2009 – The Spiffing List

A little late, I know, but it would probably be more accurate if I waited until around March time, by which point I might have fully absorbed the 2009 albums I have. Can’t imagine there’d be much interest by then though, so here it is. As with last year, this is a Top 20 list of albums I’ve thoroughly enjoyed across 2009. I make no apologies for excluding certain albums that have appeared near the top of many media lists and am confident that you’ll simply look at the list as a curiosity that might make you explore one or two titles that you’ve either not heard or not spent long with. As with the 40 From The Noughties list, I fully expect many of you to heartily disagree with this list but all I’m saying is that these are my top 20 of the last year as things stand now. It may well change in time and, if you look at the 2009 albums in the aforementioned 40, you’ll see that some of them have already changed positions since I put that list together. Anyhoo, let’s get on with it, shall we?

20. Super Furry Animals – Dark Days / Light Years

jp 09 20

Not sure how it ended up falling so low in the end. Still a wonderful album, it just didn’t have quite the staying power I thought it might have had.

19. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – s/t

jp 09 19 

Great fun, from start to finish. Reminds me of when the NME was published on tatty grey bog roll.

18. Atlas Sound – Logos

jp 09 18

I was bit late to the party on this one, but was glad I finally made it. Quirky washes of sound. A bit like Animal Collective with more tunes.

17. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career

jp 09 17

They don’t make bad records. Every one of them is a gem. This was another quietly brilliant record.

16. Annie – Don’t Stop

jp 09 16

The power pop album of the year. Xenomania in full flow and, in the absence of new Girls Aloud, it does the job just fine.

15. M. Ward – Hold Time

jp 09 15

Coffee shops and Apple may love him, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. A wonderful sleeper of an album. His entire back catalogue is great and don’t forget to check out ‘Monsters Of Folk’ which just missed out on this list.

14. Magnolia Electric Co – Josephine

jp 09 14

One of the first albums I reviewed for Clash and it’s a good ‘un. Jason Molina with his finest album in some time. He also released ‘Molina and Johnson’ this year which is almost as good and would have been No.22 had this list gone beyond a top 20. Well worth listening to both. 

13. Pet Shop Boys – Yes

jp 09 13

Their best in some time. ‘Pandemonium’ is ridiculously over the top, but in that oh-so-forgivable PSB way. A delight from start to finish and there’s a decent track-by-track commentary on Spotify for free too.

12. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

jp 09 12

A great overall sound to this one. Hadn’t really bothered with them up until this, but quickly retraced my footsteps and put that right. ‘Two Weeks’ and ‘While You Wait For The Others’ were classic singles. Not on Spotify, but click the picture for the latter of those two singles on VerTube.

11. Sleeping States – In The Gardens Of The North

jp 09 11

The first of the Noughty 40 to feature in this list also. A great record, still worthy of plenty of your time. It needs a few listens, but if it clicks, it’ll stay with you. 

10. Manic Street Preachers – Journal For Plague Lovers

jp 09 10

The most fun you can have with a Manics album in some time. Great packaging, great songs, great performances. Check out the Saint Etienne re-tooling of ‘Jackie Collins’ too. In the aforementioned 40 also.

09. Graham Coxon – The Spinning Top

jp 09 09

Another Noughty 40 album and one that splits opinion. I think his voice sounds charming on this record and I would argue that it’s his best by some distance. Beautiful at times. 

08. Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter

jp 09 08

An album which I loved at the start, lost interest in for a bit but have since returned to at some great length and have realised just how spiffing it really is. Should have been in the big list and is probably his second best album to date.

07. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns

jp 09 07

One of those albums that you pootle along listening to every so often without realising how much you’re enjoying it. When it came to thinking about this list, I returned to it and it all clicked into place. This one has staying power, methinks.

06. MapsTurning The Mind

jp 09 06

I think I may have said enough about this one already. It’s in the big 40, and my review described it as ‘bordering on genius’. Job done.   

05. Doves – Kingdom Of Rust

jp 09 05

Ok, so it’s no ‘Lost Souls’ but then what is? To be fair, they sound like two different bands. This is the New Order phase and it’s bloody good. CD sounds like shite though. Treat yourself to the deluxe vinyl edition. Made #20 in the 40.

