Albums of 2009

24 Dec

Well it’s the end of 2009 and this year music has really surprised me. What has become widely listened to pop music is that underground synth stuff no one wanted to hear a few years ago. How strange! It’s almost as if all the weird synthpop/electronic stuff that was about for years just suddenly got a female face and became popular. I mean, I know any type of music can become popular, it has nothing to do with how commercial it is really. But I’m glad that music I like is in the charts now.

The following are in no particular order and are all equally sexual.

La Roux – La Roux

My first experience of La Roux was most unfortunate. I saw their video for In For The Kill. Oh my god, what a cheap as fuck video. Worse than Something Kinda Ooh or Wake Me Up by Girls Aloud. Worse of course because they don’t have sluts like Girls Aloud in. Instead what we have is a planecrash of a face. Really, if you ever wondered what Pyramid Head from Silent Hill looked like if he took his hat off Elly Jackson is the face you would see. Like flesh pressed into a glass corner. Jesus.

Unfair? Yes. But the songs. Oh the songs! You soon forget all of that image nonsense and in the spirit of real music let the wonderfully simple tunes win you over. Her shrill voice may irritate some, especially when Colourless Colour comes on and she sings it all in a regular voice. You stop and go, why the fuck did you not sing your whole album like that? But you know what? It works. It’s nothing new, androgynous, synth pop is like so 80s but hell every song is a single. Perfect pop without a bad moment.

Last point. La Roux are a two piece. She is not called La Roux you fucking wank buckets. There is a bloke in this band too – hell, he even turns up on the track Tigerlily and you quickly see why he keeps in the shadows. He bounds in with some goth nonsense and a sinister paedo voice. Godsake! Out damn devil – out of this pop song!

Adore: “Bulletproof”, “Armour Love”, “Growing Pains”

Florence and the Machine – Lungs

For like a good few months after Florence came on the scene with Rabbit Heart I did not listen to it and constantly told Aythan they were balls. Aythan was sure I would like them and I was like “BAWLS!”. It turns out I had confused them with Marina and the Diamonds who were also in those “WATCH OUT IN 2009 FOR” lists. Marina and the Diamonds are so bawls that they did nothing in 2009 and are now in everybody’s lists for 2010. Don’t get taken in. They are fucking gash.

Oh and I also hated them for calling their album Lungs which is the same as a Safe Search Is Off track Aythan and I wrote. I am such a petty bitch.

Florence on the other hand could have been disastrous, In fact, like La Roux if you see the artist before you hear the tunes you most likely will form the opinion that you hate them. Florence = hippynewageEnyaffffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu. On visuals alone anyway. After awhile I gave in and downloaded their album. I sat listening to it at work and when Dog Days Are Over bursts open at about 1.17 I was sold. Didn’t matter if the rest of the album was crap – this song was worth everything. But then, what’s this? It gets better?! Rabbit Heart (the single I had ignored and pre-decided to hate) is so good I began to sheepishly remember conversations with Aythan where I told him I thought they were shit. Whoops. The harp before the chorus comes in – oh god, I made a mess in my pants.

Adore: “Dog Days Are Over”, “Rabbit Heart (raise it up)”, “My Boy Builds Coffins”

My Dying Bride – For Lies, I Sire

Okay, tempo change. As you should know by now – New My Dying Bride album = free entry into my Top Albums of the Year list. I love all of their albums (except The Light at the End of the World) and Alice thinks that’s prob because all their albums are the same AND TERRIBLE. I understand that feeling of course. They aren’t the easiest listening material. Sometimes it even takes me a year or two to get into some My Dying Bride albums. For example, it was only this year I realised I liked their last album A Line of Deathless Kings which came out in 2006. Or rather, this year I realised I liked it as much as their other work.

It’s been a good many years but My Dying Bride have gone back to their roots almost. This sounds like an amalgamation of everything they’ve ever done. When My Body, A Funeral breaks and the long lost sound of a violin comes in I felt a piece of my heart break. Man, they’ve not used violins for ages – at least not like they used to when that dude who went on to join Cradle of Filth was in the band. It’s so achingly beautiful doom that I just surrender myself to it. Sure it’s ridiculous, funeral march, goth wankery and I don’t know why I like it.  Why the fuck do these guys cast a spell on me? They never even get past 2 beats per hour!  To be fair this album does have a few tracks where they burst into quicker tempos – Bring Me To Victory even starts like a Paradise Lost track! – but it only lasts a moment before it falls back down into very slow dirge again. Yay! And weirdly, the opening of title track The Lies I Sire could be a We Modern Cadets song!

Adore: “My Body, A Funeral”, “Bring Me To Victory”, “The Lies I Sire”

Manatees – Icarus. The Sunclimber

Sitting comfortably as both one of the best gigs and best albums of 2009 is the Manatees. If you haven’t already – go see these guys. They like played 60 minutes without stopping. I actually orgasmed several times during their set!

