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Whilst our top 50 albums of the year list offers somes glimpse into what our staff have been listening to these past twelve months, the annual mixtapes give a real insight as to what has been pleasing the ears, minds and heart strings of those wot write for DiS.
These 'mixtapes' or, er, DiStapes, are fairly self-explanatory, they have a-postcard-from-'09 intros followed by 9 songs, so intro blurbage ends abruptly...
To be honest, 2009's probably not been my 'best' year, musically. A combination of having to work all hours in my day job and being left a bit cold by the current crop of Eighties-influenced synth bands has meant that I've tended to fall back on old, faithful favourites rather than exploring what's up and coming. I know, it's a terrible state of affairs - but one I thoroughly intend to rectify next year.
Even so, I've still found plenty to make me happy - be it the odd diamond of an album floating in the sea of mediocrity (Future of the Left's second album, Dananananakroyd's first baby and the Manic Street Preacher's unexpected return from the middle of the road), the odd live revelation (check out the minimalist colossus that is My Disco, and the excellent Random Hand) or just the occasional complete surprise from left-field (Maths - see my review here). So, I therefore proudly present My Shameful 2009...
1) Future of the Left 'Throwing Bricks at Trains'
FotL's second album, Travels With Myself and Another has, in my opinion, shown this band to be one of the best in the world. This is just one of the many standout tracks from that album, and one that encapsulates their killer sound and their wicked sense of humour.
2) My Disco '/'
This Melbourne-based outfit blew my mind and my eardrums in a tiny basement in Camden in back in April
3) Dananananakroyd 'Black Wax'
4) Manic Street Preachers 'Peeled Apples' When I heard that the Manics would be reopening Richey Edwards's lyric book and working with Steve Albini, it sounded like a grand folly. This track was the first suggestion that it wasn't likely to completely suck.
5) Frank Turner 'Try This At Home'
Frank gets a lot of stuff wrong - however, when he gets it right,his take on folk-punk is peerless. This is one of those times.
6) Random Hand 'The Right Reasons'
British ska-punk like they used to make.
7) Maths 'Vacant'
The future of British screamo. This is from their split EP with Throats, rather than superb 2009 album Descent.
8) Faith No More 'Just a Man'
Their return as a live entity this year was just superlative - especially this tune.
9) Nine Inch Nails 'Hurt (Live)'
Sonisphere 2009 marked the last NIN live show in the UK - for a while, at least. This added an extra layer of poigancy to closer Hurt. Here's a similar live version.
Before I wrote this, I had a pretty good idea of how I was going to sum up 2009: it was the year that indie went electro. Of course, there was ‘new rave’ a couple of years back, but let’s forget about that for a moment (oh, you already had). 2009 seemed to be about surprising third albums by Editors and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Mercury Prize nominations for La Roux, Friendly Fires, and consistently keyboard-friendly folks like Kasabian and the Horrors . But then I looked at my list, and remembered that there’s been much more to the end of this decade than 1980s copycat-ism.
Guitar music continues to dominate, and based on the diversity of this year’s best debut records, it deserves to. Sky Larkin, Slow Club and Dananananaykroyd exceeded expectation with profound energy and released albums of precise elegance, shambolic wisdom and bilssful anarchy. The Joy Formidable came out of nowhere with eight tracks of dizzying accomplishment;. Jamie T and The Maccabees told us that they’re here to stay; Idlewild proved that there’s plenty of life left in them. Los Campesinos! closed the decade with fans’ appetites whetted for 2010.
So maybe indie didn’t go electro – but one band in particular have set the bar for electro albums yet to come. What Karen, Nick and Brian did wasn’t only to redefine their band. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have redefined the dancefloor. No longer is it a place to dance with somebody, nor even to feel the heat with somebody. It’s a place to dance ‘til you’re dead. 2010 might get a little gruesome.
1) Yeah Yeah Yeahs 'Heads Will Roll'
2) Slow Club 'Giving Up On Love' Mp3
3) Jamie T 'Sticks ‘N’ Stones' listen on MySpace
4) The Joy Formidable 'Cradle'
5) Los Campesinos! 'There Are Listed Buildings'
6) The Maccabees 'No Kind Words'
7) Idlewild 'Readers and Writers'
8) Sky Larkin 'Beeline'
9) Dananananaykroyd 'Watch This!'
