Saturday, 12 December 2009
JnessRs Top 30 Albums of 2009, and tips for next year
30) Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures
Right, let’s start not so gently. Clearly any band compromising of a Queen of The Stone Age, A Led Zeppelin and A Foo Fighter has no excuse to underwhelm in terms of skill, and “Them Crooked Vultures” is a technical masterpiece, any aspiring rock god’s ultimate bible. Admittedly, its shameless decadence throughout, overcomplicated guitar solos thrown in for the sheer hell of it, our ginger bequiffed favourite Josh Homme throwing in solos as if just to boast how ridiculously skilled he is. Perhaps not an album for everyone, but definitely one of note if only for its impressiveness, and clear evidence of making music for the right reasons.
Download: New Fang, Elephants
29) The View – Which Bitch?
An early release this year, “Which Bitch?” by The View provided an effective cure to the “difficult second album” syndrome. Much like its predecessor, it consisted of lovelorn tales of a day in the grotty life of a Scottish teenager, the trials and tribulations of a boy turning into a man – a more incoherent Arctic Monkeys, if you will. Tunes such as “5Rebeccas” cemented their indie Dancefloor status, but the scallies proved they had depth too, with the rather brilliant Paulo Nutini featuring track “Covers”. Admittedly, some might argue this album showed a lack of progression from “Hats off to the Buskers” but in my opinion, if it ain’t broke…
Download: 5Rebeccas, Shock Horror
28) Noah and the Whale – First Days of spring
Admittedly, I have not yet heard the entirety of this album. However, never has a record been summed up so eloquently in its title – Noah and cos sophomore album is far more mature than their debut, and a hell of a lot deeper. Based entirely around the demise of lead singer Charlie Finks relationship with fellow folk singer Laura Marling, “First Days of Spring2 is about as honest and autobiographical a record as you could ever hope for, entirely relatable and utterly heartbreaking. However, the albums highlight “Blue Skies” proves there is light at the end of the tunnel for everyone. True proof that real emotion makes great art.
Download: Blue Skies, First Days of spring
27) Lily Allen – It’s not Me, Its you
It’s often easy to forget that Lily Allen is even a singer, so often is she befitted in the media as a rebel, a drunkard, a hell raiser. “It’s Not Me, Its You” proves why we even fell in love with her in the first place – razor sharp lyrics, unapologetic humour and uncensored honesty. This album proves it is possible to be commercial without compromise, never before have I heard a top ten single with such anti radio lyrics as “Not Fair”. A set of hilarious festival appearances and gobby chat has only cemented her as even more of an icon in 2009, plus only Lily could get away with completely ripping off Take That on a track (“Who’d Have Known”) and escaping a telling off.
Download: The Fear, 22
26) Bombay Bicycle Club – I Had the Blues, But I Shook Them Loose
Bombay Bicycle Club are one of those amazing teen bands that come from seemingly nowhere, and experience success at such a rate that it’s almost dazzling. Ok, “I Had The Blues…” may not live up to the bands claims that it was as good a debut as Arctic Monkeys, but they certainly gave it a good shot, the jaunty pop melodies of songs such as “Always Like This” perfectly epitomising the average British teens summer. The may look like a bunch of geeks, but Jack Steadman and his mates have provided inspiration for millions of young kids, proving that you can build up a following and make it for yourself. Plus it’s a bloody good album title.
Download: Always Like This, Magnet
25) The Twilight Saga: New Moon OST
Ok, I may well be biased as I am a huge fan of the films, books and Taylor Launtner, but the New Moon official soundtrack definitely stands up in its own right. A clear improvement from the Twilight OST, New Moon, is moody, melancholy and magical, spanning a wide range of musicians, from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to those running machine geeks OK GO. Fitting the films tales of mistaken and lost love perfectly, New Moon is a great soundtrack not only to a film, but to any teenager involved in complicated romance.
