01 January 2010

My favourite albums of 2009

So apparently I bought 50.7 hours of music released in 2009; 49.9 discounting re-issues, and 43.3 discounting compilations and best-ofs (but not disounting Aidan Moffat and the Best Ofs).

My top 10 albums in some kind of order were:

10. Jon Boden - Songs from the Floodplain

Second solo album from Bellowhead frontman Jon Boden - I've seen it described somewhere as folk tinged apocalyptica and its a description that fits as it is both bleak and full of influences from his folk roots. Boden is one of the most charismatic performers I've ever seen live and this does bleed through into his recordings too.

9. James Yorkston and the Big Eyes Family Players - Folk Songs

One of the albums I was really looking forward to last year - so much so I bought the special edition on pre-order, twice by mistake! (I gave one to my dad who is also a fan, but I am listed twice in the list of pre-orders included in the packaging). Didn't quite live up to my lofty expectations, but Yorkston is a genius performer and it's still a fine collection of tunes.

8. Regina Spektor - Far

The first Spektor album I bought (since picked up a few more) - there are some very strong songs on this release. I assume given she was amongst LastFM's top 40 most played artists of the year everyone else knows more about her than I do!

7. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone

Apart from the ridiculous space-filling insect noise repeat at the end of the disc this just blew me away on first listen. May have lost a little lustre on repeated re-visits but Case's voice and the haunting melodies she pairs it with remain a symbiotic partnership that rewards attention.

6. The Leisure Society - The Sleeper

A really charming little release that I owe LastFM for. Tracks like A Short Weekend Begins with Longing and The Last of the Melting Snow have a genuine warmth and appeal to the softer, less cynical side of me.

5. Jon Hopkins - Insides

Hopkins is dificult to describe. I loved Opalescent, was less taken with Contact Note, love some of his production work. Insides is a strong work, less accessible than Opalescent but worth the effort in the end. Wire alone could almost have got this album into this list - probably my favourite track of 2009.

4. Emmy the Great - First Love (bonus tracks)

Missed all but 5 minutes of her at Indietracks in the summer - big mistake that I would rectify if it were possible. Deliciously painful in places but a high quality piece of work nonetheless, even if I do have to be in a limited range of moods for listening to be viable.

3. Julie Fowlis - Uam

Voice of an angel, traditional music at its finest. I can't say too much more about Fowlis without understating.

2. De Rosa - Prevention

Thought for a long while that this would be my album of the year, but I have found as the months have ticked past that I do not return to it as much as I did. Still a staggeringly good album from a band that split up a month or so later. Fragile yet robust, far more polished than their debut (Mend) but without losing their edge.

1. The Phantom Band - Checkmate Savage

The album I have most often re-visited last year - took over from Prevention in November/December as the #1 because I feel it has more longevity. A mixture of dark, brooding sounds and happy-clappy choruses that make me want to bounce around like an idiot - it shouldn't work, but it just does. Magnificently. Scottish indie at its finest.


What's odd about this list, from my perspective, is that two albums from favourite artists of mine that I would have had as dead certs for inclusion do not make it (King Creosote's Flick the Vs and Malcolm Middleton's Waxing Gibbous). Those two, and the list above (the top 3 and Yorkston) indicate a strong trend towards Scottish artists in the past 12 months.

I was tempted to include a Jazz release from left-field (Andy Sheppard's Movements in Colour) but felt it would be for the sake of diversity rather than quality - though I like it a lot, it's not received the same attention of the above in terms of plays or thought. Other honourable mentions go to Andrew Bird (for Useless Creatures more than Noble Beast) and Mercury-nominated Sweet Billy Pilgrim (for Twice Born Men).