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Music 2009

The other day I came to realise how big 2009 has been for new music. By “new music”, I mean newly released albums, not necessarily new artists (though there have been a notable couple). Anyway, as we are coming to the close of 2009, I decided it would be nice to take a look back on some of the musical works that have mattered to me this year. Evidently, not all the albums that have influenced me are likely to have influenced you, the reader, and vice versa, but I hope you find this interesting nonetheless.

(N.B. Albums are listed in chronological order of their respective UK release dates)

Album: Relapse
Artist: Eminem
Release Date: 15.05.2009

2009 started slowly for music, hence the lack of any (IMHO) worthwhile album release until mid-May to comment upon. It’s therefore fitting that the first album to be reviewed is one that Eminem fans have been waiting 5 years for, ever since the release of Encore in 2004. The obvious question is whether this album was worth the wait. For me, the answer is ‘no’, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Eminem has failed. I think it was an album that really promised much, but didn’t quite deliver. At first unimpressed by the album’s first single release, ‘We Made You’, the song did grow on me. The second single, ‘Beautiful’, was by far the best track, which makes me wonder why Eminem wastes so many album minutes with his tacky comical raps, when his more meaningful songs are in my opinion the most lasting. You ask someone to name as many Eminem songs as they can, and I’m sure ‘Stan’ would be one of the first mentioned. As an album, it’s not a classic, but it does contain a gem or two.

Album: West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
Artist: Kasabian
Release Date: 05.06.2009

Kasabian are one of those bands that will never create anything memorable, but they do have a knack of producing music worth listening to. This most recent release is much like their previous two in the sense that it doesn’t quite deliver as an album, but does boast some real quality songs. Tracks that fall into this category are ‘Underdog’ (initially known as the music from the Kaka advert), ‘Where Did All The Love Go?’ and the very cool ‘Fire’. My favourite song however, is the jumpy ‘Vlad The Impaler’, the video for which stars comedian Noel Fielding. The song provides something new and original, with its relentless drum beat and rough vocals.

Album: The E.N.D (The Energy Never Dies)
Artist: Black Eyed Peas
Release Date: 09.06.2009

I can’t say I was a fan of Black Eyed Peas up until this album, though I must admit I quite liked ‘Let’s Get Retarded’/’Let’s Get It Started’. When the first single to be taken from this two-disc album, ‘Boom Boom Pow’, hit the music channels, I was relatively unmoved. However, the more I heard the song, the more it grew on me. The song is presented as if it were being mixed by a DJ at a club, and I like this idea. I decided to give the album a go on the basis of this song, and I was pleasantly surprised. The highlight for me however, is a remix of the song ‘Don’t Phunk With My Heart’, renamed ‘Don’t Phunk Around’. There is a strong jazzy influence that works really well, and is probably my favourite song off the album. They also remix ‘Pump It’ (‘Pump It Harder’), ‘Let’s Get Retarded’ (‘Let’s Get Re-Started’) and ‘Shut Up’ (‘Shut the Phunk Up’), which are all worth a listen.

Album: Octahedron
Artist: The Mars Volta
Release Date: 22.06.2009

Anyone who knows me will know that I love The Mars Volta. I just can’t get enough of their weird and wonderful ways. They are not a band that likes to rest on their laurels, which explains their constantly evolving nature, and also explains why, only 16 months after their previous release, The Bedlam In Goliath, they are already pushing out a new album. Lead singer, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, stated that this album would be their version of an acoustic album:

“We know how people can be so linear in their way of thinking, so when they hear the new album, they’re going to say, ‘This is not an acoustic album! There’s electricity throughout it!’ But it’s our version. That’s what our band does — celebrate mutations. It’s our version of what we consider an acoustic album.”

This considered, it’s really no surprise to find that only two songs (of eight) fall under that category. In spite of this, the album definitely has another atmosphere to it, which they seem to accomplish with every CD they’ve produce. One of the many reasons I’m in awe of them. This album definitely has a strong sense of eeriness about it. Though this element has hardly been vacant in previous works, it appears to me to be more potent in this case. The album also demonstrates the use of a lot of synthesizers, which introduce, as well as end many of the songs. Notable songs are: ‘Since We’ve Been Wrong’ – a delicately crafted song until midway through when the drums explode in, yet the song still somehow maintains it’s intricacy; ‘Teflon’ – carried by a simple yet powerful drumbeat, this song is probably the creepiest in terms of lyrics as we hear about tyres stacked up around a body whilst on fire, and if that wasn’t enough, we get an insight into life as a terrorist; ‘Desperate Graves’ – a song which can be described as a frantic masterpiece, displaying a soaring beat dressed with some very melodic guitar work, but the highlight is the interlude, which manifests some truly powerful vocal work; ‘Luciforms’ – after 1:38mins of synth, this final song begins and soon reaches the chorus, the guitar in which can only be described as frenzied. Then, halfway through the song, it goes up a gear, as the drums pick up and more musical facets are introduced, climaxing with a long, yet insane guitar solo. Beautiful.

