Archive for the 'The xx' Category


My Top 40 Albums of 2009: Numbers 40 Through 33

As with most things this year, this first installment of my favourite albums of 2009 is a few days late. Last year, I posted one of these every Friday until the last week of the year. Of course I was also basically unemployed. I will try my hardest to post the remaining four installments on time. I only recently realized that it was also the end of the decade, and after having a mini panic attack, I’ve decided that I will only do a top albums of the decade list if I feel like it.

If you were with me for this last year, you’ll recall I tried to run down the main album releases throughout the year while writing a blurb on each of eight albums for each post in the countdown. By the time I hit my top eight records, the blurbs are a bit larger and I’m usually kicking myself about missing something out or wanting to change the order slightly. And probably the most difficult installments to create are the first couple – my very favourite albums seldom change, but I tend to shuffle around the lesser ones as my mood shifts its fickle little feet. I also include one runner-up to the list in each installment, so make sure you scroll right to the bottom. Feel free to criticize or let me know what your favourite albums of 2009 are.

The last year of the noughties began with a few notable releases in January, including albums from John Frusciante, Bruce Springsteen, Franz Ferdinand, White Lies, Stuck in the Sound, Andrew Bird, and It Hugs Back along with a slew of ampersand bands like Matt & Kim, Antony & the Johnsons and Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees. Animal Collective’s critically acclaimed Merriweather Post Pavilion also released to the slavering jaws of indie hipsters everywhere. February saw the return of the Mozfather and the less exciting return of Lily Allen. It also featured releases from Jessie Evans, The Joy Formidable, David Shane Smith, Yuksek, Gentleman Reg, and another solo turn by Robyn Hitchcock. The unfortunate dog vomit that is the sophomore record from The Fray was balanced out by the raved-about-C86-throwback The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

And so off we go to the countdown…

40. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – Phoenix
It’s a tad ambitious inserting your band’s name where Mozart’s should be, but high on their increasing visibility through 2006’s It’s Never Been Like That and its accompanying hit Marie Antoinette-assoicated single Consolation Prizes, Phoenix went right ahead. Judging by the opening two tracks, Lisztomania and 1901, you’d think the French band was going to continue squarely on the path of Consolation Prizes, eschewing the loungier end of their retro pop for frothy powder wigs of song; then something rather more interesting happens by track four, Love Like a Sunset Pt. 1. It is also unfortunately where some critics seemed to fall out of love with the record as the music builds through buzzing and bubbling electronic textures to some vocals by the time you hit the considerably shorter Love Like a Sunset Pt. 2. And perhaps the record seems a bit disjointed in spots because Thomas Mars and Co decided to use Eno’s Oblique Strategies. Even if I don’t love every track on this album, it does prove that Phoenix is at least thinking about different ways of being pop.

1901 – Phoenix

Love Like a Sunset (Pts 1 and 2) – Phoenix

39. Through Fire – Twiggy Frostbite
Last year, I included Swedish band, The Deer Tracks, in my Top 40, and this year, it’s Twiggy Frostbite, which shares both sound and members with The Deer Tracks. That same vocal which defined the whispering tenderness of The Deer Tracks is present here, as ephemeral as a light puff of throat-warmed breath melting frost on the windowpane. The music itself descends like a feathery snowfall, sending droplets of purified sound into your ears; it is both spare and expansive, filling emptiness you never knew was there.

Eye For an Eye – Twiggy Frostbite

Thrown in Two- Twiggy Frostbite

38. The Empyrean – John Frusciante
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have always just been incidental in my life – I’ve heard them on the radio since I was a child and never really gave them much more thought, let alone any solo projects which ensued. I now realize how mistaken I was to dismiss former guitarist/songwriter John Frusciante, especially since I’m only just taking notice at solo album number ten. The album title itself can be defined as “highest heaven” and “the pure element of fire,” and there is something definitely ethereal about the strains of mournful virtuoso guitar, bouncing and wavering like dying stars gasping their last celestial, dusty breath. At the same time, there’s a steady burn of psychedelic jamming, and Frusciante’s vocals hover around the edges of sound like a satellite broadcast or as though sung through a cellophane envelope of ozone. A couple of the tracks on the record even feature Johnny Marr. One of my favourite songs on this record is the opening track, Before the Beginning, which is epic and anthemic just by using electric guitar and slow, minimal drums. His version of Tim Buckley’s Song to the Siren is also androgynously beautiful, strong and fragile. Like the soundtrack to the birth of the cosmos, this album surprised me in wonderful ways.

