Singles and albums of the year from Phoenix FM presenters:
Album: Horrors – Primary Colours
A new and promising direction for the goth kids from Southend. Produced by Geoff Barrow of Portishead – who no doubt steered them in the right direction – the album was recorded in almost total darkness and some thought the outcome would be a boring if pretentious gloomfest. Surprisingly, the finished product resulted in a modern homage to My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus & Mary Chain. Surely a win win.
Single: Performance – Reptile
Technically a free download in November 2009 from the Mancunians formally know as (We Are) Performance. I can vouch for the fact it’s grim up north but no one can deny that some of the best indie pop comes out it. Reptile is dizzy 80s indie disco track with clever, catchy lyrics that would keep you singing and dancing to it all night, on repeat.
Album: Joyce Cooling – Global Cooling
I could go with The Temper Trap, but I’ll cast my vote in the jazz genre for this one. Joyce has become my fave star in 2009, not least because she wanted to talk with us on Phoenix FM from California, but she can really play the guitar! This is an album to relax to, celebrate with and play loud or soft. Love it lots.
Single: Paulo Nutini – Pencil Full Of Lead
Could be the happiest, sunniest, most fun track of 2009. Put simply, it’s a song to make you feel great and it just sounds like everyone had a blast when it was recorded. Wonderful.
Album: Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Baroque Pop at its best. I am a sucker for folk sounds and harmonies, and this band takes risks using instruments that you wouldn’t normally associate with pop/chart music. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next 12 months and if they push the boundaries of popular music any further.
Single: Kings Of Leon – Use Somebody
As I am an album person I rarely pay attention to singles but if I had to choose I’d have to pick this one, which they performed at the 2009 Brit Awards and totally rocked Coldplay off the stage.
Album: The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman – Modern Art
Easy choice, released in March. Sums up everything I love about the genre of Jazz Funk & Smooth Jazz. Not everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s rare to get an album in this mould without a duff track on it.
Single: All-American Rejects – Gives You Hell
Much harder to choose. Again, was around Feb, March time and it just seemed to be on the radio everywhere. One of those that just nags away.
Album: Skunk Anansie – Smashes and Trashes
This is quite a tricky one to call as there have been some pretty cracking albums this year (my runner up by the way would be Puressence – Sharpen up the Knives), but I think Skunk have got to get it for making such an epic comeback. When they first came back I vaguely remembered Hedonism but mostly it was ‘Skunk who?’; but Squander (Single of the year runner up for me) was brilliant and the album has not left my car since I got my hands on it. ALSO anyone that can crowd surf in an outfit made of tinsel deserves some kind of medal in my book.
Single: White Lies – Death
Just to jump on the bandwagon here, but it’s not often a song makes you stop dead in your tracks and go ‘Allo who’s this then?’. The whole album was just amazing – and very nearly album of the year – but this song was the first I heard and just gave me goosebumps. I did my best to kill it by listening to it pretty much on loop for a month but I still love it.
Album: Passion Pit – Manners
Yes I know … given my pedigree this should be Daniel O’Donnell or some hybrid of Harry Belafonte and Cliff Richard, but no. I heard it in the summer – “The Reeling” was played on Phoenix, perhaps once again 80’s Voodoo to some degree but I did download the whole album. Like The Mystery Jets before, this was a leap into the unknown – however, unlike the likes of Aslan, Paulo Nutini and more I have returned to this album time and again to discover new diamonds! Brilliant!
Single: La Roux – In For The Kill
No not just for the Mercury Prize, in fact when I first played it this was, Dr Who-like, in the future. However, this track stood out for me by being sparse yet produced but not, say, JLS. Also maybe satisfying my hankering for 80s synthpop like Yazoo, whilst melodically it only ticks most of the boxes – most recently heard in a shop in Brentwood it always stands out for me.
