27
Nov
09

My Top 40 Albums of 2009: Numbers 32 Through 25

As promised, here’s the second installment of my top albums of 2009. The year carried on into March, which brought us releases from some very familiar acts (and in the case of the one-man Bono show, sometimes too familiar), such as U2, The Prodigy, PJ Harvey and John Parish, Prince, Gomez, and Pet Shop Boys. We also had albums from The Decemberists, The Whitest Boy Alive, The Great Lake Swimmers, MSTRKRFT, vitaminsforyou, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Polly Scattergood, Neko Case, Royksopp, Julie Doiron, Peter, Bjorn and John, and lastly, the Filthy Dukes, who already made my countdown. The Rakes gave their swansong with a Klang and one half of The Knife went more obscurely experimental as Fever Ray.

April signalled the return of Camera Obscura, Bat for Lashes, The Veils, The Noisettes, Doves, Super Furry Animals, Metric, Junior Boys, Butcher Boy, El Perro del Mar, Art Brut, and Silversun Pickups. It also became the month for debuts from The Mummers, Dananananaykroyd, Micachu and the Shapes, and the truly odd “supergroup” of Tinted Windows, which features the likes of James Iha and Taylor Hanson (sounds like a bad practical joke, doesn’t it?). Spearmint frontman, Shirley Lee, dropped his first solo record, and Depeche Mode delivered a disappointing one, especially after the relative success of Playing the Angel.

Back to the countdown…

32. Primary Colours – The Horrors
I admit it – like many music fans, I dismissed the skinny-jean-wearing, back-comb-coiffed Horrors when they released their first album. With the NME covering them and Noel Fielding boosting them, it all just seemed like a pale imitation (pun intended) of goth nonsense. And so I kicked against listening to their sophomore record, flicking and clicking swiftly through some player that streamed the full album and ignoring the incessant buzz about it, hoping the hum was from the flies gathering around the moribund band. Then I actually forced myself to have a proper listen in the name of giving as many 2009 releases a chance as I could. And I had to acknowledge the less than exciting cartoonish antics were over, and The Horrors had made an admirable album. It very obviously borrows from both post-punk and shoegaze, but it does so with a youthful, fresh energy and sweeping sense of melody. What The Raveonettes are to The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Horrors now are to Echo & the Bunnymen.

Who Can Say – The Horrors

Scarlet Fields – The Horrors

31. Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons
I came to the debut album from this London indie folk band late and only after being alerted by Rol over at Sunset Over Slawit. It took a moment for me to get into the record, but when I did, it started to move me in a similar fashion to how Frightened Rabbit does. Their folk style is more traditional than Frightened Rabbit, but the ragged, yet erudite, world weariness comes through with the same intensity. As frantic banjo jostles against soaring choruses, Mumford & Sons craft poignant mini-narratives of vulnerability, heartbreak, hope, regret, vindictiveness, and stunning lines like “if only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could have won.” As gentle as a good weep and as self-affirming as a good scream, this record is catharsis at its finest.

The Cave – Mumford & Sons

Little Lion Man – Mumford & Sons

30. Polly Scattergood – Polly Scattergood
This oddly menacing debut by Ms Scattergood grabbed me with its emotionally-exhausting fragility and hand-wringing vocals (you can read my original review here). The self-psychoanaylsis is gripping as her voice slips in between sweet childishness and erratic descents into a slightly mad register. Lines are dropped, whipped and pulled taut as she recounts an incredibly agitated mental state, exacerbated by toxic relationships and niggling insecurities. Sure, it’s overwrought, but you sense the violent emotion hovering behind the rasps and coos and it is all delivered more articulately and artistically than most adolescent angst. The music, which features subtle electronic accents, drum machines and keyboards, provides a fluid backdrop for the turmoil of the lyrics’ delivery, lapping gently and pushing at the cracks like a stream full of drowned flowers.

Please Don’t Touch – Polly Scattergood

Bunny Club – Polly Scattergood

29. Sun Gangs – The Veils
This third album from The Veils is a beautiful exploration of an “unmanned universe.” Finn Andrews’ voice never ceases giving me chills and his passionate, literary lyrics of emotional fractures pair perfectly with the dark warmth in the sulfur-smoky depths of the music. The Veils even had a competition around the time of the album’s release, where you could come up with a creative way of expressing what you thought a “sun gang” is. I submitted a poem, which wasn’t anything more than a rather slapdash job from a very rusty poet, but as yet, I haven’t heard about the results (considering it is now six months later, I figure the contest was aborted somewhere along the way). If you’re curious about what I submitted as an entry, you can read it here, and if you want to read what I thought about the album earlier in the year, click here.

