Thursday, January 7, 2010

Best Albums 2009 (International)

INTERNATIONAL ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2009 (Irish excluded, see post below)

10 - The Juan Maclean - The Future Will Come
A release on James Murphy's DFA Records, this is the closest we came to an LCD Soundsystem release in 2009. John MacLean's offering was one of the dance-punk-electro records of the year.

9 - Bat for Lashes - Two Suns
Natasha Khan's second offering might not have the depth of first album Fur and Gold, but thanks to single 'Daniel', her star went bright, giving her the recognition she deserved.

8 - The XX - XX
A strange mix of electro-indie-pop and melancholic lyrics; should have been gloomy, but rather uplifting. Even better live.

7 - Florence and the Machine - Lungs
Poetry, fairytales and the bizarre from the recesses of Florence Welch's mind; plus some superb pop songs, made this a debut to be reckoned with. Better than the hype suggested.

6 - Wilco - Wilco
The self-titled eighth offering from Tweedy, Kline and co. After Sky Blue Sky, who would have believed they could keep the quality coming? They did.

5 - Fever Ray - Fever Ray
Dark, dark, dark offering from Karin Dreijer Andersson of The Knife. An electronic morass. Also gave rise to one of the strangest gigs we have ever seen at Oxegen '09. Affecting.

4 - Tinariwen - Imidiwan
Eight-piece electric guitar group, hailing from the bowels of the Southern Sahara Desert, release album of the year contender. Fabulously intoxicating.

3 - Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Swirling, LSD influenced psychedelica album from the ever-intriguing Avey Tare and Panda Bear, featuring Beach Boys-esque Baroque Pop and, well, a slew of other influences. Superb.

2 - Passion Pit - Manners
A joyous, bouncy, electro-pop delight from Michael Angelakos et al, released after the superb EP Chunk of Change. Tracks like Sleepy Head and The Reeling will never, ever leave your head/ears/consciousness after listening. The squeaky vocals were divisive, but the energy is terrific. Best gig of Electric Picnic '09 also, in our estimation.

1 - Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Best album of the year was a difficult call between Animal Collective/Passion Pit and this Warp Records classic, the follow-up to superb debut Yellow House. Fantastic. (Review below)

Grizzly Bear
(Warp Records)

IN 2004 Grizzly Bear - then largely the solo project of Ed Droste - released the hypnotic Horn Of Plenty, an atmospheric record dubbed "anti-folk" in some quarters.
Whatever about that baffling label, in 2006 Grizzly Bear released Yellow House, a more complete offering, featuring a full band for the first time.
The journey this quartet have come over the release of these albums is interesting, and relevant to the album. This third offering from Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest, was released earlier in the summer but is already shaping up to be one of the finest of the year.
Veckatimest is definitely the group’s most complete offering in their short career. The band have said they feel it is their most accessible, but that is a debatable point.
This is an album that will take weeks to sink in, but as it does, it will insert claws and refuse to be put to the back of the pile.
Opener Southern Point feels like a folk song, but is suffused with a polka beat, driving it forward. Interestingly the band are one of the few non-electronic outfits signed to Warp, but, for all their folk-indie leanings, there is an electro feel to some of the songs on this.
Fleet Foxes comparisons are inevitable, if a little lazy; although likely to be this year’s best release, as that self-titled debut was last year, there is more complexity here, an element of darkness that does not feature on Fleet Foxes pastoral folk offering.
However, the cheery, uplifting doo-wah of clear album highlight Two Weeks feels like it could have made it onto Fleet Foxes album, if not a Beach Boys one.
The epic All We Ask features an opening spine-tingling central guitar part that Jeff Buckley would have been proud of, while the song itself goes through at least three distinct phases, rising and falling through thumping bass, military drums and soaring vocals.
This is an example of the genre-mixing, experimental rock that Grizzly Bear excel at and shows why this band are Radiohead’s favourites.
Listen to While You Wait For The Others and fail to be impressed, the band coming together sporadically for glorious multi-vocal choruses.

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