My Top 40 Albums of 2009: Numbers 24 Through 17

Yep, it’s a day late. Probably two if you live in a different time zone. It’s part three of my top 40 albums of 2009. If we look back at the month of May, it seems like the majority of my favourites were released all at the same time, including albums from the Manics, IAMX, Morton Valence, Jarvis Cocker, Archivist, and The Rest. We also had new records that have already graced this list, including The Horrors’ Primary Colours and Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. The month was rounded out with albums by Maximo Park, Peaches, Esser, Midnight Juggernauts, Au Revoir Simone, Sweet Billy Pilgrim, Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band, Jeremy Enigk, Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent, White Rabbits, Passion Pit, Kronos Quartet, and DJ Hell. And Green Day figured their clichéd “political” lark should be used once more in the yawn-inducing 21st Century Breakdown.

June ushered in albums from Eels, Little Boots, Sunset Rubdown, Wilco, The Low Anthem, Moby, Regina Spektor, The Gossip, Elvis Costello, Tiga, Sonic Youth, VNV Nation, and Dirty Projectors. There was more Oasis-replacement fodder from Kasabian, Paolo Nutini released more music that sounded like a senile, toothless Jamaican man, and Placebo battled for the Sun. Several of the albums that have already appeared on this countdown were also released, including ones by Future of the Left, Simian Mobile Disco, and Twiggy Frostbite, along with honourable mentions, Diving With Andy and God Help the Girl.

On to the list…

24. Bitte Orca – Dirty Projectors
I only became aware of Dirty Projectors slightly prior to seeing them live as openers for TV on the Radio. Admittedly, I wasn’t all that convinced seeing them live, but I had a feeling that I would better appreciate their experimentalism through headphones. And when I finally actually sat down to listen to their latest record, I discovered that my assumptions were correct – they are unlike most things I’ve ever heard, including sound other than music. Coming out of the currently hip Brooklyn scene, Dirty Projectors stitch together disjointed pieces of vocals, rhythm and guitar melody to fashion a rather astounding curtain of sliding groove, angelic soulfulness, and epileptic vocal delivery. Like organized chaos, the seemingly conflicting sounds and elements come together like an audio Magic Eye puzzle. Sometimes spare and frenetic, sometimes electronic and playful, always a bit beautifully bewildering.

Cannibal Resource – Dirty Projectors

Stillness is the Move – Dirty Projectors

23. Dragonslayer – Sunset Rubdown
This sophomore release from Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug’s side project has captured my imagination much more than any of Wolf Parade’s work (I don’t hate Wolf Parade, but I just never really got into them either, despite seeing them open for The Arcade Fire a few years back). Careening between a fantastical, epic spaciness and a pretty pastoral dance with some Talking Heads thrown in, the music rolls in and through me like breeze caught in wind chimes, whilst Krug’s voice pitches between an overwrought glamour, a commanding wisdom, and a choked-up sentimentality. The lyrics are esoterically brilliant, giving you the impression that Krug is a lover of language and narrative above all. And when they’re sung by Krug, you feel like you’re hearing a truly exotic piece of literature that has slipped through from a slightly different world. I’ll leave you with a sample of the wonderfully arcane lines from the opening song, Silver Moons, which later dovetails nicely with the closing track, Dragon’s Lair:

Confetti floats away like dead leaves in the wagon’s wake. There were parties here in my honor until you sent me away. Now silver moons belong to you. Passing the baton from the old mare to the fawn – it was out of line but it was fun – and didn’t you love the part right before the dawn? But now silver moons belong to you. I’m off to the ballet, and to practice all these ancient ways. Tell the new kids where I hid the wine, tell their fathers that I’m on my way, and say “Hey, maybe these days are over now…”

Under all the folds of the dresses that you wear there’s an ocean and a tide and a riot in the square. Over are the days that the congas made your hair sway around to the cadence of your ‘hey-oh-hey-oh’ cheer

Silver Moons – Sunset Rubdown

Black Swan – Sunset Rubdown

22. Islands – The Mary Onettes
This is only the second album from the Swedish band (I suppose I didn’t realize it because of the three EPs they’ve also released), but it is a stunning blend of several of my favourite genres, including dreampop, synthpop, post-punk and that achingly beautiful pop that Swedish bands tend to make best. The slightly gloomy, but heavenly album cover gives you an inkling of what the music sounds like; the fragile, soaring synths, jangly guitars, clean, euphoric drums, and vocalist Philip Ekström’s New Wave vowels, wash over you like a torrent of your best memories. Songs like Puzzles and God Knows I Had Plans are perfect salvation for those moods of melancholy self-doubt and loneliness. There’s nostalgia, regret, insecurity, and romanticism bursting from every Roman candle in the dove-coloured sky of The Mary Onettes’ soundscape.

