2009 Albums

I've been terrible keeping this site up to date this year, and even worse at keeping on top of new things. I usually aim to have 100 albums and a 100 movies on my end of year lists but this year both top out at 50. I've been doing a lot of other things: on the music side, that has involved listening to the first 400 albums on "this list":http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/5938174/the_rs_500_greatest_albums_of_all_time (the remaining 100 I intend to listen to before my birthday in February). Not sure what it says about the year in general, but I don't feel like I missed much :-P (final note: okay it's late and I already snoozed, there's a few here I haven't commented on but I will fill in eventually if I remember … I just wanna post this now). # It's Not Me, It's You - Lily Allen Even after Lily's minor breakdown on Twitter (a bizarre almost antiquated rant against music piracy *yawn* ending with her saying, "I'm a neo-luddite, goodbye," what?), this remains my favourite album of the year at the time of writing. I never wanted to like Lily Allen but her first album quickly grew on me. Still, when Kate Nash came out with a similar sound, I quickly changed loyalties. Lily would have to do more to get me back, but I knew I'd be there to listen. This album just amazed me over and over. She may have lost it since, but here she more than matures. # Dirty King - The Cliks I got to listen to two new Cliks albums this year after discovering them 2 years ago before a Shelly Poole gig and with their second album "Snakehouse". Their debut album (available "here":http://www.maplemusic.com/product.asp?dept%5Fid=4173&pf%5Fid=4170%2D09&lang=EN now for a great price) is just that and nothing compared to "Snakehouse"; this, their third, continues that sound and style but it's a sound and style worth continuing in my opinion. They have a brand new lineup now including Dresden Dolls' Brian Viglione on the drums, so I imagine their next might be even better. # Sainthood - Tegan & Sara These guys had been recommended to me many times before based on my love of the newer (and admittedly similar) band "Smoosh" but I'd never quite got round to them. I listened to a couple of their older albums earlier in the year but neither struck me as quite so fantastic as this Eighties-tastic production. Pure fun. # The Pursuit - Jamie Cullum I would never have thought anything by Cullum would even make it into my lists at all let alone so high, but then, over the last couple of years he gave us those incredible title songs from "Gran Torino":http://ambival.net/movies/gran-torino and "Grace is Gone":http://ambival.net/movies/grace-is-gone and I started to pay attention. More of this than I thought on the first listen are actually very cleverly re-interpreted standards and covers rather than originals, as revealed on a great track-by-track commentary you can get with the album, but it's still one of the most inventive, fun, and moving albums I have heard this year. # The Performance - Shirley Bassey Perhaps the most surprising entry this high on my list … I just adored this album and recommend it no matter where your musical interests lie. Bassey has always had a great voice but as far as I've been aware it's usually been confined to movie songs and your usual covers and standards type collections that "divas" such as her release on a regular basis. This is a real album with original songs written especially for Bassey by a wild range of songwriters and many of them tell a very personal side of her story. Absolutely beautiful. # Roadsinger - Yusuf I got way too excited about Yusuf's last album "An Other Cup" and as a result was ultimately way too disappointed, even if I tried my best not to let it show. It had too many covers, not enough originals, and then I kept discovering as I listened to more of his back catalogue that even some of those "originals" weren't original, lol. This one is something else. It took a couple of listens but this, though closer to, say, "Back to Earth" than the great days of "Teaser and the Firecat" or "Catch Bull at Four", is still way closer to the Cat Stevens we know than "An Other Cup" was. There are still nods to his past, like the piano opening from "Sitting" that opens "Be What You Must", and the whole thing just gels so much better as a whole than his last attempt to rekindle the fire. # Bare Bones - Madeleine Peyroux # The Crying Light - Antony & the Johnsons I get the feeling just about anything Antony & the Johnsons release from now on will make it into my end of year top 10, 'cos the guy just has to open his mouth and I go weak and start to cry. That these albums are moving goes without saying… this one has a bunch of really catchy rhythms on it too. # Midwinter Graces - Tori Amos The best of this year's pretty impressive collection of Christmas albums which also included efforts from Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond (see, er, below…) This is the kind of tight album I thought Tori had given up making, and quite honestly my favourite of hers perhaps since going way back to Strange Little