For those of you who may have missed it, my Top 5 Releases of 2009 was posted by Sandy over at Slowcoustic earlier this week. I thought since it was an end of year list though it should make an appearance over here at some point, preferably before the year was over.
This is how it appeared over at Slowcoustic, with a couple of slight differences. Sandy included an mp3 from each artist, but I’ve changed things up a little and a couple of the tracks you will see here didn’t appear over there. I say this just in case you’re strange enough or bored enough to compare the two and feel compelled to question my integrity.
Well here we are again at the end of another year, and yet again I find myself wondering where it went. 2009 has been yet another fantastic year for music, and while the blog took a bit of a haitus while I spent a couple of months travelling overseas, I’ve done my best to catch up with what I missed. Here’s my top 5 releases from 2009.
1. Good News – Withered Hand
I’ve been trying for weeks to write about this album and how much I love it, but as is the case with albums that really resonate with me, I find that it’s difficult to do it justice with mere words.
Withered Hand is the performing name of Edinburgh’s Dan Willson and somehow he’s managed to produce a stunning collection of songs that I’ve not been able to get out of my head. There’s an honesty about the way he writes, nothing’s hidden from view but is all laid out before you, every last twisted bitter thing. It’s a melancholy album, an album that questions and provokes and but there are countless moments of pure sweetness in the turn of phrase, the imagery, the wavering vocals and the subtle percussion. The lyrics are brilliant, raw and organic. A truly gorgeous album.
Highlights include my pick for song of the year ‘Religious Songs’ as well as ‘Love In The Time Of Ecstacy’, ‘No Cigarettes’ and ‘Providence’.
Religious Songs – Withered Hand (This is the EP version, which I like slightly more than the album cut – it’s a little less polished)
I’ve not numbered the rest of my top 5 as I love them all equally – only ‘Good News’ stands about the rest – so the next 4 are in alphabetical order by artist.
Hospice – The Antlers
This was another album I struggled to write about for quite some time, and it probably would’ve been my top pick if it had not been for the discovery of Withered Hand.
‘Hospice’ is an album about a man who watches a loved one die of cancer. It’s a heartbreakingly gorgeous album, and I don’t think it’s enough to just have a digital version of this album either – you really need the physical copy to fully appreciate its beauty. The artwork is haunting and lovely and the lyrics, written out as paragraphs and not lines, give the feeling of an epic novel, rather than just a collection of songs. While this is a concept album specifically about somebody dying of cancer, what I love about it is that it can be interpreted in so many ways.
Every track is magnificent, truly, but the standouts for me are ‘Kettering’, ‘Bear’ and ‘Two’ (a track which also featured up high in my song of the year list).
Nothing Broke EP – Meursault
Meursault have been on my radar since 2008’s Pissing On Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues, but it wasn’t until I heard this year’s Nothing Broke EP that I really started to warm to them (now you know why this post is about the best releases and not the best albums!) Pissing…. is more of an electro-type album, where as Nothing Broke is purely acoustic – warm and melancholy and absolutely gorgeous. It’s only 5 tracks, but they’re all magnificent.
The two highlights for me are ‘William Henry Miller Part 1′ – its simple twangy banjo beginning grabbed me immediately, and Neil Pennycook’s vocals are outstanding, complete with that lovely Scottish tinge that enhances every wonderfully chosen word. Closing track ‘William Henry Miller Part 2′ follows directly from ‘Part 1′ and features piano and guitar and a greater ambience than ‘Part 1′ – just listen to those ‘ohhhhh’ moments. You’ll know the ones I mean.
Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons
The debut album of London’s Mumford & Sons is nothing short of wonderful. A little bit bluegrass, a little bit alt-country, it combines gorgeous instrumentation and harmonies to create an album that is both rollicking and melancholy all at the same time.
There are so many highlights on this album, from opening track ‘Sigh No More’, which takes its inspiration from the words of Shakespeare, to ‘The Cave’, ‘Winter Winds’, ‘Roll Away Your Stone’ and ‘White Blank Page’. Expect more great things from these guys in the future.
My Son’s Home – Roadside Graves
Capping off a stellar top 5 comes New Jersey’s Roadside Graves. With a name that sounds more like a metal outfit than a troupe of country rockers, these guys have created a richly narrative driven collection of songs. Each track touches on death and mortality, exploring it through the use of husky vocals, tinkling piano, multiple tempo changes and countless sing along moments. This album has accompanied me on many a road trip and many an evening run and remains a frequent favourite.
Highlights include ‘Ruby’, ‘Far And Wide’, ‘My Father Sat Me Down’ and ‘Valley’.