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DaveyBoy's Top 25 Albums Of 2009

So here it is... 2009's top 25 albums as decided by my good self. This truly is a list made on behalf of the people by the (self-proclaimed) people's staff reviewer. You won't find any depressing, boring & over-hyped indie garbage on here... And Animal Collective just missed out too (Kasabian got the nod for #25 due to their modest nature & ability to annoy Atavanhalen). A darn good year for music overall and we can only hope that 2010 will be even better. Enjoy...
...In Shallow Seas We Sail

After ruffling a few feathers on 2007's 'I'm Only A Man', Emery do more than return to form on their 4th LP '...In Shallow Seas We Sail'... They deliver the album of 2009 & one of the finest post-hardcore releases ever! A much more mature & polished outfit than in their formative years, they craft each song with a strong attention to detail. Containing absolutely no filler, each track has multiple hooks, yet there is still a raw & passionate feel to it all. The dueling clean vocals & intricate yet melodic guitar-work is especially impressive. Recommended Tracks: All of them.
Be Human

Fightstar deliver another ambitious LP with 'Be Human', this time adding orchestral arrangements to their blend of aggression & melody. It works a treat, giving the album a cinematic feel that proves the quartet's songwriting maturity. Diversity also exists; ranging from the offbeat ('Whisperer') to pop ('Mercury Summer'), and from dance-rock ('Tonight We Burn') to metal ('Damocles'). Without a filler track, it is the anthemic 'The English Way' & epic 'War Machine' which stand out, the latter's chill-inducing finale being the musical moment of 2009! Recommended Tracks: War Machine, The English Way, Colours Bleed To Red, Whisperer & Chemical Blood.
3The Blackout
The Best In Town

During a year in which many post-hardcore heavyweights released albums, they may all be upstaged by 6 young Welshmen. The secret to The Best In Town's success is that The Blackout have combined heaviness with catchy & accessible melodies. While the energetic dual vocal dynamic still exists, the band has matured & progressed in almost every facet of their craft. They are not looking to push the boundaries of post-hardcore, but simply perform the genre better than the majority of their peers. Immensely enjoyable & crowd-pleasing, this is a surprise A.O.T.Y contender. Recommended Tracks: Save Our Selves, This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things, ShutTheF*ckUppercut, Top Of The World & The Fire.

With 2nd LP 'Clockwork', Phrase takes his place alongside the Hilltop Hoods at the pinnacle of Australian hip-hop. Just as adept whether the individual cut has an up-tempo dancier vibe, or a slower emotional touch, the Melbourne rapper provides barely a throwaway track amongst the 15 on offer. Using the themes of persistence & monotonous lives, the lyrics are relatable, sufficiently clever & showcase very good storytelling, as Phrase never attempts to mask his heart-on-sleeve approach. Numerous guest vocals & live instrumentation top things off nicely to add variety. Recommended Tracks: Chains, Clockwork, Spaceship & Persistence.
Aim and Ignite

If 'Aim and Ignite' can be classified as pop, then it is the best pop album of 2009. Nate Ruess & Co. deliver a thoroughly satisfying LP with many highlights & only a couple of tracks where the interest drops. From infectious harmonies to thoughtful piano ballads, fun. has successfully released an album which is simple, yet intricate; immediate, yet a grower. Best of all are the 2 bookends; the joyous African rhythms of the 7 minute closer & the uplifting theatrical opener which seamlessly uses every musical technique in the book to result in one of the songs of the year! Recommended Tracks: Be Calm, Take Your Time, The Gambler & At Least I'm Not As Sad.
6Manchester Orchestra
Mean Everything To Nothing

On 'Mean Everything To Nothing', Manchester Orchestra put the "rock" back in indie-rock. Right from the beginning, a fuller rock sound is apparent & it holds up the few relatively less memorable cuts here. Meanwhile, lead vocalist Andy Hull seamlessly moves from passionate screams ('Shake It Out') to catchy sing-alongs ('I've Got Friends'), and from desperate howls ('100 Dollars') to emotional storytelling ('I Can Feel A Hot One' & 'The River'). A pleasing step up, this is a consistent & mature LP from an accomplished band. Recommended Tracks: I've Got Friends, Shake It Out, I Can Feel A Hot One & The River.
7Closure In Moscow
First Temple

