Wednesday, December 23, 2009

10 albums from 2009

hey everyone

well, it's the inevitable time of year when everyone does lists and what have you of the best and worst of the year. as at the moment i am a little hard pressed to think of enough films of consequence to list i've gone with a music update for now. perhaps a film list will follow, perhaps it won't.

there's no particular order to this list, other than indicating the best album of the year and the one which, without question, was the worst. if you've heard all of these albums i applaud your taste, if not, barring the worst one of course, here's some for your consideration, then.

first up is Journal For Plague Lovers by the Manic Street Preachers. best album of the year? try of the decade, really. it's a masterpiece.
the lengthy post i did on this earlier in the year would mean i don't need to say too much on it, really, except to say that it underlines what a great writer Richey Edwards is/was, which in the context of the band is really saying something as they have got along just fine during his absence.
the one and only negative about Jounal For Plague Lovers was the lack of any singles released. at least two of the songs, Jackie Collins and Me And Stephen Hawking, had chart success written all over them. i guess it's just that, bar the phenomenal "download" story of Christmas 2009, singles are not a going interest for the music industry anymore, which is a great shame.

it feels odd calling this a comeback album, but i suppose that Reality Killed The Video Star is just that, it being some time since Robbie Williams' last album, the rather poorly-received, highly experimental Rudebox.
this album saw Robbie return, with the help of Trevor Horn, the king of pop production, to the kind of music which made him one of the biggest stars on the planet. it's a very welcome return indeed, as it's a fantastic album; i just suspect that the world no longer cares for or craves pop stars, going on the transient, disposable "win a TV talent show, record one record and disappear" trend of the last few years.
Reality Killed The Video Star is filled with great pop and dance tracks, and presumes to do nothing but entertain you. if you've hesitated about picking this one up, hesitate no more - it's well worth a few listens.

as for the most elaborate title of the year, who could beat West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum by Kasabian? crazy album name, and very close to being a very, very good album indeed.
close, but not quite there. The opening few tracks are some of the greatest ever recorded in the 21st Century, as indeed are the last few, in particular their so-far masterpiece Fire.
the "middle section" of the CD, what once upon a time would have been end of side one and the start of side two, are, um, not that great at all, sadly. in fact, it's rather fortunate that the start and end of the album are so mind-blowingly great - they are that good that you are compelled to forgive much in the way of "filler" material.
with so few decent rock bands around (in particular new-ish ones), most instead going for this rubbish "rock-rap" sound, Kasabian are to be embraced, and you could do a lot worse than start with this album.

if you want awards, well, the best Ian Brown album of the year would be Ian Brown's only album of the year, My Way.
the great one had made some claims that this was his "best ever" album, which alas turns out not to be the case - that title remains with Music Of The Spheres. what you do have here, however, is certainly one of the better of his six thus far released solo efforts.
a journalist this year pointed out that reviewing an Ian Brown album is a somewhat pointless affair, as the legion of believes in the man (like me) will buy whatever he releases, irrespective of what's on it or what it sounds like. i bought it, i really enjoyed it, and if nothing else i encourage you to have a listen to his ace cover of In The Year 2525 on it.

speaking of artists who the fans just go and buy any release from, let us not forget that Morrissey started off the year with a new album, Years Of Refusal.
after 6 or 7 years of inactivity, Moz for the last 5 or so years has been somewhat prolific. his, if you will, comeback album You Are The Quarry ranks as one of his greatest ever musical achievements, but there's been the law of diminishing returns since then.
whilst not a bad album as such, the prolific ways of Moz in the last few years does seem to have come with a cost, and that cost was a distinctly average set of songs making up the Years Of Refusal tracklisting. songs that sound good enough to be the 3rd b-side on the second CD single from any of his other albums now all of a sudden appear to be good enough to feature on the album itself.
much like with Ian Brown, us loyal fans bought this anyway, but mindful of the fact that it was released in February, i dare say few copies have been played since April.

Depeche Mode, by co-incidence, released Sounds Of The Universe around April, and i would suspect a fair few of us still give this a listen as we approach the end of the year.
i like Depeche Mode, but i would have no idea what "classic" DM is. i consider Ultra to be their best album, where most fans would go for Violator or any one of their many great 80s releases. for me, then, this album as the "classic Mode" sound, whatever that actually means.
the lead single, Wrong, is certainly one of their better releases, and the remainder of the album for the most part sounds as good as that. i am not sure where Depeche Mode get the inspiration or creativity to keep on delivering quality records so far into their career, but i suppose one should not worry about the how they do it part just as long as they keep delivering.

now then. Frankie Say Greatest, yet another greatest hits set from my beloved, only released seven singles Frankie Goes To Hollywood, should have been my top release of the year. the people releasing it, Universal Music, decided to make a bit of a mess of the release though.
for some inexplicable reason the one true treasure of the whole "greatest hits" release, and unreleased cover of Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?, was made available through "iTunes" only, and even then only if you bought the whole album again; one that you probably had already ordered the CD of. it's like they did not want to have any chart success or CD sales, really. the CD tracklisting was less than inspiring, with most of us Frankie fans having already spent a fortune buying many copies of all that was on it anyway.
the release wasn't all bad news - as part of a deal to get his solo stuff back out on the shelves, Holly Johnson, after a few years of relative silence, came in to help give the release some publicity. good to see him out and about, as it were!
if for some reason you do not have any Frankie in your collection, the 1 or 2 CD set of Frankie Say Greatest will happily fill that gap in your music library; but us fans after some rarities were left disappointed.

aah, Rodders. a few years ago Rod Stewart came to the not unwise decision that the fans were happier hearing him doing covers of the classics than they were watching him slave over new material. it's a win-win, really - Rod gets to sing the songs he loves, the fans get to hear songs they love with one of the most treasured voices the world of music has.
the voice is, sadly, getting rather frail and weaker than it was due to Rod's well-documented health problems, but that doesn't stop Soulbook the sound of Rod that we all know and love.
there's a few curveballs on the album - the version of Wonderful World was not what i was expecting - but overall it's a fine, fine album to have in the car.

caution is required here, as my Dad is quite a Dylan fan. not that i have anything against him. when my Dad asked if i had heard Dylan's latest release, the seasonally themed Christmas In The Heart, i with some diplomacy informed him that i had certainly heard enough of it, thank you, and passed it along to him to enjoy.
erm, yeah. i am not sure what the market is for avid or casual Dylan fans that want to hear him meander through some reasonably well known yuletide classics, but that gap in the market has well and truly been filled. it's not bad, as such, but that doesn't mean that all and sundry will wish to hear this on Christmas morning this year. or next.
Bob Dylan's bash at Christmas is not, however, the worst album of the year, if that's what you are thinking. oh no, not by a long distance.

easily the worst, most disappointing album of the year was U2's No Line On The Horizon. i mean, just look at the cover. if the band can't be bothered with a decent cover (and let's be honest, plain white would have been more creative) for their record then there's every chance that the record it holds isn't very good. this album is a very stark, sad illustration of this.
for this album U2 decided to work to a deadline rather than record it, work on it and release it. the last time they did this it was for the less than brilliant Pop album, and this time round they released an album which was nowhere near as good as Pop. yeah, that bad. i managed to listen to it all the way through once, skipped through a couple of more times, and then left it alone.
as their last two albums have been rather good, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb in particular being one of their best for a long time indeed, this is a disappointing step backwards for the band. not one single track bears worth a mention from it, and if you are a U2 fan and haven't blindly bought it, well, the advice would be do not bother to.

well, with apologies to Bono, there you have it! hope you all got to listen to some quality music during the year!!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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