Wednesday, 2 December 2009


2009 is coming to end, and its been a great year for soooooo many different reasons. It is traditional at the end of the year to review the achievements, accomplishments and high points.

I have been asked by my local independent record shop, Spillers, for my 10 favourite records of 2009. Sound easy? Hell no! The first thing that sprang to mind was, what records have I bought this year that weren't released this year? What was released this year that I loved...

I started to think about what I wanted to include, I thought about genre, style, then it was time to think about doing some research into release dates.

Whilst my list for Spillers, will most likely be nothing more than a list of 10 records, with a few honourable mentions, I wanted to explain it for myself as much as anyone else who was curious. Here it is in no particular order:

1. Seasick Steve - Man From Another Time

Another great outing from Californian 'Song and Dance Man'. 2006's 'Dog House Music' was a great record, but the true magic of the man was not captured on the record as well as it was on various live performances (see Jools Holland Hootenanny). 2008's 'I Started Out With Nothing...' truly captured the magic of man, his wonderful gift for story telling, humour, his natural style as a player, amongst so many other qualities. There is something about a bluesman, a quality that is difficult to quantify, the man and his story is often more important than the music he plays, and 'Man From Another Time" is another superb offering from Seasick Steve. This is foot stomping blues at its finest, he captures a sound similar to that of Elmore James, Lightnin' other words the men who defined Blues, yet this is 2009, there is something magical when a current artist re-captures the magic of the original genre defining artists. Seasick Steve is truly the master of modern blues.

2. Weezer - Raditude

This has been a wonderful 2 years for Weezer fans, 2008 gave us the Red Album and Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo and 2009 gave us Radititue and Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo volume 2!! I find it incredibly strange that their first 3 albums took 7 years to release, yet somehow since 2001 they have managed to release 5 (excluding the home recordings)! There was always a strange joke of the Weezer curse, odd numbered/colour titled albums were great, even numbered/title albums were somewhat more experimental. Example, Blue & Green - both awesome, Pinkerton & Maladroit - more experimental. Their last 3 offerings have been Make Believe, The Red Album and now Raditute, all 3 simply amazing albums, wonderful slices of poppy, catchy, alternative rock. From the opening moments of '(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To' it is hard not to smile as the instantly accessible poppy melodies rush over you. Once again Weezer are doing what they do well, and I can't get enough of it!

3. Chuck Ragan - Gold Country

I loved Hot Water Music, I really did, I miss Hot Water Music, I really do! Caution is probably one of my favourite punk albums, ever. Their decision to call it a day is eased greatly by Chuck Ragan's solo offerings. There are countless examples of transitions from punk/hardcore to acoustic/country, (Frank Turner, Jonah Matranga, Chris Wollard...) and Chuck Ragan manages to be among, if not the best example. This was one of the albums of the summer from me, seeing him in August in TJ's really was a special night, his music just comes into its own live, its just close enough to the record to be awesome, but just different enough to make the evening a bit special (does that make sense?). 'Done and Done' and 'The Trench' are my favourite moments.

4. Brand New - Daisy

What can I say about this band? So much, I could probably go on for weeks. I heard their first album (Your Favourite Weapon) in 2002, and I was treated to a wonderful example of Geeky Emo Rock, that was insightful, albeit a little immature in content, so I was certain they would be an interesting band to follow. Deja Entendu showed a more mature side to their song writing, and it remains one of my favourite albums, hookie, catchy, yet more mature than their previous offering. The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, was again a further departure, it was a more somber experience, but a wonderfully engaging listen regardless. Daisy is another move for them, whilst retaining some of their trademarked hooks, their is a decidedly more aggressive approach to this album, which was an amazing surprise (bordering around a shock) from the initial moments of the record. Brand New remain the masters of progression, each album moves forward whilst managing to retain a distinct sound. 'Vices', 'At the Bottom' and 'Be Gone' are my favourites.

5. New Found Glory - Not Without A Fight

After years and 5 (?) records released through Island Records/Drive Thru, their move to Bridge Nine to release the parody "International Super Heroes of Hardcore" and a New Found Glory EP (well I say an EP, 3 songs and 3 covers) was almost like a rebirth preparing them for their arrival on Epitaph. They were always a fantastic pop punk band, thier self titled album and 'Sticks and Stones' are simply fantastic, but their last 2 offerings on Island were mellowing, Catalyst and Coming Home seemed to be a move away from what they did well, don't get me wrong I really like both albums, but they are not a patch on their earlier records or this! What we have is a pop punk band with hardcore roots back to doing what they do best. For this reason alone, it deserves a great deal of praise and it's place on numerous lists of this fashion!

