Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Mumford and Sons, Bombay Bicycle Club, Wild Beasts - GIITTV writers albums of 2009
Here we present you with the TOP 50 albums of 2009 as voted for and explained by the fine staff of GIITTV Zine, you lucky people. Congratulations to every act mentioned, in what was one of the best and most varied list of albums since we started collecting votes. A special well done to Animal Collective who came out on top of this year's writer's poll. Stand by for the readers poll of 50 results coming very shortly. Here's to hopefully another great year of music in 2010!
1. Animal Collective - 'Merriweather Post Pavilion'
When I spoke to Animal Collective co-founder and multi-instrumentalist Avey Tare back in 2007 about their last disc "Strawberry Jam' he talked about not wanting to creatively stand still, how in conjunction with his three cohorts Panda Bear, Geologist and Deakin they're constantly 'trying new things and new sounds' the Animal Collective live experience is the sound of a 'continuous sonic experience with song forms tucked in side.' with their latest record made these words seem somehow prophetic. Because when Panda Bear brought back the influential fragments of his awe inspiring solo album 'Person Pitch' to the collected animals table it infused the members with yet another new direction, this from a band that has constantly blurred the lines between traditional limiting genres tags (electro, neo psch, neo folk, noise pop ect ect).
Thus they set about creating their most experimental work yet, a long player which turned out to be perhaps their creative zenith. Merriweather Post Pavilion invited you into a new world, like an acid trip that expands your horizons, or a dream that melds fragments of the past with the present and events yet to happen MPP was a kaleidoscope of swirling psychedelia, twisting loop pedals, blinking keys, mind bending harmonies: voices that became instruments in the hands of these sonic wizards. Opening up your perceptions and challenging your preconceptions of what music can be in this brave new century.
In 2009 the Animal Collective reached their creative peak both on record and on stage, producing a sonic piece of musical work that restored your faith in the power of the long player as a piece of art work, each track bleeding into the next (special mention going to the hypnotic of 'My Girls', the squelching eerie euphoria of 'Summer Clothes' and the outstanding hamonic closer 'Brother sport') to create a glorious whole, a handful of critics missed the point the Animal Collective aren't just another flash in the pan they have been hungrily defining and evolving their sound, before the hype and attention that this year brought. MMP pushed at barriers and yet allowed you into the warm heart of its vocal congregation. Which made the quite astounding Animal Collective LP, Merriweather Post Pavilion the overwhelming choice as GIITTV zine writer's album of the year! (Bill Cummings)
2. Grizzly Bear- 'Veckatimest'
2009 was the year Grizzly Bear stepped out from being lumped in with those other 70s indebted folk experimentalists, Fleet Foxes, and stood out on their own. Everything in the arrangement of Veckatimest is immaculate: the knowingly-placed red herring of opener 'Southern Point'- fooling all into thinking the four-piece were about to present us a prog-filled odyssey- the lusciously sweeping choral arrangement that falls over 'All We Ask' like a warm embrace; and, arguably most impressively, the infectious stomp of 'While We Wait For The Others' that soars skywards. Every nuance of this record has the sense of being painstakingly poured over; yet what's even more impressive is that, in spite of that, there's a glorious sense of freedom to it; a textural game of hide and seek that refuses to become tiresome.(Simon Catling)
3. Mumford and Sons - 'Sigh No More'
About three and a half years ago, a Frank Turner gig in a tiny pub kicked off an ever deepening obsession with the quieter side of music and with “new English folk” in particular. Unfortunately, living three hundred miles away from the movement's home in London has meant a slight limiting of the bands I've heard, but even so Mumford & Sons was a name that I'd heard being bandied around for quite some time. Having toured with Laura Marling and Noah And The Whale amongst others, the Mumfords had been steadily building up a loyal fan-base over several years, but when Sigh No More was released the group's popularity exploded.
Helped immensely by signing up with the might of Island Records and receiving airplay on the BBC, Mumford & Sons reputation went from strength to strength following the albums launch, attracting fans from all quarters to an extent where they ran the risk of becoming immersed in the hype machine. Outside of the newfound fame though, there's no denying the brilliance of Sigh No More.