Download: Meet Me on the Equinox (Death Cab for Cutie), Shooting the Moon (Ok Go)
24) Passion Pit – Manners
One of my favourite bands to break in 09, Passion Pits “Manners” boasts the individuality that made them so acclaimed, awash with falsetto vocals and that reassuring, euphoric sense of bliss. “To Kingdom Come” is one of my singles of the year, as satisfying on your happiest day as it is on your most depressed. I discovered this year its setting works perfectly with that of a beach, the joyful aimlessness that comes with long walks to nowhere. I may not be selling it very well, but “Manners” certainly brings some Americana sunshine to dreary England, and I’m sure 2010 will only cause them to get bigger.
Download: To Kingdom Come, Little Secrets
23) The XX – The XX
Possibly the most critically acclaimed new band of 2009, The XX started the year a bunch of awkward shuffling teens, and ended it the most unlikely new stars of the year. The debut is a truly haunting affair, the boy-girl vocals of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim intertwining in a way that renders them almost as one. A massively epic performance on Jools Holland really highlighted the understated beauty of their work, and showed imagination in indie is not yet dead. Songs such as “Islands” are grimly romantic, in a way that makes it almost too intrusive, too uncomfortable for the listener. But that only serves to make “THE XX” more exciting.
Download Islands, Crystallised
22) Jack Penate – Everything Is New
Arguably the nicest bloke in Indie, Jack Penate surprised critics this year when he swerved the commercial success of debut “Matinee” in exchange for a more ambitious sound on “Everything Is New”. Clearly inspired by the triumph of Vampire Weekend, Jack adopted more of an afrobeat tone on tracks such as “Tonight’s Today” to evident effect. Jack also proved nice boys can cause controversy too , with track “Lets All Die” berating the emo genre, in particularly encouraging people to “wave goodbye to the black parade” Wonder who that was aimed at? “Everything Is New” may not have been as popular as Jack first, but it was far more sonically satisfying.
Download: Tonight’s Today, Be the One
21) Calvin Harris – Ready For the Weekend
Calvin Harris has always been a star, but 2009 seemed to be the year that sent him stratospheric. A partnership with Dizzee Rascal proved to be the best thing he’s ever done, as his music are now injected with a fierceness that wasn’t there before, a genuine determination to fill floors like never before. No longer a guilty pleasure, tracks like “Flashback” prove Harris make dance hits that stand up alongside his European contemporaries., Gone are the gimmicky concepts of “The Girls” and “Acceptable In The 80’s”, in are the lyrics that could certainly soundtrack the average Saturday night of your life.
Download: Flashback, I’m not alone
20) The Horrors – Primary Colours
Possibly the most critically acclaimed comeback records of the year, The Horrors “Primary Colours” was a whole world away from the bleak darkness of “Strange House” Injected with a new strain of shoegaze, Faris Rotter and his sharp haircutted bandmates drove Indie into new territory, a world of psychedelic discovery, a mind-bending place where you could find “a sea within a sea”. Gone are the guttural howls of “Sheena Is a Parasite”, replaced by the contemplatitive croons of tracks such as “Who Could Say?” Supported by some excellent visceral shows at this years festivals, “Primary Colours” appears to be the inkwell from which the Horrors should continue to get their inspiration.
Download: Whole New Way, Who Could Say?
19) Marmaduke Duke – Duke Pandemonium
Raised to fame due to their affiliation with Simon Neil’s other (and bigger) band Biffy Clyro, Marmaduke Dukes second album packed far more punches than their underrated debut. A cheeky romp through genres rangi9ng from classic indie to electro funk, “Duke Pandemonium” is the sound of two mates having a laugh, and producing some pretty good tunes in the process. Full of pretty transparent sexual innuendo, “Rubber Lover” was the unexpected cross over anthem of the year, an indie Dancefloor classic all over the country, and instrumental in cementing their headline slot on the festival republic stage at this years Reading Festival. Not bad for a side project.
