Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Top 10 of 2009: 10-6

In my view, not a vintage year for music. I’ll get deeper into this when I scribble up my albums of the decade. Nevertheless here are my albums of 2009:

10: David Sylvian – Manafon

9: Iggy Pop – Preliminaires

A bizarre little album which saw Iggy abandon punk-rock and write contemplative songs and spoken word pieces, some inspired by the writer Michel Houllebecq which mostly used a muted, jazz-tinged backing. It’s in a similar vein to 1999’s Avenue B, though more pretentious and ultimately less successful. I could have lived without Iggy crooning in French on Les Feuilles Mortes (repeated twice on the album). The album feels more like a soundtrack with musical motifs recurring over different tracks on the album.

8: Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures

Have only just got hold of this and I suspect if I’d heard it months ago it’s be higher up the list. For those who don’t know this is a collaboration between Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) and John Paul Jones (ex-Led Zeppelin). And it rocks its considerable socks off. It’s a little daunting listening to this, 13 tracks, some of which are 7 minutes long. If it had been trimmed down it could have been really great. It’s very much driven by Homme, but at it’s best (Dead End Friends) it’s fat-free, straight down the line rock in a QOTSA vein. Scumbag Blues invokes Cream in their prime (a good thing), while on Bandoliers, Homme does his best Mark Lanegan impersonation to terrific effect. Not so successful is the Led Zep like Elephants with its shifting time signatures, it comes across as excessive and bloated. It’s a little exhausting listening to all of it. 8 four minute tracks would have been superb.

7: Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way to Blue

Now this is a surprise. On paper it really shouldn’t work. How dare they release another album without Layne! However, this album is dominated by guitarist and co-vocalist Jerry Cantrell, who clearly had a bigger influence on their sound than I realised in the 90s. Indeed, it’s as if this album is a natural progression from 1995’s self-titled album (their last studio album with Layne). Replacement William DuVall by no means embarrasses himself and fits in seamlessly, especially on the heavier numbers like All Secrets Known and Check My Brain. The slower numbers are a little embarrassing, mostly sung by Cantrell, they come across as clichéd grunge ballads. Still, not a bad effort.

6: Morrissey – Years of Refusal

All the hype in advance of this album said that it would be Morrissey’s best effort yet. I should’ve known that this would set me up for a fall. The single (Morrissey still believes in singles, and is prone to complaining on stage when the local record shops don’t stock his) I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris is wonderful, and his voice has seldom been in better shape. Unfortunately the rest of the album doesn’t follow in this vein. The music is busy, there’s almost too much going on, between Spanish guitars, mariachi horns (and that’s just one song) and a lot of heavy guitars, which leaves our hero straining to keep up. The songs are still Morrissey songs, which makes them pretty strong, but there are too many forgettable ones to make it a real classic. Some of the songs are a bit Morrissey-by-numbers (I’m OK By Myself). Having said all that, he remains a great singer and a good songwriter, but I think he needs to keep the band out of the studio and experiment a little. Just allow his songs to breathe.