Album of the Year 2009: Albums 10-6

Oh, er, we got really carried away now didn’t we? The usually famous top ten, published on New Year’s Eve, is replace by seeing the first half of the ten already before Christmas Eve…which begs the question of whether there is something more in store…

And that there is dear readers, for I can announce today that on New Year’s Eve, I will be announcing, not the top ten of the year, as the second half of that will be revealed on the 25th December, but the top ten albums of the decade – exciting eh?

But, without further ado, let’s get onto this year’s chart:

10. Wild Beasts: Two Dancers

I so tried to dislike this one, I mean that voice is just too much sometimes, and being, as I am, a self-confessed hater of all things Anthony and the Johnsons, it seemed only right and fair that I would not be interested in these guys.

Which of course was so unfair. Unfair mainly, as, although we have that whiny tinnitus-inducing voice at times on this particular album, the falsetto has a little more character and is more varied, seeing as the lead singer uses other vocal pitches at his disposal too.

But, hey, this is one impressive album, in terms of musical styles and something I’ve not found a lot this year. These experimental styles that really do work. I see that Dirty Projectors, have featured on a whole load of best ofs this year, for that same reason, and I totally disagree, as I found the album completely lacking in character and in complete opposition to this one.

It’s hard, yet soft, it’s lyrical, yet grating, it’s falsetto, yet powerful, it’s experimental, yet conservative and all that works in one neat package. One of those on the chart that needs plenty of listening to get a real sense of the scope of the album and I’ll definitely be looking forward to their next offering!

9. Jonsi & Alex: Riceboy Sleeps

Big nod to Barry Napier here for being a total star and pointing me in the direction of this album. That the two involved are members of Sigur Ros, who featured in my top ten last year, makes it even more unfathomable that I was about to miss out on this little gem.

If you’re a fan of Sigur Ros, then you have an idea of what is coming up here, otherwise you’re in for one hell of a nice surprise!

It’s a mood album, and maybe one reason that it’s not higher is that sometimes the mood doesn’t suit, and I need to listen to my albums a lot when compiling the charts. It’s very mellow, very relaxing but in no way easy listening. You’d react if it was playing in your supermarket or if one of the tracks followed the insipid Norah Jones, on the radio.

It reminds me of Sigur Ros, a lot, for obvious reasons, but also Coil, in their ambient tracks and I think any lover of fine, atmospheric music should give this one a listen.

8. Andrew Bird: Noble Beast

Again those familiar with my album charts since 2005, were wondering when, rather than if, one of my newest musical heroes would be taking his spot in the chart. I’m sure some would have expected him higher but, in truth, this is the highest he has ever been, fluctuating between 12 and 8 all year.

It’s a mighty fine album and one that deserves much merit. It contains Not a Robot, But a Ghost, which always reminds me of Cate Gardner and her kooky but excellent story titles, and is also an excellent tune, and it has the most played song of any since I got this computer (and Last.fm), Anonanimal, which has been vying for the song of the year since January 14th of this year, a behemoth of a track, and one that still causes the hairs on the neck to stand up when it opens.

In truth Bird puts together another lovely album and there’s not a weak track on it in truth, its position is more to do with the criticism I have of Kings of Convenience, earlier and that is that a few of the songs are very reminiscent of previous albums, to the point where they feel almost like cover versions. I’m not saying Bird should completely change his style, just that a little variation goes a long way.

However, if you are new to the man, then this album is as good a place as any to start.

7. Florence and the Machine: Lungs

And ‘bloody hell’, was my first thought on hearing this debut album. The response was due to having seen footage of the band, and thinking that Florence Welch, was a little irritating live, and made the music hard to deal with.

The studio album takes all that away and just leaves us with one of the finds of the year, putting together a wonderful voice, some powerful music, and, my particular favourite: the lyrics. Cosmic Love, and Blinding were the two that stood out for me but any number on the album had so much character and presence that I just couldn’t stop listening.

This is the first of the Mercury Prize nominees that I think was better than the winner, more for the fact that they did more with the album as a whole, even though it doesn’t flow as much as Hannigan’s. It does mean, however, that this wouldn’t have won the award had I been judging either…

6. Bat for Lashes: Two Suns

For that award would have gone to this gem, surpassing the dizzy heights she set with Fur and Gold, to come up with an album, more refined, with a harder edge, yet softer in tone. How she does it I don’t know but Natasha Khan has suceeded again in producing an album that stands out from its contemporaries in so many different ways.

Glass and Moon and Moon, are the two tracks that exemplify Khan’s excellence in the field, although all of the tracks show a strength of a maturing artist, ready to become one of the classics in a couple of years or so.

Her voice has this dreamy quality that draws you in before she assails you with all kinds of musical instruments. As you get used to those two you then find that the lyrics are pretty damn punchy and you’re taken to the next level of a musical nirvana.

I firmly believe Bat for Lashes, will be joining the ranks of Bird and Stevens in a couple of years!

Look out for the top five, as one of your Christmas presents this year!

About Mark S. Deniz

English teacher, writer, editor, publisher, reviewer and blogger. Founder of publishing company, Morrigan Books and imprint, Gilgamesh Press and editor-in-chief for review site, Beyond Fiction. Also cycles, plays floorball, listens to lots and lots of music, reads a ton of books and tries to fit in some TV, film and writing too. View all posts by Mark S. Deniz

2 responses to “Album of the Year 2009: Albums 10-6

  • Katey

    I wondered where Andrew Bird would figure in all this. Nice! I’m going to go and snag myself Bat for Lashes, as it sounds lovely, and I need more female vocalists in my life.

    Oooh wonder what the top 5 will be…

  • Mike Stone

    A-ha, I’ve actually heard some of these people, and quite liked snippets of Bat for Lashes and Florence and the Machine. Will investigate further. I followed up on your recommendation of Phoenix and it could go either way. There is a jauntiness to ’em that reminds me of early James, a jauntiness that can just as easily irritate as lift you up. The jury is out!

    My current fave album is a real surprise (to me anyway). I HATE techno, dance, hardcore, trance…call it what you will, but Ade Fenton’s Artificial Perfect is bloody good. Seriously menacing. Good to write horror to, you know?🙂

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