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Best albums of 2009

Red Light Company, Fine Fascination

Compiled by Jack Foley

THE time has come for the annual round-up of the year’s best albums – but while there are plenty to choose from (such as new releases from Depeche Mode, Daniel Merriweather and Doves), we’ve decided to mix in some of the hidden gems that you may have missed out on buying.

Hence, while the likes of Doves, Gomez and Mumford & Sons undoubtedly (and deservedly) get a mention, what of lesser known gems such as Yppah, Joshua Radin, The Heavy and The Hours?

Keep an eye out, too, for outstanding albums from the likes of Dawn Landes, Gabby Young, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour and The Voluntary Butler Scheme. We’ve picked out 37 long-players to lead your life by… they’re not listed in any particular order of preference, though – just all good listens in their own right!

Carolina Liar, Coming To Terms

Carolina Liar – Coming To Terms

What we said: Coming To Terms is brimming with emotionally-charged songs that boast skyscraping choruses and bittersweet lyrics. There’s a keen sense of melody throughout and an easy appeal that should, if there’s justice, propel them into the music stratosphere.

Best tracks: I’m Not Over, Coming To Terms, Simple Life, Done Stealin’

Album review l Buy it

Codeine Velvet Club, Codeine Velvet Club

Codeine Velvet Club – Codeine Velvet Club

What we said: Codeine Velvet Club is the new musical collaboration between Jon Lawler (lead singer and chief songwriter of The Fratellis) and singer-songwriter Lou Hickey. And they’re pretty damn great! The duo exists to celebrate a shared love of ’60s girl-boy duets, dramatic orchestral pop, dark post-war Hollywood and Las Vegas romanticism. Having already impressed [massively] with lead single Vanity Kills, they now deliver an album that’s equally thrilling.

Best tracks: Vanity Kills, The Black Roses, Little Sister, Nevada, I Would Send You Roses, Begging Bowl Blues

Album review l Buy it

Dame Shirley Bassey, The Performance

Dame Shirley Bassey – The Performance

What we said: It’s a momentous release no matter how you view it… The Performance marks Dame Shirley Bassey’s first full studio album in over 20 years – and the wait was worth it. Produced by David Arnold, the Grammy Award-winning producer best known for scoring five James Bond films, the 11-track album features songs written specifically for Dame Shirley by the likes of Take That’s Gary Barlow, The Manic Street Preachers, Pet Shop Boys, KT Tunstall and Rufus Wainwright.

Best tracks: Apartment, I Love You Now, After The Rain, Our Time Is Now, The Girl From Tiger Bay, No Good About Goodbye

Album review l Buy it

Dan Black, Un

Dan Black – Un

What we said: Paris-based Englishman Black first came to IndieLondon’s attention when he dropped Yours last year, a propulsive, electro anti-love song that makes an immediate impression for all the right reasons. … Dan Black has delivered one of the pop albums of the year. Don’t miss it.

Best tracks: Symphonies, U + Me, Ecstasy, Yours, Cigarette Packs, Life Slash Dreams, I Love Life, Let Go

Album review l Buy it

Daniel Merriweather, Love & War

Daniel Merriweather – Love & War

What we said: Daniel Merriweather has been generating some buzz ever since he shot to prominence as the voice of Mark Ronson’s cover of Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before. Singles such as Change and Red, not to mention another guest appearance on Wiley’s Cash In My Pocket, have given rise to the suspicion that, in Merriweather, music fans had another star in the making. His debut album Love & War confirms that suspicion. It’s an extremely classy, soulful and funky offering that’s brimming with cool cuts.

Best tracks: Red, Change, Chainsaw, Could You, Water & A Flame, Impossible, Cigarettes

Album review l Buy it

Dawn Landes, Sweetheart Rodeo

Dawn Landes – Sweet Heart Rodeo

What we said: Kentucky-born and Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Dawn Landes has one of the most beautifully seductive voices you’re likely to hear. It’s one of many reasons to check out her third studio album, Sweet Heart Rodeo. Another is cheeky former single, Romeo, a playful song that berates a certain someone who once ruined one of Landes’ birthdays by standing her up, while a third is charmingly kooky Clown, a disarming ditty built around a Casio-sounding synth loop and a dippy hand-clap back-beat (in places).

