The Music Fix Albums of 2009

There's a solid thump as the oak conference room door swings shut, the key is turned in the lock and slowly slid under said door. No, this isn't the opening to the latest Saw flick, it's team TMF, locked in a conference room in Swindon. Their mission is to come up with their top albums of 2009 and no-one's getting out until it's complete.

So, after several attempts to put the water cooler through the window it becomes apparent there is only one way out... Yes, there are bruises, Chinese burns and a £200 chiropractic bill to show for the day, but there is also this - the list we finally all agree on as the greatest forty albums of 2009! Enjoy - and remember clicking on the name of any band or artist will take you to some of our coverage of them this year.

The Airborne Toxic Event - The Airborne Toxic Event


“If something doesn’t happen it’s not rock ‘n’ roll. It’s visceral engagement. It’s this sense that it might go horribly wrong or the fucking building might burn down or … who knows, there might be a fucking riot! That’s what makes it rock ‘n’ roll.”

Mikel Jollett’s words carry clout by dint of songwriting smarts that see the LA quintet straddle the high wire between Stooges-esque grind (‘Gasoline’, ‘Papillon’) and baroque elevation (‘Sometime After Midnight’, ‘Innocence’.) Throw in a gift, already apparent on this blistering collection, for leavening his almost horrifying candour with a narrative precision that rivals the likes of Cheever and Carver, and resistance becomes as pointless as it is futile. They spent the year circling the globe and seemed to spend most of it in the UK. I followed them around like a puppy and night after night they tore me apart. For me, 2009 is indelibly branded by this staggering debut. (Gary K)

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion


Blending disparate elements such as Beach Boy harmonies and didgeridoo with ideas and ambitions that only looked forward, the Collective's ninth studio album took a few listens to crack but remains a euphoric cacophony of sounds that will still sound progressive in five years time. (Luke McNaney)

Arctic Monkeys - Humbug


Those who were completely surprised at Arctic Monkeys' new sound need to re-visit Favourite Worst Nightmare and see the seeds of Humbug sown in such efforts as 'If You Were There, Beware' and 'Do Me A Favour'. That being said, Humbug still marks a massive transition for a band who broke into the mainstream with the three-minute frenetic indie rock masterpiece that everyone knows. Josh Homme's influence is positively oozing through each of the album's ten tracks but combined with Alex's trademark wordplay and his, at times, arrogant delivery, the album turns into a beast entirely of its own making. Bold but consistently brilliant, with the stand-outs being 'Cornerstone' (potentially the best thing they have ever done) and 'Potion Approaching', Humbug is the album that will truly define their future. (Ian Sandwell)

Bat For Lashes - Two Suns


After putting a spell on us with her critically lauded debut, Natasha Khan (and alter-ego Pearl) once again glamoured us with the magic of Two Suns. The title may suggest solar power but it's in the sonics where she really impressed; bringing in an '80s influence while simultaneously upping the ballad dramatics, this second album frequently sounded like lovelorn ghosts haunting a goth disco. (LM)

Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions


Not only is Only Revolutions the finest work Biffy Clyro have done, it's arguably also 2009's finest rock album. It sees the band in typically bruising form with tracks like the phenomenal 'That Golden Rule' and tapping into their subtler side they discovered with 2007's Puzzle with the heart-achingly beautiful 'Many Of Horror'. It's essentially a best-of Biffy compilation albeit with twelve brand-new tracks and is the clearest sign to date that Biffy Clyro have what it takes to remain at the top of the rock mountain for years to come. (IS)

Blank Dogs - Under & Under


Despite a prolific release schedule in an extremely short timeframe on varying formats including vinyl, cd, cassette, smoke signal and semaphore Under & Under can be regarded as the Blank Dogs “release proper” in 2009. Its murky and sinister electro heart pumps hot silicone through this robotic body of work. Inspiring the throwing of terrifying shapes across dimly lit underground dance floors, just remember where you left the WD40. (Adrian Mules)

The Boy Least Likely To - The Law of the Playground


A delightful gambol back through the hazy, halcyon days of childhood. Peel back the fraying corners however and you'll be rewarded as there's greater depth to this album than first impressions suggest. Joy and ennui in equal measure, this is an album you'll want to treasure. (Steven Burnett)

