Welcome to the end of year round up for 2009. Note, there will be no round up of the decade like so many other websites, mainly because I have trouble remembering what came out last week, let alone however many years ago. This is about 2009; and what a year itâ€™s been. Itâ€™s the kind of statement you can make about every year really, but itâ€™s been one of the trickiest to pick out the highlights due to there being so many.
Top 9 albums of 2009
With Bush out and Obama in, youâ€™d think NOFX would be stuffed. Not so â€â€œ thereâ€™s still plenty to write about and put to three chords and thatâ€™s exactly what El Hefe, Fat Mike, Smelly and Melvin have done. Lesbians, alcoholism, Iron Maiden gay-love triangles and bereavement are all covered in ‘Coasterâ€™ their 11th full length. Punk rock doesnâ€™t come much better than this.
8. Obits – I Blame You
Ex-Hot Snakes man Rick Froberg retires the razor-blade riffs and long-winded math-rock pretences of his earlier outfits and focuses his energies towards creating some of the tightest, laid-back surf rock in the form of his new band Obits. ‘I Blame Youâ€™ is the kind of record every band should aspire to writing at least once in their lifetime.
7. Baroness – The Blue Record
Down-tuned, heavy sludge southern rock from Baroness, a band that features the powerful mix of gruff, stoner drawl with breeze-block slab thick metallic riffs and whisky-ravaged howls. ‘The Blue Record‘ is an essential purchase for the checked shirt, beard-sporting metaller.
6. Calories – Adventuring
If you donâ€™t like Calories, you donâ€™t like music. Simple as. God I love sweeping statements, but come on, this is brilliant stuff. This Birmingham trio sound like old-school, riff-heavy emo rock, bristling with vibrant enthusiasm and a snotty punk rock attitude.
5. Converge – Axe To Fall
Utter, utter brutality delivered swiftly and with extreme fire; Convergeâ€™s return with ‘Axe To Fallâ€™ to the hardcore community is immense. Savage beyond belief, mixing elements of hardcore punk, furious noise rants, scathing riffage, space-rock meanderings and some interesting variation provided by special guests Neurosis. Blows ‘Jane Doeâ€™ out of the water.
4. And So I Watch You From Afar – s/t
An army marching to war, comets raining down on the damned, fire and brimstone, huge continents sinking into the sea – just some of the most over-blown visual metaphors I can think of to describe And So I Watch You From Afarâ€™s debut album. Mind-blowing stuff from a band that have had a brilliant year.
3. The Bronx – Mariachi El Bronx
Itâ€™s hard to imagine a band that sound like the younger brother of Black Flag doing Mexican love songs, but The Bronx or should I say, Mariachi El Bronx manage it – superbly. Itâ€™s not just that theyâ€™ve done something completely opposite to their usual punk rock-bile of noise; itâ€™s the fact it sounds so intricate, so well crafted, brimming with a kind of passion, especially Caughthran, whose voice is truly magnificent when heâ€™s not shouting.
2. Future of the Left – Travels With Myself and Another
So close to being number one this, in fact, it might as well be joint with BATS to be honest. Better than ‘Curses!â€™ thatâ€™s for damn sure and ‘Curses!â€™ was bloody excellent. ‘Travels With Myself And Anotherâ€™ is Future of the Left embracing more keyboard, tighter song writing, more distorted bass, amusing, sometimes non-sequitur lyrics. As stated in my review; â€œâ€Â¦a flawless selection of songs, musicianship and contemptuous lyrical sound-bites.â€Â
1. BATS – Red In Tooth and Claw
Mathematics, science, dragons, sea monsters, one-armed captains and witches are just some of the many themes present on ‘Red In Tooth and Claw.â€™ BATS have made an album that splices together several of my favourite things: fantasy subject matter, powerful metallic-riffs, stomping dance beats and a scattergun punk flavour, laced with Irish charm – a brilliant debut and my album of 2009.
Special mentions also to:
Latitudes – ‘Agonist‘, Brand New – ‘Daisy‘, Danananaykroyd – ‘Hey Everyone!‘, Blackout Argument – ‘Remedies’ No Truce/Crucified – Split, Pelican – ‘What We All Come To Need‘ The Psyke Project – ‘The Dead Storm‘, Twin Atlantic – ‘Vivarium‘
Top 3 Gigs of the Year (would have been more, but Iâ€™m on a deadline)
3. Dillinger Four (London Underworld 10 December)
Should have played for the whole night, all four albums back to back would have brought the house down. However what they played was pretty much on the money â€â€œ man boobs, songs about drinking; songs about beer, songs about whiskey, songs about pitting with J.C and witty Irish-American banter, the D4 fucking rule.
2. Future of the Left/Pulled Apart By Horses/Fight Like Apes (London ULU May)
Two brilliant supports in the form of Pulled Apart By Horses, whoâ€™s drunken, scrappy, climbing-over-the-speakers punk rock was a delight to witness; whilst Fight Like Apes take space-rock-dance weirdness to new levels of captivating the audience. Welsh boyos Future of the Left played an exemplary set, rife with their usual caustic humour, songs from their second full length and drum-dismantling antics in the form of set closer, ‘Cloak the Dagger.â€™
1. Brand New (London Forum 27 June)
You had to be there for this one – the reason music is sometimes totally epic.
Other notable gig highlights include:
The Display Team, Obits, The Bronx, The Thermals, Calories, Betty Pariso, Down I Go, Adebisi Shank, Shield Your Eyes, Blakfish, New Groove Formation and Alec Empire.
Mad Macâ€™s track(s) of the year:
From trawling the Mad Mac archives it seems the following tracks/band met his appeal:
The Gay Blades – Hey She Say (â€œbest instrumentals…this is a number to frenetically dance toâ€Â)
The Thermals – Now We Can See (â€œheavy rock number very much in the genre of the great Rolling Stones,Â this is done well.â€Â)
William Elliott Whitmore – Old Devils (â€œHis sound is different from other performers, who prefer to rely on noise volume rather than quality. If his other numbers are in this vein then he is quite listenable.”)
Seriously, thatâ€™s two more than I expected him to really like, so hooray for The Gay Blades, The Thermals and William Elliott Whitmore.
Hopefully Pulled Apart By Horses will get it together and release an album.
New material from Down I Go on the horizon in the form of ‘Gods.â€™
The return of Rammstein to the UK in February.
Possible new Jetplane Landing album?
Although no actual news as yet, a new Night Marchers album would go down nicely next year.
The Bloodhound Gang to tour please.
New Rolo Tomassi album (apparently recording at the moment!)
‘Option Paralysisâ€™ by Dillinger Escape Plan. If it sounds anything like ‘Ire Worksâ€™ â€â€œ prepare for amazing scenes.
Also, happy new year from myself and the rest of the Keep It Fast team, see you in 2010!