Best tracks: Romeo, Clown, All Dressed In White, Money In The Bank, Dance Area, Little Miss Holiday

Album review l Buy it

Depeche Mode, Sounds of the Universe

Depeche Mode – Sounds of the Universe

What we said: Their first album in four years (since Playing The Angel), it’s brimming with confidence, darkness, poppiness and overall brilliance. Some tracks take a few listens to properly appreciate, but the mix of distorted synths, angry guitars, and melancholy melodies is as true as ever… offering both a throwback to the best of their back catalogue, as well as a firm underlining of the band’s ability to continually sound contemporary and relevant.

Best tracks: In Chains, Wrong, Corrupt, Come Back, Peace, Perfect, Hole To Feed, Fragile Tension

Album review l Buy it

Doves, Kingdom of Rust

Doves – Kingdom of Rust

What we said: There are emphatic returns and then there are mercurial comebacks. Doves’ Kingdom of Rust is both an emphatic re-underlining of their brilliance and a mercurial collection of songs. If Elbow’s The Seldom Seen Kid has been [deservedly] sweeping all before it in the awards stakes over recent months, then prepare for Doves to pick up the slack.

Best tracks: Jetstream, Kingdom of Rust, Winter Hill, Compulsion, House of Mirrors, 10.03, Spellbound

Album review l Buy it

Engineeers, Three Fact Fader

Engineers – Three Fact Fader

What we said: It’s been a tumultuous four years since the release of Engineers’ acclaimed debut album but the wait has been worth it. Sophomore effort Three Fact Fader is an impressive, mighty comeback that may even benefit from the passage of time. Last time out, Engineers were dubbed a part of the “shoe gaze” movement that was largely derided. Now that it’s accepted and even welcomed, there’s no better time to unleash this sprawling, ambitiously conceived effort.

Best tracks: Three Fact Fader, Clean Coloured Wire, Hang Your Head, Sometimes I Realise, The Fear Has Goine, Helped By Science?, What Pushed Us Together

Album review l Buy it l Read our interview

Gabby Young & Other Animals, We're All In This Together

Gabby Young & Other Animals – We’re All In This Together

What we said: Gabby Young’s glorious debut album We’re All In This Together is one of the most exciting listens of the year. Endlessly inventive, it’s by turns a fun-fuelled carnival, an intimate rallying call, a cabaret-style party pleaser and a tender insight into the adventurous mind of its creator… Gabby Young and her Animals have created a debut LP that borders on being a masterpiece. It’s very definitely one of the albums of the year.

Best tracks: Umm…, Ones That Got Away, We’re All In This Together, Lipsink, Ask You A Question, Too Young To Die, Two By Two

Album review l Buy it l Read our interview

Gomez, A New Tide

Gomez – A New Tide

What we said: Having celebrated their tenth anniversary in style with the release of How We Operate, Gomez now continue to remind everyone what a great act they are with the release of A New Tide. Shot through with those distinctive dual vocals, breezy harmonies, ceaselessly evolving rhythms and electrifying guitar work, it’s another supremely satisfying collection of songs that deserves to find its way into any record collection.

Best tracks: Little Pieces, Win Park Slope, Airstream Driver, Sunset Gates, Natural Reaction

Album review l Buy it

Hey Negrita, Burn The Whole Place Down

Hey Negrita – Burn The Whole Place Down

What we said: Banjo, acoustic guitar, harmonica… all have pride of place; Felix’s unmistakeable husky vocals take centre stage, and there’s even a cinematic sense to both the heartfelt nature of the vocals and the music itself. Indeed, sometimes it’s easy to forget this was the product of an impromptu session such is the good time vibe coming off it… Hey Negrita barely put a foot wrong on Burn The Whole Place Down so you’ll be missing out if you don’t discover it at the earliest opportunity.