Download: Kid Gloves, Silhouettes (Jackknife Lee Remix)
18) Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions
Riding high on the well earned acclaim from “Puzzle”, Biffy Clyro lived up to their reputation as one of the hardest working rock outfits in Britain by dropping “Only Revolutions” a mere few months after completing their tour cycle. However, they didn’t compromise on quality, tracks such as “That Golden Rule” carrying the viciousness incited by “Living is A Problem because…” to new levels of orchestral genius, not to mention the more crowd pleasing (and downright hotter) hairstyle Simon Neil has been sporting of late. Clearly taking a few hints from Muse, Biffy are now making stadium fillers that are both sing along anthemia and headbangers, while also showing their softer side on personal tracks such as “Bubbles”. By appealing to all sides of their demographic, Biffy can only get even huger.
Download: That Golden Rule, the Captain
17) La Roux – La Roux
Now, on most people’s lists of the year, this album would rank a lot higher. But the main aspect that exposes itself to me is the reason I both love and hate La Roux. The tunes are there, undisputedly, and in great quantity. The style is there, fuelling many young girls Top Shop habits and making certain hairspray manufacturers a hell of a lot of money. Yet something about La Roux strikes me as somewhat… soulless? But perhaps this isn’t a bad thing. If the music is good, it should relate to anyone, and I doubt there is not a person in Britain who couldn’t relate to any aspect addressed in “Bulletproof”. Maybe “La Roux” goes to show that music should sometimes be the whole package, a sheeny pop gem ready to be devoured by the masses.
Download: Bulletproof, In For the Kill (screams lets get ravey remix)
16) All Time Low – Nothing Personal
Criminally underrated in the UK, All Time Low are quite frankly, a blatant rip off of both Blink 182 and Fall out Boy. But they don’t apologise fro this. In very fact, they relish it, and even quote in their video for album highlight “Weightless”. Sheer effervescent pop punk, “Nothing Personal” is a set of cheap thrills, and that is what makes it so efficient. Borrowing heavily from its contemporares, it’s an album of pure money choruses, destined to fill arenas nationwide with toilet humour and stupidly bracketed titles (“Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)).But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes Music doesn’t have to be pretentious and overcomplicated to be great, and “Nothing Personal” works perfectly to remind everyone that life could be a lot worse.
Download: Weightless, Damned if I do ya (Dammed if I don’t)
15) Fightstar – Be Human
Fightstar were a band that at birth, I was determined to hate. (RIP Busted) But as they have gone along and proved themselves more than a one trick pony, they have garnered my respect, and “Be Human” is their best work to date. It would have been easy for them to continue on in the screamo vein, but “Be Human” encompasses a wide variety of genres and emotions, ranging from the obvious hate in “War Machine” to the recollective longing of “Mercury Summer”. Charlie Simpson has always been a stellar songwriter, and it is obvious on this album he has become remarkably adept at mixing personal experience with creative storytelling, to great effect.
Download: Mercury Summer, Never Change
14) Dizzee Rascal – Tongue N Cheek
Word on the street is that back in Bow, people who were once Mr Rascals peers will no longer talk to him, as they’ve accused him of “selling out”. 2009 was definitely the year in which Dylan Mills made the transfer from underground hero to man of the people, and it’s not surprising that it’s ruffled a few feathers. A partnership with Calvin Harris seemed to reignite the fun in Dizzee, prompting to make some of his most catchy, humorous and downright danceable material in his career. Anthems such as “Holiday” and “Dance Wiv Me” have been unavoidable, painting Dizzee as a lovable rogue with cocksure naivety and predictably yet effective rhyme play (“No need for I.D/Security Know Me”). With “Bonkers”, Dizzee proved experimentation is what makes music so vital, and when it is done well, a complete U turn in direction can be what makes you.
