The Joy Formidable, The Horrors, Arctic Monkeys, Animal Collective, Bombay Bicycle Club - GIITTV readers albums of 09
Before Christmas we presented you with our writer's albums of 2009, and then asked you dear reader to make your choice from our shortlisted albums. Now the votes have been counted by comment and email, now the results are in you will notice that this list differs in some ways maybe leaning more on the experimental side, but it retains a core of the albums that also made the higher rankings in our critics list. But the people have spoken and The Joy Formidable have scooped the award for 2009 with a self released mini album, proof positive that it doesn't matter how you release your records if the writers and readers of GIITTV love your work we will champion you!
1. The Joy Formidable - 'A Balloon Called Moaning'
What we said: 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)
READ OUR INTERVIEW
2. The Horrors - Primary Colours
What we said: "With retrospect then, we can see what The Horrors were attempting but failing to achieve in their earlier work: scary garage rock weighted with intellect, style and vision. Against the odds they achieve this here, and much more besides.
Where has this all come from? What on earth does it mean? At the least it's a tremendous negation of the idea that you only get one chance to make a first impression; when was the last time you heard a second album by a band that was at minimum ten times better than their debut?
It's hard to imagine what has altered this creepy gang in such a positive, brave fashion (one can only imagine the influence of Portishead man Geoff Barrow on production duties had a large hand in the direction taken) but really it's irrelevant.
From the Shangri-la's breakdown of the aforementioned 'Who Can Say?' to the final euphoric beats of the album this is a stunning, wonderful and tremendously exhilarating record.
It really doesn't matter now what the NME says, what their haircuts look like, how daft their pseudonyms. When you've created a modern classic all that matters is the music.
Leave your preconceptions at the door."
3. Arctic Monkeys - Humbug
What we said "You'll have heard lead single Crying Lightning by now, no doubt, with its pick'n'mix imagery. Its a good ambassador for the rest of the album; the first time I heard it, lying in bed ill, I couldn't work it out. It confused me, made my head hurt even more. For the most part, Humbug is a bit of a headfuck but once you've got yourself into the mindset of it, it becomes another beast entirely. From the pretty melancholy of Cornerstone to the obviously Josh Homme influenced Dangerous Animals, its a record that may not have the immediacy that its predecessors had in buckets but one that with every listen opens up and shows you something new. Its a brave move from four boys who clearly don't give a damn about sales or what the fans want. Its the sound of Arctic Monkeys stepping up their game and you know what? Its bloody brilliant."
4. Animal Collective - 'Merriweather Post Pavilion'
What we said: "You don't hear bands like Animal Collective every day. Sure, they've been pinned down with genres: neo-psychedelica, freak folk, noise pop, but the only thing for sure - it's not easy music to listen to, which of course isn't strictly a bad thing. With the aliases Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist the band are well and truly immersed into their work. Animal Collective is an experience, both live and in the studio, with performances alive with mind-melting sonic experimentation. Nevertheless, they continue to release albums to increasing critical acclaim. Their newest, Merriweather Post Pavilion has been pre-emptively hailed as album of the decade by several critics." READ MORE
5. Bombay Bicycle Club - I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose
What we said: "Gently floating melodies telling tales of adolescence and innocence make up the long-awaited long-player from London's Bombay Bicycle Club and at the age of just 19 they're a band with true potential to be the best up-and-coming indie kids since Bloc Party. Always Like This is reminiscent of a mellower Maccabees with particularly nimble drumming and heartfelt lyrics and further evidence that Bombay Bicycle Club are ready to make their mark in similar circles as The Maccabees."
6. The XX - S/T
What we said This record is unassuming, addictive and hugely involving. It is, I suspect, a complete one off and something no one apart from the band themselves should be allowed to have. It's a rare thing for any band, let alone a group of newcomers, to possess such a fine-tuned and all encompassing aesthetic as the XX. This is a meticulously crafted, beautifully understated and brilliantly delivered debut. READ MORE
7. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
What we said: "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. Florence and The Machine - 'Lungs'
What we said"Florence manages to get pretty much everything on her album, from 60s handclaps from to imagery borrowed from the 70s (the video for Rabbit Heart resembles the cover of I'm with the Band), beats and synths from the 80s (who can possibly avoid it now? she even bluntly covered You've got the Love from that decade) and friendly chord sequences as the 90s have seen in abundance. Lungs is basically Florence's way of showing off all the lessons she learnt as the teacher's best pet, and her mentor was commercially successful music of the last few decades.