Best tracks: Burn The Whole Place Down, One Mississippi, Room Service, Rope, Cold, Can’t Walk Away, Devil In My Shoes, Fishin’

Album review l Buy it l Read our interview

Howie Beck, How To Fall Down In Public

Howie Beck – How To Fall Down In Public

What we said: Howie Beck’s latest album may be provocatively entitled How To Fall Down In Public but the Toronto-based singer-songwriter has seldom stood so tall. The album is an excellent collection of songs that explore some melancholy subjects in the most upbeat of fashions.

Best tracks: Flashover, Don’t Put Your Arms Around Me No More, Fin, If I Ever Come Home

Album review

Idlewild, Post-Electric Blues

Idlewild – Post-Electric Blues

What we said: Seven albums along and Idlewild continue to impress with their latest, Post-Electric Blues. A return to their punk-rock roots of sorts, the album is by Roddy Woomble’s own admission a deft mix of old school punk and indie rockers, with flecks of Fleetwood Mac’s folk/pop/rock peaks and Springsteen-like bombast… They mix tempos with aplomb and have delivered a seventh album that’s truly magnificent.

Best tracks: Readers & Writers, City Hall, Circles in Stars, Take Me Back In Time, (The Night Will) Bring You Back To Life

Album review l Buy it

Ingrid Michaelson, Everybody

Ingrid Michaelson – Everybody

What we said: The UK has been waiting for some time to hear Billboard cover star and US indie sensation Ingrid Michaelson – but her UK debut album Everybody is truly worth the wait! It’s an utterly enthralling collection of indie-folk songs that bare comparison with the likes of Regina Spektor and company. Songs are full of sunshine melodies, lush vocal harmonies, intricate layering and often shimmering beauty.

Best tracks: Soldier, Everybody, Incredible Love, Mountain And The Sea, Once Was Love, Maybe

Album review l Buy it

Joshua Radin, Simple Times

Joshua Radin – Simple Times

What we said: Best described as a folk rock and acoustic performer, Radin’s music is capable of optimism (Brand New Day) and beautiful intimacy (I’d Rather Be With You). He barely strikes a dud note on the album. Opener and single One Of Those Days is a shimmering entry point, huskily delivered in an acoustic style that’s reminiscent of classic songwriters such as Art & Garfunkel. It’s utterly charming… Don’t be surprised to find Radin becoming a new household name soon. He’s a richly talented singer-songwriter who thoroughly deserves to become embraced.

Best tracks: One Of Those Days, I’d Rather Be With You, Vegetable Car, Free Of Me, We Are Okay, No Envy, No Fear

Album review l Buy it

Laroca, Valley of the Bears

Laroca – Valley Of The Bears

What we said: Laroca – aka Rob Pollard and Olly Wakeford – follow up their debut album Friends In Far Away Places and take a mighty step forward. Whereas the debut was a flawed collection of cinematically influenced grooves, Valley of The Bears, their ambitious latest, is a genuinely fine collection of instrumentals that traverse a wide range of influences. Everything from David Holmes-influenced funk to Arabic-tinged flamenco is thrown at the listener to create a wonderfully rich soundscape to suit every mood.

Best tracks: Yallah Andalucia, Eerie, Valley of the Bears, Home, La Glorieta

Album review l Buy it l Read our interview

LoveLikeFire, Tear Ourselves Away

LoveLikeFire – Tear Ourselves Away

What we said: San Francisco based outfit LoveLikeFire expode onto the scene in spectacular fashion with rousing debut album, Tear Ourselves Away… and it’s an absolute belter. Fronted by Ann Yu, an artist who was originally trained as a classical violinist, LoveLikeFire deliver art-rock anthems that rival the dynamic of The Killers with the artistry of bands such as Arcade Fire and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Best tracks: Stand In Your Shoes, Boredom, I’ve Pissed Off My Friends, My Left Eye, From A Tower, Far From Home

Album review l Buy it

Lucky Elephant, Star Sign Trampoline

Lucky Elephant – Star Sign Trampoline

What we said: The PR triumphantly proclaims that “just in time for summer come the sun soaked melodies of Sunday Best newcomers Lucky Elephant and their debut album Star Sign Trampoline.” You may think so too after hearing it. Packed with shimmering melodies, sparkling guitar loops and a generally sunny disposition – in spite of some melancholy lyrics – it’s a charming debut offering that really deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.

