After much deliberating, I’ve put my shortlist of my top 25 albums of the year into some kind of order, and here is a rundown from 25-11. Look out for the top 10 soon. Several albums missed out on this list as I have only streamed them on Spotify and not yet bought them (sorry Flaming Lips!).
Righly or wrongly there are also a number of this year’s albums that I have enjoyed but just not listened to enough (including many that have done well in end of year polls), resulting in them missing out, but could have been included with more listens. Included in that list right now would be The Longcut, Animal Collective, Fever Ray, Grizzly Bear, and many more.
I have bought a lot of music this year and probably not appreciated it all to its full potential. Will my buying habits change next year? I can try but in all honesty it’s unlikely to happen!
Anyhow, without further ado, here are my best albums of the year, from 25-11.
25. The XX – The XX
Acquired via Rough Trade’s Album Club, this one took a while to get into. Seemingly hyped to death this year, there is a lot to enjoy here despite the very minimalist style. This one could have probably ended up higher with a few more listens.
24. Idlewild – Post Electric Blues
I first heard this album being played live at part of the band’s 3 night ‘album gigs’ stint at Dingwalls. At the time it seemed promising, and delivered on record. Whilst not to the standard of early albums (in fairness, nobody expected it!), the album stands up well against recent releases, and shows that the band still have a lot of creativity left.
23. Morton Valence – Bob And Veronica Ride Again
A latecomer to this list, I’ve really enjoyed listening to the debut album by London’s Morton Valence over the last few weeks. Some fantastic pop tunes, and a gorgeous ballad in the song ‘Chandelier’, these are a band to watch out for, and also deliver a great live show.
22. Cerys Matthews – Don’t Look Down
This was the English version of Cerys’ simultaneous Engligh/Welsh album release, featuring one of her strongest sets of songs to date. Compared with her past solo albums, a lot of attention has been given to the album’s production, to produce some big sounding tracks, which combined with her unmistakable voice and catchy tunes results in a very entertaining listen.
21. Patrick Watson – Wooden Arms
I was eagerly awaiting the follow up to Canadian Patrick Watson’s stunning 2006 album ‘Closer To Paradise’. This follow up is once again very experimental, with a very relaxed feel to it. It doesn’t quite match up to its predecessor but is a very worthy successor and worked fantastically live (more on that in my live highlights).
20. Euros Childs – Son Of Euro Child
The ever prolific ex-Gorky’s frontman delivered another solo album this year, and was released as a free download on his website (get it here). It’s another gem, full of quirky pop tunes and musical interludes, and ranks among the best of his solo album releases.
19. Mew – No More Stories…
This year’s prize for the longest album title goes to Denmark’s Mew (full title here). A worthy successor to previous albums ‘And The Glass Handed Kites’ and ‘Frengers’, the album is both intense and beautiful, with fast changing rhythms and tempos, and some fantastic vocals. Not one to benefit from the download culture, this is an album that deserves to be heard as a whole.
18. The Wave Pictures – If You Leave It Alone
The follow up to last year’s ‘Instant Coffee Baby’, this is another album packed full of lo-fi loveliness. It’s a far more stripped down and acoustic affair than its predecessor, but not lacking in tunes and great lyrics. I’d personally like to see the next album to be more electric guitar based, but this (along with several more self-released CDR albums that I’ve yet to hear) has been more than enough to satisfy fans during 2009.
17. James Yorkston & The Big Eyes Family Players – Folk Songs
For this album the talented James Yorkston teamed up with a different group of musicians to the usual Athletes, and recorded a set of traditional folk songs, which have been an influence on his own music. The album pretty much does what it says on the tin – no radical reworkings, but some great modern recordings of traditional songs, taking full advantage of the great musicians involved.
16. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
Another Album Club selection (thanks Rough Trade!), this was my first introduction to the wonderfully talented Andrew Bird. The multi-instrumentalist has produced a great album with catchy melodies, lush orchestration, and his trademark violin playing and whistling, not to mention an incredible singing voice.
15. Leaves – We Are Shadows
After seemingly disappearing for a few years, I only discovered that Icelandic band Leaves had released a new album by chance. Continuing where they left of with ‘The Angela Test’, this is another album of polished anthemic tunes, resembling at times Doves, both musically and vocally. With an album this strong it’s a shame that Leaves aren’t better known, but if they continue producing albums of this standard surely it’s only a matter of time before they are.
14. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
The third contribution from the Album Club, this was a late entry to the list, and could have ended higher if I’d had it longer. To my ears, it sounds like some sort of collaboration between Fleet Foxes (the vocal harmonies) and The Dodos (interesting use of percussion), but with an added boost of energy. Definitely a band I intend to check out live in the new year.
13. The Mars Volta – Octahedron
The fifth studio album from The Mars Volta has taken a slightly different turn. Whilst still featuring their progressive rock, latin american and jazz infleunces, it’s a lot mellower than previous offerings. It works incredibly well, with some great atmospheric tracks. The hard rock energetic side of the band was not completely absent from the record, and somehow the two styles have blended well to create something pretty special.
12. Eels – Hombre Lobo
As one of my all time favourite bands, I’m going to have high expectations from a new Eels album, their first after a 4 year gap. Once again Mark Oliver Everett (aka ‘E’) delivers the goods, in this fairly raw sounding offering. It doesn’t rank amongst the highest of Eels albums, however several very high points, and the excitement of new material meant this has been one my most enjoyable albums of 2009.
11. Pure Reason Revolution – Amor Vincit Omnia
After a seemingly longer 3 year wait from their debut album ‘The Dark Third’, prog rockers Pure Reason Revolution returned this year with a more electro influenced follow up. The change in direction works incredibly well, with the new album benefiting from the combination of both rock and electro based jamming, as well as the band’s fantastic vocal harmonies. This one got lots of repeated plays on release and is still a regular listen.
My top 10 will hopefully be with you in the next few days!