Top 40 Albums of 2009 pt.2

Numbers 2 to 9
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You've seen our Album of the Year (read about it HERE) but wait, we have plenty of other albums to recommended from 2009.

If fact, there are 39 others we feel are definitely worthy of your attention. Begin here by reading about the albums that populate our top ten and see who just missed out.

Read about the rest of the albums that make up our Top40. Those just outside the top ten HERE, into the twenties HERE and finally from 30 to 40 HERE.

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9



Andrew Weatherall ‘A Pox On The Pioneers’
(Rotters Golf Club)



This album is a great personification of the great Andrew Weatherall. Twenty years late and not doing what it’s supposed to, ‘A Pox...’ takes us off on an adventure that we couldn’t have predicted but don’t want to leave.

Its narrative is riddled with tales, legends and black wit, all plundered from his life at large as an underground innovator and all its associated scrapes. Sonically it is cast from a trove of life loves and compulsions that transcend disco, rockabilly, house and murky experimental jaunts that forged the man who helped make the names of so many other men.

It’s also a concept album that charts itself via the notion of failed heroes, as Weatherall elaborates: “We all love in rock ‘n’ roll and art our artists to have suffered. But I just thought I’ll put myself in the place of people that are about to commit suicide or are the last man left of an arctic expedition and it does come with a cost. It’s like a curse on the people that led me to this point; I’ve kind of followed their idea for life and how to operate, and it’s led me to be marooned on an iceberg with everybody dying around me, so fuck them.”

‘A Pox...’ is not what you’d expect, yet is fortified by this mystery. Enjoy being flanked by Weatherall’s journey and make sure you have a look around as you travel. You might not come back.


Words by Matthew Bennett

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8



Noah And The Whale 'The First Days Of Spring'
(Vertigo)



There’s nothing quite like love and when it’s gone you realise that there’s nothing quite like heartbreak. Charlie Fink seems to have found this out the hard way, with his heart splitting open and new album ‘The First Days Of Spring’ spilling out. Rightly lauded for their first album, Noah And The Whale seemed to return with renewed ambition. Gone were the breezy summer hits, taking the ukelele with them. In their place were a series of corrosive anthems to fucking up your life, featuring a band stabbing deep into their own chest. Released in tandem with a film, ‘The First Days Of Spring’ had a definite soundtrack quality. Vast in scope and scale, it seemed to recall old romance films full of stiff upper lips quivering against a backdrop of sweeping strings. Ultimately, though, ‘The First Days Of Spring’ brims with hope. Winter passes, and so does pain. The good times fade but then so do the bad. Love falls away but life continues, and we have the redemptive power of art to allow us to find a semblance of grace and beauty in our darkest moments. ‘The First Days Of Spring’ finds Noah And The Whale on inspirational form - what it cost them we can never know.

Words by Robin Murray

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7



The Horrors ‘Primary Colours’
(XL)



‘Primary Colours’ was not the skinny jeans clad, hairspray consuming, Mighty Boosh cameo’d Horrors we know and judged. Debut album ‘Strange House’ had split the critics into separate camps of cynics recoiling from an abundance of hype and reliance on image, and enthusiasts finding solace in The Damned/The Fall inspiration that infected it so. Instead, this second wave of hype swept with it a far reaching, intelligent sophomore soundscape of staggering maturity and depth.

The progression of sound ripened quite evidently in the public eye, from the defiant yet stylised racket of ‘Strange House’, to the Alan Vega dedicated ‘Shadazz’ and more recent electronic musings of the Spider And The Flies side project. And from the darkness, under the watchful production regard of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, developed the tones of ‘Primary Colours’; the grandiose eight-minute emotions of ‘Sea Within A Sea’, the Eno-tinged approach of ‘Mirror’s Image’ and Jesus And Mary Chain shoegaze of ‘Who Can Say’.

Suddenly, from a mournful coterie of Shoreditch organ grinders, a talented group of songwriters emerged, plunging deeper into the pits of their yesteryear influences to produce 2009’s wondrous artistic reincarnation.

