Let fighting commence.
10. The Girl And The Robot: Röyksopp feat. Robyn
Baffling non-hit of 2009. It’s got Robyn, it’s got violins, it’s got urgent futuristic synthy squiggles and lyrics about robots (see also Girls Aloud’s ‘beautiful robots dancing’ in Untouchable). Sometimes one despairs of the public…
09. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth: Neko Case
Post Copenhagen anthem? I had never heard the Sparks original (or the Martin L Gore version [cheers Orn]), so I didn’t realise that this wasn’t a Case classic, so seamlessly does it fit on the Middle Cyclone album. Another fine showcase for her voice (and miles better than Sparks as it turn out).
08. Would’ve Been The One (Groove Police Club Mix): Solange
Solange’s original from 2008 was rather good in itself, but occasionally, an apparently straightforward Big Room mix can bring out a previously hidden seam of feeling. In a so-so year for funky house, Groove Police manage to nail it.
07. Everglade: Antony & The Johnsons
It was difficult for Antony to top the Mercury-award winning I Am A Bird Now, but follow up The Crying Light was every bit as strong (and possibly a little more cohesive with it’s focus away from the gender/identity stuff and towards the plight of the environment). This album closer has Antony at the centre of a breathlessly cinematic soaring maelstrom of emotion and beauty. Wowza.
06. London Girl: The Invisible
Mercury-nominated literary jazzy muso types in extremely groovy track shocker. Granted, it is the hookiest thing on their eponymous debut, but that means it works all the better when isolated from the surrounding tracks. Oh, alright, the album is very good too.
05. Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.): Monsters of Folk
(fan competition video)
As equally wary of ‘supergroups’ as I am in awe of M. Ward, I was pleasantly relieved to find the MOF album a highlight in a strong year. This slightly electro (and unrepresentative) opening track is testimony to the four-way creativity elevating MOF to something strangely greater than the sum of its parts.
04. Jailbird: M. Ward
My artist of the decade makes his best album in 2009. I hate him of course, as he is the same age as me and I’ll never be able to release enough albums to catch up with him, but that’s not important. Jailbird is classic M. Ward; it sounds trendily folky, it’s got superb guitar ‘picking’, some existential mumblings and just the right amount of strings. It’s immaculate headphone music.
03. Let There Be Music: Prefab Sprout
So, the tapes are resurrected from beneath Paddy McAloon’s staircase, and this should have been released back in 1993. They couldn’t do very much with these masters other than gloss ’em up a bit, so maybe this ‘restriction’ has finally allowed us a glimpse of the real McAloon? The one who, like Black Eyed Peas 17 years later, wants to channel Prince. Who knew he was capable of such experimental funkiness? Note to Paddy: Listen to your friend Thomas Dolby; forget Sony, pull the finger out and release your stuff yourself online.
02. Candy: Paolo Nutini
I like when I’m taken by surprise. Like many others I’d dismissed Paolo Nutini as a James Morrison/James Blunt/etc type; pleasant if unmemorable. Then this growly Scots thing comes along pleading for some candy (which I presume is not of the confectionary variety) and then suddenly the track turns into a repeated, insistent cry that “I’ll be there waiting for you’. (He followed it up with Pencil Full of Lead, which, while admirably weird, was a step too skiffle for me.) It’s probably a bit odd to become a standard, but it deserves to.
01. The Way It Used To Be: Pet Shop Boys
I can’t imagine working with PSB at this stage of their career. They’ve done and seen it all and have rarely put a foot wrong critically so their choice of producers tend to just enhance their sound rather than stretch them. Richard X’s work on Fugitive was wasted as a b-side; Trevor Horn’s work on Fundamental looked backwards to fuller-sounding pomp, but their work with Girls Aloud hitmakers, Xenomania seemed to push them creatively as well as sonically. Love Etc was a bold, unusual and appropriate update of the PSB sound – something they would never have come up with by themselves at this stage. But the best results arrived with this track, an urgent, adult, contemporary and sophisticated song that sounds like a blend of every PSB track ever made and nothing like anything they’ve done at the same time. Not only the best track of 2009, but the best track PSB have ever put their names to. Seriously.
Ok, thanks for bearing with me through another year of Flip and frippery. Your reward is in the form of two ‘lightly-mixed’ compilations (handily CD-sized too) which feature many of the tracks from my Top 50 (and a few more for good measure). Right click (or whatever) on each to download a zip (tracklists in the comments).We’ll leave it up until Jan 6th. In the meantime, Happy New Year 2010!