Download: Bonkers, Holiday
13) Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
Much like their heroes Oasis, swagger suits Kasabian. “West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum” is almost ludicrously ambitious, egocentric and attention seeking, yet these are the qualities that have made the bands so huge. Luckily the cockiness does not overshadow tunes as huge as “Fire”, “Where Did All the Love Go?” and err, “Vlad the Impaler” (starring a rather hilarious Noel Fielding in the video). Driven by Serge Pizzorno’s abstract lyrics, “West Ryder…” is an album designed almost perfectly to be bellowed back by a field full of punters in mid august. Kasabian are a band never content to rest on their laurels, and have realised progression is the key to their imminence.
Download: Underdog, Fast Fuse
12) Fall out Boy – Believers Never Die
Although it is a greatest hits album made up predominantly of old material (although there are two new songs), “Believers Never Die” is as valid a great album release of this year as any other in this list. Much attention towards the band over the years has been focused towards Pete “Media Mogul” Wentz, and it is easy to forget that in Patrick Stump Fall out Boy have one of the best modern rock vocalists of all time, and in Pete, one of them most socially conscious and literary songwriters. “Believers Never Die” is quite literally hit after hit and meant directly for the fans, who have kept the band going from the days of the gritty “Growing Up” to the anthems such as “Sugar We’re Goin Down” and “I Don’t Care”. No band has committed as much to pop punk in the past few years as Fall out Boy, and with a hiatus imminent, “Believers Never Die” is a perfect legacy for them to leave.
Download: Alpha Dog, What a Catch Donnie
11) Lady Gaga – The Fame Monster
Every year in music can be defined by one artist, and 2009 could not belong to anyone else than Lady Gaga. So good it had to be released twice, “The Fame” and “The Fame Monster” are master classes in popular songwriting, the art of writing utter nonsense but making it sound more vital than anything else. Nobody understands what it is to be an entertainer more than the Gaga, as anybody who sees her live show can testify. A complete whirlwind of chrome, peroxide and electro, Lady Gaga embodies what many people seem reluctant of – unbridled personal expression. And at the end of the day, she’s also got a bloody good singing voice. Ok, outrageous debates may have been made concerning her gender, but these are still people talking about her. She’s formidable and unavoidable, and really, with songs so colossal it isn’t necessary for me to name check them, do you really think she cares what you think?
Download: Poker Face, Bad Romance
10) White lies – To Lose My Life
Boring heavily from the school of The Smiths and Joy Division, White Lies made the start of the year a little darker than usual. “To Lose My Life” was a highly anticipated debut from the band previously known as Fear of Flying, and paranoid laden tracks such as “A Place to hide” and the rather cheery “Death” did not disappoint. White Lies embody the sound of a band who know exactly what they want out of their career, and the likes of “Farewell to the Fairground” and the albums title track make no qualms about the fact that this band evidently crave arenas. A wash of moody baritone, gloomy metaphor and jabbing drums, never has the sound of impending doom sounded so alluring.
Download: Death, Unfinished Business
9) Enter Shikari – Common Dreads
Upon the release of Enter Shikaris first album “Take to the Skies”, many branded them a fad. A Joke. Little did these people know that Roughton Reynolds and his boys were sitting on a pretty large social conscience. Besides the obviously huge tunes, “Common Dreads” is most arresting because of its concept, a rally against the establishment, those trying to suppress us into a “sordid little house.” They certainly proved they could make noise, but songs such as “Juggernauts” only highlighted the hopelessness of our nation rather than the hopelessness of their musicality. “Common Dreads” proved that the last laugh was on them.
Download: Juggernauts, Wall
8) The Maccabees – Wall of Arms
I’ve always had a soft spot for The Maccabees, and wall of arms only carved their name even deeper into my heart. Attempting to live up to their flawless debut “Colour It In”, The Maccabees do occasionally fall slightly short, but there are some completely perfectly gems nestled upon this album, teased out by the gentle and utterly unique croon of Orlando Weeks. “No Kind Words” is unlike any of their previous work, and completely built to soundtrack a short film, contrasting beautifully with the far more upbeat “Can You Give It?” However, “Wall of Arms” reveals its brilliance within “Love You Better” a completely life affirming moment when viewed live. Constantly evolving and constantly entertaining, a rumour of a concept album involving Roots Manuva on the cards, Longevity for The Maccabees is certainly available.
