Animal Collective, Bat for Lashes, Camera Obscura, Girls, Gossip, Jack Peñate, Peter Yorn & Scarlett Johanson or even sizzling Little Boots could have made the cut, but here is my list of the ten best albums of the year. Leave comments and suggestions of your own.
10. GRIZZLY BEAR, Veckatimest. Preceded by unanimous praise of the critics in general and of fellow British band Radiohead in particular, the Brooklyn-based band published a much anticipated third album that shies away from the very fashionable psychodelic wave and delivers a calmed compilation of adult pop songs.
9. COEUR DE PIRATE, Coeur de Pirate. 19-year-old French Canadian Béatrice Martin and her project Coeur de Pirate have captivated first Québec and then the whole French speaking world with a first album so perfectly balanced between naivety and insight that makes Lily Allen look like Christina Aguilera. She’s been 2009 critics’ darling but she still has the nerve to cover Rihanna’s Umbrella or Katy Perry’s I kissed a girl in concert with, fasten your seatbelts, Regina Spektor-esque results. This is the perfect alternative for anti-Sarko Carla Bruni fans. She was in Botanique earlier this year, but her concert in AB in Brussels on 16.03.2010 is already sold out.
8. ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS, The Crying Light. After his extravaganza collaboration with the Hercules & Love Affair project, Antony Hegarty and his Johnsons picked up where they had left off with their sensational I Am a Bird Now. The title of the album and Kazuo Ohno’s haunting picture are the perfect chest for the secret treasure of this record: a moaning, icy compilation of songs that will make you shiver with beauty.
7. LA ROUX, La Roux. Her ubiquity in the charts and radio stations makes her the un-coolest choice of the list, but her hit-packed debut album is nonetheless one of the most irresistible disco electro pop records in years. She and co-writer Ben Langmaid (La Roux is officially a duo, but who’s that boy?) will make us dance in Ancienne Belgique at their sold out concert on 23/02/2010.
6. PASSION PIT, Manners. Natural heir to MGMT’s psychodelic American pop, Passion Pit’s Manners is like a Beach Boys album mixed by the guys from Justice. After the upsetting cancellation of their concert at Botanique, they will make up for it with a gig in the same venue on 01/03/2010.
5. THE XX, XX. Fifth on my list for the sake of originality, since the very young Londoners are gonna top every best of year list, The XX are indisputably 2009’s sensation. Their album is full of familiar sounds and yet manages to convey a feeling of utter originality. Simply one of the most beautiful records of the last years. The concert in AB on 17.02.2010 was sold out in just a few hours.
4. FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE, Lungs. It was one of the most anticipated debuts of the year and, contrary to tradition, it didn’t disappoint. The snub at the Mercury Awards was, after all, the best thing that could have happened to an artist that could have died victim of her own early success. Her extraordinary voice, a mixture of soul, jazz and folk, is the perfect instrument to channel the triumphal compositions of this perfect debut. Only flaw: she denies the influence of Kate Bush, but the stunning Rabbit Heart (Raise it up) and, most notably, Howl could be the logical sequel to the first side of Bush’ 1985 masterpiece Hounds of love. She delighted us in Botanique earlier this year, but don’t expect to see her in such intimate atmospheres in the future.
3. WAVE MACHINES, Wave if you’re really there. One of the best bands to emerge in the aftermath of MGMT’s phenomenal success, Wave Machines debut album offers catchy pop tunes wrapped up in an irresistible synthesizer sound. Have a look at the entry in my blog about the album and the concert in Botanique on 26.01.2010.
2. EMPIRE OF THE SUN, Walking on a dream. Officially released in 2008 in their native land down under, the record first made a splash in Europe this year thanks to a UK reissue. Only Kid Cudi’s Pursuit of Happiness can compete with their single We are the people as the most glorious tune of the year.
And the winner is…PHOENIX, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. It must be kind of a turnoff to be (now officially) one of the coolest bands in the planet and come from, ahem, suburban Versailles. That is, however, one of the many paradoxes of this walking contradiction which is Phoenix, a group that with their first three records moved in that thankless area that goes from wide silent recognition to general sheer indifference. With their fourth effort, however, their artistic bomb has finally gone off. Who cares then that they come from the cradle of French nobility as far as they don’t make us eat cake, but that fantastic bittersweet music that could as well be made in sunny LA, poppy Liverpool or cold Berlin? They deserve A for effort and that’s why they get the top spot in my personal best of the year list. Have a listen at their superb album opener Lisztomania.