Culturedeluxe's Top 100 Albums of 2009
Here are the top 10.
1. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - 'The Pains of Being Pure at Heart' (Fortuna Pop)
Despite various screams of 'hype' directed at a certain large US indie music website in January, those that had heard their early singles knew that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's adorable retreading of shoegaze-era indie was difficult, nay impossible, not to fall in love with. The musical equivalent of flicking through a new acquaintances record collection and finding you like every single disc - best friends from that moment on.
2. The Horrors - 'Primary Colours' (XL)
Nobody gave them a chance. To come back from their NME-hyped beginnings and a disappointingly sketchy debut album? To shake off their unpopular garage rock sound and fully embrace full-blown krautrock-driven psychedelia? Well, they did and to often startling effect leaving detractors the world over eating their words while uncontrollably nodding their heads. As Dr Foster put it in our May review: "to make your second LP sound brilliant be sure to record a really shit debut." Wise words indeed.
3. Bat For Lashes - 'Two Suns' (EMI)
Natasha Khan released her second album this spring to press adulation and an appreciative fanbase alike. Although not always as immediate as her debut 'Fur and Gold', the end result was altogether a more mature and cohesive affair. Interest escalated this autumn as 'Two Suns' became the bookies favourite to scoop this year's Mercury Music Prize, only to be beaten at the final hurdle by the inferior 'Speech Therapy' by Speech Debelle.
4. Animal Collective - 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' (Domino)
Simply picking up 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' and examining the disorientating front cover was enough this year to warp your mind - and this was before we'd managed to prise out the CD and start playing it. The noughties' answer to the Beach Boys produced their 'Pet Sounds' this year coupling the unexpectedly warm, yet unhinged pop of 'Summertime Clothes' and 'Bluish' with the deranged ramblings of 'Lion in a Coma'. Quite simply a knowingly abstract group at the height of their powers allowing them to quite rightly cross over into the lives of others.
5. The Duckworth Lewis Method - 'The Duckworth Lewis Method' (1969)
The only thing more surprising than England's Ashes win this summer was this delightful collection which arrived out of mid-wicket with a well-oiled bat and a glint in its suprisingly Irish eyes. The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon and Pugwash's Thomas Walsh joined forces, took their name from a confusing mathematical routine for deducing target batting scores and wrote an album around the concept of cricket. From 'The Coin Toss' through the batting order to 'The Nightwatchman' and 'The End of the Innings', this collection never once failed to charm and never more so than the wonderfully whimsical and witty 'Jiggery Pokery' which reminded a nation how much Mike Gatting hates Shane Warne.
6. Florence & The Machine - 'Lungs' (Moshi Moshi)
Florence and her machine topped many "one to watch" polls this January and even picked up a Brit Award in recognition of this fact, but we had to wait until the summer to find out if the debut LP would justify the column inches. Happily, for many Culturedeluxe writers, the collection delivered all the promise and more, from the scintillating sounds of early single 'Dog Days Are Over' to a much-heralded run through the old Candi Staton standard 'You Got The Love'.
7. The Lions Constellation - 'Flashing Light' (BCore Disc)
While American acts such as Ringo Deathstarr and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart jumped on the UK-fuzz guitar retro bandwagon, Spanish act The Lions Constellation scored a point for Europe with a collection of modern-day, psychedelic shoegaze. Proof positive that 2009, for those of us who looked outside the Top 10, was actually more about resurrecting the spirit of Kevin Shields and Jim Reid than Howard Jones and Gary Numan.
8. Mos Def - 'The Ecstatic' (Downtown)
A decade since last being musically relevant and as far away from his Hollywood career as you can imagine, Mos Def returned in 2009 free from major label shackles and with a refreshing new experimental attitude. Production from Stones Throw stalwarts MadLib and J Dilla threw psychedelia and Middle Eastern and Latin grooves into the pot making this one of the most interesting and best hip hop albums in an age.
9. The Phantom Band - 'Checkmate Savage' (Chemikal Underground)10. Saint Etienne vs Richard X - 'Foxbase Beta' (Saint Etienne Fanclub)
Glasgow's The Phantom Band, famed for playing surprise gigs under various names, finally decided on a fixed moniker in 2009 with the release of their spellbinding debut LP. Healthy portions of classic rock mixed with titillating electronica and, oh yes, the occasional doo-wop solo, to provide one of 2009's most interesting mixtures. While the nation lapped up the mediocre Kings of Leon, here were a band doing essentially the same thing but at an astronomically higher level.
Self-confessed lover of all things retro, Richard X was let loose on Saint Etienne's 1991 debut in its entirity. Thus 'Foxbase Alpha' evolved with measured subtlety to 'Foxbase Beta'; bolstered with a noughties dancefloor sensibility while retaining its old-school feel and original sass. Here Richard X gave everyone a lesson in remixing with due care and love for the source material.
Go over to the Culture Deluxe Blog to see the rest!
I will have my personal top 20 albums of 2009 up on the blog shortly!