Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Top Albums - 2009

Kim Barlow and Matthias Kom – Spring Break Up

Holy cow, I love this album. When I first got it I enjoyed it too much to listen to at work. (Co-workers noticed my blissed-out expression as I swayed happily in front of my microfilm reader, completely ignoring it). Kom and Barlow combine beautifully to create an album of bittersweet chips. Neither of them have voices that would get them on “American Idol” but they both have a quality of honesty and emotional expressiveness that makes you feel like they aren’t just singing lyrics, they’re telling you about it. These are nine break up songs (and one love song) that are full of beauty and tinged with humour. Like that chuckle through the tears when you think for a moment, “What was I thinking?”

Great Lake Swimmers – Lost Channels

Nothing can compare to listening to the Great Lake Swimmers live, but this album comes close (and without an obnoxious and apparently lost barrista in the crowd loudly explaining that cappuccino and lattes were basically the same thing). This is an album for quiet times. Built on a solid foundation of delicate harmonies and strong talent, Great Lake Swimmers succeed in establishing a cohesive, peaceful and completely enjoyable album

Franz Ferdinand – Tonight

You’ll notice that this album is a bit different from the others on my list. No banjos here. This is a pop album that rocks and rolls and is more effective at busting me out of my 3pm slump than anything else I’ve tried. I think I’ll forever associate this album with my fastest typing, as the driving beats send my fingers skittering across the keys.
The songs themselves couldn’t be further from 3pm in an office. It’s an album about being out at night: clubs or parties or walking down the street, seeing people, meeting people, and the feverish dreams that follow.

The Burning Hell – Baby

I’m not going to lie to you, the first time I heard The Burning Hell, I fell asleep. The worst thing about this story is that I was actually hearing them live. That’s right, I fell asleep at the Ship Pub. In my defense, I’d just returned from law school and I didn’t do much but sleep that whole week. Also, the Burning Hell had started their set with a series of slow songs, which had a sort of dirge-like quality. Throw in the soothingly deep voice of Matthias Kom (Hey! It’s that guy again!) and I was out like a light. I left before the show got going. The second time I saw the Burning Hell was several months later. I was a happy dropout/waitress and I got swept into the energy that their live shows grow into to, like a power-saving bulb which slowly lightens the room from dimness to a dizzying blinding bright. I’ve heard that their previous albums have failed to capture this energy, but I don’t know anything about that because I don’t have those albums, I have “Baby”
And “Baby” is awesome. I bought this early in the year and I think I can reasonably estimate that I listened to it 200 times (allowing 4 times a week, 50 weeks out of the year). This album makes me want to dance Matthias Kom (the “Pope of Pop” as M has dubbed him) weaves his lyrical magic through bouncing, sometimes racing tracks. Although he notes “Every good album needs a slow song or two” these are mostly songs you can dance to, or clean your house to, or cook dinner to. Whereas the Great Lake Swimmers you listen to in your rocking chair with a cup of tea, when listening to The Burning Hell you have an icy glass of water which you bounce over to when you need to cool down. They’ve managed to affect this change while staying true to their traditional themes of grave situations, historical political conferences, and (of course) the things that people make.

...and two albums I wish I hadn’t bought:

Lily Allen – It’s not me it’s you

Oh Lily, please don’t take this personally. I think you’re lovely and your first album got me through some rough times. But on this one your pathos has become petulance, your raw honesty a crassness it simply isn’t as good. Maybe you should take a little time to make peace with the people who tormented you in highschool, deal with your daddy issues, and construct a healthy relationship. It’s not that you’re not talented, “The Fear” may have been one of the best single tracks of the year, but it’s time to grow up a little.

Joel Plaskett – Three

Apparently, I missed the something. That’s how it feels, anyway. I wasn’t very familiar with Plaskett’s earlier works, but what I had heard I’d liked just fine. And then this album came out the Canadian music industry collectively crapped themselves, so I had pretty high hopes. I also really liked the 3 albums for the price of 1 part. But it wasn’t that good. I don’t mean a very good album that just didn’t meet the impossible hype, there just wasn’t much there. A few really good songs, a bunch of “meh” songs, and a few cringe-worthy ones. And then it gets shortlisted for the Polaris! Seriously? This is considered great art, worthy of being up there with the Great Lake Swimmers? I don’t think so. I wound up leaving this one at the cardshop, and I never bothered to go pick it up.