Brand New - Daisy


One of the best live bands America has right now, Jesse Lacey led Brand New into their next chapter with a fourth studio album that expanded on The Devil and God...'s raw power. This year, Daisy undoubtedly rocked Muse out of the water. (LM)

Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career


Coming up to thirteen years in the business, My Maudlin Career is as fresh as anything from bands half their age. Sounding like someone took a whole missing year from the nineties and transplanted it to the present with a few months of 1963 chucked in for good measure, Camera Obscura are a welcome break from the eighties-influenced over indulgence we're currently suffering. It's a beautiful album that exudes fun and melancholy in equal measure and for that it must be applauded. (Colin Polonowski)

Charlotte Hatherley - New Worlds


Hatherley may have created something here that borders on the insane, but it's also the best thing she's done so far. Fans who found The Deep Blue hard going would be well advised to check out Charlotte's latest album - it drops the heaviness that dragged its precursor down and returns to the lighter more enjoyable quirkiness that made her solo debut so unmissable. That's not to say she's resting on her laurels - far from it. New Worlds does indeed break new ground - its sights are set firmly somewhere out there, and there's little doubt that she will never disappoint when it comes to surprising us all. Brilliant. (CP)

Cold Cave - Love Comes Close


From the first listen it’s immediately apparent that this is something very special. Dark and brooding electronic melodies span the skylines that loom over Love Comes Close as an army of robot overloads proclaim their dominion from giant TV screens. This is the soundtrack to an Orwellian future nightmare, yet from the shadows shines a hope and the knowledge that love will conquer all. (AM)

The Cribs - Ignore the Ignorant


The arrival of genial Johnny Marr in the Cribs ranks has proven to be a match made in heaven. Marr has added subtely and texture to the energy and attitude of the Jarman brothers while they've provided him with the gang he's been missing for far too long. As good a mainstream indie album to come from these shores as any in the last ten years. (SB)

Darren Hayman - Pram Town


Like many great English artists before him Darren has the gift of teasing the magic out of what others might see as ordinary or mundane. This concept album is built around the new town of Harlow in Essex and its contents are the by-product of a love affair with libraries and roundabouts. By the end you’ll be so close to the locals that you’ll be planning a return visit sooner than you think. (AM)

The Drums - Summertime


It might only be an EP, but the perfectly named Summertime is as essential as any album in this list. Upbeat and catchy, The Drums have created something that is as good at releasing the endorphins as any illicitly obtain substance available. You can't help but find yourself grabbing hold and being taken on a wonderful summer roadtrip through musical greatness. (CP)

The Duloks - Children Of The Sea


The first part of a quadrology for the elements might suggest a overtly serious affair that would go on to soundtrack nature documentaries. But unless it's the chimps tea party, you've got the wrong band! Think Teen-C, think Riot Grrrl, think straight-jacked-required! These girls have with an honesty and energy quite unlike anyone else - you can laugh at their lyrics or their crazy stage outfits, but underneath all that are six of the finest pop songs you'll hear this year. (AM)

Florence & The Machine - Lungs


Marmite music - no doubt about it. Some love Florence Welch's distinctive sound, other hate it, but there's now doubt that Lungs has been one of the biggest mainstream hits of the last year. Despite their wide success, there is a lot here that lends an indie feeling to Lungs' pop pretentions. The album is certainly hit and miss, but when it does make the grade it's far more than just good. Florence certainly has lungs and she's not afraid to use them. (CP)

Girls - Album


Let down by a perplexing and unneccessarily lo-fi production ethic, this album has at its heart a pop sensibility shared by Brian Wilson and Elvis Costello. At times so fragile that you fear that it could all tumble down like a house of cards but the overriding emotion is wholly uplifting. Essential listening. (SB)

Golden Silvers - True Romance


Even though it didn't lift Golden Silvers to the heights that they so richly deserve, their debut album is still a veritable feast of styles and imagination. It's effectively a musical ten-course meal with each track providing something different to tuck into. Managing to be both camp and deadly serious, sometimes within the same track, True Romance is unlike any other album you've heard. An essential listen. (IS)

Health - Get Color


The sound of confusion. Brutal beats fight it out with vast swathes of static noise and gothic style. Is it a dance album, a rock album or an elaborate hoax? Impossible to pin down this is one of the most vital and exciting releases of the year. (SB)