Before the Beginning – John Frusciante

Central – John Frusciante

37. Travels With Myself and Another – Future of the Left
Rising from the angry ashes of Welsh band Mclusky, Future of the Left has crept in and out of my music playlists for the last couple of years. With the release of this second album, I’ve taken far more notice, and felt comforted after the unfortunate dissipation of Mclusky. This sophomore album is full of snarling, punk jabs and augmented by rather expansive banks of melodic guitar. The relentless melody grinds against the raw vocals and short bursts of Gang of Four-like minimalism, creating a less predictable sort of noise rock. Bloodied screams punch through lyrics about existential angst, religion, economic realities, drunkeness, and the random meaninglessness of events, scattering myths and mores in its wake. This album is like punk music for the dramatic, but with a pitch-perfect sense of satirical humour.

The Hope That House Built – Future of the Left

That Damned Fly – Future of the Left

36. Nonsense in the Dark – The Filthy Dukes
This London-based synthpop band pretty much came out of nowhere for me earlier this year, eventually even going on to mix their own FabricLive record. Nonsense in the Dark then went on to entrap me in some of the sweetest electro melodies and beats that I’ve heard this year. The track This Rhythm is one of my favourite songs of the year, and the rest of the album keeps the momentum going with Tron-like precision. There is definitely a whiff of the 80s about this record in its often New Romantic-like vocals and robot disco sound, but it isn’t forced; these songs were expertly handcrafted for dance. Even the slower numbers like the title track retain a pop sensibility as alluring as a sweep of ultraviolet mascara. And one of my favourite artists, frYars, makes a guest vocal appearance on Poison the Ivy.

Elevator – Filthy Dukes

Messages – Filthy Dukes

35. Yes – Pet Shop Boys
It was a happy technicolour day (with ironic cloud cover) when Tennant and Lowe came back with their tenth studio album after three years (read my review here). While it could be argued that the duo had lost some of their spark over the past few albums, Yes showed that they have kept their ascerbic, urbane commentary as memorable as their music. Whether observing the trainwreck that was Pete Doherty and Kate Moss (Pandemonium) or dissecting fame and wealth more generally (Love Etc., Beautiful People), they proved that they could still create music with icy distance and gloriously brilliant flourishes while questioning how a concept like love fits into our wireless new world. Testing the shiny surfaces of this decade, they hit their targets time after time, their bows as arched as an eyebrow. 

All Over the World – Pet Shop Boys

Did You See Me Coming – Pet Shop Boys

34. xx – The xx
I admittedly came late to the xx party, not bothering with listening to the album until this month. As much as their cryptic name suggests, they lurked about my periphery for several months, topping the Hype Machine for days at a time. I then discovered that this low key, dreamy record was poignant in its chiming guitars, clipped xylophone and prominent kicks of bass. The vocals from Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sims are aloof yet soulful, a duet of hushed pains and pleasures. It’s a subdued record, but all the more powerful in its compressed containment. In Shelter, there’s a heartbreaking simplicity to the lines: “Maybe I had said, something that was wrong/can I make it better with the lights turned on?” xx is an album alive with subtext, begging to be uncovered.

VCR -The xx

Shelter -The xx

33. Temporary Pleasure – Simian Mobile Disco
I’ve been a fan of Simian Mobile Disco for a few years now, and this sophomore album has reinforced my love for them. This time they’ve utilized a plethora of guest vocalists, including Gruff Rhys, Beth Ditto, Jamie Liddell, Alexis Taylor, and Yeasayer’s Chris Keating. All of these singers lend more than just their voices; there is a distinct shift in feel and genre despite the consistency of SMD’s electro backdrop complementing them. For example, Rhys’s song generates a psychedelic sheen, Ditto’s song turns into a soul disco number, Taylor’s track becomes an exotic sort of electro, inheriting some of Hot Chip’s flavour, and Keating’s Audacity of Huge takes a laundry list of materialism to a skittery arcade sound. The possible schizophrenia holds together brilliantly with the glassy beats rolling into one another like a silvery necklace shot through with lasers.

Cream Dream (featuring Gruff Rhys) – Simian Mobile Disco

Cruel Intentions (featuring Beth Ditto) – Simian Mobile Disco

This installment’s honourable mention is God Help the Girl’s self-titled album. It’s an interesting release in that it’s basically an offshoot of Belle & Sebastian and that it’s a soundtrack to a musical film yet to be released. The 1960s French pop sound that Scottish bands like Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura have embraced is all over this album like a warm mustard-tinted sweater while focusing on a distinctly feminine set of vocals, including Catherine Ireton, Celia Garcia, Dina Bankole, Brittany Stallings, Asya, and Anna Miles. While Stuart Murdoch makes an appearance himself and also incorporates a guest vocal from Neil Hannon, this is a female-focused narrative as evident from the title itself. Filled with the off-kilter wit and retro tweeness that defines his regular band, Murdoch’s foray into musical films is off to a good start with this soundtrack.

God Help the Girl – God Help the Girl

Stay tuned for the next installment of the countdown this Friday.

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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' 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