Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Seven Albums of 2009

I feel I don’t write enough album reviews here, I don’t get round to the new music when it comes out and then kind of miss the boat a bit. Christmas/New Year is the perfect time to catch up and here are seven albums that came out this year that I’ve had in heavy rotation. In no particular order:


John Mayer - Battle Studies

Most are aware of my borderline obsession with the discography of John Mayer. Battle Studies came out this year with the difficult task of providing a followup to his previous album Continuum. More of a sidestep back to his pop roots, with a California rock edge, the album lyrically wears it's heart on its sleeve and does nothing drastic or challenging. However it's production and application are so flawless, as a fan I couldn't be happier.

Passion Pit - Manners

I'm not a massive indie/electronica fan, and after accidentally seeing Crystal Castles live and forever regretting it I wrote off the new popular genre. Passion Pit's incredibly accomplished debut album was recommended to me by a close friend so I thought I’d try it. I find an accessibility in the fact the group are a whole band rather than two guys on synths, and that their music is structured like more regular/pop music (Chorus/Verse/Bridge etc). Combined it makes a really great listen.

Norah Jones – The Fall
It’s Gonna Be

Where John Mayer took a sidestep back, Norah Jones made a leap forward. I love when artists go in a new direction and completely pull it off, which is what The Fall does. It’s bassy, Lo-Fi sound completely complements her voice when you think it wouldn’t, and the songs themselves are a refreshing addition to her already excellent songbook.

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

French band Phoenix are another example of a band who constantly move in new directions to great success for every one of their albums. Teaming up again with the producer of their first album ‘United’, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix drives through its 33 minute duration, which although seems short makes you feel like you’re hearing nothing but the strongest songs they initially wrote, leaving you utterly satisfied.

Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement
Maybe So, Maybe No

A Strange Arrangement’s throwback to the 60s and 70s soul scene was such a surprising and excellent end to the Summer when it came out mid-August. With a vocal style somewhat -reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield, it’s weird to think Hawthorne comes from a background in hip-hop. The album literally came out of nowhere and did a quite quick circuit of the internet when it first came out. In interview Hawthorne described how although the sound is reminiscent of old soul records he hopes it also pushes forward to more modern hip-hop. I personally disagree but it doesn’t stop the album from being highly recommended.

Kings of Convenience – Declaration of Dependence
Boat Behind

The video for boat behind (linked above) essentially embodies how you should listen to any album by Kings of Convenience. Their latest album has been a good while coming, no doubt due to the many musical pies band member Erland Oye has his fingers in. The album is very true to their style, but it’s apparent how tight the duo are, and how they take being just a pair as nothing but an advantage.

Stephen Kellogg & The S6xers – The Bear
Oh Adeline

Stephen Kellogg is one of my favourite songwriters, and it amazes me how the albums he puts out get better and better. Despite this the band have yet to be successful enough for me to find a studio version of Oh Adeline (linked above). The song really lets the melody, vocals, and quality of the writing stand out. If I had a disc changer, this would make the cut.

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