In terms of song writing, Mumford & Sons manage to neatly sidestep the genre's pit-falls of high-romanticising and overly wordy verses. In the latter case they actually head off in the opposite direction, with the majority of tracks anchored by swelling, joyous choruses, each with a heartfelt vocal harmony more affecting than the last. It's far from windswept valley music though, as Marcus Mumford's vocal contorts into a furiously ferocious growl throughout, and the Sons' spirited playing invokes memories of The Pogues on several occasions, especially album highlight, and current single, Winter Winds.
Since my first listen Sigh No More has been on constant rotation on my music playlists, but even since then there's been a feeling that this hugely impressive debut is merely scratching the surface of the band's abilities, and if they can stick to their guns and create a follow-up that builds upon their strengths whilst increasingly mining their musical depth (much like Noah And The Whale did with this year's The First Days Of Spring), then there will be no stopping them. Sigh No More is brilliant in its own right, but better than that, it could be the start of something very special indeed.(Mark Grainger)
4. Bombay Bicycle Club - 'I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose.
It felt like it'd been a long time coming but, blimmin' heck, was it worth the wait. Arriving just in time for festival season, I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose was the perfect accompaniment to those heady summer days spent losing yourself in muddy fields with thousands of other like-minded people. Its the sound of being young and in love, and all the complications that go with it. Bombay Bicycle Club have created a debut that is both beguiling and utterly seductive, it's underlying sense of urgency only serving to make it all the more fascinating. (Rhian Daly)
5. Wild Beasts - Two Dancers
Graduating their caricatures from grammar school made Wild Beasts no less crotch-driven. There was a difference this time, though; gone was the out-and-out bawdiness of 'She Prrd Whilst I Grrrd', and the schoolboy cheek of 'Please, Sir'. Replacing it was darkness, intrigue, drama- the realisation, perhaps that sometimes their debauched actions might to lead to consequences for the Leeds-based four-piece. And, just occasionally, amidst the “freudian slips” and “hootings and howlings” you got the sense that the 'Beasts maybe, just maybe, had feelings for some of these girls; Tom Fleming's crooning ode to a “beautiful flower” on 'Two Dancers (ii)', for example; or the reflective soliloquy of 'Underbelly'. If Wild Beasts put the theatrical back into British indie last year with Limbo, Panto, then it was this year that they made the switch to the widescreen.
6. Future of The Left - Travels With Myself And Another
Furious and aggressive both musically and lyrically, Future of the Left's second album ranks among the best works of everyone involved (quite a feat). While their debut album 'Curses' was full of promise but somewhat inconsistent, this is superb throughout - on tracks like 'Throwing Bricks At Trains', Falco's shouts are complemented by unexpected spot-on harmonies. It's one of the wittiest albums in a long while, too - check out the everyday diary of a modern-day satanist in 'You Need Satan More Than He Needs You' and a ferocious musical rant at the Barfly chain on 'That Damned Fly'.(Mike Mantin)
7. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
One of my own favourites of 2009, Dirty Projectors push the boundaries of indie-chic with an LP that constantly kept us guessing. Inventive and intuitive, the tracks documented on Bite Orca are indeed sounds to be savoured, even if they were largely influenced by 'colours, and their interactions'. From the sickly dance beauty of 'Stillness is a Move' to the rasp rumblings of 'Useful Chamber', I was hard pressed finding fault with this album from start to finish. Now, racking up its countless play in my own homestead, that fact remains true. A staple for 2009's diet.(James Mcdonald)
8. The Decemberists - 'The Hazards of Love
Returning to the fold after 2006's delightful offering The Crane Wife would be no easy task. But with their 09 long player The Hazards of Love Portland collective The Decemberists had perhaps outdid themselves again 'The Hazards of Love' was an extended narrative that spanned seventeen tracks of delectable, aching neo folk pop each one twist and turning in the wind with almost progressive musical intent. Apparently The Hazards of Love tells the tale of a woman named Margaret; her shape-shifting lover, William; his fey forest queen mother; and a cold-blooded, lascivious rake, who recounts with spine-tingling ease how he came "to be living so easy and free" in the outstanding percussion led highlight "The Rake's Song". The range of sounds reflects the characters' arcs, from the lilting accordion led lament of “Isn't it a Lovely Night?” to the rock thunder theatrics of 'The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing' to the sea faring boy/girl duet of 'The Wanting Comes in Waves.' With 'the Hazards of Love' band leader and arch anglophile Colin Meloy and his band of Decembrists had created another startling work of complexity and accessibility. Songs that rippled with intricate narratives and characterisations, that are sometimes funny sometimes sad, that manage to be personal, and universal a veritable folk pop opera.(Bill Cummings)
9. The Horrors - 'Primary Colours'
