Ah the ubiquitous end of year list, how we adore your almighty knowledge and impeccable taste! How we adore reading 20 lists a day chewing over the same drivel time and time again! How cliché, how over-thought, how ‘scene’. So, of course, we at Sloucher headquarters decided that we wouldn’t add to the oddling pile of over-touted end of year lists out there, we’d be more creative, more original, more…here’s our end of year list. Do not adjust your opinion,
Best Listening ’09:
The Maccabees – Wall of Arms
Talk about being in your prime, the Brighton based band came back into the public eye with a (to be quite honest) surprising blinder of a second full length album.
Upbeat and raw, ‘Wall of Arms’ leads the listener on a melodious journey through careful lyrics wailed over memorable riffs and distinctly live sounding drums. Singer Orlando Weeks has a genuinely strong and heartfelt vocal style which only serves to enhance the overall sincerity of the record.
This is a band with real longevity, which managed to bypass producing several ‘transition’-type records and instead opted to go straight for the jugular with this one. Gone are the somewhat twee meanderings of previous offerings, to be replaced by the slightly darker and more edgy indie rock of ‘Wall of Arms’. Not only is this record more accomplished, but even better, it shows a marked sense of integrity that will surely serve The Maccabees well in the future.
Simian Mobile Disco – Temporary Pleasure
SMD @ MySpace
After the complete genius and enlightenment of ‘Attack, Sustain, Decay, Release’ had dawned on me, I was cynical (to say the least) on first hearing Simian’s second album ‘Temporary Pleasure’. After all, it’s gotta be pretty hard to improve on something which practically managed to redefine this generation’s vision of electronic and house music (forget Daft Punk) and which has seen copycat versions springing up across the globe. But a good place to start is by roping in a plethora of talented and popular vocalists to put the icing on an intricately made bun (in an Eno-Byrne type arrangement the music was produced first, before Simian cherry-picked appropriate vocalists and let them do their own thing over each track).
The result is a record which, like a well-made Christmas cake, matures finely over time and grows in likeability with each exposure. ‘Temporary Pleasure’ is as good as, if not better than ASDR and still manages to push all the boundaries with its multi-layered tracks, knotty beats and slick production.
Every track has something different to offer with highlights being ‘Audacity of Huge’ (featuring the very talented Chris Keating of Yeasayer) and the astonishing vocal stylings of Beth Ditto on ‘Cruel Intentions’ which is a true belting party tune.
Long live SMD!
AC Newman – Get Guilty
There is something intriguingly addictive and alluring about ‘Get Guilty’, the second solo offering from the AC Newman, better know as the leader of resident Canadian indie superstars The New Pornographers.
Newman has a distinctive style of song writing, with lyrics and delivery that straddle the gap between Stephen Malkmus’ drole musings and the emotional confessions of the likes of Colin Meloy. It’s really the structure of the songs and lyrical style that give this modest indie-rock guitar album its notable qualities and produce unusual and likable tunes. Its folksy indie rock with great hooks, thumping drums and appealing guitars – it definitely keeps the listener coming back for more.
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Animal Collective @ MySpace
I knew as I first finished listening to ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ that it would not only be my favourite album of 2009, but possibly one of my favourite and most revered albums of this decade. I wanted to listen to it again straight away – the whole record is like an outer body experience in itself. The pounding drums, whirling keyboards and depictive lyrics serve to create an aura of psychedelia, mystique and experimentation.
After seven brilliant but often inaccessible full lengths Animal Collective have finally produced something that is accessible but not readily marketable, thus satisfying both hardcore fans and those who are new to the band. Animal Collective finally became what we all knew they could be – a band you could listen to at anytime, any place without mastering the patience needed to sit through some of their previous offerings.
Despite their disappointing live shows ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ can only indicate good things for these supremely talented musicians, whose efforts in left-field experimentation must surely crown Animal Collective the musical equivalent of a modern-day Einstein. Brilliant, weird, off-kilter and majestic; it’s already a classic.
I can vividly imagine that generations to come will discover the trippy album sleeve in their grandma’s attic, plonk it down on the player and thoroughly get their heads blown off by this superb record.
Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
After an “almost perfect” first album (which at times it felt it was trying way too much), the extremely lovely and talented (yes, I have a crush) Natasha Khan comes back with a doozie of a sophomore.
Heck, if I’m going to be abusing the clichés, I’m sure that Ms. Khan (who is very lovely in person) saw a sophomore slump, stepped on the gas and jumped into heights unknown, doing a very subtle version of a concept album. Two Suns is about duality, and it’s about the two sides of Natasha Khan, herself and Pearl, creativity versus lust, both hemispheres caught in an impassé.
From the beautiful, sorrow whimper from ‘Glass’, the haunting, heart melting ‘Siren Song’ (“My name is Pearl and I’m gonna love you’) to the stark duet with Butch Walker, the album closer ‘The long sleep’, this album is like a painting by El Greco.
Silversun Pickups – Swoon
Another band who decided that they weren’t having any of that sophomore album shit. Lovely Brian Aubert and his cohorts (including his lazy eye) come back with this album, a love letter to mental breakdowns.
