Monday, 28 December 2009

Listomania Part 2: Top 5 Albums of 2009

Now we're getting to the tricky part. Most of you may be aware of my DJing background and frankly ridiculous collection of music (~20,000 songs and rising). Trouble is, when it comes down to it I don't really know that much about music. Certainly not enough to hold down a reasonable conversation with a 'cool' person about it. But what I do know is what I like. And against my better judgement, here it is. In an effort to keep up with the vaguely pseudo-scientific way I dealt with films, I've based this as much as possible on my last.fm statistics.

5) The Dead Weather - Horehound

Yes yes it's another 'supergroup' with cool people like that moody looking one from The Kills, and him from the White Stripes and what have you, but it's a really filthy modern take on blues-rock and I really liked it. I never really think of Jack White as being one of my favourite people, but he's now been in 3 bands that I love (White Stripes, Raconteurs and now this lot). So well done him anyway. When it comes down to it I really like fuzzy, distorting guitar licks and moody ladies with impractical fringes, and since this band have both, can't really go wrong.

4) A Camp - Colonia

One of a list of gems I can attribute BBC 6 Music for bringing them to my life, this is a side project from The Cardigans (you remember them, that Lovefool song, the one about losing my favourite game, etc), or more specifically their oddly alluring Swedish lesbian pixie singer Nina Persson. It's a beautifully constructed piece, with no dud tracks, all with lyrics that veer wildly from prophetic and deep to caustic and rude to fantasy and whimsy. It's put together over some very pleasant guitar-and-strings style backing, kind of like little guitar concertos, and I think it's very good.

3) Florence + The Machine - Lungs

If the year had been about a month longer I think this would've caught up the two above it, but being strict to the number of plays, Florence Welch sits in a very respectable 3rd. I absolutely love this album. Even the couple of tracks that feel a little bit like filler. But to be honest, when you've got such visceral emotion and powerful backing as you do on tracks like Kiss With A Fist, Hurricane Drunk and Dog Days Are Over, I think you can forgive her the odd duff one. When you think back to bands like, plucking one out of the air, The Police, who would have 2 or 3 magnificent singles on each album and the rest would be horrendous, then I think chalking up 8 corkers out of 13 is good going.

Perhaps the centrepiece of the album (even though it's at the end) is a haunting and magnificent take on Candi Staton's soul anthem You Got The Love, which is amongst my favourite songs of the decade and nearly made me wee myself at Bestival.

2) Gomez - A New Tide

Gomez have long been in the upper echelons of my pantheon of favourite bands. They make simple, no-nonsense indie pop featuring beautiful harmonies, jangly guitars and wistful melancholy. And I'm betting most of you (if you ever knew of their existence) thought they'd split up years ago. But this latest offering from the 1998 Mercury prize winners is another slice of fried gold in a canon of albums which have only rarely dipped below excellent. I saw them live for the first time in around 10 years this year and they were incredible. The fact that 5 ordinary looking, balding, middle-aged men with beer guts and glasses could create things so beautiful, and not lost any enthusiasm for what they do, is a wonderful thing to behold.

1) Little Boots - Hands

As much as I do love this album, I appreciate two facts: 1) It's been out longer than the rest of them, which is a bit unfair under this system, and 2) it absolutely is not going to be everyone's cup of tea.

I actually met Boots (Victoria Hesketh) several years ago after going to see her old band, Dead Disco, on a whim one evening in the sweaty hell-hole west midlands residence may know as Bar Academy in Digbeth. On that fateful occasion, I was chilling with a beer in the back when she walked past clutching two bottles of dry white wine and looking quite confused. After a couple of seconds she turned and asked me where the stage door was. I told her it was right behind her. She turned to look at the door, looked back at me, back at the door, and finally said in that delicious Blackpool accent of hers, "Ahhhh riiiiight. Cheers darling!", blew me a kiss and turned to leave. After another couple of seconds while she tried to open the door with both hands full I went over and opened it for her. She giggled a little in embarrassment, I winked and said "Keep up the good work" before she disappeared off to get ready.

Just 3 short years later, Hands was released and made the top 10, which I'm prepared to take some credit for. I also believe it's probably about me, and specifically that rather tame anecdote.

But seriously, this album is a charming, fun, well crafted slice of electro-pop. It's full of catchy hooks, interesting noises, and even the occasional bit of depth. My personal stand-out track is Mathematics, which has the added bonus of not just being a cracking pop song but also use as GCSE revision guide.

So there are my top 5. Notable absentees from this list are Mumford & Sons (because I haven't got round to buying their album yet), Monsters of Folk Music (ditto), and indeed Animal Collective. Somewhat controversially I don't think Merriweather Post Pavilion is anywhere near as good as everyone seems to think. True it's got two of their best ever songs on it, but they're like really posh bread around a corned beef sandwich. It just averages out to, well, average I guess.

This would probably be a good point to trot out some unnecessarily committed hatred for my 2009 crime against music or something, but to be honest my choice of stuff I like might be upsetting enough for some of you even before I go lambasting your favourites. Ah but what the heck, it's Christmas right?

So what's it going to be? I think I've made my views on Lady Gaga perfectly clear. X-Factor? The ridiculous irony of 'rebelling' against the X-Factor to make Sony BMG loads of money? Donk? Nope. All cast into the shadows by...

Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You

To start with, I will freely admit that I own a copy of Alright, Still..., that like that album, and that while she isn't exactly my idea of a 'good' person, I don't fundamentally disagree with her as a human being. But this... this... thing... I don't even want to legitimise it by calling it an album. This horrible, putrid, thoughtless, badly written, badly performed abomination of a... thing, stands proudly willycoptering in the face of music in the modern era. It's almost as if she took Alright, Still..., designed and built a magical hoover and then sucked out all of the charm, humour, grace and delivery to leave this twitching, lifeless, cold, electronic corpse of a... THING! I would rather do a DIY vasectomy on myself with safety scissors than listen to this again. If it comes on in any place I'm unlucky enough to find myself, I will find the nearest hammer and smash my ears in till it stops.

Commence comment based ridicule of my taste and opinions.

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