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.

No comments:

Post a Comment