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Sunday, 20 December 2009

Greatest Albums of 2009. #10. - #6.

Continued from Part Two

10. Volcano Choir - Unmap (September 22, 2009)
Justin Vernon's Volcano Choir, contrary to popular belief, actually outdates his vastly more famous Bon Iver project. It dates back to the summer of 2005, when Justin Vernon's DeYarmond Edison toured with Volcano Choir's other members under the moniker of Collections of Colonies of Bees. Unmap sees a return by Vernon to his long-running project and with it a return to the more experimental side of his songwriting. If you thought Bon Iver was an experimental project - Volcano Choir will give you no choice but to rethink. Volcano Choir make ambient post-folk, accompanied by the clinking of glasses, shutting of doors, and echoes of the wind, coated in note perfect five-piece choral harmony. Beautifully cluttered instrumentation drifts over harmonics and intermittent vocal cries; Volcano Choir sound like a choral jam-band - Fleet Foxes combined with the wisdom of ambient folk bands such as Mountains, or even parts of Bon Iver's own work. Unmap is the collection of these stunning recordings - to make quite clearly one of the best experimental releases of the year.

Volcano Choir
- Husks And Shells (MP3)

9. The Antlers - Hospice (August 18, 2009)
(Folk/Indie Pop/Ambient)
Hospice is the second full length studio album from New York's Antlers, originally released in March, but re-pressed by Frenchkiss Records in August after the initial release sold an overwhelming number of copies. Lead singer Peter Silberman wrote the first album In The Attic of The Universe alone in his Brooklyn flat in 2006 - and later recruited Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci to help with EPs Cold War and New York Hospitals. Hospice is a concept album telling the story of a man losing a loved one to cancer. Through the medium of airy indie folk, lo-fi recordings and ambient, shoegazing background noise Silberman delivers his epic story with falsetto vocals and catchy, minor key melodies. Two, even if a little predictable, is The Antlers' masterpiece; Weighing in at nearly six minutes, it is both their catchiest and their most honest - with enough desperation to make it clear song of the year material.

The Antlers
- Two (MP3)

Hospice on Amazon

8. Passion Pit - Manners (May 19, 2009)(Indie Pop/Electronica/Dance)
Passion Pit were easily one of the most hyped bands heading into 2009; their Chunk of Change EP (originally a Valentine's Day gift from lead singer Michael Angelakos to his girlfriend) came out in September of 2008 and gained a huge amount of media attention. The subsequent album 'Manners' saw the re-release their runaway lead single Sleepyhead, and it quickly became one of the most overplayed songs of 2009 - but no-one was complaining. Manners is more of the same from Passion Pit, falsetto electronica/dance music with sunny melodies and huge synthesized beats. Passion Pit completely coined their own sound - there's not really many comparisons that can be drawn. Manners is simultaneously both an album of radio-friendly falsetto synthpop songs, and at the same time an album of sleek, futuristic advert music which at no point betrays its own ideals. Moth's Wings is the third track, and about as grand as a synthpop band will probably ever sound.

Passion Pit
- Moth's Wings (MP3)

Manners on Amazon

7. Fever Ray - Fever Ray (March 24, 2009)
I introduced Fever Ray on the blog back in January as one half of Swedish duo The Knife, pointed out the incredible Fuck Buttons remix of If I Had A Heart, and finally, branded Karen Dreijer Anderson's new project a 'disturbing electronic mumble.' I still stick by this description, almost a year on. Fever Ray make smooth beats and scatty synth lines accompanied by Karen's brooding and heavily accented vocals. Even when this album is upbeat it remains as shadow pop with a darkened and terrifying edge. Its not just the tribal, ritual sound of the music which keeps you looking over your shoulder - the lyrics perfectly match the mood. There's a quite clear Knife influence which shines through the songs throughout - but an unnerving rigidity through which a sinister message is uncovered. Album-opener If I Had A Heart was covered by Florence and The Machine at Glastonbury 2009, and the bemused crowd didn't at all know what to make of it - download the mp3 below and see what you think.

Fever Ray
- If I Had A Heart (MP3)

Fever Ray on Amazon

6. The XX - The XX (August 19, 2009)

(Post-Punk/RnB/Indie Rock)
The XX formed in 2005 after attending the Elliot School London (famous for schooling Burial, Four Tet and Hot Chip) and took four years to release their debut album, XX, on Young Turks. It was recorded at XL studios London, mostly at night, over the winter of 2008/9. XX is an album of dark, whispering boy-girl vocals muttering RnB influenced melodies over trip-hop and post-punk melodies. Most of the subtly picked guitar work is very simple, and, coated in heavy reverb, the whole album has a very withdrawn and personal feel to it. Stunning chillout vocals are dubbed low in comparison to the heavy bass riffs which leave a definite 'less is more' vibe about the songs. There are a lot of well placed silences on this album - which make this, as well as being a beautifully written pop album, a very sentimental and personal listen.

The XX
- Crystalised (MP3)

XX on Amazon


  1. i'm glad fever ray made the list

  2. hospice should rank wayyy higher.

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