So it can be a good album. It certainly manages to please the pop-ears without being obvious in writing or in production, trying to find its own way while still cheekily ambling along the edges of already established sounds.
So what's my ultimate feeling about the debut by Florence & The Machine? Well here's a story: this morning I got to my office and they were discussing Florence's album in terms such as: 'It's fucking brilliant. I am having a party in my car every time I listen to it.' I think I'll stick to this."
9. Future of The Left - Travels With Myself And Another
What we said about them live: Falco can't hide the smile on his face as the crowd completely lose it from the delicate menace of the opening riff of Arming Eritrea to Kelson walking on the palms of the willing crowd at the end of a characteristically blistering performance of Cloak The Dagger. The banter is as cuttingly witty as usual with a few drunks at the front willingly pulled apart by the band. Kelson's charisma alone could see him going down the Henry Rollins path of spoken word tours, but for now let's just hope he just keeps playing these incredible songs. I'm sure I wasn't alone wondering as Kelson whispered to Falco towards the end of the set whether we were about to be treated to a Mclusky / Jarcrew tune. When we hear the opening notes to the excellent Drink Nike instead, you know there's no need to look to the past with songs of this calibre. The bitterness of the lack of deserved success was pretty clear on the lyrics of the second album, but tonight leaves you with hope for their future. Falco was once quoted as saying "Jarcrew were as good live as Shellac" but after shows like that, you can confidently claim that Future Of The Left can be as good live as Les Savy Fav."
10. Wild Beasts- Two Dancers
What we said about it: Just as the wonderfully floating Limbo, Panto did with such ease and elegance, Two Dancers, the sophomore effort from Kendal-based Wild Beasts is an album of shining highs and deeply contemplative lows. Soaring falsetto vocals from Hayden Thorpe are layered upon the rich, atmospheric tones of echoing keys, playful riffs and powerfully moving drum beats. All The King's Men employs a heavier drum beat to give the track a real punch from the start, amidst the more delicate piano and string tones. Both choral backing vocals from Tom Fleming and buoyant yelps from Thorpe showcase the vocal range the band possess. Whilst it isn't as instantaneously catchy as The Devil's Crayon it is still one of the album's defining tracks.Unfortunately the album does tail off slightly at the end, the final two tracks a tad dull if there is too be any criticism of the album at all. The Empty Nest is very much like Cheerio Chaps, bidding farewell to the listener solemnly. Two Dancers is another sublime step forward for Wild Beasts, one that might hopefully bring them much more deserved appreciation. READ MORE
11. The Antlers - Hospice
What we said: Hospice tells an emotional narrative throughout its ten tracks of a man losing someone he loves to cancer, and it certainly isn't easy listening.
To echo Silberman's lyrics from 'Two' - “You had a new dream, it was more like a nightmare”, the album is musically dream-like with gentle melodies building in vast crescendos, whilst the lyrical content is so deep and morbid in comparison, as the story of this nightmarish situation unfolds.
Hospice works fantastically, it had me hooked by the heartstrings in the same way Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago did last year. Hospice is gentle on the ear, but heavy on the mind, balanced perfectly to create wonderful wintery listening.
12. The Twilight Sad - 'Forget the Night Ahead'
What we said:In 2007 The Twilight Sad released an album that caught a lot of people off guard. In a decade where we have increasingly looked to America for the best in alternative music, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters was an album that couldn't sound any more British; I'm not just talking about their broad Scottish accents either. The Twilight Sad create a sound that sparkles in the memory of some of the UK's finest exports, serving as a reminder that Britain, too, has produced some of the world's best loved alternative rock.
Expectations loom large for the band after their critically acclaimed debut, but they show no signs of being distracted by hype or anticipation. On Forget the Night Ahead the band move into darker territories, relying more on dense blocks of guitar and brooding piano than the familiar accordion sound from FA&FW. It's the sound of a band more assure of themselves, exploring different sounds and song structures without departing too far from what they do best. Lyrically, too, the themes are much darker this time around. Single, I Became a Prostitute, for example, uses the image of a lonely prostitute wandering through town, before exploding into the chorus (“You are the bearer of a womb without love, you could of had it all”). While at times the band's music might be described as beautiful, it's not often you could say the same about their lyrics."
