musicOMH’s Top 50 Best Albums Of 2009: 10-4

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest 10. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp)

Ed Droste, Daniel Rossen, Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear’s third studio album, named after an island off Cape Cod, saw them work with orchestras and arranger Nico Muhly.

A sold-out Barbican show consolidated the notion that, on this side of the pond, Grizzly Bear have reached critical mass.

WHAT WE SAID: “Ambitious yet restrained, elegant yet exciting, Veckatimest is an endlessly-rewarding album.” – Christopher Monk

Florence And The Machine - Lungs 9: Florence And The Machine – Lungs (Island)

From the start of 2009 and her nebulous “critics’ choice” award at the pre-BRITs, through festival and tour saturation, and with that voice, it was impossible to ignore Florence Welch.

Tipped for great things by Kate Nash on these pages back in ’07, the Camberwell resident covered The Source’s You Got The Love as one of countless singles lifted from Lungs. She inspired vitriol for sure, but her album was the biggest selling British debut of the year.

WHAT WE SAID: “A bold, inventive record that bristles with energy and passion. Whatever your feelings after the first listen, dispel them and give it a second chance. There are gems to be found – it just takes some commitment to mine them.” – Michael Cragg

8: The Horrors – Primary Colours (XL)

Richard Russell’s XL Recordings had a particularly strong year even by their high standards. Faris Badwan and his corpsey company roped in Portishead’s Geoff Barrow to produce this staggering album which, like labelmate Jack Peate’s Everything Is New (it narrowly missed a place in the Top 50), confounded expectations of mediocrity.

How much of it was down to Barrow remains moot, but a Mercury nomination and a spot in our Top 10 seem fair reward for a stunning year.

WHAT WE SAID: “It’s almost the hype-cycle in reverse. Set to suck, rather than blow. There was nothing to suggest that The Horrors had this in them, but the manner and the fashion in which it exceeds expectations serve to amplify just how good it is.” – Tim Lee

7: The Hidden Cameras – Origin: Orphan (Arts&Crafts)

Slipped out to the UK almost unnoticed, weeks after its USA and online release, Origin: Orphan is a marked departure from the ‘gay church music’ The Hidden Cameras are known for.

It could almost be subtitled Joel Grows Up for all the gloom that dominates. But it’s an album that benefits from repeated listens.

WHAT WE SAID: “If Joel Gibb’s early work was all about channelling the spirit of happy-clappy Christianity into his personal vision, Origin: Orphan evokes the austerity of a medieval abbey. That, or the last couple of Scott Walker albums. It pushes boundaries. Who, though, would have expected a work of quite such maturity and power?” – Darren Harvey

6: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz! (Polydor)

In which Karen O acquaints herself with a giant glitterball and an enormous inflatable eye. For this was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ year for disco, harnessing their trademark energy and coiled aggression into a dark space with flashing lights.

Mixing glacial cool with glam disco stompers, It’s Blitz takes you by the scruff of the neck, setting you down in a quivering heap 45 minutes later.

WHAT WE SAID: “It’s doubtful that anyone could have predicted their next move to be quite this radical or this risky. For, by suddenly going disco, the band are asking devotees of their initial sound to accept quite a sea change. It ought not to be so difficult, mind.” – Ben Hogwood

5: Fever Ray – Fever Ray (Rabid)

On hiatus from The Knife, a solo Karin Dreijer Andersson took to the stage beneath a menacing green laser, wearing an owl chrysalis, to perform the spookiest album of the year.

She also managed a contribution to compatriots Röyksopp’s comeback album Junior, but this strange creation of electro-pagan incarnations underlined her artistry.

WHAT WE SAID: “At times claustrophobic listen, this is an odd gem of a record that should be cherished in a class of its own.” – Ian Roullier

4: Wild Beasts – Two Dancers (Domino)

Hayden Thorpe’s operatic vocals remained the defining feature on the Kendal band’s second album, though with Tom Fleming in similarly fine falsetto voice, the quartet found new dimensions in sound, together with more assured songwriting.

The potential marked out on debut Limbo, Panto was therefore delivered tenfold this time around.

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