Best tracks: Lucky Elephant, Edgar, Reverend Tilsley & His Magic Lantern, Red Ties Vs The Bees, Burn Down The Acres, Timebomb

Album review l Buy it

Mariachi El Bronx, El Bronx

Mariachi El Bronx – El Bronx

What we said: El Bronx is a mini-masterpiece that combines many facets of mariachi music, the most well know being Norteno as well as jorocho, wasteka, bolero and corridos… In summing up the inspirations behind the album, Matt states: “We very much enjoyed making this album, and we hope that you receive the same enjoyment out of listening.” That’s pretty much a given. El Bronx is an exemplary listen. Don’t miss out.

Best tracks: Cell Mates, Litigation, My Love, Holy, Sleepwalking, Clown Powder

Album review l Buy it

Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More

Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

What we said: Former single Little Lion Man is a rousing a rampage about regret and unresolved heartbreak that contains thrilling banjo licks, and a rollicking sensibility that’s utterly infectious in spite of its downbeat lyrics. The lyrics (“I really fucked it up this time, didn’t I my dear”) are also honest, heartfelt and pleasingly no-nonsense – and somehow designed to make you want to sing along.

Best tracks: Winter Winds, White Blank Page, Little Lion Man, Awake My Soul, After The Storm

Album review l Buy it

Newton Faulkner, Rebuilt by Humans

Newton Faulkner – Rebuilt By Humans

What we said: Newton Faulkner’s sophomore album Rebuilt by Humans is a remarkable achievement for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s a minor miracle it even got completed given that the singer-songwriter broke his wrist prior to recording in a freak injury that could have cost him his career… It’s an excellent return from him and one that deserves to emulate – if not surpass – the lofty success of its predecessor.

Best tracks: Badman, I Took It Out on You, If This Is It, Been Thinking About It, Let’s Get Together, Resin On My Heart Strings, Over And Out, I’m Not Giving Up Yet, Won’t Let Go

Album review l Buy it l Read our interview

Noah & The Whale, The First Days of Spring

Noah & The Whale – The First Days of Spring

What we said: Misery and heartbreak can make for some really interesting albums. Take Beck’s Sea Change, or even Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill… both albums that smack of personal pain and huge emotional resonance. Noah & The Whale’s sophomore album, The First Days of Spring, is born from similar tragedy – namely, the end of the relationship between lead singer Charlie Fink and Laura Marling. It’s awash with sorrow and downbeat lyrics, yet somehow emerges from its despair to reward the listener with songs of epic scope and mouthwatering beauty.

Best tracks: The First Days of Spring, Blue Skies, Love Of An Orchestra, My Broken Heart, Our Window, Slow Glass

Album review l Buy it

Passion Pit, Manners

Passion Pit – Manners

What we said: Incredibly, Passion Pit only came about when laptop supremo Michael Angelakos made an EP for his girlfriend and – after a series of whirlwind events – landed a record contract. Now that the debut album, Manners, has landed, Angelakos and company have lived up to pre-release expectation. It’s euphoric, celebratory and a real blast of a listen.

Best tracks: Little Secrets, Moth’s Wings, Swimming In The Flood, Sleepyhead, Let Your Love Grow Tall

Album review l Buy it

Reverend & The Makers, A French Kiss In The Chaos

Reverend & The Makers – A French Kiss In The Chaos

What we said: John McClure, one time writing partner of the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, threatened to quit music after the release of his band’s debut album, The State of Things – fortunately, he didn’t. The sophomore effort, A French Kiss In The Chaos, is the sound of a band that’s clearly progressing well. It’s a hip indie offering that also embraces elements of ’60s psychadelia and elements of Madchester, with a little Primal Scream thrown in for good measure.

