Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Top 5 albums of 2009: In depth

It was quite an odd look to my top 5 albums this year, no real big names with the exception of maybe Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
So in order to enlighten you a little more here is a small write up on each of the top 5.

5. The Voluntary Butler Scheme - At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea
The Voluntary Butler Scheme is one man band Rob Jones, he plays everything on this album as well as recreating it live by himself too, which as anyone who has caught him live this year will tell you is quite an event to witness.
This was probably my most eagerly awaited album of the year. The 'Trading Things In' single made number 1 on my top tracks of 2008 so this record had a lot to live up to and it certainly did not disappoint.
The worry of songs translating to the stage is reversed in Rob's case, such is the charm and creativity of his live performances it must have been a difficult task to capture that on record. Happily he succeeded. The other singles 'Tabasco Sole' and 'Multiplayer' are both brilliant and there are a whole host of songs on here that would have made equally good singles.

4. Fever Ray - Fever Ray
It was late one night in 2004 while watching MTV2 that i was first exposed to Karin Dreijer Andersson's voice on The Knife track 'Pass This On'
As a great fan of unusual voices i was instantly hooked, finding myself a copy of the 'Deep Cuts' album and being generally pleased with my find.
This was followed in 2006 by the 'Silent Shout' album which found its way to number 2 in my albums of the year becoming the first album you wouldn't find filed under 'indie' to make my top 5 of the year. Well here's the second.
On first listen you can immediately tell this is a great album, it's one of those records that demands to be listened to in its entirety, only after spending some time with it can you begin to pick out highlights to explain why it's so good.
It's altogether a darker and more atmospheric album than any of The Knife's offerings but Karin retains a quirky and almost childlike persona in her lyrics "Magpies, I throw sticks at them" from Triangle Walks. "Talk about love, talk about dishwasher tablets" from Seven.
She incorporates sounds into this album that would usually have no place on any respectable record, (pan pipes for fuck sake!?) but somehow it just works.

3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
Yeah Yeah Yeahs were in danger of becoming irrelevant i felt after the release of their last album 'Show Your Bones' in 2006. True, it spawned possibly some of the bands best singles in 'Cheated Hearts' 'Gold Lion' and 'Turn Into' but the rest of the album faded into obscurity, it didn't have the raw energy of their debut and it hadn't really taken them in any particular direction befitting the band.
'It's Blitz' was a gutsy move no doubt about it, ditching the guitars which tore through 'Fever to Tell' making that record what it was (still a fantastic debut) and replacing them with synths. Karen O said of the new record it would sound different but still like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and she was so right, this new direction suits the band down to the ground.
This album has everything, the instant anthems 'Zero' and 'Heads Will Roll', the more tender moments they've always excelled at 'Skeletons' and 'Little Shadow', and the iconic album cover. Their best album yet.

2. Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer
Sunset Rubdown have never so much as broken into my years top 30 so what has happened to get this new record so high? Well at the halfway point of 2009 'Dragonslayer' was heading for another mid table finish for the band. But you know those albums that people call 'a grower'? Never has that term been more relevant than here.
Like all great 'grower' albums, you'll start to love each track separately over time. 'Silver Moons', 'Idiot Heart' and 'You Go On Ahead' should be first on your radar but you'll soon see there's not a bad song on here.
Seeing them live in Cardiff in September probably played its part in bringing the songs to life but listening to it now I'm amazed at how it took so long to fall in love with this album.
The eight tracks on 'Dragonslayer' (yes there are only eight tracks but it still clocks in at over 48 minutes) are to my mind the best eight tracks Sunset Rubdown have ever recorded and a lot of them are better than anything Spencer Krug's Wolf Parade have put out too. (and I love Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary') It really is that good.

1. Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard - Em Are I
The anti-folk storyteller has delivered his best and most complete album yet. Lewis has had an arsenal of great songs for some time now 'Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror', 'The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song', 'Back When I Was 4' and 'Creeping Brain' to name just a few but thus far they've been spread across all of his albums.
With 'Em Are I', the first album to credit his backing band The Junkyard, Jeff has created an album that has everything and plays to all of his strengths.
Energetic opener 'Slogans' kicks things off before the brilliant 'Roll Bus Roll' a sweet tribute to the joys of riding the Greyhound bus and trying to get some sleep "A rolled sweatshirt makes the window soft" advises Jeff.
The album has its pop moments, 'Good Old Pig, Gone to Avalon' and 'Whistle Past the Graveyard' still draped in Lewis' wit and humour as well softer hazy afternoon moments like 'To Be Objectified'. Jeff's brother Jack provides the albums darker moment with the menacing 'The Upside-Down Cross', like I said, this album has everything.
While you can never recreate the experience of a Jeffrey Lewis gig (the comics and banter really make those) it's reassuring to know he's got an album as good as this to draw on to make those gigs even more unforgettable. Deservedly the album of the year.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Indie Christmas MP3s

Here's a selection of Christmas MP3s for all to enjoy.
(Right click and 'Save Target As...')