Howling Bells - Radio Wars


The Bells second album is one of 09's best releases, for a band that has yet to hit the mainstream Radio Wars is an assured, classy piece of work that starts as it means to go on. You can rock out, contemplate and wrap yourself up all at the same time with what could be one of the best overlooked gems of the decade. Who wouldn't fall in love with Juanita's gorgeous warm voice? (CP)

Invasion - The Master Alchemist


When did British metal tap out? Was it choked by the tight leopard skin spandex of The Darkness or was it staggering into the ropes before then? With Invasion a new contender arrived, ready to decimate all in its way. Their calling card of sweeping guitars, thunderous drums and that amazing voice demand your attention. Taking influences from psych, soul and thrash and creating something utterly spellbinding and breathtaking. If Invasion aren’t masters of the universe by the end of 2010 I’ll eat my wizard's hat. (AM)

James Yorkston and The Big Eyes Family Players - Folk Songs


A set of traditional songs, the key to this album’s success is the trust in Yorkston’s clear delivery backed by proper folky instrumentation. In other words, nothing too fancy or cutting. And this is the time of year when its simple pleasures might best be enjoyed: around a fire, clutching a malt whisky, while snow falls outside - if you’re lucky enough. (John Donnelly)

Jamie T - Kings & Queens


Broken Britain? Not from where Mr T. is sitting. This is just an island of people trying to make the best of it, hiding in the sunlight away from the pessimists, cynics and haters. Naive? Perhaps. But we need more of his ilk, lifting the gloom and still believing love will out. No other album on this list features an Angelic Upstarts sample or so perfectly captures what it is to be young, daft and lost. (Douglas Baptie)

Joy Formidable - A Balloon Called Moaning


We can only hope that recent supports with Editors and Passion Pit will have done enough to propel TJF properly into the nation's consciousness during 2010, for any other result would be be a travesty of painful proportions. They trade in colours of blue, white and silver (you know, the good ones) to fashion an elegiac indie rock that burns with a singular determination and ambition. Probably the only British band that I've been genuinely excited by in a decade. (DB)

Little Boots - Hands


If the year's early hype had translated to sales, Little Boots would be more famous than Madonna and Jesus combined. But while the megastardom failed to appear, Boots' debut album is a proper, unashamed pop record, complete with big choruses, 80s synths and - why not? - Phil Oakey. (Mike Gray)

The Lovely Eggs - If You Were Fruit


The lovely eggs are just plain daft, but there's got to be a place for at least one daft band in any annual round up. They sing songs about cutesy pie subjects like 'mices' but they'll also condemn you to hell for the most innoccuous of social faux pas. It will leave you with a big dumb grin on your chops and that's no mean feat. Investigate their oddball world today. (SB)


Luke Haines - 21st Century Man


We find one of England’s finest songwriters on great form with 21st Century Man. By bringing together beautiful arrangements with an eye for pertinent (and often hilarious) detail Luke brought the noughties to a fitting close. The ten tracks provide stimulation for the mind as well as the heart and soul. (AM)

Nerina Pallot - The Graduate


Nerina finally embraced her pop sensibilities with The Graduate, found some big choruses and wrote an insanely danceable anthem about staying in. Top of the class! (MG)

Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Pains Of Being Pure At Heart


After a few years of post-punk fetishism, it's perhaps no surprise that attention drifted a few years further down the line and we'd re-embrace the era of Rickenbackers and anoraks, hairclips and jelly tots. These New Yorkers were happy to pretty much xerox the whole (early) Primal Scream / MBV schtick, but did so with enough elan and charm to win over even the prickliest of doubters. Long-term prospects are hazy, but like a tongue-full of moon dust, fun while it lasts. (DB)

Paloma Faith - Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?