That scream you hear is the wall of sound Silversun Pickups manage. Armed with a guitar rig that would make My Bloody Valentine or Spacemen 3 (viva the scene that celebrates itself!), a bass player that knows her stuff (check her magic in ‘Sort of’), a drummer that looks like Animal from the Muppets and a keyboardist that rides the aural wave and offers a perfect hang ten in every single song.
From punchy first single ‘Panic Switch’ to house-window-rattling ‘The Royal We’ (the cut of the album), this is honest to Jebus rock. No pretentious, no artsy-fartsy stuff and mad riffs finally help Silversun Pickups take off that stupid comparison to the Smashing Pumpkins that lingered on them.
Noah and the Whale – First Days of Spring
Gotta be honest: I was a fan of their happy fun fun fun in the sun sun sun stuff they were swindling around. But, alas, life and love, that intertwining hydra decided that Charlie Fink HAD to be unhappy to create this.
What this is, I don’t know. It’s an art film. It’s a concept album. It’s a tribute to slow core (check those noises on ‘First days of spring’ and ‘blue skies’). This is an album for anybody who’s had their heart broken and even the brightest of the suns, the bluest of the skies and the happiest of the seasons can’t mend.
Funny that the album is suicide-depressing in both ends, but in the end, you get the essence of Noah and the Whale: they might be mind-numbingly depressed, but they are still as twee as they can (Will Mr. Lloyd Webber pickup his long lost song, please?).
This is a reinvention of a band and, funny enough, it’s another sophomore album. Wonder if I’m fixed on that?
Wilco – Wilco (The Album), & Modest Mouse – No one’s first and you’re next
As I couldn’t decide for either of this albums, I decided to match them up, gladiator style. Sadly, both of them ganged on me and I ended up in A&E. During my intensive physical therapy, I had one o’ dem Moments of clarity that only drunk people have (ehrm).
What was that morphine and aspirin influenced revelation? I love these two albums by two proven artists not because they are actually stone cold classics (actually, I think NFAYN is) but because of what they are: gateway albums.
A gateway album is an album that introduces you to a genre or to a particular artist. It doesn’t have to be THE album but it’s the one that represents their general oeuvre. In plain English: like a greatest hits album but without being that cheesy.
Modest Mouse’s collection of b-sides and detritus feels more solid and coherent than anything they’ve done since breaking off their obscure shell in 2004. It helps having two very bloody videos (‘King rat’, ‘The whale song’) and having Johnny Marr doing his best at axe duties. The album has zero boring minutes and the lyrics are as dark humoured as they come. If you understand ‘King Rat’, you understand Isaac Brock.
Wilco’s album includes those throwbacks to pure 70s pop, tinged with the alt-country signature that Jeff Tweedy and cohorts have carried since splitting from Uncle Tupelo , and if I have to choose ONE song, it would be ‘Bull Black Nova’. And hey, this album has a duet with the lovely Feist. Can’t go wrong there.
Incidentally, RIP Jay Bennett.
And the awards go to…
Sloucher awards are highly sought after accolades we’ll have you know!
Artist that needs a year away from instruments: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
The “Chris Martin” award for “artist that needs to drink a tall glass of STFU”: Lilly Allen/Black Eyed Peas/Kanye West/Green Day
Biggest disappointments of 2009: Yeah Yeah Yeahs (both live and on cd).
Argument against musical experimentation: Chris Cornell. Please stick to music and get a restraining order from Timbaland.
Argument for musical experimentation: Bat for Lashes/Animal Collective.
Best actor turned musician bit: Tilda Swinton (LaRoux)
Worst actor turned musician bit: Joaquin Phoenix (we use the term “musician” lightly, nice beard though)
Artist most needing a heartbreak to make a good album: Robert Smith/Billy Corgan/ Tori Amos /Trent Reznor
Artist most needing a hug after a bad heartbreak: The dude from Noah and the Whale. Cheer up, man.
The most celebrated break-up: Oasis
The break-up we are just hoping to see: Coldplay
The break-up that’s just about to happen: Kings of Leon
Overlooked album of the year: Brand New – Daisy
Comeback of the year: Alice in Chains
The Swinging Handbag Award: Kanye West, Lilly Allen, Trent Reznor, Aerosmith, Fiery Furnaces, Calvin Harris and anyone famous on Twitter.
The “Fish sticks” Award for completely losing the plot: Pete(r) Doherty/Kanye West
The overall imbecile of the year: Kanye West (“Imma let you finish but…”)
Overrated tripe that’ll be on a discount bin soon: Florence and the machine, Lil boots, LaRoux, Passion Pit, Explosions in the Sky (sorry)
Loss of the year: John Martyn and Jay Bennett (from Wilco)
The “Courtney Love is bat shit insane!!!” award for outstanding bitchiness, foul language, terrible typing and general nastiness: Courtney Love
Reasons to celebrate 2010: New shit by The National and Yeasayer
Reason to fear 2010: Limp Bizkit’s back, yo!
People to watch out for in 2010: Golden Silvers, KiN, Blue Roses, Yeasayer
That’s all from the Sloucher team folks, see you in 2010!