Undoubtedly one of the seminal albums of the year, if not purely for its content then also for the tactful marketing angles used during its promotional run. Having sucked enough cock in their musical youth to earn them the platform they hold today, the band were able to explore new ventures and produce a piece of work which was dubbed 'kraut-rock' by the panicky majority of the time. The dawn of this rebirth came through the medium of an unannounced 7 minute saga of a video for lead single 'Sea Within A Sea', leaving us all scratching our heads as to whether we could shamelessly admit to liking it or not. Regardless of whether it was enough to win us over, the too-cool-for-school plain black sleeve seemed more of a post-caring middle finger than an outright censorship of the original cover, rumoured to have portrayed a woman on all fours sniffing a glove. I ran into lead Horror Faris Badwan at the Field Day extravaganza this year, and took the opportunity to ask him how content he was with the release after he'd had time to reflect on its success - he merely smiled and replied; 'not as content as I'll be with the next album.' Having the balls to try new things and silence writers like myself justly merits 'Primary Colours' a place in our top 10.(James Mcdonald)
10. The xx - S/T
Put away that old, obsequious, ephemeral noise that is said to define youth, and make way for The xx. Why? Because The xx have created an album of heavy musical beauty and distilled drama upon a disc in a manner so unlike their contemporaries that they may well have created one of the defining records of the decade. Where rowdy guitars and punk exuberance usually suits the thrusting teen, these young adults prefer a minimalistic approach; embracing beats as well as their signature soft, palm-muted single note guitars. Truly an album to fall in love with, its lasciviousness mischievousness will remind you of what it means to be a teenager in love again.(Ash Akhtar)
11. Arctic Monkeys - 'Humbug'
Its been no secret that Arctic Monkeys that care what you think. They don't care if you like it. As Alex Turner sings on the title track of the Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? EP, they “don't care if its marketing suicidal/won't crack or compromise/[...] so bring on the backlash.” You get the feeling they've probably been enjoying the tepid response Humbug received on its release this summer.
Recorded on both sides of the US with producers du jour, Josh Homme and James Ford, Humbug may have received less fawning attention from the press and fans alike than the band's acclaimed debut but by no means is it a lesser record. The sexual tension and evocative imagery depicted by Alex Turner, coupled with the sound of a band not afraid to do what ever the hell they like is a combination that in the Monkeys' hands is hugely exhilarating, from the tone-setting opener My Propeller, right through the thunderous Dance Little Liar to closer The Jeweller's Hands.
12. The Joy Formidable - 'A Balloon Called Moaning'
Truly, 2009 was The Joy Formidable's year. Increment by increment, they became a notable band. From being GIITTV's tip for 2009 to releasing a string of remarkable singles, to this, their mini album, to a live album all in one year, TJF surely warrant the award for 2009's most hardworking band! That A Balloon Called Moaning is not even the band's full-length debut album speaks volumes about the quality the band are set to be capable of in the future. If the pop perfection of songs like Whirring, Cradle, and Austere were not to be saved for the band's debut album, for them to be on this mini album was a strident statement all of its own indeed. Eight songs in total, the album seldom lets up its mighty swell of guitar bluster, save for the ballad 9669 which is a pretty gem of calm in an otherwise predominantly feedback-laden tornado. Ritzy's silken but forceful voice somehow both complements and controls the mayhem. It all reaches an almighty climax with the greatest aplomb in the form of the bombshell that is Ostrich, which bobs away into ferocious, fuzzed electric noise and hammering repetitive drums that combine with a nagging whorl of guitar mania to hypnotise you. When the CD halted at the end of the first listen, you were surely left mouth gaping in astonishment at being whizzed round indie pop and guitar pedal heaven in 30 crazed minutes. If this is just the start of things to come, then TJF's 2010 is going to be fruitful indeed, and we are blessed in these times with an important band to believe in, to fill the pedestal that has been vacant for so long. (Miss Fliss)
13. Fuck Buttons - 'Solar Surf'
Having kicked up quite a storm last year with an abrasive and painfully fresh debut, ATP's own noise geeks triumphed again this year with another disorientating journey through sound, the likes of which many may never have previously conceived. If 'Street Horrrsing' had disproved the notion that our world was flat, 'Tarot Sport' would be our first brave comprehension of new galaxies afar. This time around the media powers that overlooked the debut picked up on this LP in a manner only right and proper given its pioneering stature. However, despite such widespread plaudits the duo remain somewhat of a marmite act, although a respectable 13th position in our staff countdown proves we're happy to have them accompany our toast [delete analogy where appropriate].(James Mcdonald)
14. Discovery - LP
In a year where synths were here, there and bloody everywhere, its almost funny that the most flawlessly astounding record to make heavy use of the instrument went by largely unnoticed. The name Discovery might be unfamiliar to most but the two halves that constitute it are slightly more recognisable. But not even Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend) and Wes Miles (Ra Ra Riot) could muster up much attention and so the pair's debut collaboration LP was swept under the carpet.
