Do you remember what you were doing in 2009? Maybe you were just starting to sign up for Twitter, or maybe you were complaining about the constant format changes to Facebook. Or maybe, just maybe you were listening to some of the amazing records that dropped that year. The frontman from one of New York’s biggest indie bands created a synth-based solo debut, a Canadian duo found praise after nearly not releasing their record and much more. These albums are in no particular order and are just a few of the great albums from 2009.
Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
The fifth studio record to come from Neko Case, Middle Cyclone was released on March 3rd, 2009. It was a long awaited project that came three years after her previous release, Fox Confessor Brings the Blood. The recording for the record took place in 4 different cities: Tucson, Brooklyn, Toronto and Vermont. The indie folk songstress’ smoky vocals are paired with acoustic notes and heartfelt lyrics. She explains how she’s made strong emotional connections with nature and animals and how she’s often neglected human relationships. Case receives help from many different guests on the LP including Sarah Harmer, The Sadies, Calexico, members of The New Pornographers, and more. The record was nominated for two Grammys, both Best Contemporary Folk Album and Best Recording Package.
The Antlers – Hospice
The third studio album but the first “concept” record to come from The Antlers. Hospice was released on August 18th, 2009 and the recording process took just over a year, lasting from July ’07 to August ’08. The LP tells the story of the relationship between a hospice worker and a female patient suffering from terminal bone cancer. A romantic connection is made and it tells the tale of the slow downward spiral coming from the woman’s traumas, fears and disease. The record started out as a solo project of Peter Silberman but quickly evolved once more musicians were added in. Silberman’s unique voice can erupt from ambient to boisterous yells where you can feel the raw emotion coming from the story. Produced by The Antlers themselves the album received very positive feedback with Pitchfork naming it the 37th best album of the year.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz
The original release date for It’s Blitz! was April 13th, 2009 but after it was leaked on the internet the due date was rescheduled to March 9th, 2009. The record was produced by Nick Launay who had worked previously with Nick Cave, Arcade Fire, Talking Heads, and TV on the Radio’s David Andrew Sitek. Most of the songs were written in studio and the songs that were completed before studio time were modified significantly. The recording process took place over several months in 2008 but the band took numerous breaks to “get inspired.” These inspirational breaks are what lead the band into a more electronic-focused direction. The record included popular singles “Zero”, “Heads Will Roll” and “Skeletons”. Many of the tracks were built from drummer Brian Chase playing different beats, recording them and then chopping them up into loops and samples. The album found its way onto many different year end lists including the #2 spot on Spin magazine’s Best Albums of the Year.
Metric – Fantasies
Fantasies was the 4th album to come from Montreal darlings Metric and was released on April 7th, 2009. The group decided to release the album themselves, and the success of the LP led to them being the central band referenced in a New York Times article about the shrinking role of major labels in music. Production duties were left in the hands of Canadian song writer Gavin Brown and Metric’s guitarist Jimmy Shaw. The record pealed at #6 on Canadian charts with help from singles: “Help I’m Alive”, “Gimme Sympathy”, “Sick Muse” and “Gold Guns Girls”. Fantasies was shortlisted for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize and won the 2010 Juno award for Alternative Album of the Year.
Handsome Furs – Face Control
The second full length album from Handsome Furs gets its name from a policy found in upscale Russian nightclubs where people are only allowed in based on their beauty. The sound of the record was heavily influenced by singer Dan Boeckner’s travels through Eastern Europe. At times Boeckner has even referred to the record as a “travel diary”. The original release date for the album was February 3rd, but it was delayed until March 10th because of a legal issue. The Handsome Furs referenced a New Order song on album cut “All We Want, Baby, Is Everything” and they had to clear it with New Order before the album was able to drop. The record incorporates intense, meaningful songwriting with searing guitars and prominent synths. Spin named it the best Canadian Album of 2009 and it made the long list of nominees for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize.
Bombay Bicycle Club – I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose
In June of 2008 all the members of ‘BBC’ had officially finished higher secondary education, which lead to a full commitment to the band. Their first single “Evening/Morning” was produced by Jim Abbiss who the group worked with again on their 1st album.The debut record from British indie rockers Bombay Bicycle Club got its named from a line in the song “After Hours” by A Tribe Called Quest. I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose was announced via a Myspace post on March 31st and was later released on July 3rd, 2009. The album is filled with indie pop rock flare, chunky bass lines, slick leads and garage sounding vocals, making it a very successful way to introduce themselves to the musical world.
