Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My five fave albums of 2009

We can agree that no one pays for music, listens to CDs, or barely even uses the word, "album" anymore.

I tend to be an early adopter with my technology, but I also tend to hang onto it much longer than most people; I had the first iPod, and I have the first Kindle. I still have the first iPod, and in 10 years, I'll probably still have the first Kindle.

What I'm getting at is this: I still buy CDs. There, I said it.

I still believe that "the album" is a much finer art form than "the single," iTunes be damned. Sure, a great single doesn't hurt an album, but my favorite bands have always been the ones that make a grand statement of purpose, quality, and consistency within the longer format.

Simply put, a single is a sprint, an album is a long-distance marathon. The Backstreet Boys are a singles band, the Who are an albums band. Any questions?

So, knowing that 2009 may be the very last year that they even make CDs, it's with a bittersweetness in my very soul that I present to you: my five, favorite albums of 2009!

1. Madness - the Liberty of Norton Folgate


If you would've told me that my favorite album of 2009 would be a Madness reunion CD, I would've yanked your skinny tie, dropped your Rubik's Cube into a big tub of Billy Idol hair gel, and smashed all of your Duran Duran 12" singles at the very suggestion.

Yet, I'll be damned if Madness didn't record the best album of their 30-year career, and my favorite album of the year: a tribute to London featuring their own "Bohemian Rhapsody" as its centrepiece - the astounding 10-minute title track.

Who knew they had it in them?

"Marks and Spencer's" rhymes with "senseless?" Who knew?

2. Patrick Wolf - The Bachelor

Like if the Arcade Fire sang Broadway showtunes, Patrick Wolf strikes you as a guy for whom everything is either really, really deep or very, very funny: lots of soaring choruses, strings, drums, chimes, brass, drama, and calls to rise up for the rev-o-lu-u-tion!

Ridiculous and riotous at once, this was one of the most fun, entertaining, and inventive listens of the year.

Rise up for the neon revolution!

3. Noisettes - Wild Young Hearts

After scoring a couple of minor hard-rock, punky hits on their first album, the Noisettes abandoned the sound completely on their second album for...disco.

The big surprise is that disco is where lead singer Shingai Shoniwa found her voice and star power, channeling her inner Blondie and Corinne Bailey Rae into the dance party album of the year.

Four, three, two, one: go baby, go baby, go!

Noisettes - Dont Upset The Rhythm from Vertex on Vimeo.

Now you've done it and upset the rhythm!

4. The Sounds - Crossing the Rubicon

Speaking of Blondie, the Sounds have better songs.

With that heresy out of the way, I can also make the assertion that Sweden's the Sounds are perennially underrated, and perhaps no more than on their latest release.

I've actually read reviews that call this album "depressing," "mellow," and "slower" than their two, prior releases. I don't get it: this album could have easily been a lazy and cynical attempt to cash in on 80s nostalgia, but instead makes some inroads into (tongue-in-cheek?) modern rock ("Beatbox") and good, old-fashioned guitar-hero hooks (the first single, below).

I've traveled to Minneapolis twice just to see this band, and I can say that it doesn't hurt one bit that lead singer Maja Ivarsson is bursting with charisma, a warm voice, high kicks, and shorty shorts that would make Richard Simmons blush.


That's funny, no one awakes when I sleep.

5. The Duckworth Lewis Method

Lord help me, but I love a short album about cricket. The game, not Jiminy.

Best enjoyed with tea and cucumber sandwiches, the Duckworth Lewis Method is a side project of the Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon, who once recorded a short album about love, but saw more money in going hyper-local and (surprise!) he was right!

The band now tours cricket matches right across the UK, which means: don't hold your breath waiting for the Duckworth Lewis Method tickets to go on sale at MTS Centre anytime soon.

Everything about this album screams "nerdy," from the title of the band - which Wikipedia says is "a mathematical way to calculate the target score for the team batting second in a one-day cricket...match interrupted by weather or other circumstance" to the song lyrics.

Check out the opening lines to "Jiggery Pokery:"
"Twas the first test of the Ashes series 1993.
Australia had only managed 289 and we...
Felt all was going to plan that first innings at Old Trafford.
Then Merv Hughes and his handlebar moustache dismissed poor Athers."

Yet, when I walk to work, I find myself singing, "Gentlemen and players play, Sunday afternoons, April, May, and June!" having never watched a cricket match in my life.

The equivalent would be a British dude singing Harlequin's tribute to Teppo Numminen in public.

Yes, the songs are catchy, no I don't know what the hell they're singing about, and, no, it doesn't make a difference.

Who is Mr. Miandad? What is cricket? Who am I?

Runners up:
  • The Flatlanders - Hills and Valleys
  • Vitalic - Flashmob
  • Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs - It's Blitz!
  • Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
  • The Hidden Cameras: Origin: Orphan

1 comment:

  1. I love Patrick Wolf, and I'm glad you do too! There's something about him that makes me want to put him in the 'guilty pleasures' category - maybe the campiness, the catchiness, the cheesiness - but when you get down to it, he really is a great musician. Just a bit pretentious. The Bachelor's one of my favourite albums of 2009 as well.


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