Why have I voted it one of the best records of 2009? Because its the most complete and interesting record released all year. Because its a warm, perfect pop record that still manages to be intelligent and interesting. Because everything about it, from the Ezra Koenig-featuring Carby to the timely cover of the late Michael Jackson's I Want You Back, is pure gold. It's exciting and infectious and there's no sign of VW's now slightly irksome afrobeat adoration within ten miles of it. (Rhian Daly)
15. The Antlers - 'Hospice'
2008's indie fable saw Justin Vernon retreat into a log cabin to reflect on lost loves; and 2009's is even more heartbreaking. 'Hospice' is an intense and frequently difficult listen, a concept album about losing a loved one to cancer. But while there's no attempt to hide any emotions, there is nothing schmaltzy or distasteful here. It builds up an eerie atmosphere (it has a Prologue and Epilogue and sounds like a gust of wind is blowing through it), which can sometimes obsucre the fact it has all the emotional intensity of an Arcade Fire record. In every way, this sleeper hit caught us all off guard.(Mike Mantin)
16. Florence and The Machine - 'Lungs'
If someone had told me at the start of the year that Florence and the Machine would make the top 20 artists of 2009 I wouldn't have been shocked or even surprised. Affirming my suspicions on the NME Awards Tour in February, Florence' blew me away with her sheer power and precise vocals and proved she was ready to go onto bigger and better things in 2009. Her debut album Lungs is a powerhouse of delicately balanced ballads mixing her charged, emotional lyrics with lighter, intricate instrumental accompaniment. Dog Days Are Over, Blinding and Drumming demonstrate the band's abilities to conjure impressive, uplifting tracks whilst Between Two Lungs and Cosmic Love deliver the more melancholic, considered side of their material. Of course, aside from her fantastic debut album, Florence's live shows are attributable to the performer's success too. Having seen her a handful of times now, each has been unique and stunning and with new material later in the new year, 2009 isn't the only year I feel Florence and the Machine will be making the list.(Paul Cook)
17. Manic Street Preachers - 'Journal For Plague Lovers'
When most albums are announced there's usually only a very small range of reactions on the internet; either “I loved their last album, this'll be awesome OMG!”, “This band sucks ass lolol” or a uninterested shrug. Reactions can also be influenced by the inevitable empty rhetoric that goes with each album announcement since it's very rare for a front-man's quote about this one being the best album actually being true (I'm looking at you Bono). When the Manic Street Preachers announced Journal For Plague Lovers though, there was both a tangible excitement and an ominous sense of foreboding.
For the first time in fifteen years the Manics were using lyrics written by Richey Edwards, their “guitarist” and lyricist who disappeared shortly after the release of their magnum opus, The Holy Bible. At the time, Nicky Wire said: “The brilliance and intelligence of the lyrics dictated that we had to finally use them. The use of language is stunning and topics include The Grande Odalisque by Ingres, Marlon Brando, Giant Haystacks, celebrity, consumerism and dysmorphia, all reiterating the genius and intellect of Richard James Edwards”.
The finished product didn't disappoint either, as the content segued from the speedy rock of the early days to more atmospheric numbers with dripping acoustic guitar melodies with barely a dip in quality or a comprehendable lyric amongst its thirteen tracks. In fact it may even contain their finest work, William's Last Words, an obviously emotionally draining song which vocalist James Dean Bradfield hands over to Wire (Edwards' best friend) that reads startlingly like the suicide note that never was.
