Tuesday, 22 December 2009
My 2009 in Albums.
So the albums I'm going to mention aren't all from this year, some of them aren't even from this decade! There have been some big albums this year, Kasabian, U2, Florence & The Machine, La Roux & Little Boots all of them were highly anticipated by the big music mags. I liked some of them but I'm not here to pass judgement, there is music for all people and I'm going to share some of the albums that I've loved from 2009.
Alela Diane's To Be Still. She played Glastonbury this year and I found her watching the coverage of that. This is her second album. Now I'm a Folkie so when I heard this album it was heaven, the songs are beautifully written, here finger picking style is exquisite and her soaring voice is a delight. I think from May onwards maybe until August I listened to this album everyday. Stand out tracks include: 'White as Diamonds' & 'Tatterd Lace'.
Yeah Yeah Yeah's It's Blitz! I had listened to their earlier stuff and liked some of it but this album blew me away. It's a great record especially the first half songs like 'Zero' with its synths and I couldn't help loving 'Heads Will Roll' either.
The XX's eponymous debut is a polar opposite to It's Blitz! But the duets on the album are great, like 'Crystalised' and 'Basic Space'. The minimalistic guitar lines are surprisingly catchy and coupled with the synth soundscapes and drum rhythms kept me listening.
Kasabian's West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum. They've been hailed as the successors of Oasis. But I'd say they're a very different entity. Songs like 'Fire', 'Underdog' & 'Vlad the Impaler' are brilliantly catchy, Kasabian always seem to have a natural ability to create songs with amazing groove.
Noah & the Whale's The First Days of Spring. Another Folk album, it makes sharp contrast to their rather up beat first album. When I first heard this album it levelled me. An exquisite 'break-up' album. The lead singer had split from Folk Singer Laura Marling. The arrangement and texture of the songs are understated letting the conviction of the song come through. The instrumentation and vocal harmonies are great too. 'My Door is Always Open' closes the album and out of the melancholy of the rest of the album gives a glimpse of optimism.
Florence & the Machine's Lungs surprised me, not at all what I expected. But I thought it was a really eclectic album, 'Rabbit Heart' and 'Dog Days are Over' are probably my favourite, and I know some people say her cover of 'You've Got the Love' isn't as good as Candy Staton's original but I still like it. Plus I think she has a great voice and I love the use of harp.
Neil Young's On the Beach, this album is over 30 years old but I recently fell in love with it, I'm a huge Neil Young fan, but my favourite album had always been Harvest. On the Beach has some amazing songwriting on it. The groove to the opener 'Walk On' and the dark feeling to songs like 'Revolution Blues' & 'Ambulance Blues' is phenomenal. Young's guitar playing is incredible too, really sharp and cutting, like the lyrics.
Mumford & Sons' Sigh No More, another Folk album, I was surprised how well this album did in the charts for a Folk album. I like this album, but it gets a little repetitive as almost all the songs end with a Crescendo. Still some really great songs like 'Little Lion Man' and 'Sigh No More'. I love the banjo playing on this album too.
Blind Pilot's 3 Rounds and a Sound was on repeat for months, it's just such an easy album to listen to. The vocals have this smooth relaxing tone and the simplicity of most of the songs, just vocals, guitar and, percussion, is very appealing. While the music is simple the songs like 'The Story I heard' and 'One Red Thread' are quite catchy. Other stand out tracks include 'Paint or Pollen' and 'The Bitter End'.
Neil Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. OK The two albums not from this decade are both Neil Young albums but, last year was the year of Dylan this year it's Young's turn. Like On the Beach I had never really paid much attention to this album, until this year. The album's 41 years old but it's brilliant, Young's guitar work on this record is breath taking. The album has 3 of Young's greatest rock songs on it, 'Cinnamon Girl' opens the album, the second is the epic 'Down by the River' an ode to drug addiction clothed in metaphor with a barn storming 5 minute guitar solo and the closing 'Cowgirl in the Sand' which spirals into an 10 minute jam. The think that makes this album so good is that the songs between these three colossal tracks are also fantastic.
Jakob Dylan's Seeing things. He played on Later with Jools Holland last year I think, but at the time I wasn't overly impressed by him, but when I heard the album and especially the song 'Evil is Alive and Well' my opinion was quickly inverted. He has a distinct voice like his father however infinately more ear friendly.
Ludovico Einaudi's Nightbook. Now and then I discover some new Contemporary Classical music, one of my favourite oxymorons. And Nightbook really grabbed me. The piano driven songs interweave with a swelling string section and the use of 'contemporary' percussion gives the music an edge. 'Lady Labyrinth', 'Nightbook' & 'Reverie' are my favourite tracks.
Mason Jenning's Blood of Man was much heavier than his previous album, moving towards a heavier sound. I was struck by one song in particular, 'Black Wind Blowing', a dark story of murder and revenge. And the dirty groove of 'Ain't No Friend' reminds me of the Black Keys. The album has a delicate side too with 'Blood of Man' featuring some delicate classical guitar playing.
The whole album was self recorded with Jenning's playing all of the instruments himself as well as producing, I really love this album.
Travis' Ode To J.Smith. I really liked this album, it's their sixth album and it shows they're still growing. They're known for their soft-acoustic-rock sound but on this record they went back to the heavier sound of their first album and went heavier. Released in 2008 on their own Red Telephone Box label, I thought it was a really great album, they explained that all the songs can be placed in order to make up the day of 'J.Smith' which is a cool concept.
Some of my favourite tracks were 'Chinese Blues', 'Get Up', 'Song to Self' & 'Last Words'.
Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit's A Larum. I only recently found this album and I fell in love immediately, it's another folk album, Johnny Flynn like Mumford & Sons and Noah & the Whale is part of the London Folk Scene but all three artists have their own distinct sounds. The album features some excellent Banjo, Guitar and Mandolin playing and the Violin arrangements give the album an atmosphere of its own. Some of my favourite tracks are 'Hong Kong Cemetery', 'Cold Bread', 'Eyeless in Holloway' & 'The Wrote and the Writ'.
So these are some of the albums I've enjoyed this year, there are plenty of others I could have mentioned like Dylan's Together Through Life & The Dead Weather's Horehound or half a dozen others but the albums I've mentioned are the ones I listened to most and have influenced me musically. What were your favourite albums in 2009? Comment and let me know.