Puzzles – The Mary Onettes

Once I Was Pretty – The Mary Onettes

21. he closed his eyes so he could dance with you – vitaminsforyou
vitaminsforyou (AKA former Winnipegger, Bryce Kushnier) has created a gorgeously understated third album of quietly pumping electro, clinical drum machines and hushed vocals, which knocks about like a nightclub android with ice in its veins. Often dubbed a lo-fi bedroom artist, or a laptop whiz, vitaminsforyou is a one-man-show of a lighter brand of electro as opposed to some of the harsher, dirtier beats being made by outfits like Justice, MSTRKRFT, and Digitalism. With songs like the title track and refrains like, “Lying under covers, doesn’t make us lovers,” from the song, One Nite Stand, this album feels deliciously cynical and slightly sinister, all the while being absolutely ideal to dance to. There’s even some satirical nostalgia on the curmudgeonly track B4U. While there have been comparisons to Junior Boys and Hot Chip, vitaminsforyou and this record are so much more interesting and memorable for me.

Flesh Python – vitaminsforyou

He Closed His Eyes So He Could Dance With You – vitaminsforyou

20. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
This American band has been impressing most indie music fans this year with their re-working of C86-throwback sounds. Their sense of effervescent melody and slightly fuzzy jangle pop, along with all the rushing bittersweetness and hyperbole of youth, makes for the musical equivalent of lemonade and jumping off the playground swings. There’s even a bit of punky energy on songs like Come Saturday, A Teenager in Love, and Everything With You (A Teenager in Love borrows quite interestingly from David Bowie’s Modern Love – come on, you hear it, don’t you?). They are the bright, shiny successors of the NME C86 tape and Sarah Records, wearing their puppyish hearts proudly on their record sleeves. Some of the sweetest pop to emerge in the past few years.

Contender – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

This Love is Fucking Right – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

19. The Big Machine – Emilie Simon
A lot of female singer/songwriters, especially the quirkier ones, get painted with the Kate Bush brush, but I can’t say I’ve ever completely believed the comparison for French songstress, Emilie Simon. Until now. This is Simon’s third studio album, and it melds danceable electronic beats and circus-like melodies with the wild keening of her vocals, sometimes coy, sometimes operatic. There’s a playful whimsy and theatrical bent to her music in general, which has hit its peak with this latest record, and I think it’s that kind of element that makes her more easily comparable to Ms Bush than perhaps someone like the oft-Kate-Bush-compared, heavily lauded Florence and the Machine. Maturing from a Polly Scattergood-like style into this bolshier, full-on aural assault, Emilie Simon has stepped up her game with a delightful confidence. Like a steam-powered toy shop at the end of the world, spouting smokes in a multitude of hues, this record is reminiscent of the past, but also contains some industrial magic.

Rainbow – Emilie Simon

Ballad of the Big Machine – Emilie Simon

18. Malcolm Ross and the Low Miffs – The Low Miffs and Malcolm Ross
I owe JC from The Vinyl Villain for this one. Talk about pleasurable throwbacks, this brilliant pairing of Malcolm Ross (Josef K, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera) and Glaswegian indie band The Low Miffs is like a Postcard revival in all its unabashed glory. These songs are sometimes languidly drawling lounge music that you could imagine backing a black-and-white film in an exotic locale (The Back of Midnight, Scarface, As Good As It Gets) and sometimes twinkling, off-the-wall pop (Cressida, The Man Who Took On Love [and Won], Dear Josephine), and the lyrics are all full of the type of unironic, enchanting playfulness and witty wordplay that bands like Orange Juice were known for. See The Man Who Took On Love (and Won): “Brevity, you’re telling me that I lack brevity, I think it’s something…you lack” and “This is no soliloquy, this is a plea for love’s last reserves, are more than I deserve, but they’re what I need.” Vocalist, Leo Condie, performs a pleasant sort of caterwauling that really appeals to me in a bizarre way (not dissimilar from how I feel about Edwyn Collins’ idiosyncratic vibrato). Like a blazer with elbow patches, this album is unabashedly retro, fun, and a little tweedy around the lyrics.