Best tracks: Silence Is Talking, Hidden Persuaders, No Soap in Dirty Water, Hard Time For Dreamers, Manifesto/People Shapers

Album review l Buy it

Red Light Company, Fine Fascination

Red Light Company – Fine Fascination

What we said: We like Red Light Company. Thanks to hits such as Meccano and Scheme Eugene, they’ve already won our hearts, if not our minds quite yet, thanks to their effortless ability to deliver catchy, crowd-pleasing songs. Fine Fascination, their debut LP, further endears them to us. It’s snappy, packed with great songs and unshamedly radio friendly throughout. But sometimes that’s no bad thing.

Best tracks: Scheme Eugene, Meccano, When Everyone Is Everybody Else, Arts & Crafts, New Jersey Television

Album review l Buy it

Reverend & The Makers, A French Kiss In The Chaos

Reverend & The Makers – A French Kiss In The Chaos

What we said: John McClure, one time writing partner of the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, threatened to quit music after the release of his band’s debut album, The State of Things – fortunately, he didn’t. The sophomore effort, A French Kiss In The Chaos, is the sound of a band that’s clearly progressing well. It’s a hip indie offering that also embraces elements of ’60s psychadelia and elements of Madchester, with a little Primal Scream thrown in for good measure.

Best tracks: Silence Is Talking, Hidden Persuaders, No Soap in Dirty Water, Hard Time For Dreamers, Manifesto/People Shapers

Album review l Buy it

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, Fruit

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour – Fruit

What we said: The Asteroids Galaxy Tour can proudly lay claim to be “Denmark’s finest hipsters”. Having conquered the iTunes market with their glorious Around The Bend, a track featured on Apple’s iPod Touch campaign, and which is arguably one of the coolest cuts of the past 12 months, they then followed it up with the equally glorious The Sun Ain’t Shining No More. Now, they drop the LP Fruit and it’s a sweet, sweet listen.

Best tracks: The Sun Ain’t Shining No More, Around The Bend, Satellite, Sunshine Coolin’, Crazy, The Golden Age

Album review l Buy it l Read our interview

The Chemists, Theories of Dr Lovelock

The Chemists – Theories of Dr Lovelock

What we said: When the PR describes the debut album from The Chemists as featuring 14 no-holds-barred rock songs, it’s not lying! This one’s loud… but it’s also kind of impressive… The album is rounded off with a fun cover version of Britney Spears’ Toxic, which ends things in fun, poppy, cheeky and happy fashion. All in all, The Chemists have conspired to concoct a bit of a rock classic for their debut – but one that also boasts crossover appeal. It’s worth tuning in.

Best tracks: Milk & Honey, A Love Like No One Else, Radio Booth, Something For The Weekend, Hot In That, To Die For, Toxic

Album review l Buy it

The Dodos, Time To Die

The Dodos – Time To Die

What we said: San Francisco based outfit The Dodos follow up last year’s impressive Visiter with the equally noteworthy Time To Die, an album that’s literally to die for if you’re a fan of folk-pop and bands such as The Shins and Death Cab For Cutie or, more recently, Grizzly Bear. The Dodos barely put a foot wrong throughout. Album opener Small Deaths is a terrific entry point, beginning in disarmingly simple fashion before really opening out into a shimmering, rhythmically satisfying blast of folksy energy.

Best tracks: Small Deaths, Longform, Fables, Two Medicines, Acorn Factory

Album review l Buy it

The Drums, Summertime EP

The Drums – Summertime EP

What we said: It may be autumn in the UK but The Drums Summertime EP offers that little ray of sunshine these dark, drizzly (ahem, rainswept) days fail to provide… Spearheaded by the single Let’s Go Surfing, which drops the most insanely catchy whistle sample this side of Peter, Bjorn and John’s Young Folks, it’s a seven track compendium of Beach Boys inflicted summertime hits that capture the spirit of West Coast America in effortless fashion.

