As another year comes to its wintry close, there's no better way to preoccupy yourself than with a good old top ten list.
Though 2009 will more than likely be remembered mostly for it's startling number of 'celebrity deaths', it should also be noted that it was also quite the year for music. Pavement announced their reunion and subsequent tour plans, Oasis split up for good this time (thank God) and the Christmas number one spot has gone to Rage Against The Machine's "Killing In The Name", toppling the mighty chin that is Simon Cowell and whatever puppet he currently owns the strings to.
News aside, there were also some fantastic full-length releases over the year and it's no exaggeration to say that choosing just ten records from hundreds upon hundreds of decent long-players is no easy feat. Future Of The Left's Travels With Myself And Another almost kicked and screamed its way on to the coveted list and Julian Plenti's (aka Interpol's Paul Banks) impressive solo début was definitely close (not to mention the fantastic BLK JKS début After Robots).
After much indecisiveness and weeks of sleepless nights, it eventually came down to what ten albums struck the deepest chord with me over the course of the year and so instead of blabbering on incessantly, I now leave it to you to evaluate and judge my top ten albums of 2009.
Out of every single record that touched these ears throughout 2009, there wasn't a single one that hit me as hard as Daisy. Though it was released relatively late in the year, it took just one full listen to come to the informed decision that this was unequivocally my favourite album of the year. Raw and grating and yet wounded and fragile, it spits and bites and weeps and mourns like a caged animal, never settling and always surprising (we'll never forget the first time intro-track Vices kicked in and nearly caused three simultaneous heart-attacks all at once). You've probably already heard it and possibly even own it but if you haven't then honestly, I envy you since you get to experience the album as new. Absolutely unforgettable in every sense of the words, but especially the main sense.
I was sure that regardless of what Manchester Orchestra did, they were never going to be able to usurp what they had created with their 2006 effort I'm Like A Virgin Loosing A Child. How completely wrong I was. Mean Everything To Nothing is a band unhinged, a band breaking out of any 'box' thrown their way, a band rising above 99% of others in their field and becoming something else entirely. Stoner-metal (Pride), frantic alt. rock (Shake It Out), near-insane ramblings (100 Dollars), emotive balladry (I Can Feel A Hot One) and one of the finest hidden tracks we've ever accidentally found a few weeks later (secretly titled Jimmy, He Speaks), the album is everything we could've possibly asked from the group and more.
2009 has been quite the successful musical year for Scotland, proud owners of such names as We Were Promised Jetpacks, De Rosa, There Will Be Fireworks, My Latest Novel, Malcolm Middleton, Biffy Clyro and of course the brilliant Twilight Sad. From the ominous beauty of album opener Reflection Of The Television to the last fuzzy second of epic closer At The Burnside, their newest effort Forget The Night Ahead is almost faultless in its majesty and grandiose poignancy. Mature beyond its years and more thought provoking than a ten-sided Rubik's Cube, it's an instant classic and goes down as one of the best contemporary Scottish records we've ever laid our ears upon.
The very first time I sat through the whole of Eskimo Snow, the second Why? record in just two years, I honestly didn't know what to think. It was different to anything they'd done before, trading their hip-hop roots for a further step into 'indie-rock' territory but was also just as unique and intricate as anything in their back-catalogue. After a bout of initial disappointment, the album eventually grew and grew the longer it played, blossoming into a perfect representation of the band's gentler, more delicate personality that was only glimpsed at before. Saying that, frontman Yoni Wolf still spits his dexterous lyrical wit in that infamous venomous drawl, never letting you forget that deep-down, he's still the same old cold and lonely Wolf he's always been.
Crafted solely from a years worth of L.A radio-station excerpts and warped into an hours worth of fantastic music, Exile is probably the most under-appreciated artist on the list and his record in question, Radio, is also quite possibly the most intricate. The entire L.P plays out like an actual radio with comical adverts, political excerpts, samples of various hosts and fifteen tracks worth of captivating and ingenious hip-hop electronica. It hasn't left our head-phones since it was released back in February and we doubt it's going anywhere any time soon.
What else can be said about the The XX that hasn't already been openly aired over the last six months? From their fantastic live performances to this brilliant début long-player here, they've undoubtedly become one of the major success stories of the year and for good reason; the music is god damn awesome. Not only does it spin a fresh take on the down-tempo electronic genre but it also unfolds more and more the longer you stick with it. To see such coherence from such a young band on their very first record suggests nothing but good things in their bright future.
Probably one of the most highly anticipated records of the year, Veckatimest propelled the band from respectably mature experimental-rock collective to worldwide renowned stars. It sold more than any of their previous records managed and is currently sitting comfortably as number ten on Metacritics compiled end of year list. There's not a weak spot to be seen across the entire fifty-odd minutes and it genuinely stopped us in our tracks when it was released back in May. Though it'll no doubt sit highly on every end of year list made this year, it honestly and unabashedly earns it.
Believe it or not, Merriweather Post Pavilion is almost a year old already. It's odd then, that it still sounds just as fresh as it did when it blew us away back in January. It's as psychedelic as it is catchy, as lucid as it is danceable and stands as one of the most original releases the alternative world has seen a in long time. Just like Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest, it's bound to turn up on every music-lovers end of year list but it's just one of those records that's literally impossible to ignore.
A violent internal debate raged as to whether Wooden Arms was going to feature on my top 10 list but honestly, all it took was another singular listen to justify its position. Equal parts delicate and explosive, Watson and friends have created a unique slice of near-perfection that ranges from the most innocent of melodies to sweeping pianos and orchestral strings. Couple that with the flawless live performance we caught at CMJ in New York and not only have you got an album of the year but also a new SG favourite.
If you had asked me back in August whether Two Dancers was going to end up in my end of year list or not, the answer would've most likely been a rather certain 'no'. It sounded good, great in fact; but there were other records I had in mind to take up the esteemed ten positions. That was until nearly four months later however when our play count had reached the hundreds and we'd worn the CD down to nothing but a flimsy sheet of polycarbonate. It's ten tracks of fantastically produced, arty, experimental-indie and holds the best two parter (Two Dancers I and II) we've heard in a long while.