It would have been easy for the Manics' decision to backfire spectacularly, as their recent music has taken a different path, but Journal For Plague Lovers proved a worthy bookend to the life of Richey Edwards, but it's also the best Manics album in years, the band proving to everyone and themselves what they can still do when they refocus their minds. Their biggest problem is how they can follow Journal now that they find themselves without Richey once again.(Mark Grainger)
18. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - S/T
At the end of last year New York four piece The Pains of Being Pure At Heart emerged naively blinking into the light flecked with the spirit of C86 bands, influenced by the early four chord jangle pop of My Bloody Valentine, Teenage Fanclub, Rocketship and The Pastels, but imbuing them with an enthusiasm and passion that only comes from youth, it was impossible to ignore. A raft of rather splendid singles, a wonderful debut album under their belt and a recently electro dappled EP 'higher than the stars' released and their assent was complete.
Their debut is a short sharp encapsulation of everything that was so addictive about pains... in 09, from the wonderful butterflies in your stomach inducing indie pop melodies of future alt hits 'Come Saturday' and 'Young Adult Friction' to the bouncing 'Everything With you' to the loved up fuzz of 'This Love is Fucking Right!' wherein Kip Berman refers to either incest or lesbianism ('you're my sister /and this love is fucking right').Pains... had created one of the debuts of the year, a 33 minute shot in the arm of dreamy yet noisy boy/girl pop music like what they used to make, oh to be a teenager in love again, we salute you pains!(Bill Cummings)
19. Madness - 'The liberation of Norton Folgate'
Madness' unexpected, vaunting return set magazines, forums, and even Regent Street alight as the band took their live show to the streets. With multiple '80s reformations announced throughout 2009, the chart-topping Nutty Camden boys rose above their previous competition with a startling delivery of original material. Designed as a concept album about the vibrancy of East London, Madness draw deep on London's rich history, dating back as far as the arrival of the Huguenots in the
1800s. Yes, it's cerebral, but also filled with the band's ability to conjure up majestic pop melody inflected with their love of Jamaican rhythms. The Liberty Of Norton Folgate is Madness' greatest achievement and towers above many albums this year. Before you fill your stockings with American indie-chic, try British.
20. The Maccabees - 'Wall of Arms'
Gone is the twee, endearingly chipper guitar pop of debut Colour it In, and in its place lies a more sophisticated and developed sense of majesty. On Wall of Arms, the Maccabees set about silencing the doubters and proving they were more than just a flash in the pan, run of the mill indie band and succeeded. Heaving with heartache and an almost nagging sense of anguish, the south Londoners' second album is the first stepping stone on the path to going stratospheric. (Rhian Daly)
... and the best of the rest -
21. We Were Promised Jetpacks -
22. Noah And The Whale - 'First Days Of Spring'
23. Atlas Sound - 'Logos'
24. Grammatics - S/T
25. Flaming Lips - 'Embryonic'
26. There Will Be Fireworks - S/T
27. Dananananaykroyd - Hey Everyone!
28. Former Ghosts - 'Fleurs'
29. And So I Watch You From Afar - S/T
30. Brand New - 'Daisy'
31. Raekwon - 'Only Built For Cuban Linx 2'
32. The Cribs - 'Ignore the Ignorant'
33. Blue October - 'Approaching Normal'
34. M.Ward - 'Hold Time'
35. Bibio - 'Ambivalence Avenue'
36. The Firekites - 'The Bowery'
37. Frank Turner - 'Poetry of the Deed'
38. Dredg - 'The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion'
39. The Twilight Sad - 'Forget the Night Ahead'
40. Dan Deacon - 'Bromst'
41. Passion Pit - 'Manners'
42. Health - 'Get Colour'
43. Lovvers - 'OCD Go Go Go Girls'
44. P.O.S -'Never Better'
45. St. Vincent - 'Actor'
46. Ramona Falls - 'Intuit'
47. Blakroc - S/T
48. Slaraffenland - 'We're On Your Side'
49. Balmorhea - 'All is Wild, All is Silent'
50. Orphans and Vandals- 'I Am Alive You Are Dead'