Album: Black Clouds and Silver Linings
Artist: Dream Theater
Release Date: 23.06.2009

This provides exactly what you’d expect from a Dream Theater album. Complex riffs, frequent shifts in tempo and mood. The special edition of this album actually boast three discs. The first being the actual album, plain and simple, the second is a concoction of cover songs, and the third disc contains instrumental versions of songs from disc one. My personal favourite is disc two, with the most noteworthy songs being a medley of Queen songs (‘Tenement Funster’, ‘Flick Of The Wrist’ and ‘Lily Of The Valley’), Dixie Dregs’ ‘Odyssey’ and ‘Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, Part Two’ by the magnificent King Crimson. On the whole, the album is a worthwhile listen for any fan of Dream Theaters music, but nothing more.

Album: Lungs
Artist: Florence And The Machine
Release Date: 06.07.2009

In my opinion the best debut album to surface this year, and certainly one of the overall best albums of 2009 in its own right. I first encountered Florence And The Machine when they performed a song on Jonathan Ross’ talk show earlier this year and I was instantly intrigued, but nothing more. Then I saw the video for the same song, ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’, and knew I had to hear more. I wasn’t disappointed. From beginning to end, Lungs grips you with powerful vocals, mesmeric drumbeats and a harp! Nobody can contest the fact that this album demonstrates originality, and aside from the tracks released as singles, still impresses,  particularly with the hypnotic ‘Drumming’ and the dreamy ‘Between Two Lungs’ to name but a few.

Album: Conditions
Artist: The Temper Trap
Release Date: 10.08.2009

If anyone isn’t familiar with the band nor album, they may well be familiar with their only hit to date. The song ‘Sweet Disposition’ was used in a Sky Sports advert promoting the start of the 09/10 Premier League season – the one with Mourinho saying the word ‘Special’ a lot. Anyway, maybe it was because of this advert, but I came to really like the song, so I took a chance on the album. I would describe their style Sigur Rós but with more guitars. They definitely show the kind of melodic vocals you would associate with Sigur Rós, though the lyrics are definitely more comprehensible. It’s a decent album and I would definitely recommend it.

Album: Catch 22
Artist: Tinchy Stryder
Release Date: 17.08.2009

I’m not sure what genre this album would fall under – hip hop, rap, grime – but regardless of that, it would probably be the best album of that genre of 2009. However, that isn’t to say that it’s perfect. Tinchy Stryder has a very simple but effective style, but the downside of that, is that it means many of his songs sound quite similar. This also isn’t helped by the fact that there are a massive 18 tracks on the album, which I feel is a little excessive. What is actually Tinchy’s second full-length album, Catch 22, does however possess a few songs that really stand out. Singles ‘Number 1’ (featuring Dappy) and ‘You’re Not Alone’ are the obvious ones, but ‘Warning’ and ‘Shake Me are also worthwhile tracks. Tinchy seems to have what it takes to succeed in the music industry and I can only see him going from strength to strength.

Album: Humbug
Artist: Arctic Monkeys
Release Date: 21.08.2009

I’m certainly not the biggest Arctic Monkeys fan, but they are definitely well worth a listen. Their third studio album, Humbug, has lived up to this, but not exceeded it. Like their two preceding albums, Humbug isn’t the most consistent. By this, I mean that it’s rather ‘hit and miss’. ‘Crying Lightning’ is one of the highlights with it’s boorish bass and reverberating guitars, along with album-opener ‘My Propeller’, ‘Dangerous Animals’ and my personal favourite, ‘Pretty Visitors’. The other songs are rather indistinctive, which is disappointing. It would appear that the Arctic Monkeys popularity may actually begin to wane, which would have been unthinkable three or four years ago.

Album: The Blueprint 3
Artist: Jay-Z
Release Date: 17.08.2009

I never really ‘got’ Jay-Z in the past, but I recently listened to a bit of his older stuff to see what all the fuss was about. Anyway, I can see why he’s so popular, but in my opinion, there only seems to be 2 or 3 decent songs per album. His most recent release has done nothing to change this. I do however really love ‘D.O.A (Death Of Auto-Tune)’, which has a strong jazz influence, ‘Empire States Of Mind’, which features Alicia Keys, and ‘Young Forever’, a cover of Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’ and features Mr Hudson. Moreover, the album boasts collaborations with Kanye West, Rihanna, Timbaland and The Neptunes, which is one of the main reasons for my disappointment. Ultimately, I expected more.

Album: The Resistance
Artist: Muse
Release Date: 14.09.2009

Strangely enough I wasn’t awaiting this latest album of Muse as impatiently as I have done in the case of their previous releases. I think this could mainly be due to the way Muse leaked songs on their official website in the weeks leading up to the official release. It’s as if this only served to dilute the anticipation of the album, and had a detrimental effect on my own personal excitement. All that aside, the album is very well put together. For me, it is distinctly different to their earlier albums, and thus satisfies what I ultimately want from a Muse album. I think my favoruites would have to be ‘Resistance’, ‘Undisclosed Desires’, ‘Unnatural Selection’ and ‘MK ULTRA’. Not to forget the three-part song, ‘Exogenesis:  Symphony’, neither, which displays a very strong classical influence and takes the rough form of a classical piece, which I find so refreshing. As an album, I would say it is one of their best, even though I feel its songs, on their own merit, are perhaps not the most withstanding.