Girls in 2001 # Never Been Gone - Carly Simon The list gets a little muddy from this point on, and I wish I had the time to listen to all of these over again, but this was a late discovery and another great surprise. There's a lot of covers on this album too, but over Carly Simon's own songs, and in almost every case they are quite astonishingly different. I didn't think I'd ever love hearing Simon sing "Let the River Run" or "You're So Vain" so differently to the originals, but I'm almost inclined to say these might be the _only_ versions I listen to from now on. There's just something about this album that left a huge smile on my face, and I've never been a great fan of hers… repeat listens will be had for sure. # Sans Fusil, Ni Souli, A Paris - Martha Wainwright What can I say but I love Piaf, I love the Wainwrights, I love French, I love Paris lol. # Lullaby - Jewel The best thing to come out of Fisher Price _and_ Jewel Kilcher in over 10 years :) Really, in my opinion Jewel has always been one of those singers who has just one great song per album, and her last one didn't even have that if my memory serves. With this album she goes the way Lisa Loeb did last year, and I hope more artists catch on to it, by doing a children's album. It's possibly her most beautiful work yet - certainly since Spirit at least. I truly thought this singer was over and done when I heard Jessica Lombard's album last year, but there are moments on this CD where I felt like Jewel is maybe only just getting started. # My One and Only Thrill - Melody Gardot Gotta be honest and I only really remember the first track from this one 'cos it was a while ago … can't wait to listen to it again though, I'm pretty sure I'll still love it. # Relapse - Eminem Listening to all his entries on the Rolling Stone list mentioned above over the course of the year reminded me just how much I love this guy's work and this is no exception. It's frighteningly intense and "We Made You" is _too_ catchy. # Guilty Pleasure - Ashley Tisdale # Yes - Pet Shop Boys # The Graduate - Nerina Pallot # Reality Killed the Video Star - Robbie Williams Everybody called this Williams' "comeback" and it annoyed me somewhat. I care little about his going off the rails etc, and I also really liked his last album, only 3 years ago, Rudebox. I remember saying of that album, that it left me with the impression of a guy who was pretty much batsh*t crazy but that that fact was good news where the music was concerned. Luckily, though he's "clean" now, plenty of that craziness remains here. # Back to Tennessee - Billy Ray Cyrus Yep, sue me, but my love of Miley's stuff spread via her duets with her father to this, his latest album. Hard to say much about it but that I almost enjoyed it as much as anything Miley has done. # Get Lucky - Mark Knopfler # The Bachelor - Patrick Wolf # Together Through Life - Bob Dylan Nothing compared to Modern Times, but it's still Dylan. Further listens might improve it. # The Liberty of Norton Folgate - Madness # God Help the Girl - God Help the Girl This one almost passed me by - it's a collection of mostly older songs by Belle & Sebastian sung by different female singers including Asya from Smoosh and as such, I really wish I could speak more enthusiastically about it. Again, further listens might be better, but in most of the songs' cases I'd much prefer the original, and I barely even noticed Asya. Love the idea of it though. *addendum*: Okay, there are in fact only 2 older songs by B&S on this, it seemed like more at the time! Also I had forgotten that it's the soundtrack to an upcoming movie by Murdoch… so definitely I will give this another chance some time. # IRM - Charlotte Gainsbourg Plenty on this to like but it just isn't up there with 5:55 (though that would be pretty darn hard, it has to be said), and frankly for uniqueness value in my book at least on a first listen not even as much a keeper as Lemon Incest. # Story of a Heart - Benny Andersson Band # Kiss and Tell - Selena Gomez & The Scene This had one of the best album covers of the year but it just wasn't quite cheesy enough as I wanted and expected. Can't blame the girl for wanting to do something a bit more ambitious than Waverly Place though, and I'll listen to anything else she does in the future. # Humbug - Arctic Monkeys # Terra Incognita - Juliette Lewis # Breakthrough - Colbie Caillat # Cherry Cherry Christmas - Neil Diamond This is not bad at all - there's really almost no such thing as bad when it comes to Christmas albums, and the title track in particular is way, way better than by rights it should be considering the concept (he works in the titles of just about all his best-known songs to a Christmas song) - but I am not sure I like Diamond slipping into this corny version of himself again, that's all. It won't prevent me including it in the rotation every year hence, though. # Battle Studies - John Mayer # Working on a Dream - Bruce Springsteen # Grace / Wastelands - Peter Doherty # My Maudlin Career - Camera Obscura I find it hard to get into these guys 'cos I wish their more pleasing (to