Words by Joe Zadeh

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6



Wild Beasts ‘Two Dancers’
(Domino)



Hayden Thorpe’s incredible vocal elasticity defies the laws of science. True, his castrato-esque cry may reduce grown men to tears, but this Cumbrian lad has set the music world alight with his trio of Wild Beasts. And they have been busy boys indeed, touring the world with their unique brand of ultra melodic, multi-faceted art-pop. So, after the celebrated success of ‘Two Dancers’, what does 2010 hold for the band? Clash caught up with bassist Tom Fleming to find out…

“We’ve got a lot of nebulous ideas floating around for the next album,” he says. “It’s just a case of consolidating them all, probably in a short space of time. I guess we’ve learnt that ideas are cheap and simple, it’s just organising them all that can be hard. But the more space we allow ourselves, the more focused we actually become: we’ve learnt the discipline now so I suppose we can relax a little bit.” And do these decidedly tame Wild Beasts have any New Year’s resolutions? “Well, I’ve been flirting with vegetarianism,” says Tom. “But then I realised that I just liked fried chicken far too much to turn!”

Beast by name, beast by nature...

Words by April Welsh

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5



HEALTH ‘Get Color’
(City Slang)



There’s something additively destructive about HEALTH’s songs. They are perverted and dislocated. But mostly, and this is nearly impossible these days, they don’t sound like anybody else at all.

Taking in their massive galloping drums and melodramatics guitars, they are in essence a glam band but one that decided to interrupt a seminal album recording to then go dig up the corpse of Mark Boland in order to sample its airborne flight over the collapsing headstone. Captivating. But wrong.

HEALTH are thus completely unique and fascinate at every burst, sealing such a high spot effortlessly - John Famiglietti from the band spoke to Clash: “Everything we do is done without computers. It’s all done with instruments and wiring. We don’t wanna give away industry secrets but it costs a lot of money to sound this shitty.”

As a live band they are un-caged and unleashed, hurling themselves around in a tantrumous rage of creation. HEALTH are simultaneously trying to discover, confine and unchain their chaos. It’s Attention Deficient Disordered, yet in three distinct phases of one song they’ll gestate an incredible sound or idea, miscarry, seduce then cast it off in tempest before metaphorically kicking it about their stage.

Jake Duzsik from the quartet discusses this stage show: “It’s very cathartic and the greatest remedy for stress. It’s energetic and physical and you get the same endorphins from doing crazy exercise. And it makes other people feel alienated often. People just stare at you. Our music isn’t really fun, like good times music, but it is very physical music, and we love it when audiences run with it and go nuts, jump up and down screaming, and we get more of a positive reaction as time goes on.”

They also have a an air of theatrical brooding that seethes from their trio of guitars. They hint at melancholic and delicate indie gems that are born premature then drowned under a vision of experimental tsunami. Jupiter Keyes lays down their ongoing vision: “We’re never going to stop experimenting but we definitely do want everyone to be able to respond to it immediately. Even if people think ‘what the fuck is that?’ we still want them to be bobbing their head.”

If songs were children you wouldn’t want yours sitting next to HEALTH’s little bastards in school, but you know that when they grow up they’ll get all the girls.

Words by Matthew Bennett

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4



Grizzly Bear ‘Veckatimest’
(Warp)



Jonny Greenwood’s favourite pysch-folk quartet return with their third offering of experimental bliss. But do not let the band’s bohemian outpourings deceive you: these four Brooklynites are as dapper as they come.

Grizzly Bear have been together for a relatively short time (they recorded debut ‘Yellow House’ as a quartet in 2006), but the album is impressively airtight. “We never really have a set formula for songwriting,” says vocalist Daniel Rossen, who recently revived his pre-Grizzly Bear project, Department Of Eagles, to release LP ‘In Ear Park’. “That record allowed us to purge all this old material,” remarks Rossen, “which has in turn allowed ‘Veckatimest’ to be more collaborative, and feel a lot fresher. That was the nice thing about this record - it was very spontaneous, and a lot of fun. It was the most fun record we’ve recorded.”

Although ‘Veckatimest’ is by no means a musical exercise in cheerful frivolity. Meticulously crafted and obsessively worked, this is ordered chaos. And listeners should pay attention if they wish to fully reap the benefits.
So, how did the album come about? “We would get a bottle of rosé, drink it all down and then go get another one, and we would do that until three in the morning,” says bassist and producer Chris Taylor. “We just sort of mumbled stuff out - there’d be an idea, or a feeling, and then we’d play things through.”

And did they take a similar approach to the recording of debut ‘Yellow House?’ “Veckatimest was a lot more structured, a totally different process. We had a greater understanding of how we work together, and what works well, so we could sit down in a room and play through stuff, and have fun with it,” says Taylor.