With 'First Temple', Aussie act Closure In Moscow better their impressive debut EP. Very accessible & surprisingly catchy, the quintet cleverly uses song structure to accentuate (vocal & musical) hooks. When the catchiness slightly drops & the band get more experimental, their precise technicality more than makes up for it. While their sound is somewhere in between post-hardcore & rock, they have the ability to add progressive elements to differentiate themselves. Look no further than the danceable 'Sweet#hart' & jazzy 'A Night at the Spleen' for proof. Recommended Tracks: Sweet#hart, Kissing Cousins, A Night at the Spleen & Vanguard.
8Florence and the Machine

There is something very special about Florence Welch if her debut LP 'Lungs' is anything to go by. With her occasionally quirky, but always captivating, vocals fronting an array of instruments, it is impossible not to get drawn in. The rhythms are especially impressive, with the infectious double chorus of 'Drumming Song' a standout. Quality production & well structured songs often build to rousing climaxes, and while the album is a little front-loaded, even the so-so tracks are made interesting by that alluring voice. Recommended Tracks: Drumming Song, Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), Kiss With A Fist & Dog Days Are Over.
9Passion Pit

The fun debut LP by electro indie-poppers Passion Pit could well be the happiest, most euphoric album of all time! It's impossible to stay still during the catchy 'Little Secrets' & 'The Reeling', both of which are topped off by a children's choir. The eccentric 'Sleepyhead' has hooks which defy deion, while other cuts include accomplished live drums. Michael Angelakos' falsetto & the overly peppy nature will annoy many, but where 'Manners' trumps the debuts of similar acts MGMT & the Klaxons is in its lack of filler. Fantastically produced, this is the feel-good LP of 2009. Recommended Tracks: Little Secrets, Sleepyhead, The Reeling & Let Your Love Grow Tall.
Common Existence

'Common Existence' - the 5th LP by post-hardcore band Thursday - should satisfy both their older & newer fans, since the New Jersey sextet attempt to combine their hardcore beginnings with their more recent experimentation. Ranging from frenetic & aggressive to slower & emotional, consistency is solid throughout, while the musicianship is very strong & the song-writing interesting. The only real concerns are that this could be more of a grower of an album and its mid-section may not demand multiple listens. Recommended Tracks: You Were the Cancer, As He Climbed the Dark Mountain, Love Has Led Us Astray & Last Call.
11Paloma Faith
Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?

The debut LP by English singer Paloma Faith is another addition to the recent soul-pop craze. Using a wide array of vocal techniques, Faith takes every ounce of her experiences and infuses them into her music. It results in a theatrical roller-coaster ride that holds attention from beginning to end. She will not be for everyone due to her distinct vocal style, quirkiness & overly dramatic nature, but those willing to immerse themselves in her world will be rewarded by this catchy, consistent & powerful release. Recommended Tracks: Stone Cold Sober, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful, Play On & Romance Is Dead.
12Biffy Clyro
Only Revolutions

Biffy Clyro divide loyal fans by aiming for arenas on 5th LP 'Only Revolutions'. Whether delivering hard-hitting or gentler numbers, the Scots have near perfected the anthemic sing-along. The LP is flawed due to issues with flow, lyrics & occasional vocal grunt, but these are offset by a likeable, character-rich delivery with next to no filler. This is soaring mainstream rock with enough quirks to distinguish it & make it a thoroughly satisfying listen. Plus, the frantic riffs, pleading howls & orgasmic symphonic-metal climax of 'That Golden Rule' make it a song of '09 contender. Recommended Tracks: That Golden Rule, Mountains, Shock Shock & Many of Horror.
13 Lily Allen
It's Not Me, It's You