me) counterparts Belle & Sebastian would be so prolific with almost an album a year released, lol. I remember very little of this really grabbing me but it was just as pleasant a listen as anything else I've heard from them. *addendum*: Another booboo I guess, these guys haven't been so prolific at all! It just felt like they were, I guess LOL. # Years of Refusal - Morrissey Must be said, this would probably be higher had he not cancelled the Paris concert I was going to see (not that it really spoiled my trip there at _all_) - I still love "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" but the rest, though it will likely grow on me just as "Ringleader of the Tormentors" (which I was initially just as "meh" about) did, for now is nowhere close to my favourite work from the guy. # Further Complications - Jarvis Cocker I didn't like this as much as his first album, nor indeed as much as that interim song "Running the World", but I definitely like how this guy makes music. This will likely rise too on further listens. I just wanna like him too much. # High Wide and Lonesome: The Charlie Poole Project - Loudon Wainwright III # Abnormally Attracted to Sin - Tori Amos Tori needs to start making albums again but I get the feeling that ain't happening. Like American Doll Posse this is more a collection of new songs that work on a track by track basis but don't make any sense of a whole, at least not on a first listen. It might grow on me, but even on that so-so track by track basis not one of the songs really struck me as her best. # Ellipse - Imogen Heap What can I say, I'm sorry this is so low but I just couldn't get into it. After so much of her own hype (that frankly drove me almost angry in the end but serves me right I guess for following her on Twitter lol), it just wasn't all that. I felt no advancement on her first album, just a continuation of the same sound with less immediately memorable songs, and still nothing approaching that original side project Frou Frou that introduced me to her. Even though it's technically better than most stuff released this year, I just found it really boring considering the obvious talent's obviously huge amount of time and effort spent on it. The worst of it is that it almost made me want to reconsider her solo debut too, which I did think at the time was pretty stunning. # Come to Life - Natalie Imbruglia # Between My Head and the Sky - Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band # Christmas in the Heart - Bob Dylan # Hot August Night NYC - Neil Diamond I generally don't include live CDs in my album lists but bearing the "Hot August Night" moniker definitely stands for something, as the first Hot August Night was one of the best live albums ever recorded. While this is a decent enough listen with all the Diamond favourites, it has none of the energy that should be there on a Hot August Night release. The audience is loud and frenzied enough, but it really just annoyed me more than anything (they're even worse to watch if you get the video version). Diamond seems perilously close to slipping back into the awful phony 80s version of himself after the comeback of 12 Songs, I think that's what really worries me with stuff like this and the Christmas album and the less than inspiring "Home Before Dark" last year. Keep it stripped down! # The Boy Who Knew Too Much - MIKA # Back from the Dead - Spinal Tap I've only myself to blame for expecting - I don't know _what_ I was expecting but it was too much lol - from this, I mean really, what could it have been? There's little new here but newer, slicker recordings of the songs from the movie. It's enjoyable enough but not a keeper at all when the movie and original soundtrack are so readily accessible instead. # Secret, Profane & Sugarcane - Elvis Costello With a title like that I thought maybe another Momofuko was in order with the old Costello I love on it but, no such luck. This is still as skillful as anything he has done but I just personally don't get into his more adventurous work. Just me, really. # No Line on the Horizon - U2 It must be said that this wasn't placed so low on my list with as much ease as I once would have done, because I have to admit to finally warming (just a little) to this band, again thanks to their many entries on the Rolling Stone list mentioned above. This is not remotely close to any of that stuff, though. For the past 10 years this band have been _exactly_ the waste of time and widespead enthusiasm that I suspected # Fork in the Road - Neil Young I definitely want to listen to this one again because, like Jarvis Cocker, I just want to love this guy too much. I saw a documentary "Don't Be Denied" since listening to this that made me feel that pretty much anything Neil Young does is probably more worthwhile than "better" stuff by most other artists, so I will probably find something to find even in this loud mess of an album. # Journal for Plague Lovers - Manic Street Preachers I don't think this was necessarily bad … I just can't remember it and imagine it's that last one I'm likely to listen to again in the future at all.