Album: Prodigy – Invaders Must Die
For those of us who cut our clubbing teeth on the pure rave perfection of Music For the Jilted Generation and The Fat of the Land, the Prodigy had become a bit of a letdown – Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned just didn’t match up to their previous work, and things had gone very quiet for a few years. And then came this. I remember hearing The Omen for the first time, feeling shivers going up my back and being transported back to the early 90s; time had gone full circle, the Prodge were back doing their old-school-but-cutting-edge thing and my feet were moving independently of the rest of my body (or maybe that’s my age). Who else can make such brooding, exciting music, full of menace, thrash guitars, big beat electronica punk gorgeousness? I bloody love ’em. Oh yes, and Warrior’s Dance was the second best single of the year.
Single: Dizzee Rascal – Bonkers
He got a lot of stick in some corners for what was seen as selling out, leaving his grime roots behind and joining the mainstream – but, if you can therefore make your millions and still produce tracks as good as this, why the hell not? Just like Dance Wiv Me, from the same album, Bonkers is ridiculously infectious and bursting with energy, frankly daring you not to get up and dance. Switching from Calvin Harris to Armand van Helden as collaborator was a smart move; Dizzee never stands still, never goes stale. He’ll turn to rock or indie next. And probably kick ass doing that too.
Album: Twilight Soundtrack – New Moon Twilight Saga
An eclectic range of independent and mainstream pop/indie acts. A wonderful collection of music that I cannot fault. Capturing the spirit of the phenomenon that is ‘The Twilight Saga’ yet given a chance this album is refreshing and surprisingly cool. Well worth a listen!
Single: Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition
Anthem of 2009 in my opinion. It rocked the festivals and took over our televisions becoming background music to numerous adverts and no matter where you are you will hear it somewhere. You may not realise that you are listening to this particular song but as soon as you are made aware of its existence it will seem strangely familiar!
Album: Morrissey – Years Of Refusal
A great album with some memorable singles from the genius that is Morrissey. A Phoenix FM staff outing to the Brentwood Centre in November saw the man himself heap praise on the Thrift Green Trotters, belt out the biggest hits and tracks from the album, and was by far the best gig I saw in 2009.
Single: Hafdis Huld – Kongulo
Hafdis has been a regular guest on Stick Around For Joy throughout 2009. Her second album “Synchronised Swimmers” is due for release in the UK in 2010 and Kongulo, the first single, was a big hit on the Phoenix FM A list. There are plenty of potential hits on the new album so 2010 could be a big one for Hafdis.
Album: Paolo Nutini – Sunny Side Up
Released May 2009. Great album, but all credit to him in giving it that title. Positive thinking my friends … ommmmmmm … Now this is a bit of a shocker for me really. Given that I didnt even know who this artist even was at the beginning of the year, it is clear I do by the very end of it! It certainly ended on a high for me with his album and I cannot help playing his single from the album every week: Pencil Full Of Lead. Is this a connotation or not? Who knows …
Plenty of others of course on the album, but this particular one (once again) gets me up and about, shaking all that shouldn’t be shaken about! There seems to be this common theme with getting up and moving dont you think? All I know is that I lurrve that cutie little man. Dare I say ‘man’, given he’s only 23 years old? This is a fantastic album by a very super and up and coming star in my opinion. He has a lot of give and is firmly in his prime. He is simply amazing to watch live also.
This album went straight to number one upon its release. However albeit this is simply my opinion, they have been divided in that big bad world out there. Critics aren’t too sure and some less impressed than me. I still think its great.
Single: Noisettes – Don’t Upset The Rhythm
Released March 2009. This is the second single by this UK Indie Rock Band from their second album: Wild Young Hearts. Yeah baby yeah. You feel me? You feeeeel da tune? Funky, groovy and all radical in my mind.
I am totally loving that track. I simply cannot get enough. It makes me get up from wherever I am sitting to make me dance, dance, dance!! What a fab track. So fab in fact that Mazda decided to use it in their car ads throughout the first quarter of 2009 in the UK. Either way it makes me smile and just all happy inside. Cant really say that for a lot of tunes nowadays now can you?
