good in 2009
January 7, 2010
This is the fifth annual “good in…” roundup CD-R compilation, but the first I’ve published. The small number of people on my Special List will receive the real thing in the mail as usual, but I thought blogging it would be a good experiment.
It isn’t a definitive best of 2009 – it’s a selection of tracks I like that can be sequenced to fit into the 80 or so minutes you can squeeze onto a 12cm-diameter slice of plastic.
So what was good in 2009? It was a good year for leftfield electronic pop with a post-punk sensibility, female vocals and a Scandavian bias, it seems. But there were other treasures too…
The songs are presented here in tracklist order.
1. There Is No Light, from The Snake by Wildbirds & Peacedrums
A purely physical acoustic experience – not a circuit board in sight as far as I can tell – from this Swedish drums/vocal husband/wife duo. Call them the White Stripes of avant-pop if you like, but you won’t hear anything as primal and playful elsewhere. (UPDATE: There Is No Light was actually released in 2008)
2. Zero (RAC remix), original version from It’s Blitz! by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
This one took me by surprise. I’ve never truly fallen for YYY’s brand of punk but Zero knocked me out. The original version is a dance-punk anthem without parallel last year – and the year before that probably – but I’ve chosen the RAC remix because I’m a sucker for electronic beats.
3. Daniel, from Two Suns by Bat For Lashes
Ms. Khan continues to attract comparisons with Kate Bush, for all the right reasons. The mixture of intelligence, musicality, poignancy and otherworldliness in Daniel is pitch perfect.
4. The Afterlife, from See Mystery Lights by YACHT
I hadn’t come across YACHT before this album, but its blend of punk, goth, new wave and electro (all at the same time) just works. The Afterlife reminds me of Diamond Dogs-era David Bowie, the Flying Lizards and LCD Soundsystem (YACHT is signed to DFA, headed by LCD’s James Murphy) – what’s not to like?
5. Blinking Pigs, from Machine Dreams by Little Dragon
Stripped-back pop perfection from another Swedish band.
6. Porc #2, from Moderat by Moderat
A collaboration between three of Germany’s most talented electronic producers/musicians: Sascha Ring of Apparat (try 2007’s Walls) and Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, both of Modeselektor (2005’s Hello Mom! is the place to start). Epic, dreamlike, even lyrical.
7. Sea Within A Sea, from Primary Colours by The Horrors
The grandest song on a grand album. The Horrors created, from humble indie beginnings it seems, a gothic shoegaze minor masterpiece in Primary Colours. A Loveless for our times, perhaps (without the financial ruin bit).
8. Love Comes Close, from Love Comes Close by Cold Cave
Like a lost session from Power, Corruption & Lies. Yes, that good.
9. Seasun, from Ayrton Senna EP by Delorean
I really shouldn’t like this – it feels a bit like the hit of the summer, Ibiza circa 2003. But I do really like it. It creeps up on you and before you know it your mood has lifted a little and you feel that things are probably going to turn out OK. Annoyingly pleasing.
10. Accusations, from The Future Will Come by The Juan MacLean
A highlight from an album that maybe wasn’t as good as I hoped it was going to be. A Gilles Peterson favourite, which back in the day were three words that sent me to the record store in a flash.
11. Stillness Is The Move, from Bitte Orca by Dirty Projectors
A song that on first listening you think “yeah, so?” but by the third or fourth listen you can’t believe just how amazing it is. That’s how it worked for me anyway. One of the songs of the year for the blogosphere, Pitchfork et al. I agree.
12. Hullaballabalú, from Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know by Múm
Múm returned last year with their best album in quite a while (perhaps since 2002’s Finally We Are No One). Simple, melodic, happy.
13. We Belong, from Clangour by Sin Fang Bous
Múm label-mate and compatriot, Sindri Már Sigfússon’s solo project melds folksiness with electronic (in this case 8-bit) pop in a way seeimgly only Icelandics can.
14. Young Adult Friction, from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart by The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
The perfect band name for the wide-eyed, heart-on-sleeve, straight-up-with-a-pinch-of-knowingness indie rock New York seems to cultivate without trying. At my ripe old age, music like this makes me nostalgic for a time I’m not sure I ever had.
15. Lisztomania, from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix
It still amazes me that these guys are from Versailles (that’s Versailles, France) rather than, say, Brooklyn. Perky, tuneful indie-pop done right. Before Wolfgang… I’d only heard Alphabetical (2004); it’s refreshing that there are still mainstream(ish) bands getting better as they enter their second decade.
16. Heart Skipped A Beat, from XX by The XX
Hotly-tipped NME-darlings – a recipe for vacuous, unmusical ephemera, surely. Not in this case. The bare instrumentation, the boy/girl dialogue lyrics, the studied melancholia are all so now and yet somehow whenever.
17. Entropy, from Night Music by Etienne Jaumet
There are two immutable laws every close to 94 compilation must follow. The first is that they must include a minimal techno/electro instrumental track. This time it was either this, from one half of Zombie Zombie, or a track by Subway. I chose this.
18. Tow The Line, from Wrought Iron by Nancy Elizabeth
The second immutable law is: end with a quiet track. Nancy Elizabeth was unknown to me until this track turned up on a sampler from the always excellent Leaf Label (the same goes for Wildbirds & Peacedrums, track 1). Although she isn’t quite my new Julie Doiron, this song is pure encoded bliss.
And that’s it.