So Far, So Good - 2009's Best Albums To Date (Part 2)

Another top ten albums of the year so far...
Phoenix Wolfgang
What with us reaching the halfway point of 2009, near enough, all week ClashMusic.com is bringing you the best albums of 2009 so far. Five top tens from five different writers – five opinions that, come Friday, will come together to give us a great impression of the year ‘til now.

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.

Here, Clash reviews editor Nick Annan takes us through his ten choices. A different ten will follow tomorrow, 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.

Read Mike Diver’s ten HERE.

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Yppah – ‘They Know What Ghost Know’
(Ninja Tune, released May)
One out of left field for me, Yppah's second album landed in May with a dream team of DJ Shadow-esque cut ‘n’ paste beats, lo-fi woozy electronica and a whole museum of guitar textures. This young Mexican America, Joe Corrales Jr, conjured up a rockier take on his influences here than on his 2006 debut ‘You Are Beautiful At All Times’ (also on Ninja Tune), making more apparent his love of shoegaze alongside his years as a turntablist. Sweeping from mad-dash guitar grinds to Boards of Canada melancholia, 'They Know What Ghost Know' dominated May's highly contested walk-to-work iPod time.

Yppah – ‘Playing With Fireworks’ (audio only)


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Trentemøller – ‘Harbour Boat Trips 1: Copenhagen’
(HFN, released June)

Initially put to one side as another DJ mix CD, a glowing recommendation saw this grudgingly promoted to the temperamental Dundee office stereo. The fact that the CD player refused to recognise it further hampered our budding relationship until, it was safely loaded onto the iPod and the heavy petting began. A wonderfully encapsulating experience, a selection inspired by Copenhagen harbour, this is the best kind of compilation: sending you off to the internet to find out more about unheard artists (check out Grouper and I Got You On Tape). Oh, and I do believe that the Four Tet mix of Caribou's 'Melody Day' could some stop an axe murder at ten paces, such is its loveliness.

Caribou – ‘Melody Day’ (Four Tet remix – from ‘Harbour Boat Trips 1’)


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Odd Nosdam – ‘T.I.M.E. Soundtrack’ (re-issue)
(Anticon, released May)

Anticon stalwart Odd Nosdam (a.k.a. David P Madson) recorded this material two years ago as the soundtrack for a skate film, 'This Is My Element', apparently viewing early footage and composing pieces to reflect the riders’ styles. Now I haven't seen the film (and have no real desire to) but this is a welcome case of a soundtrack standing on its own proud hoofs. For fans of Odd Nosdam the audio here isn't a particular revelation, but the brief of scoring to video seems to have brought focus to his trademark hazy, hip-hop-on-downers sound. Combining for a woozy one-two with the Yppah album, I was audibly stoned all May.

Odd Nosdam – ‘Top Rank’ (audio only)


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Fink – ‘Sort Of Revolution’
(Ninja Tune, released May)
Another May release, 'Sort Of Revolution' was Fin Greenall and chums' third album, following Clash Dundee office fave 'Distance And Time' (even if track nine had a habit of sending the CD player into meltdown. Like I say, it was a favourite: we wore it out). The best description of Fink's music is also the statement of fact that he's a singer/songwriter signed to Ninja Tune. Think how that might sound... Yep, that's him. 'Sort Of Revolution' is an easy companion piece to 'Distance And Time', and although it isn't up to its predecessor's standards it's still a 'glad to see you, old friend' listen.

Fink – ‘Sort Of Revolution’


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Phoenix – ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ (pictured, top)
(V2 Records, released May)
Seeing as this is a list with an emphasis on the first half of the year, it seems appropriate that this choice is all about its first half. Yep, much as I love Phoenix and this album, I have to admit that focus wanes on the second half of its ten tracks. Thankfully the first five have enough quality to leave a lasting impression: 'Lisztomania' could make anyone dance like they're in 'Footloose', while '1901' and 'Fences' show the band perfecting their spotless, robotic funk pop, and 'Love Like A Sunset' (parts one and two) cover an impressive scope in their combined eight minutes. The remainder of the album is good, but it's the opening clutch of classics that make this a sunny morning staple.