13. Fuck Buttons- Tarot Sport
What we said: As another momentous decade in music draws ever-swiftly to its close, the latter part of it has seen the industry, if not saturated, then certainly permeated by a number of albums that not only set out to entertain but also challenge. That Fuck Buttons' debut was a challenge is without question; it took repeat listens, patience and unwavering tolerance to give Street Horrrsing's 50 minutes the chance to prove itself as a dense, textured gem. It was quite unlike any other debut of 2008, but the twosome's intent on pushing their comfort zone - never mind their audience's - still further sees the follow up, Tarot Sport, arrive just 18 months later.
Fuck Buttons stormed to prominence last year with Street Horrrsing, a limits-ignoring chaos of harsh, anxious states. Now they've expanded, reimagining their signature sound and with it, carving out monolithic statements. It's certainly another late '00s album: challenging, again, but unquestionably enjoyable too. Benjamin John Power and Andrew Hung are a duo whose unflinching love of noise and dedication to boundary-pushing might mean they're 'anti' much of what was established earlier in the decade, but suddenly now theirs is a sound perfectly attuned to our times, that encapsulates the world turmoil, the future's uncertainty - and its new possibility. With this duo at the helm, that future seems unknowably, infinitely exciting." READ MORE
14. There Will Be Fireworks - S/T
What we said: 'Colombian Fireworks', the opening to There Will Be Fireworks eponymous debut album could scarcely be more apt. Electronic glitches and clicks give way to ethereal guitars and the dulcet tones of Scottish poet Kevin MacNeil; “there will be fireworks, and they will light up your eyes and you will feel more alive than ever before”, then erupting in to a cacophonous wall of guitars and pounding drums. It's a fierce statement of intent, and personifies the Glasgow four pieces self released debut, the intersection of understated beauty and noise permeates the record from beginning to end. As such the thunderous climax of the first track segues in to the delicate, almost too shy to be heard pastoral eloquence of 'So The Story Goes'. Then again, the lush acoustics and harmonies of 'Guising' flows right in to the crushingly heavy guitars of 'Off With Their Heads'.
It's on those more subdued tracks that you begin to notice the details which lurk in the corners of the record, intriguing noises flitting through the song, little lyrical references to previous tracks; it really is an album which you can get lost in. Everything sits together so perfectly, each track flowing seamlessly in to the next. I really struggle to find anything not to like about this album, what would probably be considered the centre point of the album 'A Kind of Furnace' rambles on a little bit too long at seven minutes, but then on the other hand it offers a welcome respite from the intense passion which precedes and follows it. So, nothing then; this is as good as debut albums come. With work all ready under way on the follow up it seems needless to say there's a lot more to come from There Will Be Fireworks."
15. Mumford and Sons - 'Sigh No More'
What we said: 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)
16. Passion Pit - 'Manners'
17. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
18. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart- S/T
19. St. Vincent - Actor
20. HEALTH- Get Colour
21. And So I Watched You From Afar - S/T
22. Brand New - Daisy
23. Cymbals Eat Guitars - S/T
24. The Cribs- Ignore The Ignorant
25. Dananananaykroyd- Hey Everyone
26. Flaming Lips - 'Embryonic'
27. Orphans & Vandals - I am Alive you are Dead
28. Atlas Sound- Logos
29. Blue October - Approaching Normal
30. Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest
31. M.Ward - 'Hold Time'
32. Blakroc - S/T
33. We Were Promised Jetpacks - S/T
34. Frank Turner - 'Poetry of the Deed'
35. Manic Street Preachers - Journal For Plague Lovers
36. Bibio - 'Ambivalence Avenue'
37. Dredg - The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion
39. Lovvers - OCD Go Go Go Girls
40. The Maccabees - 'Wall of Arms'
41. Firekites - The Bowery
42. Slaraffenland - We're On Your Side
43. Dan Deacon - Bromst
And in a bid for completism, artists that's albums received votes but weren't shortlisted:
The Voluntary Butler Scheme, Super Furry Animals, Sibrydion, Jarvis Cocker, Jeffrey Lewis, Cerys Matthews, Golden Silvers, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Colour, Japandroids, Dizzee Rascal, Kasabian, Jay-Z, The Low Anthem, Kong, The Big Pink, Mew, Dawes, Bill Callahan, Wilco, Camera Obscura, Monster Island, Hatcham Social, Sparkle