Indicative of the sheer volume of great music that came out this year I've chopped and changed my mixtape several times in the time it took me to write this intro: (goodbye Mew, welcome in Girls). It seems to me that there is a reasonal degree of critical consensus on what the best albums of the noughties' final 12 months are and several of these critical big-hitters lit up my personal musical landscape including Wild Beasts, Dirty Projectors and The XX. Seeing the Kendall boys previewing material from Two Dancers in Glasgow on my birthday way back in February was undoubtedly my live highlight of 2009. The indelible vocal hook that opens 'We Still Got The Taste...' remained with me right up until the album's release in August and so it seems the perfect manner in which to open a retrospective mixtape for the year.
Albums by Junior Boys and Aidan Moffat were in this writers opinion two of the most underrated of the year; seeing the former-Arab Strap man live in November only served to reaffirm for me his position as one of the greatest lyricists our wee isles have ever produced. Girls' Album was the annual album that I was embarrassingly slow at catching on to (last week in fact!). The Manics took myself (and many others) by surprise when delving into Richey's notebooks resulted in an album that was not only not awful, but which was prettay fucking good!!! As we enter Yuletide it seems appropriate to remember how The National's contribution to Dark Was the Night was a continuation of their own fine tradition of turning out awesome non-album tracks.
1) Wild Beasts 'We Still Got The Taste Dancin' On Our Tongues'
2) Aidan Moffat and the Best Ofs 'Ballad Of The Unsent Letter'
3) Manic Street Preachers 'She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach'
4) Dirty Projectors 'Two Doves'
5) Junior Boys 'Parallel Lines'
6) The XX 'Heart Skipped A Beat'
7) Girls 'God Damned'
8) YACHT 'Psychic City (Voodoo City)'
9) The National 'So Far Around the Bend'
What a lovely year 2009 has been for folks such as meself - the ones reluctant to step out of familiar territory, who survey each new music trend with a wary gaze and zealously guard their well-loved patch of outdated auditory-cushions. Most of the songs that follow are likely to make their way into eventual ‘All-Time Favourites’ lists, and none of them needed more than a single listen to win me over. Some stand out on their own merit, while some act more as album representatives. They all hark back to roughly the same late 80s – early 90s era, but don’t come across as overly derivative of it (MBV-Xeroxness responsible for keeping The Pains of Being Pure at Heart out).
That’s what I think anyway.
1) The Big Pink 'Velvet'
Where 'Velvet' was my Song of the Year, the completely unrelated remnants on A Brief History of Love made the album Anticlimax of the Year, its only saving grace being the good fortune it possesses being the carrier of this magnificent tune.
2) Epic 45 'Ghosts on Tape'
Heartwrenchingly desolate, 'Ghosts on Tape' is simultaneously lonesome and buoyant as initial depressed nostalgia gives way to ultimate liberation.
3) Deastro 'Toxic Crusaders'
23 year old Randolph Chabot's composition radiates exuberant glinty-eyed hope that only the hardest-hearted cynics would perceive as naiveté. “Even the darkest sin has the taste of regret/We can’t be all that bad if we wish we were different”
4) Memory Tapes 'Swimming Field'
Most Anticipated Album #2 (after The Big Pink), Seek Magic was everything I had hoped for and then some. Consistently enrapturing, this lazily pensive Cocteau Twins-ian opener is its pleasantly drunk representative.
5) Kid Sam 'We're Mostly Made of Water' [listen] (http://hypem.com/track/805248/Kid+Sam+-+We+re+Mostly+Made+Of+Water)
Token local (international to yous) act: These two Melburnian cousins make sticky-riffed rock and have a wok and saucepan serving as legitimate bits of a drum kit. They don’t let their lyrics suffer, either.
6) A Place to Bury Strangers 'It Is Nothing'
Two acquaintances, independently of each other, sent my ego skyrocketing by saying (of Exploding Head) 'it has you written all over it' - there is no greater compliment in mine eyes than an association with A Place To Bury Strangers. The very first track resulted in ecstatic convulsions so they were probably right.
7) Pinkshinyultrablast 'Blaster'
Excessively impressive, unexpectedly fast-paced shoegaze from these Russian peeps. Nothing beyond an EP available from them as yet, so just put Happy Songs for Happy Zombies on repeat till news of an album is broadcast.
8) The Morning After Girls 'Alone'
Relocated Melburnians blend hazy droneage with crystal clear riffs while some addictive little hooks shiver in the background.
9) Silversun Pickups 'There's No Secrets This Year'
Swoon gets a bad rep. It only disappoints because where Carnavas socks you with one-two punches track after track, Swoon chooses more of an ease-you-in path. 'There's No Secrets This Year' remains typically SSPU and its last minute 'swoon' is the clearest indicator of its relative mellifluousness.