6. This City - We Were Like Sharks

Try and imagine, if you will what would happen if you took Head Automatica, Men Woman and Children and Glassjaw (is that making your brain say "hang on?") you would most likely end up with This City. The Brighton based 5 piece, combine awkward, jerky, funky timings with heavy guitars and truly unique vocals. I saw them supporting Rival Schools in Birmingham and thought, if I knew their music I would love this! So I went out bought EP's, downloaded remix's, you name it, I was hooked. To describe it would be difficult, their drum patterns are borrowed from Hip Hop and Disco, their guitar sound is so evidently Hardcore Punk, and vocals, well lets say he listened to Glassjaw far too much, yet has managed to develop his own style. It is rare that you are faced with a unique sounding record in this day and age, yet some how This City have managed it! High points include, "We Move", "Picture This" and "Colours".

7. Chains of Hate - Cold Harsh Reality

This is Hardcore! Deeply inspired by the likes of Madball, Strife, One Life Crew, Sick of It All...This is punishingly heavy hardcore with a deep sense of groove that is often lost in modern hardcore bands. Whilst this has only just seen its official release, I have been lucky enough to have had it since the summer, it helps that I was the guitarists best man! It's strange that this has been the record I have listened to most in the early hours, as it really helps me wake up. This is one of those records that makes me want to get sweaty, violent and happy with my boys. Brutal beatdowns, punishing riffs, bring on the circle pits, walls of death, I just can't get enough of it. Check out 'Nothing to Prove' or 'Scars of Life'.

8. Thrice - Beggars

Again, a band who have grown, changed and moved on from where they started. I will always think of 'The Artist in The Ambulance' as one of my favourite records, it is a spectacular hybrid of riffs, passion, depth and emotion. From the first time I saw Thrice in 2003, I was hooked on the stage presence of their front man Dustin Kensrue, plus his style of playing guitar is very similar to mine, very wristy, he is also obsessed with Christmas, also an admirable quality...I digress. Their previous offering 'The Alchemy Index' was an epic 4 EP collection, each ep with a very different feel, all comfortably within their style, but instead of involving somber moments in riff driven songs, the Alchemy Index, separated them out. Fire, Earth, Water and Air were the themes. Fire was heavy and aggressive, Earth was less aggressive and more technical, Water, again more somber and carefully produced and Air was subdued and minimal. The follow up was always going to be difficult, to try and re-incorporate all of these elements back into an album was always going to be a challenge. Against the odds the goods were delivered! It is worth chasing the special edition to get the bonus tracks 'Answered' and 'Helter Skleter', both would have been a happy addition to an otherwise amazing record.

9. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears - Tell 'Em What Your Name is

As with Seasick Steve Black Joe Lewis is another example of a modern artist capturing an older genre in its prime. This however, is Soul. From the first moment I heard this record, I kept thinking, they should use this guys songs if they ever make another Blues Brothers film (I hope they don't, but you get the idea). Black Joe reminds me a little of James Brown, perhaps a little bit of Cab Calloway, perhaps even a little bit of Ray Charles. Similar to his contemporary Eli Paperboy Reed, a performance on Jools Holland has marked the beginning of his rise to success, simply by performing his songs. I really wish I had got my hands on this record before the summer, it would have been a perfect soundtrack to BBQ's on long summer nights.

10. Frank Turner - Poetry of the Deed

Whilst I don't think of this record perhaps as highly as I do his previous offering 'Love, Ire and Song', I was flicking through my itunes to try and figure out my favourite records of this year and it seems my most played record of this year has is this. Frank Turner has always had a wonderful 'sing about what he see's' approach to song writing, it is written in plain understandable English which is what makes it so addictive. He writes about his life as it is happening, the issues that you deal with as you grow (up) as a person. He deals with the problems and challenges he faces in catharsis, and song is his channeling. I have been quite attached to what Frank has been doing since 'Sleep is for the Weak', despite not being a fan of the Million Dead, perhaps the fact that we were born a few months apart mean that we are facing much the same things? Growing up is a weird thing, and smiling whilst listening to Frank sing songs about it only makes it easier to come to terms with.

Just Bubbling outside my favourites, but I couldn't ignore them:

Madness - The Liberty of Norton Folgate
I am so glad that a new Maddness album exists.

Set Your Goals - This Will Be The Death of Us
Easily as good as Mutiny, but the guest list left me questioning it a little.

Q-Tip - The Renaissance
Another smooth offering

William Elloit Whitmore - Animals In The Dark
I much prefer his stripped down albums, but this is still an amazing slice of country/blue grass/folk.

Chris Wollard and the Ship Thieves - Self Titled
I couldn't mention one Hot Water Music folky spin off without the other. Perhaps more Americana than folk...

Billy Talent - III
Sticking to their guns, another fine offering.

Taking Back Sunday - New Again
Great songs, running order put me off a little, but some really great songs.

The Doublecross - Things Will Never Change
I feel personally invested in this, as I am a guest guitarist, but one of my best friends has produced a fantastic record.

I'll add some links later and maybe a video or 2...

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