Album: Herald Moth
Artist: InMe
Release Date: 14.09.2009

When InMe first came onto the scene way back in 2002 (I think), for me, they could do no wrong. I’ve seen them live on several occasions, but I lost much of my interest in them after bassist, Joe Morgan, left the band. I still listened to their last album, Daydream Anonymous, which was their first post-Morgan, but it wasn’t the same. I didn’t even realise their most recent  release, Herald Moth, was out until a friend asked me my thoughts on it. Anyway, I got round to listening to it recently, and was quite impressed. They’ve acquired a new band member, who I’m assuming is on rhythm guitar, and it seems to have worked, because their latest album does deliver. It’s not quite a return to their earlier stuff, but they do seem to have incorporated it in a way that was perhaps missing from their Daydream Anonymous. Particular mentions have to go to ‘The Art Of Moderation’, ‘Ferocity In Desire’, ‘Happy To Disappoint You’ and ‘You Won’t Hear From Me Again’, which in my opinion are the stand-out tracks on the album.

Album: Tongue N’ Cheek
Artist: Dizzee Rascal
Release Date: 21.09.2009

I never really realised this before, but many of these hip hop album seem to be quite hit and miss. This is no coincidence, and Tongue N’ Cheek is much the same. It has a few amazing tracks. I was skeptical about ‘Bonkers’ when I heard it the first few times, but it grew on me massively. This song is in its element though, when it’s being belted out at a club, much like another song off the album, ‘Holiday’. For me, this song is all about the last minute or so. The rest of the song is rather insignificant in comparison. It’s hard not to jump up and down when the dance part of the song kicks in. The other notable song has a strong reggae influence and is called ‘Can’t Tek No More’. Ultimately, the album is worth a listen, but it’s not one I will go back to in the future.

Album: Liebe ist für alle da
Artist: Rammstein
Release Date: 16.10.2009

Any fan of Rammstein will know of the long wait that has been endured since 2005’s Rosenrot, but Rammstein have finally returned and it was well worth the wait. However, it personally didn’t seem like this would be the case after hearing one of the songs, ‘Pussy’, which is exactly what it sounds like. Basically, I didn’t have high expectations for the album after hearing this song. The album begins in typical Rammstein fashion – a quiet, melodic intro that is soon interrupted by a brash chaos encapsulated by the shouted “RAMM!…..STEIN!…..” This opening song, Rammleid, really sets the album off like a timebomb. There are so many strong songs that follow. ‘Waidmanns Heil’ is an excellent fast-paced track that probably boasts my favourite lyrics from the album (“Auf dem Lande, Auf dem Meer, Lauert das Verderben, Die Kreatur muss sterben!”), while my personal favourite, ‘Wiener Blut’, is an awesome song that regularly jumps between loud and quiet, fast and slow. The most notable aspect of this album though, is the originality of it. Past Rammstein albums have tended to be quite rigid, but there definitely is a distinct impression with Liebe ist für alle da that they are pushing boundaries. This can be seen in the song ‘Haifisch’, for instance. Im Großen und Ganzen, ein sehr gutes Album.

Album: Only Revolutions
Artist: Biffy Clyro
Release Date 09.11.2009

I do like a bit of Biffy. Given that this album has only been in the shops for three days now, it’s hard to give a well-informed opinion. I will try nonetheless. Having heard some songs from Only Revolutions prior to its release, I will concentrate on these. ‘Mountains’ has been around for ages, and wasn’t actually intended for this album, but it’s there. Aside from the chorus, which I find a little ‘poppy’, it’s a decent song. I like the odd rhythm in the verse and the piano solo midway through adds an extra dimension to the song. ‘That Golden Rule’ is a definite contender for my favourite song off the album. I love the hectic nature of the song, which suddenly melts away come the chorus. The highlight of the song though, is the ending. It begins like the quiet before the storm, as the suspenseful drums soon give way to an excellently heavy guitar/string sequence. As for ‘The Captain’, the less said the better. I wasn’t impressed by it at all. As for the rest of the album, generally speaking, it has its moments, but I don’t think it will be enough to replicate the kind of success Biffy experienced with Puzzle.

Well, I hope this was in some way helpful/interesting. It took me a while, but I did enjoy writing it. I hope you have enjoyed reading it.

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5 Responses to “Music 2009”

  1. Interesting and diverse list. Eminem was initially highly disappointing, but has grown considerably on me. Rammstein and Biffy, always. Considering their debut was one of the best ever, The Arctic Monkeys have left me mostly sad after that. Ok, at best. My word, where is Cursive, or Silversun Pickups etc?

  2. This is just my sort of my music, thank you! I found loads of this to download at http://www.legal5ounds.com

  3. Kick-ass post, great looking weblog, added it to my favs.

  4. I’m frequently searching for new infos in the WWW about this theme. Thx.

  5. I haven’t checked in here for some time as I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are great quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂


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