes, such as the one on the podcast, and acoustic tracks which, themselves, range from upbeat to slow and melodic. The contrast between the vocals from both of the band members gives their songs an extra feel. The album does lose its way a little bit in the second half when the tempo drops a little too much but this is all redeemed with the excellent album closer ‘Our Most Brilliant Friends’.
7 – There Will Be Fireworks – s/t
Podcast track: Says Aye
One of the most complete albums of the year for me, There Will Be Fireworks’ debut contains a number of great individual tracks such as ‘We Sleep Through The Bombs’ and ‘We Were A Roman Candle’. What gives this indie/post rock Scottish band’s album the edge though is how effortlessly the tracks roll into one another with the triplet of ‘Guising’, ‘Off With Their Hands’ and ‘I Like The Lights’ going together seamlessly and complementing each other brilliantly.
6 – Dananananaykroyd – Hey Everyone
Podcast track: Black Wax
Seemingly making up their own genre with what the dub ‘fight pop’, Danana take the sound of bands like Los Campesinos and then give it their own ‘edgier’ sound and this ends up producing a great sound. The band maintain a sense of fun about their music while not ending up too poppy. Another band I need to see live as tracks like ‘Black Wax’, ‘Infinity Milk’ and ‘Hey James’ would probably sound nothing less than amazing.
5 – The Xcerts – In The Cold Wind We Smile
Podcast track: Cool Ethan
An odd album this one; it doesn’t seem to do anything amazing or anything amazingly different but what it does do is great. I first got wind of these guys live at Lexapalooza earlier in the year after they were given one of the top spots. Another Scottish band on the list, these guys released their first album earlier this year through Xtra Mile and it’s full of great tracks that cover a number of bases with acoustic tracks, big anthems and fast paced indie tracks. Definitely an album to check out and I really hope these guys do well.
4 – Dan Deacon – Bromst
Podcast track: Get Older
Not necessarily the type of music I would listen to, I got hold of a copy of Bromst after hearing a number of people go on about it and how, even 6 months ago or more, that this was a contender for album of the year. After listening to it, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it and it’s difficult to describe the sound with element of electronica with synths and everything thrown in there but then vocals, pianos, keyboards, strings and brass layers on various tracks produce this weird album. But it all works together splendidly to give one of my favourite albums of 2009.
3 – Frank Turner – Poetry Of The Deed
Podcast track: Sons Of Liberty
The third album from Frank sees a bigger shift in sound than he had made between his previous albums as the full band sound takes prominence over the solo acoustic one. Initially I was unsure as to whether I’d like this and for the first few listens the step he’d taken may have been too big for me. Now, however, the album is close to surpassing ‘Love, Ire & Song’ as my favourite album of his. The full band tracks like ‘Like Fast, Die Old’ and ‘Poetry Of The Deed’ sound great with the normal singalong and ‘angst’ of normal FT tracks present. Some of the acoustic numbers drag a little bit and it’s not until the end of the album with ‘Our Lasy Of The Campfire’ and ‘Journey Of The Magi’ that the best tracks come into play.
2- And So I Watch You From Afar – s/t
Podcast track: TheseRIOTSareJUSTtheBEGINNING
One of the earliest releases of the year to make the list, ASIWYFA have produced an absolutely stunning post rock album which encapsulates their live sound brilliantly. The album opener ‘Set Guitars To Kill’ acts to simply blow you away with its real in-your-face loudness. The sound isn’t all about volume though with the guys all being great musicians and the fact that slower, more melodic tunes like ‘The Voiceless’ holding their own against the big tracks like ‘If It Ain’t Broke, Break It’. I said in the 2008 top albums, where their EP ranked highly, that their album was one to look forward to and I wasn’t wrong.
1 – The Antlers – Hospice
Podcast tracks: Kettering, Sylvia
Not an album that I listen to as widely as others in this list perhaps but this album more than deserves top spot out of all of this year’s releases. An album about a man working in a hospital who falls in love with a patient suffering from bone cancer and slowly losing her may not sound like the foundations for a great piece of music but the album follows this story beautifully. The lyrics themselves read like a mini novel if you read the album sleeve and are quite haunting as they are but when sung with Silberman’s falsetto vocals over the top, along with the wonderful guitars and keyboards, it makes for what can only be described as a beautiful album.
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