Monday, December 07, 2009

Best Albums of 2009

I'm not planning as many posts this week, as I have a few other things to catch up on. So I figure this is as good a time as any to get this out. Click the links to read my original reviews.

The 30 Best Albums of 2009

1. La Roux - La Roux. 2009 will be remembered as the year pop music thoroughly explored the '80s, a trend that showed up in all genres of popular music from dance pop to stadium rock. Leading the pack was La Roux's winning debut, an effervescent dance pop record that never disappoints, showcasing great hooks and just enough roughness around the edges to retain its personality. Best: In for The Kill.

2. Alexandra Burke - Overcome. The X Factor's fifth-season winner proved she's more than just a reality TV show contestant on her winning pop debut, imbued with more personality and hooks than any album released by her contemporaries (sorry Will Young). Best: Bad Boys.

3. Little Boots - Hands. I loved Little Boots debut, full of upbeat, retro-electro pop, not too dissimilar from what we've been getting from Kylie Minogue in recent years, although more eccentric. Best: Stuck on Repeat.

4. The xx - xx. A late-year discovery that turned out to be the year's best indie rock album. I love its stripped-down, downbeat sound that demonstrates superior production values. Best: Infinity.

5. U2 - No Line on the Horizon. U2's latest album didn't push the band in any new directions, but delivered their consistently broad electronic-tinged guitar rock they've become the kings of making. Not as big a success as How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, but no less enjoyable (better actually, in my opinion). Best: Magnificent.

6. Robbie Williams - Reality Killed the Video Star. After a 3-year absence following the divisively experimental Rudebox, Britain reigning prince of pop music barreled back with a winning collection of tuneful, dramatic pop music at its best. Best: Bodies.

7. Pet Shop Boys - Yes. Full of expertly crafted dance pop and the usual cheeky melancholy, Yes was the best album Pet Shop Boys have delivered in years, sounding not too much unlike their best album, 1993's Very. Best: Beautiful People.

8. Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown. Green Day's concept album--similar to their last, American Idiot--was another effective statement delivering ambitious and epic rock, even if it didn't deliver the hits like last time. Best: 21st Century Breakdown.

9. Whitney Houston - I Look to You. One of the most notoriously troubled pop stars made a triumphant comeback with her sixth pop album. Whitney battles her demons on this winning set that shows her tackling the usual mix of power balladry and uptempo pop. Best: Million Dollar Bill.

10. Muse - The Resistance. The kings of dark, sci-fi weirdness offered up yet another example of their mastery, this time stretching themselves into classical and even rhythmic territory. Best: Exogenesis.

11. Moby - Wait for Me. Moby delivered his best album in years with this set that explored his more moody, downbeat side. Quite lovely. Best: Mistake.

12. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Another strong indie pop/rock album was this French band's fourth release, a lively combination of warm synth melodies over insistent percussion. Best: Lisztomania.

13. Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You. Lily Allen's second album was more modern and mainstream than her first, resulting in less edge but better hooks, and tracks like "Fuck You" showed she could still be a little (or a lot) naughty. Best: The Fear.

14. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest. New York-based indie rock band Grizzly Bear effectively combined a lo-fi sound with richly detailed rock on their third album. Best: Two Weeks.

15. Lady GaGa - The Fame Monster. Lady GaGa's mini-album gave us the best of the artist's attitude and hooks without the filler that drug down the second half of her debut, the fame. Best: Bad Romance.

16. Leona Lewis - Echo. The new "Mariah Carey" returned with her second album, of consistent quality to her first, plus a little dance pop. Best: Happy.

17. Rihanna - Rated R. The Barbadian pop singer, who regaled us with frothy dance pop on her last album, showed her darker side on this artistically impressive fourth album. Best: Fire Bomb.

18. Agnes - Dance Love Pop. Agnes stormed on the British singles chart during the summer with her energetic debut, "Release Me," drawing comparisons to Leona Lewis (albeit with a drum machine). Her debut is top-notch Swedish dance pop, showcasing the singer's versatility with a range of pop styles from campy retro-disco to lovelorn balladly. Best: Release Me.

19. Doves - Kingdom of Rust. Doves' fourth album was my introduction to them, a great set of epic-sounding rock, particularly the electronic-based opener, "Jetstream," and the western-sounding title track. Best: Kingdom of Rust.

20. Kelly Clarkson - All I Ever Wanted. After the commercial misstep of her third album, Clarkson's fourth steered her back to the mainstream, with big-name collaborators like Max Martin, Kara DioGuardi and Ryan Tedder on board. Thus, although less interesting than My December, All I Ever Wanted has delivered the hits. Best: My Life Would Suck Without You.

21. Natalie Imbruglia - Come to Life. Nobody seems to be listening to Natalie Imbruglia anymore, and it's such a shame, for she continues to put out consistently good pop music. Like this moody post-divorce set featuring collaborations with Coldplay. Best: Want

22. Air - Love 2. The French electronic duo bounced back with this album after the disappointing Pocket Symphony. Love 2 is more similar to their previous effort, Talkie Walkie, offering a satisfying mix of upbeat and laid back tracks. Best: Heaven's Light.