Banjo or Freakout - White Christmas
Can - Silent Night
Julian Casablancas - I Wish It Was Christmas Today
Lightning Dust - Ho Ho Ho
Lucky Soul - Lonely This Christmas
Parenthetical Girls - Thank God It's Not Christmas
Slow Club - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Happy crimbo and all that.


Chantal's Top Albums of 2009

My favourite albums of the year - correctly slightly from the ones I posted on MySpace and Facebook as I realised I'd managed to accidentally delete one of the albums when I was compiling the final list. Doh. So a special mention to Ben Kweller who sadly gets bumped down to 101st place.

100. Kings of Convenience - Declaration of Dependence
99. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
98. Nouvelle Vague - 3
97. Sweet Baboo - Hello Wave
96. Hockey - Mind Chaos
95. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
94. Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer
93. Brett Anderson - Slow Attack
92. White Rabbits - It's Frightening
91. The Mummers - Tale To Tell

90. Black Moth Super Rainbow - Eating Us
89. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
88. The Veils - Sun Gangs
87. Vienna Teng - Inland Territory
86. Mew - No More Stories...
85. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below
84. Sky Larkin - The Golden Spike
83. Plushgun - Pins & Panzers
82. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
81. Alela Diane - To Be Still

80. Jason Lytle - Yours Truly, The Commuter
79. The Leisure Society - The Sleeper
78. Graham Coxon - The Spinning Top
77. An Horse - Rearrange Beds
76. Broken Records - Until The Earth Begins To Part
75. Fiction Family - Fiction Family
74. Loney, Dear - Dear John
73. Julian Plenti - Julian Plenti Is... Skyscraper
72. Cate Le Bon - Me Oh My
71. Franz Ferdinand - Tonight

70. Wave Machines - Wave If You're Really There
69. M. Ward - Hold Time
68. The Mountain Goats - Life Of The World To Come
67. Lightning Dust - Infinite Light
66. Euros Childs - Son Of Euro Child
65. Alessi's Ark - Notes From The Treehouse
64. Fever Ray - Fever Ray
63. Passion Pit - Manners
62. Vetiver - Tight Knit
61. Handsome Furs - Face Control

60. Emmy The Great - First Love
59. Au Revoir Simone - Still Night, Still Light
58. Pink Mountaintops - Outside Love
57. Julie Doiron - I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day
56. The Antlers - Hospice
55. Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
54. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
53. Florence And The Machine - Lungs
52. Matt & Kim - Grand
51. 1990s - Kicks

50. Eels - Hombre Lobo
49. Manic Street Preachers - Journal For Plague Lovers
48. Dusty Rhodes And The River Band - Palace And Stage
47. Leona Naess - Thirteens
46. Girls - Album
45. A.C. Newman - Get Guilty
44. Karen O And The Kids - Where The Wild Things Are
43. Alec Ounsworth - Mo Beauty
42. Brakes - Touchdown
41. Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew

40. John Vanderslice - Romanian Names
39. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
38. Martin Carr - Ye Gods (And Little Fishes)
37. Charlotte Hatherley - New Worlds
36. Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
35. St. Vincent - Actor
34. Metric - Fantasies
33. The Raveonettes - In And Out Of Control
32. Theoretical Girl - Divided
31. Monsters Of Folk - Monsters Of Folk

30. Shirley Lee - Shirley Lee
29. The Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away
28. Frida Hyvönen - Silence Is Wild
27. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
26. Devendra Banhart - What Will We Be
25. God Help The Girl - God Help The Girl
24. Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern - Pram Town
23. The Broken Family Band - Please And Thank You
22. Piney Gir - The Yearling
21. Oh, Atoms - You Can't See The Stars From Here

