December 27, 2009
Favorites 2009: The Best Albums
It's not a secret that I hated 2009 as much as 2008. It was deep layers of misery on so many levels (we're talking unexpected death, etc) and even the final days have been madness. Like everyone is jinxed. As these things always go, I thought it was one of the best years in music in AGES. Just one amazing song after another to carry me though. I had intended this list to be my Top Ten Plus One, but I had too many favorite albums. A luxury problem, as I say. And I am sure I forgot something? What was your favorite?
Album Of The Year
Florence And The Machine Lungs
Virgin sacrifice, storing human eyeballs until they dry up, crows, carrion, coffins and burning beds. So many images and so much sound. Lungs could not handle the weight of so many showstoppers, so Florence relegated one of the best songs, Swimming, to a deluxe version. I bought the album as a gorgeous 2-disc deluxe package and then in December as a 4 disc boxset. I have not been so excited by an album since Rufus Wainwright released Want One in 2003. Florence Welch is a MAJOR new voice in music.
Standout tracks: All were great, but I'll choose Rabbit Heart, Cosmic Love, Drumming Song (my single of the year), Swimming and Blinding.
...and 15 more fantastic albums:
Miike Snow Miike SnowThis one hit me hard and fast. It's a perfect marriage of indie electronics with strong pop melodies (two thirds of the group are Bloodshy & Avant). For me, Miike (Meekay) Snow is the sound of a major city. Totally buzzing. Full review here.
Standout tracks: Silvia, Songs For No One, Black And Blue, Sans Soleil
Jack Penate Everything Is NewPenate reinvented his sound with this surprising album. The sound was massive and airy, with lots of reverb on the vocals, chanting and lush melodies. Sure, he sounds like Robert Smith of The Cure, but it's been twenty years since Smith had songs this solid. And the word is he's a total Boy Dancer live, which makes me like him even more.
Standout tracks: Be The One, Body Down, Pull My Heart Away, So Near
Paloma Faith Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?
A magnificent underrated classic. Big sounds and equally grandiose visuals, from the covers to the videos. I misjudged her early on as a Winehouse rip and how wrong I was. Paloma's high moments on this album are as emotionally giving as any pop artist's can be. Beautiful music.
Standout tracks: New York, Play On, the melancholy Stargazer, Smoke And Mirrors
Shirley Bassey The Performance
Never in a million years did I expect a Welsh 72 year old to move me so thoroughly. The concept behind this album (today's songwriter's writing for DSB) is great, but the execution is FLAWLESS. Richard Hawley's contribution, After The Rain, is on my Top Songs of the year list. Heartbreaking.
Standout tracks: After The Rain, The Performance Of My Life, Almost There, The Girl From Tiger Bay, This Time
Prefab Sprout Let's Change The World With Music
A fantasy made real: One of the greatest bands of the 80s and 90s releases a brilliant album that was recorded and shelved during their heyday. The world is a greater place with these new vocals from Paddy McAloon, who is quite possibly the most emotive male voice of the past 25 years.
Standout tracks: Ride, Let There Be Music, Music Is A Princess
Frankmusik Complete Me
A bit too long, but laden with sublime pop song marked by frenetic arrangements countered Vince Frank's rich voice. That it didn't make much of a chart dent in the UK is tantamount to treason. Notable on this list as the most DIY album - though Stuart Price helped him polish the songs, Complete Me is almost a one man show.
Standout tracks: Vacant Heart, Three Little Words, Wonder Woman, Run Away From Trouble
Antigone is the Lost Great Diva. In some ethereal realm, there are exotic characters shimmying in stilettos to her disco tracks. Full review here.
Standout tracks: More Man Than Man, Promiscuity, Mirror, Life Without You
Lily Allen It's Not Me, It's You
The first great album of 2009. How can a perceived train wreck like Lily Allen make a second LP that's potentially better than the first? It's about brains. She is a whipsmart lyricist and uncanny at choosing the right collaborators, in this case Greg Kurstin. This album veers from country slapstick to sweet sadness. Brilliant. Full review here.
Standout tracks: Back To The Start, The Fear, Everyone's At It, I Could Say, Not Fair
Little Boots Hands
Whatever her identity is or isn't, there's no denying this album was well-constructed electropop. A U.S. version is out this Spring, likely adding the perfect Not Now.
Standout tracks: Symmetry, Stuck On Repeat, New In Town, No Brakes
Black Room: Pop Noir
Formerly Lorraine, this Norwegian band's debut album is a deluxe set of post-Pet Shops Boys confections. Released so quietly most original fans never even knew, Pop Noir is notable for chiming, shimmery pop songs with superb vocals. In fact, Tell It All is one of the most anthemic tracks to be released in years. Take note that the band has rerecorded and neutered the song for potential re-release in 2010. Whatever! The definitive version is on iTunes now.
Standout tracks: I Feel It, Tell It All, Saved
Pet Shop Boys Yes
Is this a second imperial run for Pet Shop Boys? I truly believe this album will be more appreciated in years to come. Songs that did not stick the first time around (Love Etc anyone?) suddenly hit you at random moments and you say - ready? - Yes. I have such love for these guys. They have consistently raised the bar in pop music.
Standout tracks: Love Etc, Did You See Me Coming?, Pandemonium, More Than A Dream, The Way It Used To Be
Mumfor And Sons: Sigh No More
Britpop is a faded art right now. This London quartet is worthy of predecessors like Waterboys and Idlewild. A carefully crafted merging of rock, folk and pop, Sigh No More reminds me how long it's been since a banjo raged against the machine.
Standout tracks: Dust Bowl Dance, White Blank Page, Awake My Soul
I like only about half the album, but what's good is sublime, especially the non-singles that mined a sweet 80's balladry. Bulletproof was a total kick ass jam. My favorite track has remained Colourless Colour with the sly chorus "Early 90's decor, it was the day for / We wanted to play, but we had nothing left to play for/ Colourless colour / Once in fashion, soon to be seen."
Standout tracks: As If By Magic, Bulletproof, Colourless Colour, Cover My Eyes, I'm Not Your Toy
Annie Don't StopA long time coming, this album. Paul Epworth sprinkled some new fairy dust. The special 2-disc edition makes it pretty close to perfect. And yes, I LOVE The Breakfast Song.
Standout tracks: Songs Remind Me Of You, Bad Times, I Don't Like Your Band
For me, this album marked the return of the amazing Norwegian singer Anneli Drecker, but it also contain vocals by Robyn and the slightly scary Fever Ray chick. It's Drecker's tracks that are my favorites. Everything about Junior is completely in the now, so exhilarating. The intelligent Vision One is on my top songs of 2009 and probably Drecker's finest moment on record.
Standout tracks: Vision One, True To Life, You Don't Have A Clue, The Girl And The Robot, Silver Cruiser
Other great 2009 albums:
Robbie Williams' smooth, mature Reality Killed The Video Star
Dragonette's second release Fixin' To Thrill
Patrick Wolf's The Bachelor
Maxwell's ten years overdue BlackSummersNightSpandau Ballet's reworked hits record called Once More
Dan Black's unexpectedly indiepop Un (soon to be released in America)
Give London a kiss for me: I'll be right there.