My main musical theme of 2009 is a disconnection from hip-hop, whether this is my fault or hip-hop’s, I’m still trying to work out. The mainstream hip-hop albums this year have been as bad as any time I can remember since the magical summer of 1998 when Hello Nasty forced me to take notice of the genre.
This is nothing new, mainstream music in all genres is always hovering between 50-75% garbage, but somehow the good stuff on the underground didn’t reach me the way it has in previous years. Even the releases by the relatively big hitters outside the beauty parade didn’t really explode the way they might have; the Doom or Anti-Pop Consortium records were hardly met with febrile words in the press. Cuban Linx Part II and The Ecstatic are the exceptions that prove my vague discontent. I get a funny (peculiar) sensation in my stomach when people start talking about the death of this or that genre; it seems to me to be a self-fulfilling construct designed for posturing rather than a real polemic. I do think, however, circumstances or media fashions can conspire to distance people from a musical landscape that isn’t their focus 24/7.
So 2010 will be the year I start scouring the blogs and nice press, because I really want to love hip hop again like I did in 98. In the meantime, here is some of the shit that did reach me this year.
1) The Horrors 'Sea Within a Sea'
Primary Colours divided the DiS community like marmite but this was easily one of the songs of the year for me.
2) Animal Collective ‘Bluish’
There is probably nothing left to say about Merriweather Post Pavilion so I won’t try to.
3) Andrew Bird 'The Privateers'
The lyrics “Oh Cause I, I don’t want your life insurance, Home, moto, health, flood and fire insurance, Oh just make, please make this basic inference, And speak of me in the present tense” will break your heart if you have one.
4) Mos Def 'The Embassy'
Look out for the American gun-nut air tours sample right at the beginning.
5) The Phantom Band 'Island'
This is the standout track from one of the most criminally over-looked albums this year. If this had Brooklyn rather than Glasgow accents the world would have its tongue sowed to the back of these guys’ trousers by now.
6) Amada Blank ‘Might Like You Better'
Her album was hit-and-miss but this is one of the best pop songs released this year.
7) Ryan Driver 'Oh the World Between Us'
Driver mixes Nick Drake with hints of jazz and electro, to beguiling effect.
8) Major Lazer 'Pon De Floor'
Please check out the video for this, my favourite video of the year by a country mile. Pretty sharp song too.
9) Lou Barlow 'The One I Call’
My favourite track from LB’s latest album.
Link: Listen to my full playlist on We7:
2009 was the year when the underdog truly emerged. Once-admirable supporting cast bands became stage headlining leviathans to love and rightly obsess about. An American trifecta of experimental pioneers stopped influencing the major labels from the backbenches and began orchestrating this new musical epoch from the world 2.0's despatch box.
Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projectors. Three bands that simultaneously inhaled deep and plunged into new waters through 2007 and 2008 and resurfaced in 2009, standing proud and somehow more complete than ever before. The biggest surprise? Finally, they were accessible to everyone. This is what defines music in 2009, the year when experimentalism became acceptable and when acceptance demanded a degree of experimentalism, AKA risk-taking – the reason why we're all here, right?
Aside from the year's inspiring American pack leaders, 2009 witnessed a growing preference for lower volume levels, with largely homespun musical complexity and/or subtlety becoming de rigueur on both sides of the Atlantic. Exponents of this quiet-mannered trend include New York's The Antlers and the Phil Elverum project, Mount Eerie.
By crisscrossing the experimental with the electronic, Fuck Buttons and The Big Pink stood out as this country's slightly more obstreperous and easily most sonically-daring frontrunners. With a slight twist of irony, my 2009 has also been defined by something as predictable as the guitar. Sonic Youth keep making old age look more than bearable and Girls make feeling young as glorious as it used to feel (if you're my age). Synthesisers v guitars? Onward into 2010...
