Best albums of 2009… according to Robbie Spargo
Continuing the Best of 2009 series, here’s what’s grabbed me most this year. There’s still so, so many major releases I’ve yet to listen to that I’m sure would come on the list, so I guess this can only ever be a ‘so far’ list!
Most of the best releases seemed to come from the earlier half of the year for once, with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Animal Collective making lasting claims on this list early on in the year.
With the 2000s drawing to a close, I think it was encouraging to see lots of music looking forward rather than back at the decade of streamlined pop songs, idolised indie stars and expressive electronic music.
1. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (self-titled)
Beautifully loud guitars with lulled vocals, looking at the era of shoegaze and at youth with a dreamy gaze. The recent new single wasn’t bad either.
2. The XX- xx
Hushed, understated, and subtle, just like love should be.
3. Dan Deacon – Bromst
I read a producer say recently that dynamics have been lost in glossy production techniques. Dan Deacon and his electronic orchestra beg to differ.
4. 5: 5 Years of Hyperdub
For five years Hyperdub has been promoting the single most exciting genre of music around, and this proves it.
5. Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
With a knack for an offbeat poetic turn of phrase (“If you could only stop your heartbeat for one heartbeat”) and a baritone voice full of irony and melancholy, these initially inconspicuous songs find a way to gnaw at the heart and mind in the long term.
6. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion
This group do something that I haven’t heard replicated in terms of tone, song structure, lyrics and other-wordly atmospheric evocation. And yet, considering how recognisable it all sounds, it as though it’s always been there and always been so obvious.
7. Gold Panda – Before
Every now and then, an electronic act comes along that carry the folktronica/ melancholy electro tag. It belonged to Boards Of Canada, Four Tet and Gold Panda are very similar in that sense, if different in sound. A brilliant, short album of late-night songs.
8. Real Estate (self-titled)
In the past couple of years, lo-fi music has really taken off. This collection of great tunes are the best of the lot.
9. Soap&Skin – Lovetune For A Vacuum
I saw Soap&Skin in a church in Brighton and she was breath-taking. Close to a small and unsuspecting crowd, she performed as though she was in an opera house performing athe lead in a tragedy (screams, convulsions, and storming out). The young Austrian’s album is score for this tragedy. I’m still regretting having missed her in a symphony hall in Germany with a full ensemble.
10. The Fruit Bats – The Ruminant Band
Like The Shins but with less Death Cab sincerity and looser arrangements. This album was a revelation this year.
11. Fever Ray (self-titled)
Having produced a brilliant album with The Knife, Karin Dreijer did an almost as good attempt alone.
12. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
After the success of his last album, this one has been rather disregarded. Yet the catchy songs were just as good, it had a more recognisable theme and the lyrics were just as convoluted.
13. Cornershop – Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast
Best comeback of the year? The elusive Beatles-‘psychadelia’ group behind ‘Brimful Of Asha’ have written several more excellent offbeat songs on this new album, and included a great cover of ‘The Mighty Quinn’.
14. The Clientele – Bonfires On The Heath
More great autumnal songs from The Clientele, on what could sadly be their farewell album.
15. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimist
Nothing like as atmospheric or evocative as ‘Yellow House’, some of these songs are just catchy (‘Two Weeks’), whilst others are a little too obscure to ever really find their groove.