So Far, So Good - 2009's Best Albums To Date (Part 1)

The Clash team's favourites of 2009 so far...
Primary Colours
Believe it or not, it’s nearly July – that’s it, on Wednesday, the first day of the seventh month. Which makes this week, ish, halfway through the year. Which means we’re well within our rights to bring you: the best albums of 2009 so far.

Think of these pieces – each written by one of Clash’s five key editorial staffers – as a reminder of all the great records released over the past six months. They’ll certainly serve as useful tools to us in another four or five months, when we’re starting to think about our end-of-year best-of list.

First up: ten from ClashMusic.com editor Mike Diver, since you’re looking at this site an’ all. A different ten will follow tomorrow, and then another, and then another, and then one more. Get it? Easy. These lists aren’t ranked or anything – they’re more for fun than anything else.

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The Horrors – ‘Primary Colours’
(XL, released May)
Reinvigorated, the band once tarred with the style-over-substance brush (wrongly accused, says I) returned to releasing ways with a second full-length so wonderfully evocative of a time recently gone by and brimming with enthusiasm for their new sound that every critic in the country rightly fell off their high horse. The Horrors won’t ever be to everyone’s tastes, but ‘Primary Colours’ is the kind of album that we all should try at least once.

The Horrors – ‘Who Can Say’


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Animal Collective – ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ (pictured, top)
(Domino, released January)
The one album from 2009 to feature in our Essential 50 countdown of earlier this year (LINK) was present and correct for one simple reason: it’s brilliant. Distilling some of their more peculiar sounds, the stateside collective created their most instantly engaging long-player yet – dizzying of design and awesome of ambition, but also delivering foot-stomping beats and rushes of delightful euphoria.

Animal Collective – ‘My Girls’


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Micachu and the Shapes – ‘Jewellery’
(Rough Trade, released March)
Twisting pop into whole new forms by completely disregarding all that’s come before, structurally, Micachu lynchpin Mica Levi has created a sonic world of wonderment on this debut LP, ably assisted by the Shapes (Raisa Khan and Marc Pell). While it is something of an acquired taste, to say the least, allow ‘Jewellery’ to get down under the skin and all resistance will crumble, for within these skewed arrangements lurk barbed hooks aplenty.

Micachu and the Shapes – ‘Golden Phone’


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Grizzly Bear – ‘Veckatimest’
(Warp, released May)
While the Brooklyn outfit’s last album, 2006’s sublime ‘Yellow House’, was a critical success, its elegance didn’t translate to the mainstream. That’s changed with ‘Veckatimest’, an album recorded purely for its makers, in relative isolation away from their hometown, but one rich in crossover elements. It’s every bit as accessible as Fleet Foxes, but listen longer and deeper and its many textures place it several leagues above such peers. Truly otherworldly excellence.

Grizzly Bear – ‘Two Weeks’


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Mastodon – ‘Crack The Skye’
(Warner Bros., released March)
While The Mars Volta lap up the plaudits for reinventing prog-rock for a modern metal market, true believers recognise that it’s their Atlanta-based brothers in head-scratching structures who are really pushing the envelope of expansive sounds. Mastodon’s latest – their fourth album in total, and second major-label release – is a mystifying monster of layers so dense that it’ll be several listens before it fully takes hold. But once it does, don’t expect to be released ‘til they issue another full-length.

Mastodon – ‘Oblivion’


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Dananananaykroyd – ‘Hey Everyone!’
(Best Before, released April)
Britain’s best live band – I think that’s official now – could’ve easily come a cropper on their debut full-length, but they’ve transplanted their ferocious on-stage energy onto disc well. It’s still something of a flyer for the main event, which’ll always be the Scottish sextet’s explosive gigs, but what a flyer. Your ears can’t have much more fun than when this album is in them.

Dananananaykroyd – ‘Black Wax’


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Willie Isz – ‘Georgiavania’
(Lex, released June)
Following a collaboration on a Shape Of Broad Minds EP last year, rappers/producers Jneiro Jarel and Goodie Mob member Khujo Goodie decided their chemistry was too good to restrict to a simple short-play release: so, now we’ve this, the debut Willie Isz album. Trading surreal raps as freely as they do real-world observations, the duo lay down a thick collage of intoxicating rhymes atop squelching and popping beats reminiscent of the best Outkast. On paper it’s a recipe for potential disaster, what with the conceptual overtones (the fifty-first US state of ‘Georgiavania’ and all), but the reality is all silken soul and future funk mixed with the deftest lyrical delivery. It’s dazzling.

Willie Isz – ‘Autopilot’ (audio only)


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Let’s Wrestle – ‘In The Court Of The Wrestling Lets’
(Stolen, released June)
Simply the most fun album on this list, or anyone else’s over this week – a rough-edged gem of indie-pop songwriting at its most apparently effortless, with perfectly pitched lyrics analysing the minutiae of the everyday beside flirtations with the completely absurd. The deadpan delivery of the words might alienate those preferring their pop glossed so that they can see their own faces in it, but if it’s gritty reality you’re after, things don’t get much more DIY than this… even if it isn’t that gritty. I mean, some of it’s really quite sweet.

Let’s Wrestle – ‘We Are The Men You’ll Grow To Love Soon’


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Future Of The Left – ‘Travels With Myself And Another’
(4AD, released June)
Britain’s most important rock band? There are critics who believe so. Me, I just love having the sound of this album – the Welsh trio’s second – really, really, ridiculously loud in my ears when I’m navigating the city. It makes me feel invincible, like I could swat away anyone asking me to turn the racket down. You get the impression frontman Andy Falkous probably does stamp on children for fun, if the confrontational tone of much of this LP is anything to go by – that he’s most likely a lovely guy in ‘real life’ just shows you how possessed by magic this record is.

Future Of The Left – ‘The Hope That House Built’


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Bibio – ‘Ambivalence Avenue’
(Warp, released June)
A late entry on this list – oh, for room enough to squeeze in Fever Ray, Sonic Youth and Dirty Projectors (not to mention Tortoise, The Invisible and Passion Pit) – Bibio’s latest studio LP revealed itself only the other day to be an understated masterpiece of ambient delights, wonderfully suited to a warm weekend’s lounging (when one should be cleaning, of course). Stephen Wilkinson – for he is Bibio – has sequenced a collection of individual tracks in such a way so that the sprightly numbers land precisely when you need them – ‘Fire Ant’, for example, shakes the whole into life after a couple of woozy dream-folk shuffles with Fly-Lo vibrancy. ‘Ambivalence Avenue’ is a splendid album that will, I think, increase its hold on me with further listens.

Bibio – ‘Fire Ant’ (audio only)


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Coming across the week: top tens from Clash’s Simon Harper (editor), Matthew Bennett (deputy editor), Nick Annan (reviews editor) and Robin Murray (ClashMusic.com news editor).

Read Nick's top ten HERE.

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