Phoneix – ‘1901’


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Doves – ‘Kingdom Of Rust’
(Heavenly Records, April)
After waiting four years for 'Kingdom of Rust', my expectations were unreasonably high. The pre-album release free download of 'Jetstream' did nothing to quench my thirst and I have to admit that on first listen I wasn't blown away by 'Kingdom Of Rust'. But with further investigation, through the good grace you feel you owe your favourite bands even when they seemingly let you down, it revealed itself to be Doves’ best album yet. All was present and correct, with the added ghosts of their Sub Sub existence seamlessly blended into the mix. I still feel bad for doubting them.

Doves – ‘Winter Hill’


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DJ Hell – ‘Teufelswerk’
(International Deejay Gigolo Records, released April)
I used to be out all night, dancing at clubs of ill repute. Honest. Nowadays I have an aversion bordering on agoraphobia about being in small, dark rooms with groups of gurning strangers. Thankfully DJ Hell makes dance music that even us past their dancing days can enjoy and proclaim great in younger company. Acclaimed by pretty much everyone, 'Teufelswerk' really is an album (over two discs, 'Day' and 'Night') that has the scope and depth to impress those not au fait with the latest going-ons in Berlin's clubland. It might even spark a Bryan Ferry renaissance.

DJ Hell – ‘Disaster’


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The Deer Tracks – ‘Aurora’
(Despotz Records, March)
A would-be audio accompaniment to the Aurora Borealis, The Deer Tracks hail from Gävle, Sweden and share a palette with the likes of M83, Múm and Mew. The male/female duo sings as one over pretty folktronica that occasionally works itself into an impressive tizzy, as on album opener and blog favourite 'Yes This Is My Broken Shield'. As an aside Gävle built a 40-foot straw Yule Goat (it's a Swedish thing) in the city square, which local youths doggedly try to burn down before Christmas. I can report with some relief that album track 'Christmas Fire' doesn't featured the sound of distressed goats.

The Deer Tracks – ‘Slow Collision’


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The Beastie Boys – ‘Check Your Head’ (re-issue)
(Capitol Records, released April)
I feel guilty choosing another re-issue when there has been so much good music this year, but if we're talking personal choices then the expanded release of 'Check Your Head' made my day. 'Check Your Head' was my reintroduction to The Beastie Boys back in 1992: I missed 'Paul's Boutique' but was on board for their 'License to Ill' debut, and it opened up a new world of sound to this youngster, brainwashed by US hip-hop's normally rigid listening manifesto. It seems kinda daft now, but the fact that they were playing those funky instrumentals was big news to me, while their reckless attitude to sampling - dropping a Dylan line into a track to complete a rhyme and bargaining him down to $700 for its use - remains genius.

The Beastie Boys – ‘Time For Livin’’


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Raphael Saadiq – ‘The Way I See It’
(Columbia, released April)
While we may all be a bit 'fatigued' with the whole retro soul movement (can you call Amy Winehouse a movement?), those who know their soul were more than welcoming of this release. The danger with those who seek to emulate sounds of the past is that, by doing it too faithfully, it is rendered a museum curio. Saadiq however does a Jurassic Park on the golden age of soul, proving that this is a living, breathing sound with plenty to offer in the 21st Century ('Big Easy' reflects on a post Hurricane Katrina New Orleans). Even an appearance by Joss Stone doesn't spoil it.

Raphael Saadiq – ‘100 Yard Dash’ (live on Jimmy Kimmell)


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Tomorrow: another ten from a key Clash editorial type. Maybe even our head honcho Mr Harper if he ever gets his shit together…

Read ClashMusic.com ed Mike Diver’s ten HERE.

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Check out a playlist containing tracks from these albums on Spotify HERE.

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