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. 

The Mercury’s in retrograde

Bat for LashesTwo Suns

Florence & The MachineLungs

Friendly FiresFriendly Fires

KasabianWest Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum

La RouxLa Roux

The HorrorsPrimary Colours

GlasvegasGlasvegas

Led BibSensible Shoes

Lisa HanniganSea Sew

Speech DebelleSpeech Therapy

Sweet Billy Pilgrim Twice Born Men

The InvisibleThe Invisible

Hmm. Nope, it’s not the answer to the question, “what’s just been added to HMV‘s never ending 2 for £10 offer then?” It is, though I’m struggling to quite grasp it, this year’s Mercury Music Prize nominations list. I know that the labels have to submit albums for it (and pay a small entrance fee) but surely things aren’t so screwed up in the music industry that most of the best albums of the last twelve months haven’t been put forward. In which case, how do we end up with the above list? Fuck knows. The Kasabian album has its moments, but I’m not finding myself playing it all that regularly. The Friendly Fires record sounds like Cut Copy and Passion Pit falling down the stairs, out of time with each other. Glasvegas have been confirmed as one-trick ponies with their recent swathes of shite cover versions, all of them based on the premise that a droning guitar noise and a halved BPM equals genius. Rather than just a shite Glasvegas cover version. Did you catch their version of ‘Be My Baby’ from T In The Park? No? Lucky bastard!

La Roux have come up with a couple of decent tunes, including one truly great one, but the album itself is nothing to write home about. I didn’t think anyone still took The Horrors seriously, particularly after listening to their seemingly music-less remix of a track off the new Manics album. The Florence & The Machine bubble will be long burst by the time the winner is announced and we’ll have moved on to another slightly out of tune, kooky young thing. File under Ida Maria. Lisa Hannigan’s music is nice. And that’s the problem, I suppose. Who ever gets remembered for sounding nice? Speech Debelle I’m curious about, but I don’t get the impression that she’s achieved greatness just yet. I do like the Bat For Lashes album, and I suspect it will grow on me more over the year and it might even make the longish end of the year list. So, I suppose I’ll grant them that one. But just that one. I’ve only recently flogged a previous Sweet Billy Pilgrim album on Amazon Marketplace that didn’t do much for me. To be fair, when it comes to the new one, the music does, at least, sound quite interesting and I’ll cautiously reserve judgement, because it’s the kind of music I do sometimes just ‘click’ with, but for now it’s nothing much more than ‘interesting’.

Have you got your jazz token? Here it is, in the shape of Led Bib’s latest record. Meh. And finally, one of the few I’d not previously heard, but which I’m now considering getting as a result of the iTunes samples, ‘The Invisible’ by The Invisible. Slightly squelch electronic music with bits of shoegaze. It’s not an original mix, but it works quite nicely. I’ve read TV On The Radio comparisons whilst doing my research, which have some truth in them. The vocals don’t do much for me, but there’s something interesting going on musically.

I should say that I do applaud the appearance on the list of a couple of pretty new and unhyped acts that do deserve some recognition, but taken as a whole, it’s a list the doesn’t really inspire. Now, I’ve bunged together suggestions for an alternative list and, while I can’t claim any points for obscurist choices, I do think it’s not a bad selection of records. I did only spend a few minutes putting it together and I’m sure I’ve missed off some really obvious, really brilliant records but for now, those twelve songs represent twelve albums that I reckon are pretty bloody good. That list – in a sample it for free form – is available here.