23. Depeche Mode - Sounds of the Universe. Depeche Mode reached back to their early synth-based roots to create this moody, textured album, dark as anything they've done before. Best: Come Back.

24. Diana Krall - Quiet Nights. The Canadian singer delivered another lovely set of her quiet jazz staples, with an emphasis this time on Bossa Nova melodies. Best: So Nice.

25. Maxwell - BLACKsummers'night. Maxwell's first album in 9 years delivered soulful, sexy, classic R&B at its best. Best: Pretty Wings (Uncut).

26. White Lies - To Lose My Life. White Lies released their '80s-mining new wave indie rock debut at a time when that fad was starting to fade, but it still has some decent melodies. The British band wasn't quite the major breakout the buzz wanted them to be. Best: To Lose My Life.

27. Adam Lambert - For Your Entertainment. This year's American Idol runner-up releases a confident debut showcasing expected over-the-top rock stylings as well as unexpectedly tender moments that resonate as well. Best: A Loaded Smile.

28. Cheryl Cole - 3 Words. Girls Aloud member and X Factor judge goes it alone on her solo debut with a markedly different pop sound than that of her group. The best cuts come courtesy of Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am. Best: 3 Words.

29. Wilco - Wilco. While less ambitious as their best-known album, Yankee Foxtrot Hotel, and not as gloriously melodic as their last album, Sky Blue Sky, Wilco was still a decent entry in this band's oeuvre. Best: You Never Know.

30. Passion Pit - Manners. Another example of '80s-mining new wave indie rock, this time from Boston. It's a worthwhile, although not stellar album. Best: The Reeling.

The Worst

Eminem - Relapse. Misogynistic, violent and no longer clever. I'm over it.

Other Albums Reviewed

Arctic Monkeys - Humbug. Best: Cornerstone.
Black Eyed Peas - The E.N.D. Best: I Gotta Feeling.
Mariah Carey - Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel. Best: H.A.T.E. U
The Dead Weather - Horehound. Best: Hang You from the Heavens.
Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream. Best: Walking on a Dream.
The Flaming Lips - Embryonic. Best: Convinced of the Hex.
Florence and the Machine - Lungs. Best: Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up).
Franz Ferdinand - Tonight. Best: No You Girls.
Glee - The Music, Vol. 1. Best: Don't Stop Believin'.
David Guetta - One Love. Best: When Love Takes Over.
Calvin Harris - Ready for the Weekend. Best: I'm Not Alone.
Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum. Best: Where Did All the Love Go?
Kings of Leon - Only By the Night. Best: Sex on Fire (I didn't include this above, since it was released in 2008; had I reviewed this in 2008, it would have likely been in my top 10 for the year.)
Lady GaGa - The Fame. Best: Poker Face.
Daniel Merriweather - Love and War: Best: Red.
Taylor Swift - Fearless. Best: You Belong with Me (Another album from 2008 that I didn't review until this year, also a recommended album).
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz. Best: Zero.


Griff said...


GREAT top 30 for '09. I love how eclectic your tastes are, and there are a couple albums on here I will now have to go our and buy. Are you thinking of doing a top 10 (or so) of the decade, as it draws to a close?

I really enjoy reading your reviews. Myself and some friends have started a release blog that I would love to have you contribute to. We write articles/reviews on the latest movies, games, music, etc. and you would be a great fit. We can offer you a great community and dedicated audience. Check it out at, and if you're interested email me.

Cheers, and keep up the great work here,

John said...

A great list, as expected. With the exception of U2 (you know how I feel), I'm fully on-board. I am tempted to list KoL on mine, because it really did its thing here in 2009, but a release date's a release date.

rcLoy said...

What a list! ^o^
La Roux huh? I got much more love for Gaga, Lily Allen, and Leona. Not that I listen to that many album (Imma single's kinda guy) but it's interesting to see La Roux's sophomore album since Gaga already solidify it's pop reign with FameMonster, now I can't wait what 2010 brings! :D
U gonna do a Best songs of 09?

Paul said...

Great list - I may not favour all of them but there are definitely some corkers on here and some from your top ten that will also be in mine (not la Roux though!) - really well written as well.

J.Mensah said...

Impressive list as always! You didn't find you 5/5 album this year? I'm thinking La Roux would be the closest.

ww_adh said...

Griff - I'll think about it. I like your site's mix of media.

John - I considered listing it, since I didn't discover it until this year. In the end, I had enough recommended albums that I did without.

rcLoy - LaRoux's album is fantastic. Way better than The Fame.

Paul - Thanks. We'll have to agree to disagree about LaRoux.

j.Mensah - I would probably give LaRoux a "5" now. It's so much pressure giving an album a 5. One's I have--X&Y, Hard Candy, I want to take away now, and others--Rockferry, LaRoux--I want to give them to.