Franz Ferdinand – Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
Third studio album from Franz Ferdinand, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, was released on January 26th, 2009. The “concept” of the album focuses around a night of partying and the affects that come with the morning after. It’s hard to tell by listening to the record but it was inspired by the “heavy dub sound of reggae stars”. The catchy ‘Franz’ sounds shine through, with infectious group vocal choruses, smooth riffs and sharp keys. The LP debuted at #2 on the UK album Charts and #9 on the Billboard 200, selling 31,000 copes in its first week.
Japandroids – Post Nothing
Released on April 28th, 2009, Post-Nothing was the debut record to come from Vancouver duo Japandroids. The band financed the record themselves and recorded the whole thing during the summer of 2008. They intended to self-release it in 2009, but by the fall of 2008, bandmates Brian King and David Prowse had a feeling Japandroids were going nowhere and decided to disband. It was decided they would go ahead and release the album, but not promote it. The thrashy garage rock riffs and quick blasting drums made the album a favourite among fans and critics. Exclaim magazine named it the second best album of 2009 and it was nominated at the 2010 Junos for Alternative Album of the Year. Not bad for two guys who didn’t really want to the release the album, right?
Phoenix – Wolgang Amadeus Phoenix
On May 29th, 2009 Phoenix dropped their critically acclaimed 4th studio record, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. This record catapulted the band into the international spotlight, and with it came a big tour and performances on several late night talk shows. The album’s name is a play off Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with singer Thomas Mars saying, “The album title is almost like a childish thing, like you’re unleashing a child into the museum and he draws a moustache on the Mona Lisa or something …” The album is filled with glittery anthems, catchy hooks, synthy loops and an immense amount of energy which helped it win the 2010 Grammy award for Best Alternative Music Album.
Julian Casablancas – Phrazes For the Young
The debut record to come from Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas, Phrazes for the Young was released on October 30th, 2009. The 8 song effort was recorded in New York, Los Angeles and Nebraska throughout early 2009. The album’s influences of new wave and electronica come through prominently with Casablancas utilizing synths for a good portion of the material. For touring purposes he used his backing band, The Sick Six, to help him perform. The group included Alex Carapetis who had worked with Nine Inch Nails and Danielle Haim of…Haim. The album’s first single “11th Dimension” got its first spin on the Zane Lowe radio show with Zane later on naming it “Zane’s Hottest Record”.
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Animal Collective released their 8th studio album Merriweather Post Pavillion on January 6th, 2009. The record was named after the Columbia, Maryland venue with the same name and the band had plans to perform the record there in 2009. The plan ended up being pushed back until July 9th, 2011. The sound of the record was quite different from its predecessor Strawberry Jam due to Josh Dibb not being apart of the writing process. Dibb took a break for undisclosed personal reasons so the group wrote a batch of new songs to be played with no guitars. The new songs took a heavy direction and paid off – Merriweather Post Pavillion became one of the most critically acclaimed records of the year. Pitchfork gave it an extremely high rating of 9.6/10 and ranked it as #14 on their list of the Top 200 Albums of the 2000s.
Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
The third studio record from Grizzy Bear was recorded through the summer of 2008 in Allaire studios in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. The song writing process for Veckatimest was quite a change of pace from their work on Yellow House. Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen had never worked together on songs from scratch together but were “pleasantly surprised” with the way things flowed when ideas were presented during the early stages of song creation. Album cuts “Cheerleader”, “Ready, Able”, “I Live With You”, and “Foreground” all feature the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. The folky and energetic indie-pop sounds range from haunting slow acoustic numbers to large layered songs with thumping percussion. Veckatiment was another victim of an early album leak but it didn’t hinder its reception at all. The LP went out to debut in the top 10 and be named the 4th best album of the year by Spin magazine.
Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
The writing for Humbug started towards to end of the summer of 2008. Alex Turner said the band found inspiration from attending the Latitute Fesitival in Suffolk. Songs were then written and finished nearing the end of 2008 then recorded around their heavy touring schedule. Queens of the Stone Age frontmen Josh Homme co-produced to the album when recording sessions took place in LA and New York. The group incorporated instruments that had not previously used including Baritone and slide guitars, as well as a heavy presence of keyboards. Critics praised the new and more “mature” sound on the album. It wasn’t necessarily as catchy as their predecessors but they continued to grow as songwriters.