Over the last few years I have developed a routine of talking about my favourite albums of the past 12 months around this time of year.
This year has been another great year for music. These are the records that have been entertaining my ears in ’09, in no particular order.
I know. An unconventional choice, and one that will surely see me shunned forever from the indie/hipster circle of trust. The lairy, loud-mouthed Londoner may not be everyone’s cup of Rosie Lee, but she has produced a genuinely brilliant record.
Expertly produced by pop supremo Greg Kurstin, It’s Not Me, It’s You is a brash, in-your-face record packed full of instant hits, with subject matter ranging from sex, drugs and fame to George W. Bush, take-away meals and Allen’s relationship with her father, Keith.
The 24-year-old does herself no favours with her constant tabloid antics and opinionated Twitter rants, but she writes a cracking pop song.
Running away with the award for longest album name of the year, the fifth studio album by Danish band Mew is a complex, beautiful piece of work.
There is a lot of talk about bands such as Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear and Person Pitch cornering the market in experimental, psychedelic, indie freak folk (or whatever you want to call it), and there’s no questioning their endeavour and occasional genius.
But for listeners who find those acts a little hard going and yet still want to be challenged, inspired and perplexed, Mew should be a perfect fit.
They have the mystery and almost inaudible vocals of Iceland’s Sigur Ros, but on this record they seem to have found their dancing shoes.
There are echoes of American hipster favourites TV On The Radio and Battles, along with heartbreakingly simple lyrics on tracks like ‘Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy’ and ‘Cartoons and Macramé Wounds’.
I was always a fan of Irish 90s rockers Ash, and have to admit I took more of an interest in them when they gained a female guitarist. I didn’t know much about her, and when she left in 2006 I assumed she would fade from view.
But Charlotte Hatherley has done the complete opposite. New Worlds is her third solo album and she has developed into a powerful presence to rival the likes of Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde and Polly Harvey.
Hatherley’s debut, 2004’s Grey Will Fade, saw her singing chirpy indie songs about one-night stands and teenage angst and the follow-up, The Deep Blue, went the other way entirely with floaty, atmospheric tunes that were difficult to pin down.
This time round she has found a suitable middle ground between the two, and it really works. New Worlds showcases Hatherley’s supreme guitar playing and has an urgent, live feel about it.
Highlights include the stilted rock of White and the squealing, hyperactive title track.
I was lucky enough to catch her at the Borderline in Soho in September and she looked every inch the rock star.
While maybe not musically the best album of the year, this is largely a sentimental choice, as I explained when I gushed about my love for Manic Street Preachers when the record came out in May.
Former Manics guitarist Richey Edwards disappeared in 1995 and was declared legally dead in 2008, and Journal for Plague Lovers saw the remaining three members put music to the lyrics he left behind.
Journal for Plague Lovers is a terrific album, full of Edwards’ unmistakeable lyrical tics and idiosyncratic phrases, and serves as a fitting tribute and a timely reminder of just what a huge loss he was to this pompous, misunderstood but enduringly inspiring band.
New York band Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of those groups that just keep getting cooler and don’t seem to care.
It’s Blitz veers away from their earlier, punkier sound and embraces the current trend for chopped-up drum loops and synthesisers, while singer Karen O shows her softer side and displays her impressive vocal range.
Heads Will Roll is the disco anthem of the year, while Runaway could put in a decent bid as one of the most unexpectedly affecting love songs.