This Christmas week we are counting down our top 50 albums of 2009 taken from the personal lists of 35 of the State writers and photographers. No doubt, there will be tears, spilled milk, outcry, acceptance and surprises along the way. We hope you find something you overlooked in the course of the year. In our 50 to 41 list we encounter our first Irish album, the return of some elder grunge rockers, a surprising little-heard folk pop album, a brilliant electronic collaboration, a brash Memphis garage rocker and the third album from Sheffield’s finest young band.
50. Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
It’s been an odd year for the Arctic Monkeys in general and their third album in particular. Released to widespread acclaim, its effect seems to have dwindled far more quickly than might have been expected. Perhaps the fact that Humbug took such a great deal of work to reveal its charms has meant that either those who love it have already had their fill or many simply didn’t get it in the first place – their end of year shows proved to be awkward viewing for some. Whatever the reason, Humbug is their second best album by a long, long way and one that may well prove to be an under-rated classic as time wears on. (Phil Udell)
49. Jay Reatard – Watch Me Fall
Memphis’ most prolific garage/indie-rock musician had an interesting year: getting punched in the face by fans, peeing on his band mid-show, the band quitting mid-tour, a potential Irish gig of the year and his first album proper released through Matador. At 32 minutes, Watch Me Fall was an infectious and melodic rush of rock and roll.
48. Moderat – Moderat
34 seconds into -A New Error’, the opening track to their eponymous album, Moderat drop a gut-punching note that is both exhilarating and ominous in equal parts; a split-second abstract of the album as a whole. In a marriage of opposing forces, where only the sex is good, Modeselektor and Apparat seem to thrive on tension. As they plough a taut line through brooding heady material that is surprisingly buoyant and catchy, Moderat cut through hip-hop, dubstep, techno and electro-house all with typical Germanic precision and refinement. Using vintage analogue equipment, this union has produced warm pulsating strands of rogue loops, -Porc #1′ and -Porc #2′, amid contrasting apocalyptic doom, -Out Of Sight’. With both parties are ever present, not so much fighting their corner as combining their strengths, Moderat is a powerful force that flirts with fear while remaining ebullient, just about. (Alan Reilly)
47. Richmond Fontaine – We Used to Think the Freeway Sounded Like A River
We Used to Think The Freeway Sounded Like a River is Richmond Fontaine‘s ninth studio, it’s also Willy Vlautin’s best song writing and the bands best work. An alt-country band that maintain that country tradition of singing about broken men, broken hearts and broken lives. You could say this album is bleakly sad but it’s poised atmospheric delivery make for insightful story telling on everyday life in Reno and the Midwest of America. Vlautin uses the simplest words to paint the clearest picture, on -The Boyfriends’ one lady ‘says wasn’t used to drinking but I could tell she was’. -The Pull’ sees a man spends his live in the gym in order to stay sober. Perhaps the most doomed character is on -43′, an abrasive country-punk song about a man being buried in debt, working in a paint store and having a basement full of weed. When the plaintiff’s ex-wife moves in with a cop it all catches up on him. It’s an uncompromising album of unsettling tales and warm sounds; an album worth spending time with. (Alan Reilly)
46. 8Ball – With All Your Friends
Even the most ardent supporters of Dubliners 8Ball would have been hard pushed to see them ending 2009 in such a strong position at the start of the year. Having built up such a strong head of steam and then losing it with their underwhelming debut in 2006 (plus losing original member DJ Kormac), they looked to be yet another one that got away. With All Your Friends though was one of the year’s brightest gems, a hotch potch of dance, pop, rock and sheer oddness that charmed all that came across it. It’s good to have them back. (Phil Udell)