Download: No Kind Words, Love You Better
7) The Prodigy – Invaders Must Die
It is certainly true that without The Prodigy, many bands on this list may not have ever existed, and with the release of “Invaders Must Die” Keith Flint, Liam Howlett and Maxim Reality proved they can still do it better than people half their age. Lead single “Omen” is about as hard hitting as a sledgehammer to the face, and the pace doesn’t let up – tune after tune rolls out until you feel the bass cannot get any heavier, but I assure you it can. The breakdown to title track “Invaders Must Die” is one of the most watertight moments in their career, and again, it’s just the sound of a band who genuinely enjoy playing together. However, the “Invaders Must Die” experience is not complete without seeing a live show. Only then will you fully appreciate the true brilliance of this band.
Download: Omen, Invaders Must Die
6) Jamie T – Kings & Queens
It pains me slightly that I cannot find space to put this album any higher, as I truly feel it is one of the best of the year, and far surpasses his debut. Jamie Treays from Wimbledon is one of them most likeable, down to earth men in the industry right now, and “Kings & Queens” only makes you more likely to wish you were his best mate. Following his life in an almost fly on the wall scenario, we meet more of the characters in Jamie life, from the rather temperamental Emily of “Emily Heart” to the seemingly cruel Jilly of the albums highlight, “Jilly Armeen”. Jamie wears his heart and his patriotism on his sleeve for all to see, and it is clear to see he loves his country, even if there is “an English man in every coward.” Although he can be deep, Jamie T knows how to deliver a captivating tune, and in the three singles this album has spawned, he has sound tracked many a brit teenagers’ summer.
Download: Jilly Armeen, The Mans Machine, Sticks and Stones
5) Florence and the Machine – Lungs
Much like Lady Gaga, Florence Welch knows that 21st century popular music has to be about a package. She’s clearly got the soaring voice, the charismatic stage presence, and the imaginative storytelling that takes you on a childlike journey of wonder and imagination. Appearing almost a mythical creature herself, “Lungs” is definitely a fictional creation, and shows that Indie can be attractive even if it doesn’t centre around real life. Anybody who has heard the likes of “Howl” and “Drumming Song” can state that Miss Welch most certainly has Lungs, and can use them to great affect, the dreamy tones of “Dog Days” at the complete opposite end of the spectrum to a exhilarated cover of “You Got The Love”. She may have been the “it” sound of 2009, but Florence and her machine aren’t going anywhere in 2010.
Download: Howl, You Got the Love, Dog Days Are Over
4) Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires (Special Edition)
Originally released in 2008, Friendly Fires debut was one of most unique British records released of recent times. Meant purely for the Dancefloor, “Friendly Fires” was an album in which any track could have been a single, a melting pot of Brazilian funk, indie, electro and dance that made it impossible for anybody listening to stay still. Ed MacFarlane is simply inspirational to watch live, a geek chic icon truly in it for the music, and genuinely dancing like no ones watching. Tracks like “Lovesick” and “Jump in the Pool” are highlights, but it is additional track “Kiss Of Life” that really hints at just how far Friendly Fires could go.
Download: Love Sick, On Board, Kiss Of Life
3) YouMeAtSix – Take off Your Colours Deluxe
Now, emo punk pop is generally a label that would make anybody cringe, but with “Take Off Your Colours” YouMeAtSix have made an album that has clear emotional depth, but at no point ever becomes grating. Incorporating a wide spectrum of emotions (See what I did there), I genuinely fear for the girl that evidently wronged Josh Franceschi, as the album is clearly one inspired by jealousy, hate and lies. With track titles such as “The Truth Is A Terrible Thing” and “Nasty Habits”, YouMeAtSix can certainly get angry, but softer moments such as “Always Attract” (featuring Josh’s sister Elissa) incite the biggest reaction in fans, who know exactly what it feel likes to have “your heart out at sea, your head all over the place.” The main appeal of YouMeAtSix is they are a band of the people, non judgemental and completely understanding of what their fans want.