20. Regina Spektor - Far
19. Polly Scattergood - Polly Scattergood
18. The Hidden Cameras - Origin:Orphan
17. A Camp - Colonia
16. The Bird And The Bee - Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future
15. Fight Like Apes - Fight Like Apes And The Mystery Of The Golden Medallion
14. Telley - Now I'm The Big Sister
13. The Boy Least Likely To - The Law Of The Playground
12. The Duckworth Lewis Method - The Duckworth Lewis Method
11. Super Furry Animals - Dark Days / Light Years

10. Golden Silvers - True Romance

9. Jill Sobule - California Years

8. Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications

7. Slow Club - Yeah So

6. Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard - 'Em Are I

5. Little Birdy - Confetti

4. The Decemberists - The Hazards Of Love

3. Sibrydion - Campfire Classics

2. The Voluntary Butler Scheme - At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea

1. Cerys Matthews - Don't Look Down / Paid Edrych I Lawr

Jamie's Top 100 albums of 2009

100. The Horrors - Primary Colours
99. Weezer - Raditude
98. Johnny Foreigner - Grace and the Bigger Picture
97. Euros Childs - Son of Euro Child
96. Kings of Convenience - Declaration of Dependence
95. Golden Silvers - True Romance
94. Tegan and Sara - Sainthood
93. Volcano Choir - Unmap
92. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
91. Brakes - Touchdown
90. PJ Harvey & John Parish - A Woman A Man Walked By
89. Telepathe - Dance Mother
88. Titus Andronicus - The Airing of Grievances
87. Oh, Atoms - You Can't See the Stars From Here
86. The Mountain Goats - Life of the World to Come
85. Datarock - Red
84. JJ - JJ no2
83. Muse - The Resistance
82. Malajube - Labyrinthes
81. Jason Lytle - Yours Truely The Commuter
80. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
79. The Bird and The Bee - Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future
78. Woods - Songs of Shame
77. Charlotte Hatherley - New Worlds
76. Noah and the Whale - First Days of Spring
75. M. Ward - Hold Time
74. The Cribs - Ignore the Ignorant
73. Sweet Baboo - Hello Wave
72. Real Estate - Real Estate
71. An Horse - Rearrange Beds
70. Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk
69. Karen O and the Kids - Where The Wild Things Are
68. Mew - No More Stories are Told Today...
67. The Maccabees - Wall of Arms
66. The Twilight Sad - Forget the Night Ahead
65. Passion Pit - Manners
64. Bonnie ' Prince' Billy - Beware
63. Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
62. Howling Bells - Radio Wars
61. The Dodos - Time to Die
60. Islands - Vapours
59. It Hugs Back - Inside Your Guitar
58. Cerys Matthews - Don't Look Down / Paid Edrych I Lawr
57. Japandroids - Post Nothing
56. Pink Mountaintops - Outside Love
55. Tiny Vipers - Life on Earth
54. A.C. Newman - Get Guilty
53. Theoretical Girl - Divided
52. Florence & The Machine - Lungs
51. Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young

50. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
49. Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications
48. Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
47. Asobi Seksu - Hush
46. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains
45. YACHT - See Mystery Lights
44. Why? - Eskimo Snow
43. The Raveonettes - In And Out of Control
42. Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another
41. Sibrydion - Campfire Classics
40. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
39. Built to Spill - There Is No Enemy
38. Múm - Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know
37. Matt & Kim - Grand
36. Atlas Sound - Logos
35. Cate Le Bon - Me Oh My
34. Lightning Dust - Infinite Light
33. Memory Tapes - Seek Magic
32. Swan Lake - Enemy Mine
31. Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
30. Stellastarr* - Civilized
29. Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
28. The xx - The xx
27. Girls - Album
26. Graham Coxon - The Spinning Top
25. The Boy Least Likely To - The Law of the Playground
24. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
23. Emmy the Great - First Love
22. Wild Beasts - Two Dancers
21. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

20. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
19. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
18. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
17. St. Vincent - Actor
16. Regina Spektor - Far
15. Slow Club - Yeah So
14. Alec Ounsworth - Mo Beauty
13. Manic Street Preachers - Journal For Plague Lovers
12. Metric - Fantasies
11. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love

10. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career

9. The Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away

8. Super Furry Animals - Dark Days/Light Years

7. The Antlers - Hospice

6. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

5. The Voluntary Butler Scheme - At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea

4. Fever Ray - Fever Ray

3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz

2. Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer

1. Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard - Em Are I