“There was more fumbling around in the dark than on ‘Yellow House,’ but at the same time we had a more specific direction, so there was always a strange balance - we weren’t sure what to do, but that was exactly what we should do, for better or worse,” he says. “We worked it all out… We were never sure what was going to happen…”

‘Veckatimest’ is a skilfully crafted masterpiece of gorgeous multi-vocal harmonies and acoustic sensitivity. So if their success this year is anything to go by, it would seem that there is in fact some method to the madness of Grizzly Bear.

Words by April Welsh

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3



Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘It’s Blitz’
(Interscope)



Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been in our lives for almost a decade. Hold that in your head for a moment - ten years, in which wars have been fought and trends have passed by with ever increasing nonchalance. Returning after a short break, Yeah Yeah Yeahs seem to have lost none of their startling style and power.

Not for nothing is Karen O an idol to a generation of empowered teenage girls, taking her unique fashion sense in ever more beautiful and flamboyant moments. Yet the band lives and dies by their music. Retreating once again to Dave Sitek’s Williamsburg studio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs threw their guitars out of the window and started from scratch. Risking their reputation on a series of electro anthems may seem a risky move, but in doing so the trio may well have exposed their true centre.

At heart a pop group ‘It’s Blitz’ writhes with an indefinable energy. Lead single ‘Zero’ was an instant singalong hit with fans, soothing doubts over the album’s guitar free zone. However Nick Zinner wasn’t exactly left twiddling his thumbs on ‘It’s Blitz’, programming an array of antique synths and on occasion plugging in his six string. Lyrically, Karen O has rarely been so direct and so biting. ‘Dragon Queen’ is a lullaby, a childlike ode to death with sleep rarely seeming so threatening. The child re-appears throughout, with Karen O fixating on a loss of innocence in ‘Runaway’. Which isn’t to say the material is childlike - at times dense, the record blends straight ahead disco pop with complex themes of loss and sexuality.

Often quite a dark album, ‘It’s Blitz’ seems to replace the intoxicating glamour of nightclubs with fear and paranoia, with the glitz of disco becoming a corrosive white light. Blasting back into the live arena, Yeah Yeah Yeahs proved that ‘It’s Blitz’ sits effortlessly alongside their much-loved earlier material. Abandoning preconceptions about what they could achieve Yeah Yeah Yeahs have come closer than ever to defining their beautiful pop glory.

Words by Robin Murray

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2



Fuck Buttons ‘Tarot Sport’
(ATP Recordings)



Few bands were as audacious as Fuck Buttons this year. This pair of young sonic travellers unveiled an album that joyously buggered convention. But where their 2008 debut ‘Street Horrrsing’ was them sitting atop a bucking bronco of distortion, searing white noise and bass, it was also them figuring out how to stay saddled. Well, ‘Tarot Sport’ is them completely dominating their analogue Frankenstein of sound. It’s them channelling its aggression and it’s them kicking it into flight at an ambitious trajectory upwards.

Fuck Buttons are Mr. Power and Mr. Hung. No messing there then. Andy Power reveals why ‘Tarot Sport’ is more driven and thrives on focus: “Our first record took us a long while to gather all the pieces, during that while we weren’t full concentrating on just the music, we had full time jobs and it was a hobby. Whereas now it’s definitely something that’s on our minds all the time, that’s the reason for it’s directness.”

‘Tarot Sport’ covers just seven tracks but what it lacks in breadth it more than compensates in depth, as we don’t so much plummet as soar into a new sonic dimension. Though it’s hard to not to get descriptively carried away with Fuck Buttons, it’s certainly not just Clash. Read any feature and the writer is subjecting the reader to analogies of supernovas, collapsing stars, somersaulting suns or burning visions of the apocalypse. A fact that thrills the pair as Andy recounts: “When we write a song, the great moment for us is afterwards when we discuss the imagery we get from writing it. I get imagery of really vast landscapes, if people are getting that as I am then that’s great.” Ben agrees quickly: “It’s quite hard to put into words. For the first record, there was a lot written about the party at the end of the world, I do really like it that people can get that from it.”

We don’t really care what imagery it conjures for you, whether its a Moomin raping Johnny Borrell or scuba diving alphabets protesting in Alaska. Beg, borrow or stream this album and get involved in its sonic vision and ambition.

Words by Matthew Bennett

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Read about our Album of the Year, Animal Collective's 'Merriweather Post Pavilion' HERE. Then read about the rest of the albums that make up our Top40. Those just outside the top ten HERE, into the twenties HERE and finally from 30 to 40 HERE.

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