Following my love for their previous two releases “The Forever Ending Jitter Quest Of Slowhand Chuckle Walker – An Introduction To The Manatee” and “We Are Going To Track Down And Kill Vintage Claytahh, The Beard Burning Bastard” Icarus is much more immediate and the production is exceptional. Straight from the off your ears are bleeding.

Dirty bastard guitars ripping through your head and booming drums tea-bagging your stupid face. I’m always conscious of the Genre Police coming after me but I really don’t know what the fuck to call this. It fucking sounds to me like doom. I’m sure hipsters who listen to the rest of the releases from Motive Sounds have a much cleverer name for it like neo-post-rock-classical-jizz just so they don’t have to admit that it’s fucking doom. Honestly, I want to be in a band that does this stuff.

Adore: “Sunclimber”, “-”, “Out of the Sky, Into The Gutter”

Mongrel – Better Than Heavy

This album was given away by the Independent in March 2009. I bought the Independent specifically for this release as it’s a band formed from chaps from Reverend & The Makers, Arctic Monkeys & – to a lesser extent – Babyshambles. Mostly though it’s indie kids making a hip-hop/grime album. It really shouldn’t have worked as well as it does.

I got this on the way to a corporate weekend at The Old Course at St Andrews. I listened to it in my room which had a chandelier over the bed and a BOSE cd player. I can’t imagine Mongrel thought this would be the place their album would be listened to. In fact, I’m sure if Jon McClure finds out he’s going to set me on fire.

It’s like a positive hip-hop album which bounces along with some of the most critical lyrics I’ve heard in a good while. And ones you can understand. Take notice shouty political music genres: no matter how loud you shout I still can’t understand you! Great swirly synths and maybe even some cheeky wee brass sections too. Oh yes, and the drums are real because they are a proper band which makes them so much better than that American R&B nonsense which are just synthetic bumgay.

I have to admit to being well out of the loop when it comes to underground UK rappers so Mongrel was a great way of bringing new folks work to my attention. Pariz 1 and Lowkey really make a name for themselves here. Hell, they could’ve been around for decades and I’ve just not heard of them of course!

Sure, in a few years some of these tracks with their 2009 lyrical content may date badly but for now I can’t agree more with their track “The Menace”. So check out those lyrics. Actually, what do I mean the lyrics will date? Let’s be honest, is the world going to change in the next decade? Not fucking likely.

I can’t wait to hear their second album once the Tories have come in next year… Although, I do fear for all foreignkind if that happens.

Adore: “Lies”, “Menace”, “Hit From The Morning Sun”

Kasabian – The West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum

Kasabian had lost their way a little. Their last album Empire was pretty rubbish. Especially after how good their debut was. A fusion of rock, electronic, dance much in the way the Stone Roses had tried and failed to pull off. Kasabian really managed it on their debut then decided to hide all their lushly arranged synths and backing vocals on the second album. So they failed and I forgot about them.

In fact, I didn’t take much notice of their 3rd album until I stumbled across Vlad The Impaler. This was a return to form. Fuzzy bass, stuttering guitar licks and bravado vocals. It’s like everything British music had lost was reborn here. Sure, Kasabian have quite simply the most punchable faces in the world (as bad as Henry Rollins even) – especially cos they think they’re fucking awesome. But maybe it’s okay to think you’re awesome if you are actually awesome. Hell, they wrote Ovary Stripe – what the fuck have you done?

The whole album sits together very well. Better than most albums that appear in Q or NME anyway. It has a theme and sticks to it. Sure the guitars sound like they were recorded in the 70s but it’s the synths and crazy sounds underneath that freshen it up. This is the reason Oasis split up – they realised they would never do something as consistent as this. And for making Oasis split up Kasabian must be applauded.

Such an enjoyable record to listen to. One for wandering the streets and finding yourself nodding like a Vault Tec Bobblehead (but not the one that gives you +10 Intelligence, obvs). Hell, I don’t give a fuck what you think – just by opening your mouth to disagree it’s already been stuffed with some Kasabian cock. Now swallow, bitch.

Adore: “Vlad The Impaler”, “Take Aim”, “Fire”

Little Boots – Hands

Let’s get the obvious out the way: I want to fuck Little Boots. She is so fucking hot. I don’t know what it is about her. Maybe that slight hesitancy in her confidence; that look that says “I’m a popstar? Really?!”. For me, that is very sexy indeed.