Howling Bells – Radio Wars
A lot of indie bands went down the epics route this year but Howling Bells fared better than most; an album to really forget the world around you for a while and lose yourself in its atmosphere. The singles ‘Into The Chaos’ and ‘Cities Burning Down’ are typical of the album’s other-worldly nature, but where so many other bands would have eaten themselves whole by this point, Juanita Stein’s vocals, both thoughtful and unintrusive, also help to keep the band grounded. A band who know what they are, but don’t let barriers get in their way.
Single: Sonic Boom Six – Back 2 Skool
Ska, punk, metal, hip-hop – it’s all here, from one of the UK’s best-kept musical secrets, and for me, one of the defining bands of the decade. when I heard SB6’s debut album in 2007 I was blown away; here was a band with catchy tunes which a fresh perspective on social issues of the day, without ever sounding like an over-the-fence rant which makes so many other bands so off-putting. Their second album didn’t have the same spirit but this bodes well for album three – a tune you can’t help but jump to and a heart that rebels against scenesters and apathy, coming together to make a track that unfolds a bit more every time you listen.
Album: Brownies – Ourknife Yourback
Spiky, aggressive, poopy and punky but not in a horrible pop/punk way. Humourous songs too, if more than a little bit foul-mouthed, but that just adds to the mystique, especially since I interviewed them at Offset – charming young ladies, I can assure you butter would NOT melt.
Single: Everything Everything – Photoshop Handsome
A song that WILL make you sit up and pay attention the first time you hear it. Nonsensical lyrics delivered at 100mph over music that could easily have been written by Yes or King Crimson, all packaged up as “indie” for the “kids”. Perfect!
Album: Owl City – Ocean Eyes
Fusing electronic and pop into an irresistable mix, Adam Young has created an album that just begs to be replayed instantly. One of the biggest-selling singles from the album, ‘Fireflies’ went huge in the states, and with OC touring Europe in 2010, they could soon be the talk of the planet, not just my show every week since summer! Awesome.
Single: White Lies – Death
Grandiose, lyrically poetic and yet catchy as hell, this just took my breath away the first time I heard it, and it still sounds incredibly fresh. 2009 was massive for female vocalists, but the haunting, melodic tones of Harry McVeigh make this my favourite track of the year.
Album: Annie – Dont Stop
A storming second album from Norwegian electropop singer Annie. This album almost never saw the light of day after it was pulled from the release schedules following Annies split from her label but thankfully it was saved when she took the masters with her. Intelligent innovative pop, this album more than lives up to the promise she showed on her first album Anniemal. Standout tracks include Anthonio, Songs Remind Me Of You and My Love Is Better.
Single: Little Boots – Remedy
Named Sound of 2009 in the BBCs poll of up and coming music artists, Remedy was Little Boots biggest hit of the year and demonstrated that while not as brilliantly bonkers as Lady Gaga, she could more than compete with great songs such as this which seemed to be never off the radio in the middle of 2009.
Album: Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
Whilst lots of young bands have been trying (and failing) to reach timeless status this year, a few old kids on the block have been showing them how to do it, not least this bunch from over the pond. Finally, after 8 albums (I think) this was the first time they have kept the same line-up for 2 albums running, and it shows. Some of the most gorgeous Americana you’re ever likely to hear, and without being twee, Jeff Tweedy even manages a duet with the queen of indie pop, Feist, which pins the album together. Go and see them too. No backing tracks with this lot. They know how to play their instruments. Just good rock with a bit of roll and makes Lily Allen sound like a GCSE project.
Single: Animal Collective – My Girls
Easily my best first listen of the year. As soon as this epic ditty came out of the speakers, I shut my eyes and thought I was at a festival in the sun in California. It has a bit of everything in this – a great natural dancey beat with all sort going on behind, without sounding wet, like so many singles that make radio often do. Sadly, the best tune on an over-rated album, but thanks to this lovely digital age, that doesn’t really matter does it?
