My Top 40 Albums of 2009: Numbers 16 Through 9

I know…it’s even later than the last one, but I’ll push on. Let’s take a look back at who released albums in the summer of 2009. July produced new albums from Stellastarr, Trashcan Sinatras, The Most Serene Republic, and Nicky Wire’s brother, Patrick Jones. There were also records from the latest Jack White project, Dead Weather; former Boo Radley, Martin Carr; and finally a debut from folk duo Slow Club. And the ginger quiff that is La Roux dropped her first album.

August sweltered on with music from Mew, Japandroids, Calvin Harris, Patrick Wolf, The Antlers, Imogen Heap, and mum. There were also rather hyped releases from Florence & the Machine and Arctic Monkeys (neither really captured me). The xx, which has already appeared on the first part of this countdown, put out a debut. Oh yeah, and the male answer to La Roux, Frankmusik.

Onwards and upwards…

16. Ellipse – Imogen Heap
Imogen Heap is yet another artist that I haven’t always paid a lot of attention to. I confess that most of my familiarity with her came through that Frou Frou track used on the Garden State soundtrack and through the track Hide and Seek, which seemed to pop up here and there last year. And then of course she also dueted with Chris Corner for the IAMX song, My Secret Friend. When I finally got to listen to her latest record, I was hugely impressed with the great frothy folds of song and her breathy vocals; listening to Ellipse is a lot like burying you face in perfumed tulle. Deliciously dreamy, brilliantly offbeat and strangely tribal (tribes of sprites, perhaps), this album chronicles the emotional oscillations involved in any relationship, including with lovers and children. In spots, there are glimpses of Cocteau Twins, but that idiosyncratic inflection and phrasing in Heap’s vocals, along with that synthy double-effect layering that Heap is known for, makes this album a magical warping of reality, a “street-level miracle.” Even lyrics that may have been mundane in anyone else’s hands are made exotic and fantastical.

First Train Home – Imogen Heap

Earth – Imogen Heap

15. Is It Fire? – Jessie Evans
With a voluptuous fusion of Latin rhythms and Berlin cabaret, Jessie Evans debuted with an astonishingly spicy, yet aloof, album. Between the hot beats and the icy vocals, these tracks steam and press into you like a sauna. Songs about lust and hedonism are sung in a strong persona with old-style glamour and chutzpah. Listening to Is It Fire? is like tumbling headfirst into Stromboli at the climax of a black-and-white film; confidently striding in and out of genres, this album feels both old and new, cosmopolitan and global, rough and smooth, rustic and urbane.

Read my earlier review of it here.

Is It Fire – Jessie Evans

Blood and Silver – Jessie Evans

14. “Further Complications” – Jarvis Cocker
It’s the second solo outing from Jarvis Cocker, and it was unexpected in a brilliant way. Recruiting Steve Albini, Cocker’s music is heavier in spots and sometimes downright raucous in a gloriously messy way. But at the same time, it does mournfully slow, but in a pseudo-mawkish way. You’re just never sure how distanced Cocker is from his own lyrics, which makes the record all the more complex and wonderful. This album could have been relegated to a last thrash before middle age really sets in, but those quotation marks change everything. I’ve never been disappointed by viewing the world through Cocker’s NHS frames, and this, in some ways risky, record reaffirmed this.

Read my earlier review of it here.

Further Complications – Jarvis Cocker

You’re in My Eyes (Discosong) – Jarvis Cocker

13. React or Die – Butcher Boy
This Glaswegian band is an ebullient, charming mixture of gentle twee and kitchen sink drama, and I’ve only grown to adore them more with this second album. It is alternately jaunty and tender, and features elegant lines like:

You carve a perfect rose on the door, with hands so soft, with lips so warm. The petals cover me so beautifully, and the flower will fall upon the birdie sheet and growl “say, are we close? How close are we now?” But first we double up with a coffee cup, and the sheets will buckle.

You carve a perfect bird on the wall, with hands so soft, with lips so warm. The bird will sing for me so beautifully, and the notes will fall upon the bed we make so you growl “say, are we close? How close are we now?” And then you comfort me so beautifully, but the knife will buckle.

Lead singer, John Blain Hunt, has a voice that feels as warm and comforting as flannel as the music rises up behind him like a sun-warmed dale. There is something alternately Celtic lilt and John Cale circa Paris 1919 with a dash of Belle & Sebastian. The tender mini-dramas of regular folk are painted with a folktale brush until they’re fairytales. A testament to the power of their music is the first track When I’m Asleep, which only features the lyrics: “When I’m asleep, I never dream. I never feel anything.” It’s powerful because somehow I feel as though I’ve been through an entire range of emotions and stories after listening to this song despite having only heard the same two lines over and over again with slightly different inflections.