Another album I downloaded having heard nothing of. In fact I believe Alice told me to download it. I knew from the first explosion of synth in the first second that I loved it. New In Town is an exceptional exercise in duality. On one hand a little sinister but that chorus – holy jihad! – full on pop which if Channel 4 did a Top Ten 10 Seconds of Pop Of All Time it would win. (Incidentally, the sound of Michael Hutchinson being strangled would come 2nd)

The album has some of the finest bass ever laid down. Not necessarily what it plays but how it sounds. Really thick and full. This is confirmed on Earthquake which again has an explosion of a chorus and again and again on Stuck on Repeat, Remedy, Mathematics, Symmetry, etc! What I like most is the drive of the album – it’s really pulsating and pushes you about like big beat dance music but with an almost-fragile vocal part. Sure there are slow bits but there’s just so many quirky melodies sneaking around here you’re never bored.

Oh and the way she sings Tune Into My Heart sounds like she sings Chew Into My Heart. H.O.T.

Oh fuck it, and further to this, back in the day when I was young my parents took me and my brother to Haven Holiday’s camp where we would be part of the Tiger Club. Chorus of the Tiger Club sounds so much like the chorus to Remedy. To me anyway!

Adore: “New In Town”, “Stuck On Repeat”, “Remedy”

Reverend & The Makers – A French Kiss In The Chaos

Having loved their debut, which was as close to despair as pop/rock music got in 2007, I had high hopes for their second release. The world view of Jon McClure is pretty bleak. Some feel their massive breakthrough single Heavyweight Champion of the World was the only good thing on the debut but people who think that probably only orgasm if their partner uses their scrotum as a guitar and plays the Wonderwall chords.

So sophomore slump? The critics certainly think so. I mean, the idea of listening to a very opinionated bloke from Sheffield who studied politics bashing you about the head may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, he happens to be correct on the subjects he tackles. So as our world view appears to be as aligned as two humans can be I can’t say I mind. What I really despised was the way the Metro did one of those “60 Seconds With” interviews with him on the day of the album launch where they were very nicey-nice only to tear apart the album in the reviews section. Their review was pretty much this: “The music is really good but the frontman is unlikeable”. Really Metro? You’re run by the Daily Mail Group – I’m pretty sure everyone who works for your paper is unlikeable.

As an aside has anyone else noticed how many headlines in the Metro have quotation marks in them? They’re all like Auschwitz sign ordered by ‘mad collector’. Me and Alice have a game where we count how many headlines in the paper do this. Have a go yourself. It’s got a bit better but it’s still pretty lazy fucking journalism ‘written by child molesters’.

So yes, the album is stunning. Much more assured than their cracking debut. It’s paced very steadily. Starting with the wonderful Silence Is Talking and climaxing with the outrageously good Hard Time For Dreamers. Slap bang in the middle is the monumental No Soap In A Dirty War. It could be an anthem for my life. For anyone’s life in the UK right now. A slow build to a chorus that just keeps building and building right to the end.

How has this album not done well? If Oasis had done this NME would have spent the whole year helicoptering its useless limp cock in everyone’s faces about it!

Out of all the albums on this list I’ve listened to this one the most. And Kudos to Jon for jumping off stage after the gig and playing in the street. That Edinburgh gig was fucking fantastic.

Adore: “No Soap In A Dirty War”, “Hard Time For Dreamers”, “Mermaids”

Engineers – Three Fact Fader

What? Not heard of them yet? Shut up.

Not sure what this is. Post rock shoegaze I think. Man, it’s good. The basic rule for a good album is to start with a good song. Not hold it back for 5 tracks in. If your first song is bawls I DON’T HEAR YOUR ALBUM. Now go rearrange your tracklisting Lady GaGa and take some fucking songs off it too.

Clean Coloured Wire not only succeeds as being a good opening track but also is one of my favourite songs of the year. Sure, it means the rest of the album dips a little much in the same way as Ladyhawke’s debut in 2008. Luckily, the rest of Engineers’ songs are much better than the rest of Ladyhawke’s album.

They kind of sound like Porkupine Tree but more shoegazey (maybe even like the Dandy Warhols) and have sensible song lengths! Like with quite a bit of that shoegaze stuff you can forget you’re listening to it as it’s so calming. You know like the way bands like Sigur Ros can float over you – well it’s like that. I find it a remarkably enjoyable listen.

Adore: “Clean Coloured Wire”, “Brighter As We Fall”, “Hang Your Head”

Synoiz – Ambients

I’ve already written about this album earlier so you can read that for my full review. And hell yes it’s weird to know that my own brother made an album that I find so marvellous it makes my Top 10 Album of the Year. But you know what? I’m very proud of him and it’s not like it’s here unwarranted through nepotism or whatever. This is a fucking great album.

Adore: “Getting Safer”, “Of Rolling Hills”, “Darkling”


One Response to “Albums of 2009”

  1. Alice December 24, 2009 at 10:19 pm #

    Nice work! That Tiger Club thing is a bit mental.
    Although I have to say I don’t know how you can compare punchable faces and omit the man with surely the single twattiest, most punchable face in the history of facekind

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