Top 15 Albums of 2009 (5 – 1)


Islands – Vapours

Key Tracks – Disarming The Car Bomb, Vapours, Switched On, Heartbeat

A mastery of obscure story-telling (buying drugs from suspicious characters and trying to defuse explosives form two of the tracks), which complements the light and generally unobtrusive pop that backs it. Rewards extra listens as each subliminal riff is unwrapped, Nick Thorburn fuses the advantages of electronica, pop and indie guitars to maximum effect for the most part, though the material lapses into repetition later on, causing the end of the album to drag despite the lean tracks.



Fanfarlo – Reservoir

Key Tracks – The Walls Are Coming Down, I’m A Pilot, Fire Escape, Harold T. Wilkins

Fanfarlo came out of nowhere for me. In terms of sublimely passionate debut folk albums at least I was given a heads-up about Mumford & Sons. The vocals sound as if Fanfarlo are calling their audience to a peaceful rally, a sit around the campfire to celebrate company and peaceful natural times. Not as consistent throughout the album as might be hoped for, but in terms of debut quality this does as well as Fleet Foxes.



Various Artists – Dark Was The Night

Key Tracks – Deep Blue Sea (Grizzly Bear), Sleepless (The Decemberists), Lua (Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch), So Far Around The Bend (The National)

You could just read the cast-list on the back of the album in awe, or you could get down to the nitty-gritty of listening to this 31 track epic. A spectacular ride through the current North American indie rock/folk scene, hopefully forming a stepping stone of popularity between the 00s and 10s for the genre. The acts involved are so good that 50:50 ratio of success to failure would still make it pretty incredible, and that’s about what you get. Disc 1 is more consistent than Disc 2, and also contains many of the highlights, but Disc 2 should certainly not be overlooked.



Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

Key Tracks – Thistle & Weeds, Little Lion Man, The Cave, Timshel

The emotion that oozes from Marcus Mumford’s voice is what carries this album. That’s not to say a bad word against the clever folk guitars, banjo and all, or the lyrics, which weave tales of loss and love, striving to describle the indescribable. But somehow the focus is not on the instruments or the words, because the power or fragility (the movement between the two is unexpected in its subtlety) that really takes this album past its competitors in the field of seasonal moods and post-Fleet Foxes yearning. The “swelling rage” of White Blank Page and Little Lion Man is dealt with as beautifully as the quieter tracks.



Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

Key Tracks – Southern Point, While You Wait For The Others, Two Weeks, Foreground

OK, yes, I did originally underestimate this as an album too concerned with building overarching moods to care about the hooks and the surprises. There are parts of the album where this holds true, where the connections between the instruments are perfect but lack a certain immediacy. But with more listens I’ve realised something, if the weak tracks on an album are merely unengagingly perfect, then it is difficult to truly complain about the album. Veckatimest both offers an artful mood (on the likes of Dory and All We Ask), and produces individually spectacular songs (Southern Point, Two Weeks). Knowing that the band specialize in tone can sometimes take away from the riffs themselves, and if on first listen you miss out on just how special the guitarwork on While You Wait For The Others is, you need to give it more time. Like a good game of Pass the Parcel, with each turn more is unwrapped, with each increasing layer offering more surprises. A truly special album and DEFINITELY BETTER THAN MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILION!


About Alex Pavitt
I work in the field of emotion. My tools are instinctual feelings and my laptop is the medium between my brain and the outside world. I deconstruct and rebuild. I imagine. I steal other people's lyrics because somtimes, my own words aren't enough. I spend all of my time somewhere inside my head. I worship Douglas Adams, and in the back of my mind I am always painfully aware that I will never be as good as him or, for that matter, anybody else.

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