WTT: Top 100 Albums of 2009 (90-81)
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This release got quite a lot of hype in the UK, but over here on the other side of the pond it went nearly unnoticed, which is a shame. Britpop is a sound that’s on its last legs, but Bombay Bicycle Club are trying their best to keep it alive by making it not sound like someone dug up a time capsule from fifteen years ago and found unreleased Blur songs. The highlight here is “Cancel on Me”, which is one of my favorite tracks of the year.
82. Brother Ali – Us
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There’s a lot of hip-hop out there, both in the mainstream and the underground, that is dishonest and pointless. Brother Ali isn’t among that group. On his fourth album, this Minneapolis rapper begins to utilize live instrumentation, and it causes Us to sound organic and fresh all throughout. He’s also starting to mellow out, and while for some artists that ends of being the kiss of death, for Ali it just cements that he’s a unique talent no matter what he’s rapping about.
Constantly surrounded by pseudo-sincere, bored-sounding, too-ironic-for-their-own-good indie ‘rock’ groups, it’s not very often these days that we get to hear a genuine, unabashed rock ‘n roll record, but the Idle Hands have given us just that with their debut album, The Hearts We Broke on the Way to the Show. Make no mistake – these are not a bunch of kids who’ve played Led Zeppelin I and Black Sabbath one too many times. This is far removed from the classic rock worshiping bullshit we’ve been enduring for the last seven or eight years, and instead shows these lads as a rock band for a new generation. It would be wonderful to see this group hit it big, and my fingers are definitely crossed for their future.
Swoon is a very apt title for the second album from this shoegaze-leaning alt rock group; this release twists and turns though self-described “nervous breakdowns”, but through it all there’s a constant mood of a beauty that’s almost too much to put words to. Brian Aubert’s unique vocals have an ethereal sound that soothes the listener, while at the same time the other members are trying to pummel you with fierce sonic assaults.
Hip-hop, despite what many people think, has always been about experimenting with sounds, putting things together that probably shouldn’t be put together, and pushing the boundaries of what’s expected (or even allowed) in a genre or scene. So while it may seem like Dälek is hip-hop in name only, realize that in reality they’re the perfect example of what it means to be a hip-hop group. This duo makes dense, abstract, industral hip-hop (they’ve done a collaboration album with Faust – seriously) with strong political overtones, and while it might seem heavy-handed at first, Gutter Tactics becomes, after a few listens, a clear masterpiece by two incredibly talented individuals who are at the top of their game, whatever that game happens to be called this week.
Norfolk is a melodic alt rock band that I found out about on Waffles.fm’s artist feature thing, and I’m glad I checked them out. To me, they sound a lot like Oasis (when Oasis was good, I mean, not Dig Out Your Soul or whatever), except with more piano and less British accents. I guess you can decide for yourself whether or not that’s a good thing.
The ‘afro-pop’ phenomenon has been gaining ground the past couple of years, and while it’s still be to seen whether or not that’s a good thing, LA group Fool’s Gold existing certainly points towards yes. With shimmering tropical guitars and vocalist Luke Top’s Hebrew singing, Fool’s Gold sounds like they should be floating on a raft near a beach somewhere, creating the backdrop for playing children and young lovers and open-fire cookouts and whatever else you think about when you think about beaches. Wonderful sounds for all!
Stephen Wilkinson, aka Bibio, switched over to Warp Records last year, and it marked (at least on this release) an interesting shift in his style. Previously something of a one-trick folktronica pony, this album has him experimenting significantly with his own sound, turning his ambient musings into pop songs with ambient backlays. This is a beautiful little release, with the sounds and feeling of nature being ever-present.
The Gainesville scene may be totally oversaturated with folk punk groups, but three-piece Greenland is Melting fit in happily with their banjo/acoustic guitar/bass combo. While a lot of other bands try to pass off anything acoustic and twangy as “folk punk”, these guys legitimately make a bouncing, bluegrassy, backwoods ruckus. And it’s a lovely one.
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Singer-songwriter John Darnielle released his 17th album with the Mountain Goats in 2009, with each track being named after a Bible verse, and the lyrics being inspired by the verses the track is named after. It’s an interesting approach to be sure, and while it might scare off the less religious among us, there’s no reason for it to do so; religion is nothing new on Darnielle’s inspirational pallet, and this album is one of the Goats’ best in years.