1) Animal Collective 'In The Flowers'
2) Grizzly Bear 'While You Wait For The Others'
3) Dirty Projectors 'Stillness Is The Move'
4) The Antlers 'Bear'
5) Mount Eerie 'Through The Trees'
6) Fuck Buttons 'The Lisbon Maru'
7) The Big Pink 'Velvet'
8) Sonic Youth 'Antenna'
9) Girls 'Hellhole Ratrace'
Kevin E.G. Perry
Oh, Nine? Where did it all begin? Well, January presumably, but it turns out that I only remember as far back as May, so I'm gonna start there instead. My earliest musical memory of this year is drunkenly playing a friend Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (using this application called Spotify he'd just downloaded) and it sounding like the music in Ferris Bueller's head. Around the same sort of time I also saw The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and they sounded like summer and falling in love. Before I knew it, it really was summer and I was falling in love to the sound of Regina Spektor opening the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. On a festival tangent, Jarvis and Animal Collective both delighted the Green Man in ways he seemed to enjoy. The best gig of the year, however, wasn't even billed as a gig. Nick Cave at the Palace Theatre was supposed to be a chance for him to read from his new book, but it turned out to be a dream stripped-down piano-led set with a spontaneous PJ Harvey duet. Daniel Johnston at the Union Chapel was another highlight in a year of fantastic live music, as were Staff Benda Bilili at the Brighton Dome. Being in the first Jools Holland crowd to chant 'Hova' wasn't bad either, and on Empire State of Mind, Alicia Keys proved that if Jay-Z asks you to sing for him, the only question you ask is 'How high?'
1) Phoenix 'Lisztomania'
This isn't the official video, but this '80s movie mashup perfectly fits that Ferris Bueller feeling.
2) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart 'This Love is Fucking Right!'
I could just as easily picked any track from my favourite album of the year.
3) Regina Spektor 'Laughing With'
Regina 'does God' on the standout track from 'Far'.
4) Jarvis Cocker 'Leftovers'
I could have put Animal Collective on here to represent Green Man, but you've already heard everything they've done and they don't have any lyrics as perfectly balanced on the good/bad axis as "I met her in the museum of paleontology / And I make no bones about it" or "Well, he says he loves you like a sister / Well I guess, I guess that's relative".
5) Grinderman 'Song for Frank'
The pick of the two new Grinderman tracks on Wim Wenders' Palermo Shooting soundtrack.
6) PJ Harvey & John Parish 'Black Hearted Love'
'A Woman a Man Walked By' matched the sky-high standard of previous collaboration 'Dance Hall at Louse Point' even if it missed the existential angst of Leiber & Stoller's 'Is That All There Is?'
7) Karen O & The Kids 'Worried Shoes'
I could have picked something off Daniel Johnston's 'Is and Always Was', but I was feeling guilty about ignoring the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' also excellent 'It's Blitz' so here's a compromise, KO's DJ cover from the 'Where The Wild Things Are' soundtrack.
8) Staff Benda Bilili 'Poliomyelite'
You don't need to understand the language for this song to break your heart. If you do want to know what they're singing about, I've only gone and done this interview with them just for you.
9) Jay-Z & Alicia Keys 'Empire State of Mind'
Even Dave Grohl was singing along to this hook. And I caught him air-drumming to '99 Problems'. Everyone loves the Jigga man.
2009 seems to have passed me by a little. The only reason I listen to any new releases is to search for that elusive dubstep-folk crossover record, sadly Skream and Will Oldham have yet to agree on a tempo.
Jeff Lewis’s “‘Em are I” was strangely overlooked (read our lost 9 of ‘09) but I looked all over it. There is no song-writer in the world who could so effortlessly sum up my entire life in 11 devastatingly accurate words “going bald is the most manly thing I’m ever gonna do.” With Joanna Newsom sadly quiet, Alela Diane’s stepped up to be proclaimed as the most beautiful sound emanating from Nevada City. Her magical gig at St Giles in the Field’s church was that ethereal venue’s swan song.
Dubstep continued it’s all conquering global campaign, it was difficult to go to a dubstep night and not here Ollie and Bare Noize’s Dancing in the Dark remix, though that’s not to say I didn’t play it at home to dance to, sometimes even with the lights on.
Away from music 2009 seems to be the year that lentils finally got cool again. Even though we all knew it was coming it still feels like a victory.
1) Jeffrey Lewis 'To Be Objectified'
2) Feist and Ben Gibbard 'Train Song'
3) Alela Diane 'White as Diamonds'
4) Emmy the Great 'First Love'
5) Excision & Datsik 'Swagga'
6) Gossip 'Heavy Cross'
7) The Proxy 'Dancing in the Dark (Ollie & Bare Noize Remix)'
8) Arctic Monkeys 'Crying Lightning'
9) Little Dragon 'My Step'
I think my playlist adequately sums up 2009, a year where music has shuffled around, one minute you’ve got rough and ready indie pop, the next trendy lo-fi electronica and then some elfin like Scandinavian singer songwriter pops up. Nothing has dominated, everything has fluctuated. What an end to the decade!