The most impressive thing about Paloma Faith's debut album is how fresh it sounds despite the seemingly endless amount of female artists that she's being compared to. She pulls off the trick of being as adept at singing the upbeat, jazzy tracks such as 'Upside Down' as she is at belting out the show tunes and ballads in the form of the title track and 'New York'. Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? is such an enjoyable listen that you feel an emptiness inside after it has finished which propels you to press that repeat button, telling yourself it'll just be 'one more listen'. (IS)

Passion Pit - Manners


The 2009 album most likely to be sponsored by Prozac, this is one giant sunny burst (melodically at least) of US electronic-indie-pop. Practically every one of these eleven tracks seems to have been written to ‘single’ standard, so quite why half the populace isn’t walking around humming Passion Pit songs is a mystery. (JD)

The Raveonettes - In and Out of Control


Hey rock 'n' roll. Four albums in and they deliver their masterpiece. If you force our arm, even us long term admirers were slightly surprised. Available in any colour you like ... as long as it's jet black. In and Out of Control is easily their most fully realised and approachable collection and throws a tatty black leather jacket over the grey corpse of so-called 'indie'. Sune and Sharin, tragically ignored by the groovy gang, soldier on. The spirit of Gene Vincent, their love of the overdrive pedal, a growing pop sensibility. Just having them around makes the world a little bit less shit. (GK)

Rodrigo y Gabriela - 11:11


Even those of us under their spell are prone to doubts on occasion. Namely, three or four albums of metal influenced flamenco guitar ... that's surely gonna wear thin, right ? Not a chance. 11:11 takes the duo's daredevil technique and application and welds it to their most compelling set of compositions to date. This album, their best by far, leave its predecessors standing, and its focus on songwriting, narrative and breathtakingly tuneful invention is its strongest suit. (GK)

School Of Seven Bells - Alpinisms


If you went to see Bat For Lashes on tour earlier this year, you may well have caught School of Seven Bells in support. Debut album Alpinisms combines the ethereal vocals of twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza with psychedelic shoegazing to frequently stunning effect. (JD)

Simian Mobile Disco - Temporary Pleasure


A relatively unheralded release, which is a shame as there's some fabulously funky tunes on show, such as the immense 'Audacity of Huge'. The key to its success is simple - fun! There's no po-faced attempt at credibility and the guest artists, particularly Beth Ditto, are let loose to heighten the mania. If the weakest track features Gruff Rhys then you know that the rest of the album must be pretty damn hot. (SB)

Tesla Boy - Tesla Boy EP


This astounding Russian pop group are clearly influenced by Western culture but are thankfully not meddled with by western marketing or branding. This EP doesn’t put a single foot wrong and offers the closest we have come pop-perfection this decade. They are probably the most unknown act in our top forty, but one we urge everyone to Rush-and check 'em out. (AM)

Tori Amos - Abnormally Attracted to Sin


While she remained prolific throughout the noughties, Tori Amos's output this decade tried, but failed, to reach the heights of her Boys for Pele best. Giving it one more shot in 2009 she produced her best and most cohesive record in ten years, playing to her piano-based strengths but venturing into new territory at the same time. Here's to another ten. (LM)

The Unthanks - Here's the Tender Coming


The sexy, sassy Unthanks sisters returned with a new name, an extended band and a shiny new pair of clogs each. Two of the most distinctive and soulful voices in British folk music take the listener on a journey from Medieval love stories through to music hall farce. Wonderful. (SB)

White Lies - To Lose My Life …


The predominant theme running through To Lose My Life, debut album from London boys The White Lies is DEATH. Gloom, doom, disastrous lunar missions, a kidnapping gone wrong and lots of other grisly fun. There’s even a love song, but more of a “Boy meets girl, girl stabs boy with a pair a scissors, ghost-boy comes back to talk things over.” The songs play out more like random chapters from a novel than straight-forward tunes, and it is bassist’s Charles Cave’s clever, if at times naïve, lyrics coupled with lead singer and guitarist Harry McVeigh’s Ian Curtis-esque vocals and Jack Lawrence-Brown’s powerful drumming that make this debut so exciting and oh so much fun. (Olivia Schaff)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!


Less guitars, more synths, less noise, more disco - still just as powerful. A left turn for the YYYs for their third album may have alienated a few fans, but for those who followed them there was plenty to enjoy. 'Zero' and 'Heads Will Roll' were the best opening to an album I heard all year. (MG)


Like another Christmas superstar, we suffered so you didn't have to. Pass this list onto your aunts and uncles or anyone that buys you gifts at this time of year and beg them not to buy you the N-Dubz album or yet more talc. Ask them to pick you something from here to show they really care.

Latest Articles