Quite possibly 2009's biggest surprise, Lily Allen presents a more mature & relatable side to her character on 2nd LP 'It's Not Me, It's You'. While retaining her trademark cheeky & clever lyrics, there is greater consistency on this release, which is also more musically varied than her debut. Furthermore, Allen has been able to iron out her previously annoying tendencies. With only a couple of low points, nearly every track could be released as a single. It is great to see a young pop artist improve on her deficiencies from one album to the next. Recommended Tracks: The Fear, Fuck You, Everyone's At It & Who'd Have Known.
14Bertie Blackman
Secrets and Lies

Likely to be one of 2009's most overlooked gems, Bertie Blackman finally finds her best sound on 'Secrets and Lies'. With its 1st half being near flawless, Blackman impressively & originally combines glitchy electronica with organic instrumentation, alluring atmospherics with catchy choruses, and eccentric quirkiness with melodic accessibility. Look no further than the tribal-like rhythms & layered handclaps of lead single 'Heart' for proof. The more conventional 2nd half and 1-2 tracks too many slow the momentum, but in no way derail this excellent album. Recommended Tracks: Heart, Byrds of Prey, White Owl & Black Cats.
Innocence and Instinct

'Innocence & Instinct' is another consistent & catchy LP that slightly refines Red's sound. The songwriting is a little more intricate here, with the trademark symphonic flourishes being more subtle. Furthermore, Michael Barnes' vocals have strengthened, helping out both ends of his range, as he moves from menacing to emotional with ease. It must be noted that this rating applies for the 14 track deluxe (released on the same day as the standard) version, since 2 of the 4 extra cuts are genuine highlights. Both 'Shadows & 'Forever' could well vie for best mainstream rock song of 2009! Recommended Tracks: Shadows, Forever, Death Of Me & Nothing and Everything.
16The Temper Trap

One of the better debut LPs of 2009, 'Conditions' sees Melbourne quartet The Temper Trap combine their influences into an original sound that bridges the gap between credible indie & mainstream hooks. Punchy drums & stadium-sized guitars provide an effective back-drop for Dougy Mandagi's amazingly distinctive & soaring vocals, while sweet melodies & a deceptive emotional characteristic adds significant depth to even the poppy tracks. Impeccably produced, 'Conditions' belies the experience of a young band with serious future potential. Recommended Tracks: Down River, Sweet Disposition, Love Lost & Soldier On.

Two tracks into 'Fantasies', you get the feeling that this could be the album of 2009. 'Help I'm Alive' & 'Sick Muse' are a fantastic opening duo that are alluring & super catchy (both vocally & musically). There are memorable tracks elsewhere, but there are also some overlong cuts that are too complex & atmospheric for their own good. When Metric concentrate on writing hooky melodies from their synth-pop/alt-rock concoction, they are something special. Unfortunately, when they don't, the replay factor is low. Thankfully, there are more hits than misses here. Recommended Tracks: Help I'm Alive, Sick Muse, Gimme Sympathy & Stadium Love.
18Rx Bandits

On 6th LP 'Mandala', the RX Bandits predominantly ditch the horns and add more keys to their creative, technical & progressive brand of rock. Initial signs are favorable with opening rocker 'My Lonesome Only Friend' being a highlight. Unfortunately, the remainder of the 1st half is not as immediately gripping as their previous album & comparatively struggles without the X-factor of the horns. Thankfully, the LP's latter half is its strength, with great variety & some stunning individual performances, especially from vocalist Matt Embree & drummer Chris Tsagakis. A grower of an album that is ultimately rewarding. Recommended Tracks: 1, 10, 7 & 3.
19Taking Back Sunday
New Again

On Taking Back Sunday's 4th LP 'New Again', the hooks are a little more subtler than usual, making it less immediate than their previous releases. Yet, it is also a sign of the band's songwriting maturity, which makes this undoubtedly their most consistent album to date. While some may find the middle section so-so, the closing trio are strong, with the catchy guitars & memorably biting lyrics of 'Capital M-E' a highlight. The M.V.P of the album however, could well be the rhythm section, which lays an impressive foundation right from the very beginning of the terrific title track. Recommended Tracks: New Again, Capital M-E, Carpathia & Swing.
20Say Anything
Say Anything

