Let’s face it, you’re not here to read some massive blurb about why the album format’s still important in the year blah blah blah. Just know that it is.
A lot of good albums came out this year. This is FACT’s top forty – starting with 40-31 today, and concluding with the top ten on Friday.
40: THE HORRORS
The album that saw The Horrors go from comedy goths to one of Britain’s most talked-about bands, and a record that featured both some excellent pop songs and an overbearing, off-putting debt to 80s alt-rock. [Tam Gunn]
As Prince once sang, and as Hot Chip told us over again, there is joy in repetition. The second album from London electronic duo Subway is hardcore in its repetitiveness, and it’s given us much joy. We’re talking proper repetition here; none of the fancy, subtle squirming around that, say, minimal techno offers. Rather, Subway set up a dreamy loop of synths and let it roll and roll. Onwards into languid blissiness, as vintage keyboards blow bubbles and crooked techno beats slap along lazily, like waves hitting the side of a rowing boat.
Whereas so much modern-day, kosmische-influenced synth noodling is a bit too stern, and bit too dull (cf. Matmos’ recent Supreme Balloon), II is overwhelmingly generous. Everything here feels like it was made with sensory pleasure in mind; no awkwardness, no grit, no end-of-the-night darkness, just loops and sunshine. [Simon Hampson]
38: BLACK METEORIC STAR
BLACK METEORIC STAR
In which Gavin Russom snatches back acid house from the putrefying clutches of the minimal horde and reinstates it to its rightful role as heavy, heady psychedelia, at once apocalyptic and tooth-grindingly euphoric. Black Meteoric Star is all about the rough edges, the unsequenced drums, the unquantised phrases. It’s raw as fuck, almost militantly so, but nonetheless carefully designed and unashamedly cerebral. “It’s quite sad that the dance floor is disappearing from the cultural landscape,” Russom told FACT last year. “It’s a very important place.” Black Meteoric Star is a fitting and powerful elegy. [Kiran Sande]
Before cutting his teeth with Holy Shit (Ariel Pink’s project with Matt Fishbeck), Girls frontman Christopher Owens was a member of the Children of God cult, a status that led to the prostitution of his mother and the death of his brother. His is a hurt that runs through Album - the hazy narrative of which relates to overcoming pain and understanding oneself. Plenty of corny moments, but if ever there was an album where they’re forgiven it’s this one. [Jay Shockley]
36: MAJOR LAZER
GUNS DON’T KILL PEOPLE…LAZERS DO
The idea of house jokers Diplo and Switch making a dancehall album based on the tales of a fictional Jamaican commando who lost his arm in a secret zombie war (he even had his own Twitter account where he spoke in bad patois) might not have been that appealing, but the result was a surprisingly coherent full-length with two of the best club tracks of the year in ‘Pon de Floor’ and ‘Keep it Going Louder’. [Chris Campbell]
35: WILLIAM BASINSKI
A less monumental – and less mournful – work than his 2002-3 masterpiece The Disintegration Loops, 92982 nonetheless finds ambient composer Basinski in a melancholic mood.
Based around archived musical themes he recorded on, yes, September 29, 1982, 92982 is a reflection on the passing of youth, an audio séance that evokes the artist’s early days of New York loft-living, a time of personal development and professional frustration. The humid, highly-charged ambience of the city at that time is the real star of these beautifully saturated loop-recordings, and Basinski preserves and accentuates it so well: helicopters whir and sirens wail deep in the mix, giving the stately piano and synth-string melodies a very special resonance. Basinski’s formal artistry, hand in hand with an ability to locate and elicit the deepest emotions in his listeners, continues to astound. [Kiran Sande]
34: PAUL WHITE
THE STRANGE DREAMS OF PAUL WHITE
(ONE HANDED MUSIC)
A sample-heavy scrapbook of prog, psychedelia, library music and more. Incredibly wide-reaching but with its roots firmly in hip-hop culture, it introduced many to one of Britian’s most promising producers. [Tam Gunn]
33: JASON FINE
Jason Fines’s retro-futurist house sound looks to the golden years of Chicago club music, full of yearning melody and with an electro-influenced bulbousness that invites comparison with Mr Fingers, Virgo et al. In an era of air-tight, precision-tooled production, the live, off-the-grid feel of Fine’s drum and synth programming is as bracing as a hard smack on the chops.
Ringing fresh life out of tried and tested tropes, Future Thought is undoubtedly among the best house albums to be released in 2009, though the amount of credible competition is, let’s be honest, negligible. Really, it’s an album that stands out on its own merits, achieving timelessness and singularity by conveying a trowel-load of emotion with the sparest of means. [Daniel Feeld]
32: HILDUR GUDNADÓTTIR
Tremulous, deeply romantic cello work from this respected Icelandic artist – a sometime member of Múm – bolstered by bass and barely perceptible electronic processing from Johann Johannsson and Skuli Sverrisson. Not since Arthur Russell’s World of Echo has a “traditional” string instrument sounded so rich and expressive; from the undulating drone of ‘Elevation’ to the more urgent, locomotive ‘Erupting Light’, it’s tremendously stimulating stuff. [Kiran Sande]
31: THE VILLAGE ORCHESTRA
I CAN HEAR THE SIRENS SINGING AGAIN
Stunning ambient piece centered around a recurring vocal that appears, wraithlike, at sporadic intervals through a veil of rain and shimmering loops. [Tom Lea]