2009: My Top Ten Albums

10/ The Cribs – Ignore The Ignorant

Thought you knew The Cribs? That outspoken Wakefield trio who regularly dish up indie pop. Well revolution was afoot with album number four. Thanks to the help of the legendary Johnny Marr, the Jarman’s served up their most accomplished work to date. Their sharp melodies and catchy hooks are now accompanied with added depth. It’s no longer just verse chorus, verse chorus, but instead there’s a lot more room to breath, allowing tracks to build to a more gradual and rewarding climax, with ‘Victims Of Mass Production’ and ‘We Share The Same Skies” being arguably both The Cribs’ and Marr’s best in years.

Key Tracks: ‘Cheat On Me’, ‘We Share The Same Skies’,’ Last Year’s Snow’, ‘Victims Of Mass Production’

9/ Thrice – Beggars

Marred by it’s shockingly early release – leaked a full three months before planned, this latest effort from Thrice was much more straightforward than their previous themed Alchemy Index. And with this came a genuine sense of freedom, the band clearly enjoying the chance explore different ideas. As a consequence, the album is perhaps the band’s most melodic to date. Not a classic, but by no means a disappointment, Thrice one again prove it’ll be a long time before they start running out of new directions.

Key Tracks: ‘All The World Is Mad’, ‘In Exile’, ‘Doublespeak’, ‘Beggars’

8/ The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!

It’s been a busy year for Karen O. First releasing this, her band’s third full length to date, before also finding the time to record an equally wonderful soundtrack for Spike Jonze’s cinematic treat Where The Wild Things Are, you can’t accuse Miss O of taking it easy. Switching the angular guitars for electro synths the likes of ‘Zero’ and ‘Heads Will Roll’ proved firm favourites on dancefloors and at festivals alike. In contrast, the delicate ‘Runaway’ showcased sensitivity not seen since breakthrough hit ‘Maps’. Still the coolest indie kids in a now very crowded playground.

Key Tracks: ‘Zero’, ‘Heads Will Roll’, ‘Skeletons’, ‘Runaway’

7/ Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band – Outer South

Another year, another album from the ever-productive Conor Oberst. Returning with the Mystic Valley band with whom he released the impressive Conor Oberst in 2008, this time around instead of going with the stripped-back acoustic sound, it’s a full band affair; with members of the MVB sharing both vocal and songwriting duties. Whilst the release may have been somewhat overshadowed by Oberst’s other release – his collaboration with Bright Eyes producer Mike Mogis, M Ward and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, aka Monsters Of Folk; this effort is the more consistent of the two; only flawed by its length. ‘To All The Lights In The Windows’ showcases Oberst’s trademark wordplay, and ‘Roosevelt Room’ is quite simply one of the best album tracks of the year. I eagerly anticipate whatever, arguably the most productive man in the industry, is no doubt already working on for release in 2010.

Key Tracks: ‘To All The Lights In The Windows’, ‘Difference Is Time’, ‘Nikorette’,  ‘Roosevelt Room’,

6/ Manic Street Preachers – Journal For Plague Lovers

I’d long accepted that Richey Edwards was NEVER going to return, and as a consequence the Manics were NEVER going to be anywhere near as good as 1994’s The Holy Bible once prophesised. However, using the lyrics Richey left behind the Manics somehow managed to scrape together Journal…; an album that marries both versions of the band; with and without the iconic guitarist. Whilst musically Journal… sounds more like the bands more recent efforts, lyrically it’s a lot more darker. It may still not be the album the diehards have always longed for, but it’s the closest we’re ever going to get. And any album that opens with a sample of Christian Bale in The Machinist; “You know so little about me, what if I turn into a werewolf or something?”, makes my list.

Key Tracks: ‘Peeled Apples’, ‘Jackie Collins Existential Question Time’, ‘This Joke Sport Severed’, ‘Williams Last Words’

5/ Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything To Nothing

It’s always tricky following an impressive debut, and 2007’s I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child was a superb debut. Bravely taking a different direction for album number two; going for the more anthemic and upfront sound, rather than the building subtlety of Virgin…, both worked and didn’t. Whilst ‘I’ve Got Friends’ and ‘The Only One’ proved great single releases, and the sheer power of ‘Shake It Out’ and ‘The River’ demonstrated Andy Hull’s scary vocal ability, you couldn’t help but feel there was just something missing mid album. A solid release regardless, only hindered by the expectations placed on it by its predecessor. All set for album number three to be an absolute classic then.

