5. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
I did nothing but praise this album when it was released not that long ago. I still believe they’re one of Britain’s best ‘new-folk’ exports.
It is unfortunate that this album has seen such a lukewarm response; reviews where good have been with their downfalls, though in general have been as hit and miss as the band’s fanbase. They evolved from a West London scene, whose other counterparts had started to release deadening singles, yet when you hear the dynamic breaks in Mumford & Sons’ ‘Little Lion Man’, ‘White Blank Page’ or ‘Winter Winds’, then you know you’re dealing with something entirely different.
4. Matt Tolfrey & Gavin Herlihy – I Just Can’t (Take It)
April 2009. Cocoon Recordings
Considering quite how permeated with techno and house, my listening preferences are, you’d be surprised to learn that this only escalated to this extent in 2009.
Bloc Party’s ‘Silent Alarm’ drew me further into British ‘indie’ in late 2004, and Matt Tolfrey & Gavin Herlihy’s “I Just Can’t (Take It)” did the same for tech.house. I have always been a sucker for buildups; and the 5 minute long wait until the bassline hums in, is exasperating, and then the vocal kicks in: ‘Just can’t take it, just can’t take it, just can’t take it.” This, for me is the best of the best.
3. George Pringle – Salon Des Refuses
It was 2009 that first saw George Pringle get more major-radio airplay, a review in the British music press, and the long-awaited release of her, essentially, self-recorded album.
Her electronic beats breath and evolve from Winter; “Spring is never a good time,” she muses. Strangely, this album feels like a final chapter; her ending to a lifetime of experience. Indeed with ‘We Could Have Been Heroes’, ‘S.W.10’ and ‘Bonjour Tristesse’, a rather epic, apocalyptic state of the world seems to be unravelled and envisioned; the dulcet tone of her music embodies it, and her lyrics, and poetic delivery, can’t help but annotate along the way.
2. Bloc Party – Signs
Before the wave of disappointment that swept over us when ‘One More Chance’ was released, Bloc Party released the crossover Intimacy/Intimacy Remixed single ‘Signs’.
The original, and its iTunes exclusive, piano-led, Gossip Girl-featured masterpiece, were two of the best tracks of last year. Bloc Party love their remixes, and 2009 saw Kele Okereke fall further in love with house and techno (note the band’s advent into the electronic), yet this doesn’t always combine well. While the first two Bloc Party ‘remixed’ albums featured hours worth of fun; they still lacked something that would ever throw the releases outside of indie clubs and pubs, all-nation wide. Yet Armand Van Helden’s electro-house bass-riproaring assault changed all that. Not since Soulwax’s remix of MGMT’s Kids has the world seen such a great crossover remix; and not since Aphex Twin’s ‘Come To Daddy’ have we seen such a great music video (at least according to Spin’s Peter Gaston).
1. Florence and the Machine – Lungs.
The choice of Britain’s best 2009 release was easy to make; an artist masked in criticism from the musical and culture elite, her record is an undeniably beautiful pop record.
2009 saw a reinvention of sorts for Florence and the Machine. I welcomed her extraction from the nauseating attempts at punk that she made last year, and as she transcended Kiss with a Fist with musical and emotional capability, she became the most refreshing female voice in British music. Whether its with the (comparatively) upbeat, string crescendos of ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’, the amorous screams of jazzy ‘Girl With One Eye’, or on the unmistaken genius of ‘Howl’, Florence Welch captivates her listener with exaggerated dynamics, euphoric builds, and melodies that leave you wincing in their aftermath. Her songwriting, orchestration, and structure blends her influences better than many would ever hope for, and her cover of ‘You Got The Love’ seems unanimously to be one of the best covers of the year. This album easily clinches the top spot over any release, and Britain should be proud to have her as an export of 2009.