Rockfeedback Records of the Year 2009 - #50-41

09 Dec 2009

part one of our run down of anything we thought was good in the past twelve months has a distinctly folky feel to it.  not by design, mind.  just kinda seemed to happen that way.


50)  Andrew Bird – Noble Beast (Bella Union)

If you have ever listened to Andrew Bird’s music and/or watched his unpredictable live performances, I probably do not need to tell you that he is a violin and whistling virtuoso - with classical, folk, jazz and rock influences in his harmonious compositions - as well as a witty writer of verses on solitude and dysfunctional human relationships. His 2009 album Noble Beast is an emotional swirl of experimental music, more sophisticated than his previous works, yet much less drifty and processed. His focused and organic approach to tonal shifts, snappy interludes and contrasting minimal details are not at all obvious until you give Noble Beast a few listens - his mastery shines when you scratch under the surface, revealing a fantastic and unhurried world of labyrinthic surprises.  A noble display of blissful simplicity and elegance. [LIANE ESCORZA]

49)  Blue Roses - Blue Roses (XL)

In a year where it was difficult to move for both interesting female vocalists or rural referencing (or in this case dwelling) new-wave folk music, the debut LP from Laura Groves still managed to feel like a place of solace in a confusingly over-stocked candy shop. Initially causing a stir a few years back at a very early age, this culmination into a first full length release as "Blue Roses" made us all very glad of the wait - Groves' talent is undeniable, and with this self-titled LP the Bradford lass has made a significantly celebratory first step into what promises to be a rich tapestry of a career. Despite occasional lapses into slightlyfiller background beauty, the fantastical musical whimsy of the likes of ‘I Am Leaving’ hints at a timeless brilliance, highlighting why Groves is such a wonderful new British artist. [DANIEL MONSELL]

48)  ConorOberst and The Mystic Valley Band – Outer South (Merge) 

Oberst has, as always, proven that he’s bigger than Bright Eyes. Along with Monsters of Folk, this 2009 record under his Mystic Valley Band moniker has shown yet another, more cinematic presence in his writing and performing style. The sequel to Oberst’s eponymously titled debut record has a collective feel with him courteously (and curiously) allowing others to take the lead, but it’s his own moments that give this animated, coherent and unfussy record its bite. This is clearly some of his most focused songwriting, albeit less intimate and intricate, the more approachable attitude has made Outer South one of his most enjoyable LPs to date. If Oberst is feeling on top of the world right now, this is his flag. [ALEX LEE THOMSON]  

47)  Jamie T – Kings and Queens (EMI)

He may not have moderated his barrack room language, but ‘Kings & Queens’ is a vastly more lavish, varied and mature effort than Panic Prevention. JT’s undeniable ear for a tune as well as the glimpses of smart lyricism on his first record had a tendency to get submerged beneath unedifying dollops of gleeful delinquency, but a couple of years down the line we find the motormouthed Jamie older and wiser without compromising the streetwise, genre-defying outlook that characterised his arrival on the capital’s music scene in 2006/07. [MATT TOMIAK]

46)  Beirut – March of the Zapotec and Realpeople Holland (Pompeii)

A young man with a nomadic sense of wonder in addition to a keen awareness of, and appreciation for non-Western music, Condon is following in the grandest American musical melting-pot tradition; a worthy successor to the early 20thcentury jazz innovators of Chicago, St. Louis and New Orleans, the post-war blend of R&B, country and western and gospel that arose from the south, and post-punk's embrace of African forms. This intriguing collection showcases Beirut as a quintessentially cosmopolitan, assimilated Obama-era American act. [MATT TOMIAK]

45)  The Wave Pictures – If You Leave It Alone (Moshi Moshi)

