See ya then, 2009. You’ve thrown up some sage musical selections and have overseen the emergence of many talents throughout a bundle of genres, including La Roux and Lady GaGa in the pop arena who’ve wowed us with their hairstyles as well as their music. 2009 also saw a folk revival, Jay-Z ruling the world and Take That putting on the tour of their lives with The Circus Live. We’ve spent the past few weeks sifting through the albums of the year and have boiled them down to the following top ten, with a few extra recommendations. If you haven’t heard them yet, there’s still time…
1 – Miike Snow – Miike Snow
There’s been a flurry of hype around Miike Snow and their eponymously titled debut album – as the band themselves admit it’s something they never expected when they got together to “mess around”. The trio behind the sounds are producers responsible for the likes of Britney’s Toxic and Daniel Merriweather’s debut, but their own long-player mixes up dreamy pop, fizzing electro, house, folk and glam-rock to serve up a tapas of achingly cool tracks like the kinky Plastic Jungle, the swarthy Song For No One and the addictive Animal. Of the 11 tracks on offer there isn’t a duff one – simply irresistible.
2 – One Eskimo – One Eskimo
It didn’t work for Kristian Leontiou as a solo artist so in 2009 he launched his band project One Eskimo. Their debut album tells a love story with an animated film to accompany the whole ensemble featuring the tales of an eskimo, giraffe, penguin and monkey. Beyond the state-of-the-art animation though, One Eskimo produce gorgeously lilting laidback tunes with Leontiou’s voice sauntering beautifully through the band’s delicate, melancholy sound. You won’t hear a more tender, chilled album this year.
3 – Matt & Kim – Grand
Take two hyperactive Brooklyn art students, give them a synth and some drums and get them to channel their energy into ten pert pop songs – et voila! Matt & Kim’s second album Grand kicks off with the hyper Daylight, then pogos into the rest of the album neatly, sounding like OMD on acid. The album’s lightning-strength positivity might leave you reeling, but when the beat is this addictive and wholesome resistance is futile.
4 – Dan Black – Dan Black
On the buzz-o-meter, Dan Black might have failed in his attempts to woo the general public in 2009 but he shot an arrow through RealMusic Blog’s heart with his first single Symphonies and then his debut album Dan Black. For his frothy pop tunes, his day-glo outfits and his undulled enthusiasm, we salute you Dan. Here’s hoping your record company feel the same next year.
5 – Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You
A stew of Allen’s trademark mock and drole, her second album chucks the kitchen sink of styles in the mix with cossack beats and caustic electro rubbing shoulders with reggae and swing. RealMusic Blog was a late arrival to the Lily Allen party but we admire her lyrical nouse, her Squeeze-like rawness. Those who diss her for concentrating on topics that occupy her life are surely missing the point: Allen writes street pop, pure and direct. If she wants to sing about giving too much head and sleeping in the wet patch (Not Fair) or the luxury of watching telly with your main squeeze and eating takeout (Chinese), she will and more power to her.
6 – The Invisible – The Invisible
Described as the UK’s TV On The Radio, The Invisible are a speccy, beardy trio whose modus operandi is to provide experimental, crunchy beats with a chilled vibe and thorny, layered melodies. They describe their music as ‘experimental genre-spanning spacepop’, which we love. In reality though, they’ve got more in common with the downbeat soul of Massive Attack’s Karmacoma, the experimentation of Radiohead and the soul-funk heart of Prince. This is an album that rewards persistence so go ahead and wallow in its funky slipstream.
7 – La Roux – La Roux
A record that sounds like it could have been produced nearly 30 years ago fronted by woman with A Flock Of Seagulls haircut – if there was an 80s revival in 2009, La Roux was certainly at its epicentre. La Roux had a chronic case of synths and bleeps overload, with terrifyingly high-pitched vocals from the frontwoman but also in In For The Kill, Bulletproof, I’m Not Your Toy and Quicksand a clutch of bonafide chart charmers.
8 – Jack Penate – Everything Is New
Once, Jack Penate was a cheeky-chappy cockerney, all pork pie hat and stop-start busker-style tunes. 2009 changed all that. His sophomore album Everything Is New boasted a neat selection of tracks popping with electro frippery and speckled with splashes of reggae, disco and even hip-hop, all skewered together with Jack’s croaky voice. Jack used to be the ugly second-cousin of indie-pop, but no more. Now he’s the crown prince of electro-pop and he’s got the tight trousers to prove it.
9 – Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3
The elder statesman of hip-hop, Hova pulled out the mainstream rap album of the year with The Blueprint 3, relying on wit, charm, heavy beats and lyrical flow to win over the crowds which it duly did. The line-up was fleshed out with a succession of impressive cameos from his mates too, including Mr Hudson, Kanye, Rihanna and Alicia Keys. In Empire State Of Mind he had one of the singles of the year and with Run This Town put Rihanna firmly back on the map as leather queen dominatrix extraordinaire – quite some feat. Quite simply, while other contenders to his hip-hop throne come and go, Jay-Z remains a solid ever-present. That, and he’s married to Beyonce.
10 – Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
Swashbuckling, winter-warming folk flecked with just enough fiddly-dee and awash with chillingly beautiful vocals, Mumford & Sons have galloped directly into the space vacated last year by Fleet Foxes. Their winter show sold out in two minutes and they’re touring early next year. Grow a beard and grab a ticket.
This year, I also liked…
Hockey – Mind Chaos
Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men
Norah Jones – The Fall
The Maccabees – Wall Of Arms
Gossip – Music For Men
Black Eyed Peas – The E.N.D.
Pet Shop Boys -Yes
VV Brown – Travelling Like The Light
Air – Love 2
Tinariwen – Imidiwan: Companions
Robbie Williams – Reality Killed The Video Star
Little Dragon – Machine Dreams
Noah And The Whale – The First Days Of Spring