04. Trashcan Sinatras  – In The Music

jp 09 04

Still not Spotify-able but bloody lovely nonetheless. Gentle, well-crafted and beautifully sung. Just like every other Trashcans record. A welcome return and a great album. Highly placed in the 40 too. 

03. The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin

jp 09 03

There are those who’ll bang on about how this is a 2008 album because they self-released it at the end of that year, but the world only really heard it in 2009 and it was only released over here in 09, so I’m having it. A quirky cross between gentle harmonies and Tom Waits honking. Splendid stuff and a Noughties classic also. 

02. The xx – xx

jp 09 02

Even a couple of months ago, I had no idea how high up the list this one would finish. It crow barred its way in to the Noughty 40 at the last minute and continued to impress all through December, resulting in this placement. It’s hard to define, but I had a go here.

01. Lily AllenIt’s Not Me, It’s You

jp 09 01

Justifiably highly placed in the big list and the top of this one, ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ is the best pop album I’ve heard in years. The lyrics are brilliant and musically it gets every single call just right. I have never tired of it since the day I first played it. There’s a bargainous CD/DVD edition available right now for not all that much cash and I can’t recommend it enough. 

What are we calling this decade then?

Graham Linehan tweeted a little after midnight today the following, clearly humorous, question: “So what are your favourite albums of 2010 so far?” Some hours later he revealed that plenty of people actually sent him entirely sincere answers. It’s a strange old world. Having said that, I will happily state now that if The Magnetic Fields, Kathryn Williams and Tindersticks albums are not in my End of Year list twelve months from now I’ll have either gone mad or a phenomenal shift will have happened in the world of music, because they are all fantastic records. One of the perks of reviewing is when you get the albums you’re genuinely excited about dropping through your letterbox several months before you thought you might get to hear them. However, odd chap that I am, once I’ve done the review I more often not end up only playing them sparingly until the actual release date. I suspect it’s some subconscious thing about not wanting to spoil the full enjoyment surrounding a record’s release and all of the accompanying interviews and the like but I’m still not sure why it matters. Despite this, if any three albums were ever likely to break that pattern, it’s these. As two of the three reviews will be published in the next couple of days, I’ll endeavour to say more about both The Magnetic Fields and Tindersticks on here, as I know there are a number of loyal readers very keen to hear about one or the other. All I was really getting at is the fact that I already have a small, but perfectly formed, selection of evidence that 2010 will feature some outstanding music. Inevitably there will be those who say it wasn’t much cop when the inevitable retrospectives start again in ten months or so – just as plenty have done about the phenomenally splendid 2009 – but it’s all there if you look for it. On top of these three, the new albums by Massive Attack and, more importantly, Laura Marling will be with us shortly. Reason enough for ludicrous levels of excitement, methinks.

I’ve so enjoyed the recent run of posts for 40 From The Noughties that I suspect the blog is going to make its most forthright and busy start to a year that I can remember. Having been maintaining my internet presence for a little over five years now, it’s nice to start the new year with a bit of renewed enthusiasm and purpose. Here’s hoping it lasts. To extend the aspect of the last 40 posts I enjoyed most – writing about albums from a personal perspective – a new feature will begin shortly entitled ‘A Week With…’ in which I will pluck an album by any artist, hugely familiar or not, initially from my racks but I’m open to suggestions and recommendations on this one, spend a week listening to it in detail and then share my thoughts. The first one seemed to choose itself on Christmas Day and I’ve been playing it almost obsessively since.

I’ve also got the small matter of the 2009 End Of Year list to deal with and that’ll be with you later today. I don’t imagine I’ll say much about them, but I’ll ensure that there are links for listening purposes. You list fans can have one final hit, now that the big countdown is over. Hope the 40 From The Noughties feature was suitably entertaining, the feedback I’ve had so far would suggest so. Feel free to disagree with any or indeed all of it, either via the comments option or via the Just Played email address found on the ‘about’ page. A crisp, wintery wander beckons but rest assured, the promised content will be with you soon. Happy New Year, by the way!