Sun Gangs – The Veils

Killed By the Boom – The Veils

28. Merriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective
This album will likely crown a lot of lists this year – it was like that decision was unanimously declared by hipsters back upon its January release. And while it won’t be topping my list, nor even making it into the top half (I’m contrary that way), it is worthy of a spot. Their neo-psychedelic music manages to be both brittle and soulful with swirling, overdubbed sounds filtered through reverb; like an eternally gushing fountain, it bubbles over with melodic strains that also feel so delicate that they may drift away at any moment like an errant balloon. The lyrics are full of a pleasurable, giddy glee, and the album ends up feeling like all of the seasons crashing in on you at once: the heady perfume of spring, the golden laziness of summer, the crisp brightness of fall, and the mesmerizing hush of winter. Merry weather indeed.

My Girls – Animal Collective

Bluish – Animal Collective

27. Where the Wild Things Are Soundtrack – Karen O and the Kids
I would name Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers’ film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s most famous picture book one of my new favourite films. It lived beyond the hype, stretching what was a naturally limited narrative into a piece of art that doesn’t offer any specific resolutions while keeping the thematic content intact. There’s an interesting darkness at its heart, which when placed in such close proximity to the idea of the child, can create a disturbing dissonance for some people. Working in an academic setting devoted to the study of young people, I heard a variety of opinions about the film, including one comment about the almost unsettling surreality. This same person then went on to mention the soundtrack and how significant it is to know the music’s context in relation to the film, meaning Karen O’s own identity becomes wrapped up in the interpretation of the narrative. And it’s true; however, I would like to take a slightly less academic look at it and say how perfectly the music fit the film’s atmophere and contributed to the chaos. I can’t imagine a better sound to accompany this movie. Karen O’s child-like voice could have been that of a bratty, young boy with ADHD who escaped and became king of the wild things, but it also brings that dazzling, rambling feel of childhood – the place where everything is made up as you go along. In many ways, the film reminds you that the adults are just making it up as they go along, too.

All is Love – Karen O and the Kids

Hideaway – Karen O and the Kids

26. Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees – Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees
I only became aware of this Canadian band nearly two months ago when I attended a Dragonette show with them as the opening act. Their self-titled debut is an electronic maelstrom of splintered samples, high-pitched whines and dirty guitars. The distorted, warped vocals of Rebekah Higgs blur in and out of the highly-danceable beats. Grinding like a MSTRKRFT fronted by Peaches, this album is filled with enough manic complexities to keep it from being just another catchy electro record. And in some spots it gets downright dreamy.

You Don’t Miss Me – Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees

Danse Danse Resolution – Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees

25. It’s Blitz – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Oddly enough, I’ve never really listened to a lot of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. No good reason. It’s not that I ever thought they weren’t a decent band and I was fully aware of Karen O’s onstage antics, but I guess I never really stopped to pay closer attention. Then I heard Zero this year. People can argue that the band lost something in their new glammy accessibility, but it made me (and others) take notice, and Zero became one of my favourite songs of the year along with Heads Will Roll. But there’s more here than glitzy electro; you’ll also find a chimerical whimsy in slower tracks. Skeletons is a stand-out track in its synthy re-imagining of celtic ballads, and Runaway is a twinkling symphony. I’m now going back to find out what exactly I missed by skimming over their previous two albums. Along with their involvement in the Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack, it’s definitely the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ year.

Zero – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Skeletons – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

This week’s runner-up to the countdown is Sugar Sugar by Diving With Andy. I don’t think this French band is all that well-known, at least not in the online circles I travel in, but I’m glad I finally came across them. They are retro loungey and as sweet as their album title. Conjuring up the insouciance of the chic 60s and sometimes using a James Bond-like sweepingly decadent background, Sugar Sugar feels as shambolic and sensuous as a bohemian Sunday morning in Paris.

Sugar Sugar – Diving With Andy

This weekend will feature the last proper weekly mix of the year before the Year-End Round-Up starts. But you’ll have to wait til next Friday for more of this list.

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3 Responses to “My Top 40 Albums of 2009: Numbers 32 Through 25”


  1. November 28, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Great list! There’s little there that I could quibble with.

  2. 2 Rol
    November 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    “As gentle as a good weep and as self-affirming as a good scream, this record is catharsis at its finest.” Wonderful description. I’m glad you liked this record. I too stumbled across it completely be chance, but it does seem to be taking off now.

  3. 3 jc
    November 29, 2009 at 6:00 am

    I’m about to go off on holiday for 2 weeks and so it will take me a while to see the top half of the chart. But already this is looking better than any of the rundowns I’ve seen in so-called quality music magazines. Oh and better written as well.


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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

Photobucket

So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

Photobucket

Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

Photobucket

Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

Photobucket

Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

Photobucket

Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

Photobucket

You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

Photobucket

I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

Photobucket

You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

Photobucket

Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

Photobucket

Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

Photobucket

And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

Photobucket

Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

Photobucket

We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

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LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

Photobucket

Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

Photobucket

You must let her go

She's not crying

Photobucket

Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

Photobucket

So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

Photobucket

The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

Photobucket

Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

Photobucket

No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

Photobucket

All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

Photobucket

Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome


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