Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Top 10 Albums of 2009

2009 was the year for Australian music. Half my list this year comes from my native country where in previous years there has barely been one that usually makes the list. A few albums were extremely unlucky to miss out. Feel free to ask about those in the comments section. Stay tuned for the 10 best songs of the year, the 30 best albums of the decade and the 30 best songs of the decade to be posted before year’s end

10 The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love

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Further advancing on the prog rock influences that dominated 2006's The Crane’s Wife, The Hazards of Love can be best be described in the following manner as expertly articulated by the All Music Guide ‘A 17-song suite (think one continuous song with track ID's peppered throughout for sanity's sake) about a girl named Margaret, shapeshifters, forest queens, and fairytale treachery, Hazards of Love is ambitious, pretentious, obtuse, often impenetrable, and altogether pretty great’ Fans of the Decemberists should enjoy this album immensely, with new things that can be discovered upon each listen.

9 Decoder Ring: The Blind The Stars and The Wild Team

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Decoder Ring’s fourth album strengthens their post rock legacy built around ethereal soundscapes, beautiful melodies and intricate musicianship. This double album is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish whether as background music or within the intimacy of headphones. The first half of the album in particular is spectacular.

8 Paul Dempsey: Everything is True

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The lead singer of Something For Kate first solo record is simply beautiful, superbly written and expertly crafted. It is not only a fine piece of work, but its better than his band has managed to come up with collectively. This album is thematically poignant and incisive, whilst maintaining a pop sensibility. A must listen.

7. Sarah Blasko: As Day Follows Night

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Sarah Blasko continues to improve with each new record, the songwriting is sharper and more personal whilst being sonically daring. Only just now getting the recognition she deserves in this country, she remains one of the most talented singer songwriters globally. Slightly left of centre, yet uniquely universal this album speaks to the insecurities we all feel once love is both lost and found

6 Little Birdy: Confetti

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This is the most surprising entry of this list for me, as I had previously dismissed this band out of hand. Thankfully, new circumstances ensured I wrapped my ears around this wonderful album. It’s probably the most emotional record on the list, as the gift of Katy Steele as a songwriter is to wear her heart on her sleeve. This makes for an enthralling and rewarding list, particularly at the album’s beginning as the foundations are set for a most enticing experience.

5 Grizzly Bear: Veckatimist

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In all realty this album should by higher on the list, and in any other year it would be. This is a game changing record: a revelation. Simultaneously beautiful and perfectly refined this could be regarding as an album that broke the mould in years to come, as the melodies are timeless, the hooks are limitless and its beauty is unmatched. This record stays with you long after the first listen.

4 Meg & Dia: Here, Here and Here

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This is the perfect pop record from start to finish. This album is insanely catchy, yet highly literate, it is wonderfully produced and perfectly sequenced. Meg & Dia have built upon the winning sound of their first record and have expanded upon to create a cohesive yet diverse album that is as good as it is underrated.

3 Paramore: Brand New Eyes

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I have to admit I wasn’t sold on this upon first listen, but this album is the definition of a grower. Although not as good as their previous two efforts Brand New Eyes might be retrospectively looked at as a transition album, forgoing the brashness that characterised their previous efforts in favour of a more mature phase. The angst remains, but this time it is tempered with insight that only age can bring, and whilst this record was not what I expected, it makes for an intriguing listen.

2 Lisa Mitchell: Wonder

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This album most definitely is the most exciting of the year. To think that Lisa Mitchell is only 19, but yet can produce such a complete record on her first effort is extraordinary. It is a portrait of adolescence: its many highs and lows, its exposure to vulnerability, yet full of enduring optimism that can only be found in one so young. A fantastic record, the best Australian release for some time.

1 Tegan and Sara Sainthood

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Unquestionably the best record of the year. To quote a previous effort:

Those who don’t me would say this is a hasty judgement. In fact one friend and fellow Tegan and Sara fan said today this was a decision based on adrenaline. I know this not to be the case, because the previous call was made on the first day I heard that record, and its only now just been replaced. Stylistically, where The Con was angsty, Sainthood is thought provoking. Vocals are pushed further up in the mix and while early reports suggesting the album would be electronic, Sainthood has a more 80s New Romantic vibe, particularly on the Tegan penned Don't Rush. The Girls’ gift for songwriting is more noticeable and the album seems more cohesive than The Con, there's not as big stylistic gap between the two songwriters now.

It is Sara’s songs that really shine on this record, and in particular the potential second single On Directing. Complete with lyrics like ‘Go steady with me, I know it turns you off when I get talking like a teen, talking like a teen’ this song is the worthy successor to The Con’s first single Back In Your Head in terms of Sara’s ability to capture intricate lyrics with an innate sense of melody. Arrow and Alligator continue this tend to demonstrate that Sara is the finest songwriter of her generation.

However, Tegan is not far behind. Tracks such as The Ocean, Someday and lead single Hell show Tegan’s ability to craft a catchy and powerful hook remained unparalleled. Tegan also branches out on this record with the song Northshore evoking Deborah Harry and Joan Jett with a straightforward thrashing punk number. Unfortunately for Tegan, Sara once again steals the spotlight from her, in this case with her wondrous backing vocals.

But it is to Tegan and Sara who the credit must go to for Sainthood. They have proven why they are the best band in the world. Not only do they write and play classic songs, they continue to improve exponentially making each new album a revelation.

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