While cynics claim he is obnoxious, there isn't a songwriter as consistently witty & humorous as Say Anything's Max Bemis. The "manorexic" whose "hair cannot commit to one popular genre of music" continues to rearrange song structures, while filling the band's self-titled 4th LP with an abundance of hilarious pop-culture references. Efficiently refining their most outlandish characteristics without sacrificing variety, consistency or any of the band's one-of-a-kind attributes, this is the sextet's most catchy & accessible release to date. From the captivating opener to the infectious refrain of closer 'Ahhh... Men', Say Anything have delivered another stellar record that satisfyingly balances mature progression & crowd-pleasing quirkiness. Recommended Tracks: Crush'd, Mara and Me, Less Cute & Ahhh... Men.
21Dance Gavin Dance

Dance Gavin Dance should be proud of surviving numerous line-up changes to record their best album to date with 3rd LP 'Happiness'. A strong 1st half sees technically proficient guitar-work successfully balance a jazzy progressive nature with a melodic dance-rock vibe. All the while, dual vocalists Kurt Travis & Will Swan work very well together. Highlights 'Carl Barker' & 'Happiness' also make this DGD's most accessible release yet. The album's 2nd half experiments with all sorts of dynamics and, while a few targets are missed, satisfyingly adds variety to the mix. Recommended Tracks: Carl Barker, Happiness, Powder to the People & NASA.
22Franz Ferdinand
Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

In simplistic terms, Franz Ferdinand have reduced the guitar work associated with their music & replaced it with greater electronica on their 3rd LP. While cynics may suggest that the Scottish quartet have just dressed up the same material in different colors, there is nothing wrong with adding variation to a winning formula. The band's pop sensibilities remain & lead vocalist Alex Kapranos is at his charismatic best. At the very least, 'Tonight: Franz Ferdinand' is an interesting record, although it is a shame that it is not as consistently memorable as their debut. Recommended Tracks: Ulysses, No You Girls, Bite Hard & Twilight Omens.
Grey Britain

The first 4 tracks of Gallows' 2nd album 'Grey Britain' suggest a retread of their debut, even if the comparatively polished production brings out menacing atmospherics. However, with 'I Dread The Night' & 'Death Voices', the English quintet succeed with hooky melodies & anthemic sing-alongs that recall the melodic hardcore of Rise Against. Epic lead single 'The Vulture (Acts I & II)' then sees the band masterfully pull of the patient build-up to display genuine maturity. With the exception of the dramatic 'Misery', the remainder of the LP pales in comparison, but the guitar lines & drums still impress, while the vocals remain passionate. Recommended Tracks: I Dread The Night, Death Voices, The Vulture (Acts I & II) & Misery.
No More Stories

Reliable Danish trio Mew return for their 5th album of densely layered & dreamy pop-rock; 'No More Stories...'. They once more do a great job of balancing accessibility with progression, as the intricate weaving of Jonas Bjerre's unique, haunting harmonies amongst the varied musical backdrop is as impressive as ever. This LP does not quite reach the heights of their previous two since it could have done with some refinement and lacks the amount of "wow" moments, but it's still difficult not to be impressed by the likes of the joyous, multi-faceted 'Sometimes Life Isn't Easy' & catchy rocker 'Repeaterbeater'. Recommended Tracks: 13, 4, 6 & 2.
West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum

With Chris Karloff's departure, guitarist Sergio Pizzorno writes every song on Kasabian's 3rd LP 'West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum'. This is a positive since it makes this their most focused & consistent release. Kudos also goes to hip-hop producer Dan The Automator, since the haphazard hit & miss nature of previous efforts is predominantly gone, and even the most psychedelic tracks remain accessible. Lyrical & originality issues mean it's no album of the year (what were you thinking Q?), although the addictive 'Fire' contends for song of '09 honors. Recommended Tracks: Fire, Where Did All The Love Go?, Underdog & Fast Fuse.
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