When I’m Asleep – Butcher Boy

This Kiss Will Marry Us – Butcher Boy

12. Shirley Lee – Shirley Lee
Frontman for witty band, Spearmint, Shirley Lee released his first solo album this year, and it reinforces the good-natured, detail-oriented ethos of his earlier lyrics. In the hope of breaking away from making just another Spearmint album, Lee embarked on a slightly more personal route, albeit with his band members in tow. The songs range from the plodding Upside Down on Brighton Beach, which seems to parody everything about a place like Brighton, to the folk-pop balladry of The Smack of Pavement in Your Face, which turns the love song on its head with fresh analogies. The whole record has an old feel, a bit like department stores and elevator music, but in a heartwarming, nostalgic way rather than a poke at the fall of grandeur. Youth and all of its fun quirks are laid out in these songs with puppyish energy, leaving you feeling clean and exhausted as though you just took a ride in a tumble-dryer. And there’s something truly endearing about the way he mispronounces Sondre Lerche’s last name “lurch” in Spiralina Girl, a song about Lee’s girlfriend.

Spiralina Girl – Shirley Lee

The Lights Change – Shirley Lee

11. Jet Black – Gentleman Reg
I only discovered Gentleman Reg (AKA Reg Vermue) this year when I saw him open for The Stills. He captivated me then on the spot, and when I later purchased his latest album, I remained under his honeyed spell of bittersweet romance and life experience. So much so, that I ended up buying his previous albums whilst in Toronto this fall. His loose and easy dulcet tones accompany a shambling guitar and flourished keys to create narratives of self-reflection, regrets and hunger. This record feels like the soundtrack to the adventures and misadventures to be explored in the city; the satisfying exhale of breath on those odd days where you actually feel possibility pressing at your temples; the moment a bad experience becomes a good memory. With the delicate and unique assemblage of a charm bracelet, Jet Black captures the desperation, resistance and recklessness that can come with crossing the threshold from twentyish youth to thirtyish maturity and modifying your expectations accordingly. The metamorphosis can be just as difficult and bewildering as adolescence, and this record will be there for you.

To Some It Comes Easy – Gentleman Reg

We’re in a Thunderstorm – Gentleman Reg

10. Cloud Pleaser – David Shane Smith
Like his Stroboscopic labelmate, stanleylucasrevolution (who appeared on 2008’s countdown), David Shane Smith produces some of the most challenging music out there. With a post-apocalyptic form of folk-electronic music and intelligently poetic lyrics, Smith made his latest album sound like a missive from the last man on Earth, his brain synapses burnt out and hanging down by his ears like grotesque headphone wires. Except the end of the world hasn’t happened yet. So no one believes him even as the bleak reality eases its way into their lives. And they remain ignorant because they can’t handle much more information or anything that inconveniences them. What they don’t understand is that the end of the world isn’t an event. It’s a process. And David Shane Smith is one of the prescient artists to document it as eloquently as possible.

Read my earlier review of it here.

Empty Action – David Shane Smith

Eyes – David Shane Smith

9. Bob and Veronica Ride Again – Morton Valence
In the world of music and its digital ubiquity, it becomes harder and harder to find really creative artists making really tangible pieces of art. With London band, Morton Valence, you get more than you pay for. Accompanied by an equally entertaining and thought-provoking novella, this album tells the picaresque story of Bob and Veronica, who eventually fall in love, but the love is never quite a sure thing, and perhaps it was never really love in the first place. And the music follows this non-linear path, looping through multiple genres and sliding in and out of parody. The back of the box reads:

Bob and Veronica.
An unlikely couple. Bob was suburban. And Veronica? Well, she wasn’t.
But so what? Ok, let’s put it another way; they had absolutely nothing in common. But then again, they weren’t planning on starting a social club or saving the world or anything. Bob was simply insanely attracted to Veronica from the moment he first saw her. Veronica took a little convincing. Pretty basic stuff really.
There were no opposites attracting or any of that. Bob doesn’t believe in opposites attracting anyway.
Neither does Veronica.

But they did believe in lust at first sight.

And unlike love, at least lust seems to last forever.

In effect, they’re a lot like all of us. And when you let the characters drive the story, you end up here with this fascinating, unexpected album. You don’t have to understand it because you’ll never understand life either.

Read my earlier review of it here.

Funny Peculiar – Morton Valence

Hang it on the Wall – Morton Valence

This week’s honourable mention is Morrissey’s Years of Refusal. It hurts a little that I couldn’t put him in the actual countdown, but I just didn’t think this album was quite up to it. Don’t get me wrong – I still really enjoyed it, and it contained the gem that is It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore. Perhaps he’s just set the bar so high earlier on, that it gets increasingly difficult to exceed it or surprise me. Read my review of the album here.

Something is Squeezing My Skull – Morrissey

The second part of my weekly mix round-up is coming up in the next couple of days. It’s my last week of work before a couple of weeks off, so things are a bit hectic again. And Friday or soon after, I will have my last installment of this series, which will reveal my top eight albums of 2009.


3 Responses to “My Top 40 Albums of 2009: Numbers 16 Through 9”

  1. 1 Rol
    December 14, 2009 at 9:17 am

    In a way I’m not surprised you couldn’t find room for Morrissey. YoR is another great Moz album, but it doesn’t really break any new ground and certainly doesn’t have the stand out moments of the previous two records. (This won’t stop me including it in my own list of course.)

    So pleased to see Shirley Lee featured though. I was a listening to The Reservoir again on my way to work this morning. It makes me cry every time I hear it. I can’t think of another song that’s ever had such an emotional impact on me.

  2. 2 hfs radio fan
    December 27, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    The only thing I can figure out is this must be your full-time job. It’s amazing. Congrats

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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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