Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The 25 best albums of 2009 so far

As we reach the halfway mark in what has already been a champion year for new music, I’m reminded of a fine piece a few weeks ago in the Guardian. Johnny Dee had a look back at 1989 and noted …

Wed, Jul 1, 2009, 12:21


As we reach the halfway mark in what has already been a champion year for new music, I’m reminded of a fine piece a few weeks ago in the Guardian. Johnny Dee had a look back at 1989 and noted what a momentous year it was for music. You had fantastic releases or breakthroughs from the Stone Roses (I can still remember the first time I heard that album), De La Soul (I bought that on vinyl in Belfast and nearly wore the grooves out the following week), Pixes (“Dolittle”), Beastie Boys (“Paul’s Boutique”), Soul II Soul (“Club Classics, Vol 1″), Happy Mondays (myself and two others put them on in McGonagles in Dublin with The Shamen on St Patrick’s Day – the heavy metal disco afterwards drew a bigger crowd) and plenty of others. Yet, as Dee notes, for all that great music in the ether, the public went out and bought Jive Bunny records as if their lives depended on it.

Much has changed in the 20 years since. The labels are no longer the powerhouses they once were and you can be sure a Jive Bunny 2009 would not be selling records in the same quantities as before. There’s still a disconnect between the mainstream and the underground, but it’s no longer the massive leap it once was as several bands have found out in recent times. Moreover, as several of this year’s success stories know only too well, you don’t need to go the whole hog to make a living from your music. You can do things on your own terms.

Yet the fact remains that, leaving aside the overall slippage in sales, much of this year’s big sellers will still come from the same quarters as always. Major label-guided TV pop continues to show up the truism of the if-you-throw-enough-at-the-wall-something-will-stick approach. A couple of big acts will clock up the digits. That slew of electropop lasses everyone was tipping at the dawn of the day will produce one winner (Lady Gaga) and one surprise contender (La Roux) with a host of also-rans (Little Boots’s album certainly does not do her any favours). It’s like 1989 – and 1999 – all over again.

But in terms of volume, everything has changed. There has never been so much music, so many new releases, so many new bands to check out. You could spend your entire time just listening to freshly hatched music without having a minute to go back to the vintage stuff. Some view this as a problem (in fact, many do and see churning as a reason why so many new bands burn out so fast), yet it’s a problem which has a very simple solution: just make better music.

And yes, like every year of late, it has been a good year so far for new releases. Here are 25 albums in no order whatsoever which are rocking my world as we head into the second half of 2009. There are probably some more and there are certainly some smashing albums to come in July and August from The XX, La Roux and Florence & The Machine but we’ll stick with these for now.

Animal Collective “Merriweather Post Pavilion” (Domino)
The Juan Maclean “The Future Will Come” (DFA)
Grizzly Bear “Veckatimest” (Warp)
DM Stith “Heavy Ghost” (Asthmatic Kitty)
Hudson Mohawke “Polyfolk Dance” (Warp)
Micachu & The Shapes “Jewellery” (Rough Trade)
Fever Ray “Fever Ray” (Rabid)
Adrian Crowley “Season of the Sparks” (Tin Angel)
Here We Go Magic “Here We Go Magic” (Western Vinyl)
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart “The Pains of Being Pure At Heart” (Fortuna Pop)
White Denim “Fits” (Full Time Hobby)
Toddla T “Skanky Skanky” (1965)
Dirty Projectors “Bitte Orca” (Domino)
Dorian Concept “When Planets Collide” (Kindred Spirits)
Bibio “Ambivalence Avenue” (Warp)
Sa-Ra Creative Partners “Nuclear Evolution: The Age Of Love” (Ubiquity)
Raphael Saadiq “The Way I See It” (Columbia)
Cymbals Eat Guitars “Why There Are Mountains” (CEG)
Yonlu “A Society In Which No Tear Is Shed Is Inconceivably Mediocre” (Luaka Bop)
Mulatu Astatke & The Heliocentrics “Inspiration Information” (Strut)
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble “Hypnotic Brass Ensemble” (Honest Jons)
Holy Roman Army “How The Light Gets In” (Collapsed Adult)
Speech Debelle “Speech Therapy” (Big Dada)
The Horrors “Primary Colours’ (XL)
Antony & The Johnsons “The Crying Light” (Rough Trade)