Album: White Lies – To Lose My Life
Upon the release of their debut album To Lose My Life, White Lies became the first British act in 2009 to achieve a number one album. And despite my efforts I didn’t get to see the album played live. Still it features as one of my favorite albums and definitely gained maximum play from me in 2009, with its grinding guitar riffs, rallying 80’s synths and smoky room drum laided tracks – the single “Death” still being my favourite. White Lies’ musical style has been described as dark yet uplifting by the media, drawing comparisons to Joy Divison, Editors and Interpol. Well that’s OK with me, as those bands have a equal place in my musical taste buds … and I’ve plenty of room for the revisioned 80’s feel of this band.
Single: Temper Trap – Sweet Dispostion
When “Sweet Disposition” came out at the beginning of August, There were other things going on at the time, bigger things, probably, and anyway, these fly-by-night new indie bands disappear as soon as they arrive. But these Australians are worth a look, as this song to me suggested chin up and best foot forward vibes, with a vocal so haunted and distinctive … then seeing them live, you realise this song is an anthem.
Album: Various Artists – Hur! Hommage a la Musique de Christian Vander (link)
To have a follow up Double CD to last last years “Hamtai! – Hommage A La Musique De Christian Vander” was just too much to expect but then “Hur!” was released on the Soleil Zeuhl label and all was good with the world. With so many great artists once again performing their interpretation of the works of Christian Vander, this release is a joy to behold.
Album: Metric – Fantasies
With so many good album releases in 2009 it isn’t easy to choose, but this album has certainly been one of just a few that provided the soundtrack to the year. The album just works for me, not too predictable but not too out there for my taste. It’s one of those albums where I can’t pick a single favourite track, with Help I’m Alive, Sick Muse and Gold Guns Girls standing out. A band I’ve yet to see live though.
Single: Boxer Rebellion – Flashing Red Light Means Go
A band Phoenix FM has been very close to during the year, I have to say that this single is just a great track. A band I saw live a few times, including at Scala in London along with Pure Reason Revolution (one of the gigs of the year for me) and even had Nathan Nicholson performing an acoustic version of this song during the Saturday Kickabout for our birthday celebrations.
Album: Paramore – Brand New Eyes
Surprise surprise! As if you didn’t already know what album made my year! ‘Brand New Eyes’ saw a departure from the adolesence of Paramore’s second album ‘RIOT!’ and pole vaulted them into the mainstream of rock music. The 3rd release from the pop-punk quintet, this record matures from start to finish, explaining of the band crisis they faced as they begun 2009, to the unity and strength that they shared at the end of the recording process. This album boasts of how each member of Paramore have grown into themselves and developed instrumentation, proving to their peers that they aren’t a disposable group from the Myspace era.
Single: Foo Fighters – Wheels
Despite only being an added extra on their Greatest Hits release of the year, ‘Wheels’ proves that Foo Fighters are still storming the charts with their both anthemic and melodic rock music. I think ‘Wheels’ has shown the music world what is still yet to come of the four piece and I look forward to their return after Dave Grohl’s affair with Them Crooked Vultures.
Album: Lady Gaga – The Fame
She’s just gone from strength to strength this year, and with every publicity stunt possible under her belt, as well as actually brilliant songs to dance to, the album of the year has to go to this lady!
Single: Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition
The ULTIMATE festival song, has been everywhere on adverts, and will always make me think of summer ’09.
Album: Newton Faulkner – Rebuilt By Humans
A second album from the man with crazy hair and great guitar playing technique. A fine collection of songs, almost all of them are instantly likeable. Stand out tracks are ‘This Is It’ and ‘So Much’, the former being the first single lifted from the album and the current single ‘Over And Out’ features Faulkner flexing his vocal chords with some admirable falsetto. I’m not normally a fan of the ‘difficult second album’ but this for me is the most pleasing piece of vinyl to hit my turntable in a year that has had some quality music from all genres; long may it continue.
Single: Eg White – Broken
A wonderful haunting song from one of the UK’s great songwriting talents. Having collabarated with Adele, Duffy and Will Young amongst others this was his third single release taken from his second album ‘Adventure Man’. He probably won’t make the dizzy heights as his co-writers as a solo artist but this song will stay with me for a long time after 2009 has passed by, a true gem.