Alexis Gideon struck me at first as an eccentric, pretentious hipster, the kind of artist that would be splurged in man goo by writers at Vice Magazine. Though there is an odd allure to what he does. Cue The Moon are very Floyd, with their epic windswept melodies, but they are a condensed Floyd, capturing Polaroid moments of sun drenched LA glory; and Zarboth, an accidental discovery, a bundle of madcap and malevolent fury with a squeeze of dark humour.
I heard White Rabbits on the radio when I was midway through working a twelve hour shift as a Security Guard, jacked up on coffee the Kings of the Wild Frontier-esque drum beat and Cold War Kids-ish melodies tickled my ears. Blackroc hasn’t left my speakers, innovative, deft, slick, and syrupy smooth; the same could also be said of Brother Ali, an intense talent, criminally underrated.
Alexis Gideon 'Sock Hop' [Youtube](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zUWrxH1B88
Black Lips 'Drugs' Youtube
Cue The Moon 'Owner Revisted' Youtube
Blackroc feat. RZA and Pharoahe Monch Youtube
Zarboth 'Addict' [Youtube](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ls18l5sAWI
Brother Ali 'Round Here' Youtube
Silk Flowers 'Flash of Light' Youtube
White Rabbits 'Percussion Gun' Youtube
Hanne Hukkelberg 'Blood From A Stone' Youtube
2009 has been a diverse year. On the one hand, albums from HEALTH, Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, Wild Beasts - to name but a few - have kept the guitar fire alive. But for me the last twelve months have been dominated by all things electronic - and in particular the hugely vibrant crossover regions where UK-centric bass sounds bleed into techno, house and older garage influences. So this playlist is a means of gathering a few choice cuts from the vast range of dance and electronic music that's wowed me this year.
1) Instra:mental 'Watching You'
In which the London d'n'b duo go all wistful electro-pop on an unsuspecting audience.
2) Gold Panda 'Quitters' Raga'
The best of Gold Panda's deeply nostalgic glitch 'n' sample-fests yet, all condensed into less than two minutes.
3) Nosaj Thing 'IOIO'
FlyLo-linked LA producer crafts an entire album of woozy, aquatic instrumental hip-hop. Fans predictably smitten.
4) Untold 'Stop What You're Doing (James Blake Remix)'
Blogs and forums were set alight this year with excitement about Untold's new music, but James Blake's jagged remix of his 'Stop What You're Doing' took the original's bleep melody and ran with it, with spectacular and pyrotechnic results.
5) Mount Kimbie 'Maybes'
An intriguing curio to emerge from the reliably brilliant Hotflush records (who brought this summer the humid strains of Joy Orbison's 'Hyph Mngo'), a nakedly pretty little piece that manages to imbue its simple structure with a surprising depth of emotion.
6) Hot City 'No More'
Along with Untold and the Blunted Robots stable, Hot City's 'No More' manages to neatly encapsulate the nature of the house/funky/dubstep hybrids setting dancefloors alight during the second half of this year. It also happens to sound absolutely massive on a good soundsystem.
7) Peverelist 'Not Yet Further Than'
Peverelist's Jarvik Mindstate album was a highlight of the year, and 'Not Yet Further Than' elevates his spiralling techno-infused production to a hypnotic work of art.
8) TVO 'The King In Yellow'
In his The Starry Wisdom EP Highpoint Lowlife stalwart Ruaridh Law crafted one of this year's finest electronic releases, six tracks of warmly phosphorescent techno that touch on Berlin, Detroit and London in equal measure. Its highlight is available as a free download on Soundcloud
9) Sigha 'Rawww'
An understated gem from the London producer who's fast marking out his territory as the UK's answer to Berlin's Basic Channel, all gaseous atmosphere and gorgeous, cyclical chord progressions.
- In Photos: Bestival 2012 @ Robin Hill Country Park, Isle Of Wight
- Leeds Festival 2012: Drowned In Sound's Friday blog
- In Photos: Sziget Festival 2012 @ Budapest, Hungary
- In Photos: Latitude Festival 2012 - Day 2 @ Henham Park, Suffolk
- Latitude 2012 - Drowned In Sound's Saturday blog
- Latitude 2012 - Drowned In Sound's Saturday blog
- In Photos: The Horrors @ HMV Institute, Birmingham
- The Horrors, Toy, Bo Ningen at Birmingham HMV Institute, , Fri 18 May