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The Best Albums Of 2009 [Part 1 Of 3]

[I’m not really sure why I’m still getting so many hits on this, if you’re looking for my best albums of 2010 list it can be viewed here]

So it’s approaching the end of the year, and with no promising releases scheduled before the new year, I figured it was time to put together the obligatory music blog list of the top albums of the year. Just to be different, I’m doing my Top 30 Albums.

And after all, it really has been a year of great music.

I should preface this list by saying that it will be different to any other that you will read. These are my personal favourite albums of 2009, and I have tried to not be influenced by what other people are saying, but be guided only  by what I have loved listening to.

That being said, there will of course be some obvious albums, but there will also be a few surprises, and, I hope, perhaps some new music for you to listen to. I will explore as many as possible of these bands in depth on Pluck later, but for now, without further ado, here’s 30-21 on my top 30 list of albums released in 2009.

30. Paul Dempsey – Everything Is True

Paul Dempsey is the current and long-serving frontman of the Australian music scene stalwarts, Something For Kate. It was with some trepidation that I approached his first solo album, ‘Everything Is True’, but from the first finger-plucked acoustic guitar note, I knew that it was going to be a joy to listen to. It is, overwhelmingly, an intelligent and beautiful record. It is very SFK, but this is understandable, because SFK is very Paul Dempsey. The lyrical genius (see Ramona Was A Waitress, a song about Artificial Intelligence) is in itself enough of a reason to applaud this album, but couple it with a gifted musician and you have a truly great record.

29. JJ – JJ N° 2

JJ barely exist. The band appeared out of nowhere, posting this album and a previous one (fairly easy to guess its title) on the internet. As is the wonder of the blogosphere, the album was noticed and shared, until the point where many people were listening to a band that they knew absolutely nothing about. And we still don’t know much about JJ. What I do know, is that they make beautiful acoustic music that reminds me at the same time of Africa (even though I’ve never been there) and Australian summers. Album opener Things Will Never Be The Same Again is the best track off the album, but it is best listened to in its entirety, in order to completely enjoy the mysterious and international nature of this music.

28. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Why There Are Mountains

This is how an indie rock record should be done. Why There Are Mountains glide effortlessly between moments of madness and insanity such as the opening of Some Trees (Merritt Moon), and moments of simple elegance, such as the chorus of And The Hazy Sea. Lead singer Joseph D’Agostino’s voice is refreshingly unique and draws you slowly into the LP, but it is the vast instrumental arrangements that make the record. The lineup of Cymbals Eat Guitars may be constantly changing, but one can only hope that their sound remains the same as it is on this album.

27. Jonathan Boulet – Jonathan Boulet

Admittedly I only very recently discovered this artist, but this album is so awesome that I am sure my infatuation with it is more than temporary. Jonathan Boulet represents everything that is good about the Australian music scene. Jonathan draws on international influences, but yet his sound is resoundingly Aussie, and unmistakably unique. Above all, Jonathan and his band members seem like a bunch of regular Australians who are just enjoying the ride of indie music. Album closer A Community Service Announcement deserves so much more airplay than it has been receiving, it is one of the most joyous songs I have heard in some time. There is not a dull point in the album, and it is one that deserves to be explored thoroughly.

26. Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions

Biffy Clyro, the Scottish rockers, have put together their best album in the 14 years since they formed in ‘Only Revolutions’. It is essentially just a great rock album: not much more, and definitely nothing less. This is fine though. So many bands are trying to invent their own sound and go against conventions, that I had almost forgotten how good it felt to hear the familiar sound of rock ‘n roll. Opening two songs The Captain and That Golden Rule are my favourite tracks off the album, but the huge and majestic sound of the band ensure that every song has something to offer.

25. Red Riders – Drown In Colour

Alright fine, so it’s partly here because it has Ordinary on it. But ‘Drown In Colour’ is also a collection of many other great songs. There’s some filler here, but the other songs are so good that they make up for it. Feels Like Grace is an effortlessly memorable tune, and Tomorrow/Today opens the record at an almost frantic pace before breaking into the more chilled out sound of Red Riders. Red Riders may be a band that rely on hooks, but there’s nothing wrong with that. This, their second album, far surpasses their first, and it is worthy of being named the 25th best album of the year. Come on, it has Ordinary on it!

See write-up here.

24. Miike Snow – Miike Snow

Miike Snow (its a band not a person) is a Swedish band formed in 2007, and also the name of their debut album. It has been generally been disregarded by indie fans: it is fairly light-hearted pop music, and, much much worse, single Animal was used in ‘Gossip Girl’. If you can ignore this for a while though, you’ll realise that it’s actually an incredibly catchy tune. It is a winter album, in lyrics, album cover, and sound. There’s no deep meaning in the lyrics of Miike Snow, but it’s a sad day when we can no longer enjoy simple and addictive music.

23. Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum

Ooh, the first really big one. In recording a concept album, Kasabian risked becoming pretentious, and maybe they have, but this doesn’t stop WRPLA from being a great record. Apparently every song on the album is meant to represent a mental patient in the asylum, although you don’t really get this impression when listening to the record. Fire is far and away the standout track of the album, but then it would be the standout of most albums. While this track significantly expands the classic sound of Kasabian, Underdog is a welcome dose of old fashioned Kasabian goodness, as was evident in their self-titled debut album. It is this constant balance between the new and the old that makes this album work, and the more abstract concepts of the record thankfully take a back seat.

22. White Rabbits – It’s Frightening

‘It’s Frightening’ is the second LP from Brooklyn band White Rabbits. Their first album, ‘Fort Nightly’, was refreshing and raw, while ‘It’s Frightening’ redefines and refines their sound, making for a very solid record indeed. Percussion Gun opens the album at an absolutely brutal, tribal pace, and is probably one of my favourite songs of the year. The album was produced by Birtt Daniel of Spoon, and indeed the production sounds very similar to that of a Spoon album- even the coverart is a drummer merging with a keyboardist, which is very Spoon (but also very White Rabbits). Second single Lionesse is the polar opposite of Percussion Gun, taking a full minute to build into the full White Rabbits sound, but when it comes, it is just as explosive. You have just got to love this unique indie rock album.

21. The Very Best – Warm Heart Of Africa

The Very Best is the somewhat strange collaboration of Malawian singer/songwriter Esau Mwamwaya and British DJ duo Radioclit. It seems unnatural, but it produces a truly unique and special kind of sound, the like of which is very hard to find in mainstream music anywhere in the Western world. It’s a relief to hear African music that is truly cultural, as opposed to simply regurgitated Western pop music and corny tourist music. Warm Heart Of Africa (Feat. Ezra Koening) is my favourite song off the LP, but it is the kind of record where any given song could be someone’s favourite. This is a culturally rich record, and it is worth making the effort to enjoy and appreciate it.

So, there you have it, that’s 30-21. Stay tuned in the next few days for Parts 2 and 3. Feel free to discuss my horrible choices and/or what you think is still to come in the comments section.

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