Cressida – The Low Miffs and Malcolm Ross

The Back of Midnight – The Low Miffs and Malcolm Ross

17. 21st Century Man/Achtung Mutha – Luke Haines
I’ve been eagerly awaiting new material from the jet black, uncompromising wit of fabulously eccentric Mr. Haines. And this double album of sorts is exactly what I needed. The first half, 21st Century Man, is pretty standard Luke Haines fare with intelligent, biting commentary and varying melodies, while the second part, Achtung Mutha, is primarily a more experimental spoken narrative complemented with music. The first disc dives in with the track, Suburban Mourning, which itself begins with “It’s the same old story we’ve all heard before, about the Satanists who moved next door/They met their match, they didn’t stay for more/Now it’s pure suburban mourning.” Simultaneously criticizing suburban living and obstinately refusing to leave it behind, Haines epitomizes inscrutable, always refusing to be pinned down. Of course he also opts to pick brilliantly strange, but apt, choices for celebrity odes, including Klaus Kinski and Van der Graaf Generator’s Peter Hammill (the former track expresses some great acidic sentiments that I fully agree with, and oddly reminds me of Adam Sandler’s melody for Grow Old With You). His musical style also blazes through a Wigwam Bam-like glam stomp on Peter Hammill, Waterloo Sunset parody on Love Letter to London, and austere electronic music with Russian Futurists Black Out the Sun. The second disc reminds me of Bowie’s Outside album in its interjecting tracks of spoken word against low, shady buzzing, but instead of using futuristic fictional characters, Haines embodies the first-person point of view of American artist, Richard Pettibone, who is known for his miniature replicas of modernist art. It’s like being told a highly unconventional, but mesmerizing bedtime story interspersed with lullaby-like musical interludes. Much of it is a genius rant against contemporary art. I was intending to do a full review of this double album a few weeks ago, but still haven’t gotten round to it – I hope I can still squeeze it in this year because it’s worth a longer listen and look.

Klaus Kinski – Luke Haines

The Great Brain Robbery Part 1 – Luke Haines

The runner-up for this installment is The Yellow Mini by Jonny Cola & the A-Grades. Led by Alex Potterill (former keyboardist for the sadly-defunct Luxembourg), Jonny Cola & the A-Grades has featured on this blog before in one of the weekly mixes (specifically, the catchy, glammy song, Disappearing Act), and I think this rather brief album (seven tracks) is worth a mention. There’s a sense of quintessential, 21st-century, English urban life about the lyrics, including all its pathologies, and the music hearkens back to the heyday of glam rock with its driving electric guitars and Potterill’s vocals, which sit somewhere between early Bowie and Luke Haines. They also released a free EP this summer, entitled Another Summer Burning, which featured three brand new tracks and is also something you should make sure you get. 

We’re All Going to Die – Jonny Cola & the A-Grades

Tomorrow I will hopefully have my first part of the Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love Year-End Round-Up, in which I give you the first third of this year’s weekly mixes for download.


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Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

Bloc Party w/ Hot Hot Heat (2009)

Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

Damo Suzuki (2012)

David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

IAMX w/ closethuman (2007)

IAMX w/ Coma Soft + The Hourly Radio (2007)

Interpol (2007)

Janelle Monae w/ Roman GianArthur (2012)

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ Frank Turner (2012)

Jonathan Richman (2011)

Keane w/ Lights (2009)

Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Fear of Music (2007)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Bear Hands (2009)

Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

Tokyo Police Club w/ Smoosh + Attack in Black (2008)

TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

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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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it


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


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


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


Running on


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


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


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


You must let her go

She's not crying



Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times



Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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