This is not a masterpiece, not by any means. In terms of pace and dynamic, it's much of a muchness. In terms of feel, it's either lovely, or mood-alteringly sad - but never angry, desperate, vital. Never any of the really exciting stuff. Its final third is pretty easy to ignore, even when you're actually listening to it. But to ask such a record to be anything other than it is seems to me to be missing the point of its existence - an existence which it nearly didn't even have, at least not in this form. It is what it is, and what it is beats what it isn't, quite conclusively.  Effortless pretty much sums The Wave Pictures up - each one of these songs , for all their quirks and readily noticeable blemishes, will become what some couple somewhere will refer to as "our song". And when they get to meet The Wave Pictures after some show in a tiny pub somewhere and tell them of the fact, The Wave Pictures will look utterly bewildered. It wasn't what they planned. They planned nothing. They don't even think they're that great a band.  They are, though.  [THOMAS HANNAN]

44)  J Tillman – Vacilando Territory Blues (Bella Union)

This was J Tillman’s fifth album, and this experience is clear to hear throughout. There is no pandering to the listener here, and whilst changes of pace are present now and again - Steel on Steel in particular is a refreshingly jaunty number - on the whole this record is a labour of love for all that is trimmed down, heartfelt song writing. The impression gleaned throughout is one of an artist with nothing to prove, no one to impress, and with Fleet Foxes duties now likely to be paying the bills, this freedom of self expression is something that few artists can afford to indulge. [GARETH ROBERTS]

43) Atlas Sound – Logos (4AD)

Logos is one album that hasn’t failed to gather attention this year; it would have done even if it was a pile of crap. This is, of course, due to the gangly man behind the alias - Bradford Cox: a young man with a remarkable ability to make music that is somehow delicately airy and gruffly vehement in a single breath. And thankfully, the album is as far from a pile of crap as one can get.  Opening track, ‘The Light That Failed’, floats along in that dreamy haze perfected so completely by Cox, the second song in an even more gratifying manner, but come the third track all ambience is punted out of the window and replaced with sheer elation. Teamed up with Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox, ‘Walkabout’ has an unmistakeably AC-like introduction which breaks out in a chirpy Dovers sample that could be the Beach Boys reincarnate. Brighter and happier than most would expect from either of the two, it is proof of the fact that Cox’s solo alias deserves the chance to experiment away from Deerhunter, and the expectations that come with the band.  ‘Shelia’ is another, perhaps more sombre, highlight of the album; but that is not to say it loses any of the surging energy. In fact, there is no faltering in any of Logos’ 44 minutes; even ‘Quick Canal’, the 9 minute-long collaboration with Laetitia Sadier, has not one dawdling second. Apparently wholly finished in first takes, Logos is beyond accomplished, and so perfectly raucous it deserves its place on any ‘Best of 2009’ list. [HAYLEY LEAVER]

42)  Magnolia Electric Co. – Josephine (Secretly Canadian)

I know that country-rock’s reliance on analogies and allegories aren’t to be relied upon: women aren’t towns that you visit; relationships aren’t roads you travel down; I know the moon is always the same, whether you’re in Kansas or Carlisle; All this considered, the current brittle state of my heart probably doesn’t assist in formulating an objective view of such a record as this. I am the perfect person for this album - I am a desperate male. That realisation made, I feel at one with Peter Andre. So, Pete, if you're out there, pop over to my place. You look like you should spend some time with Josephine. [LIAM MANLEY]

41)  Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk (Rough Trade)

This modern day Travelling Willburys have together crafted a great American record; the whiskey-sopping, bawling bitterness of Jim James’ Morning Jacket vocals, the fuming, sharp intensity of Conor Oberst’s imagery with the acrobatic arrangements of Mike Mogis and calm impetuosity of Matt Ward; the four of them working so expertly close, complementing each others’ stride. The one record covers every sound from bluegrass rockabilly to 90’s pop, 70’s soul and plain rock n roll. It conveys emotion and story while sustaining melody, diversity and texture, the warmth of it disentangling through every second, making it a gorgeous album to appreciate more and more every spin. [ALEX LEE THOMSON]







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