Key Tracks: ‘The Only One’, ‘I’ve Got Friends’, ‘I Can Feel A Hot One’, ‘The River’

4/ Alexisonfire – Old Crows / Young  Cardinals

Alexisonfire? That once shouty band that have gradually become more and more melodic with every release? True. But with this, their fourth full length to date there are clear signs that the Canadian quintet have truly mastered their craft; balancing their hardcore roots, with more mainstream structures and sensibilities. A little less instantaneous than previous release Crisis, OC/YC beauty comes with numerous plays; the sure sign of a classic album. Whilst spectacular lead single ‘Young Cardinals’ led the charge, it was the slower charm of the ‘The Northern’, and superb mellow closer ‘Burial’ that still have me crawling back for more. Best effort to date? Certainly their most ambitious and most considered.

Key Tracks: ‘Young Cardinals’, ‘Born and Raised’, ‘The Northern’,’ Burial’

3/ Brand New – Daisy

For any other band Daisy would have earned the top spot on this not so prestigious list. But on the back of the still superb The Devil and God are Raging Inside of Me, and it’s predecessor the genre defining Deja Entendu, the bar is considerably higher for Brand New than for most. And whilst Daisy does not disappoint in the slightest – arguably the bands most challenging, inventive and perhaps rewarding to date, by its very nature it sadly loses out to some of the year’s more accessible offerings. That said, staying true the band’s mantra of creating the music they want to make, and not what is expected of them earns them special praise.

Key Tracks: ‘Vices’, ‘At The Bottom’, ‘You Stole’, ‘Gasoline’

2/ Say Anything – Say Anything

There’s no doubt Max Bemis is a phenomenal songwriter. However after 2007’s mixed bag; the double disc In Defence of The Genre, some doubted whether Bemis had started to believe the hype and indulged himself a little too much. Thankfully, this self titled return condenses what Say Anything do best, into one disc of all killer, no filler. First single ‘Hate Everyone’ may have polarised some, but the rest of the album reaffirmed that Bemis and co are the masters of mixing addictive hooks with his trademark wit and cynicism. Their most consistent since their debut. Inventive, sharp and most importantly, fun.

Key tracks: ‘Hate Everyone’, ‘Mara and Me’, ‘ Eloise’, ‘Cemetery’, ‘ Property’

1/ The Swellers – Ups and Downsizing

In these times of economic hardship and widespread gloom, there was something refreshingly optimistic about this, the second full length from The Swellers. Whilst not a masterpiece in production, infact sounding at times a little rough round the edges, there’s more than just a little charm in this contemporary slice of American rock. Combining elements from varied influence; both melodic from the likes of The Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World, to more hardcore / pop punk from Polar Bear Club, Senses Fail and Four Year Strong, there’s enough hooks, solos and energy to keep any party going, whether it’s the full force of ‘2009’ or ‘Sleeper’, to the more tender emotion of’ ’Stars’.  Having been handpicked to support Paramore in the US, and already booked for part of the European leg of Give It A Name, expect a big 2010 for this Michigan quartet.

Key tracks: ‘2009’, ‘Sleeper’, ‘Do You Feel Better Yet’, ‘Watch It Go’, ‘Stars’

Honourable Mentions:

Arctic Monkeys – Humbug, A Day To Remember – Homesick, Monsters Of Folk – Monsters Of Folk, Bruce Springsteen – Working On A Dream, Passion Pit – Manners, Chuck Regan – Gold Country,  Slow Club – Yeah, So, Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter, Paramore  – Brand New Eyes,  Polar Bear Club – Chasing Hamburg, Bat For Lashes – Two Suns, Frank Turner – Poetry of the Deed, Two Tongues – Two Tongues, Florence and the Machine – Lungs,  Four Year Strong – Explains It All, New Found Glory – Not Without A Fight, Thursday – Common Existence, Taking Back Sunday – New Again, Dashboard Confessional – Alter The Ending, Mariachi El Bronx – Mariachi El Bronx, The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, Gallows – Grey Britain, AFI – Crash Love, Enter Shikari – Common Dreads, Spinnerette – Spinnerette, The Prodigy – Invaders Must Die, Weezer – Raditude, Jamie T – Kings and Queens,  Little Boots – Hands, Imogen Heap – Ellipse, Editors – In This Light And On This Evening, Doves – Kingdom of Rust, Fake Problems – It’s Great To Be Alive, Kong – Snake Magnet, Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions, 30 Seconds To Mars – This Is War, The Get Up Kids – Something To Write Home About 10 Year Anniversary, Karen O and the Kids – Where The Wild Things Are OST, Various – 500 Days of Summer OST

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One Response to 2009: My Top Ten Albums

  1. mark says:

    i absolutely agree with you about ‘journal for plague lovers’. the band have done something that i thought they no longer could and it’s still so incredibly dissimilar to anything else other bands have released in recent years. definitely my album of the year.

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