Download: Finders Keepers, Always Attract, If You Run
2) Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
I’m the first to admit, that “Humbug” is Arctic Monkeys weakest album so far. Yet it proves what an extraordinary band they are when their worst album is still the 2nd best release of the year. “Humbug” is in all senses of the word, a grower, an album that doesn’t reveal its brilliance until about the third or fourth listen. Once again, Alex Turner has done things on his own terms and made an album he personally loves, which after all, is the whole reason to make music. Moments like “Secret Door” and “Cornerstone” are heart touching and mature, contrasting with the obvious sleaze of Josh Homme influenced tracks “My Propeller” and “Dangerous Animals”, and the sinister “Dance Little Liar”. Helders is hitting harder than every before, and Cooks guitar skills are more angular, jutting out where you don’t expect them and making “Humbug” a surprising, yet ultimately satisfying listen.
Download: Crying Lightning, Secret Door, Dangerous Animals
1) Paramore – Brand New Eyes
And so we reach number 1.In my opinion, any great album has to have several things. The songs must be catchy, or at the very least memorable. Each song should be as good as the next. A range of emotions should be explored, leaving opportunity for both slow and fast paced songs. And the band should have poured as much effort into it as humanly possible, and treated the making of it as if it were their very last.
For Paramore, “Brand New Eyes” almost was their very last album. They’ve made no secret of how difficult it was to record, amongst band fights, group therapy and the demise of vocalist Hayley Williams’s personal relationship with guitarist Josh Farro. But what makes Paramores third album so rewarding is that is presents believable emotion, the real life feelings of both Hayley and Josh, as exposing as if they had published their diaries. Their pain and frustration is evident on bilious tracks such as “Ignorance” and “Feeling Sorry”, yet the feelings of desperation and reconciliation are equally as obvious on “All I Wanted” and one of their best songs to date, the acoustic “Misguided Ghosts”. For the first time, Hayley has held no restraints over her voice, and on closing track “All I Wanted” she soars, as if finally free of all the emotional baggage she has been carrying for so long. Throughout the album you feel an undisputable sense of camaraderie with the band, willing them through the dark times. When you reach looking up, and Hayley sings “I can’t believe we almost sold it off, we’re just getting started”, you know she wholeheartedly believes in her band, and the staggeringly sincere album they have made. As always, Paramore remain an inspiration for music fans everywhere, demonstrating hard times can be worked through, and that you can be a legitimate rock star even if you are a clean living, Christian teenage girl. “Brand New Eyes” is the album of the year if only for blood, sweat and tears put into it.
Download: All I Wanted, Playing God, Misguided Ghosts
Top Tips for 2010
Now we’ve recapped the best of 09, its time to look forward. 2010 is promising to be an interesting and vital year for music, with the following familiar bands promising new releases–
Vampire Weekend – Contra (Released January 2010)
My Chemical Romance – TBC (expected early 2010)
YouMeAtSix – Hold Me Down (January 2010)
Blink 182 – TBC (Mid 2010)
Panic at the Disco – TBC (Mid 2010)
MGMT – Congratulations (Early 2010)
Lost Prophets – The Betrayed (Early 2010)
Los Campesinos – Romance Is Boring (Early 2010)
Hadouken – For the Masses (Early 2010)
Hot Chip – One Life Stand (Early 20100
2010 also means the release of some debut albums and singles, and here are a few bands that I’m pretty excited about –
Daisy Dares You
Marina and the Diamonds
Frankie and the Heartstrings
So until next time, hope you liked my lowdown, and download my recommendations, all of the above are definitely worth your attention.