Best tracks: Let’s Go Surfing, Make You Mine, Don’t Be A Jerk, Johnny, Down By The Water

Album review l Buy it

The Heavy, The House That Dirt Built

The Heavy – The House That Dirt Built

What we said: The House That Dirt Built, the sophomore album from The Heavy, surely has to rate as one of the most outrageously funky albums of the year. Comprised of garage-punk, voodoo-funk, Spaghetti Western love songs, punk blues and psychedelia, it’s a good time record that ought to enliven any party night in the run-up to Christmas.

Best tracks: How You Like Me Now?, Short Change Hero, Stuck, Long Way From Home, Love Like That

Album review l Buy it

The Holloways, No Smoke, No Mirrors

The Holloways – No Smoke, No Mirrors

What we said: No Smoke, No Mirrors is, by The Holloways own admission, the product of a love for making stripped down, joyously crafted pop songs. It’s an effortlessly feelgood record… The guitars are crisp, indie-pop based and reminiscent of the best Brit bands (such as Blur), while the vocals are smoothly delivered and full of insightful, playful lyrics.

Best tracks: Public Service Broadcast, Jukebox Sunshine, Under A Cloud, Cool Down, Alcohol, Knock Me Down

Album review l Buy it

The Hot Melts, The Hot Melts

The Hot Melts – The Hot Melts

What we said: The Hot Melts have created a debut album that’s loud, carefree, derivative of their influences… but crucially immense fun to listen to… The majority of songs have the habit of blasting their way out of the stereo amid a wave of catchy, meaty guitar riffs and powerhouse vocals.

Best tracks: Red Lips, Fun, Big Baby, 24, Nana, Depressed? Oh Yes, God Will Drive My Hearse, Shrink

Album review l Buy it

The Voluntary Butler Scheme at Breakfast, Dinner, Tea

The Voluntary Butler Scheme at Breakfast, Dinner, Tea

What we said: The Voluntary Butler Scheme’s At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea is another contender for feelgood record of the year. Composed by one-man-band Rob Jones, the LP offers a deliriously upbeat mix of Badly Drawn Boy and Brian Wilson’s more acid-fried work with some Jackson 5 and Beatles thrown in for good measure too. Take former single Tabasco Sole, one of the feel-good stand-alones of the year, for the way it effortlessly blends Jackson 5 and Motown with DIY pop sensibilities and an infectious nature that’s difficult to surpass. It’s pure pop Viagra.

Best tracks: Tabasco Soul, Trading Things In, The Eiffel Tower & The BT Tower, Laundry, Hot Air Balloon Heart, Night Driver

Album review l Buy it

Yppah, They Know What Ghost Know

Yppah – They Know What Ghost Know

What we said: Now here’s something special. The return of Joe Corrales, aka Yppah (pronounced “Yippah”), marks another major success for the Ninja Tune label. Channelling the combined energy of DJ Shadow, David Holmes and Mogwai, They Know What Ghost Know is a truly funky sophomore LP that really deserves to find a huge following. Fashioning a rockier sound than You Are Beautiful At All Times, the album draws heavily on Corrales’ cultural heritage that took in My Bloody Valentine, hip hop, electronica and psychadelic rock and soul.

Best tracks: Gumball Machine Weekend, Bobbie Joe Wilson, Son Saves The Rest, They Know What Ghost Know, Southern Sky Tells, A Parking Lot Carnival

Album review l Buy it

The Hours, See The Light

The Hours – See The Light

What we said: I never felt The Hours got the success they deserved after the release of their critically-acclaimed debut album, Narcissus Road. Hopefully, it will find them now, following the release of their quite brilliant follow-up, See The Light… Antony Genn and Martin Slattery are a combination made in musical heaven, but they’ve partnered up well. If Narcissus Road delivered such inspirational gems as Ali In The Jungle and Back When You Were Good, then See The Light offers the title track, Big Black Hole, Car Crash and Think Again as some more instant classics in waiting.

Best tracks: Big Black Hole, Come On, Car Crash, The Girl Who Had The World At Her Feet, See the Light

Album review l Buy it l Read our interview

Read our round-up of the best albums of 2008