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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Underrated Albums from 2009

I know it’s over halfway through 2010 and all, but I feel that I’m only just beginning to come to terms with 2009 musically in retrospect. Undeniably, it was a good year for music- even going in, new material by heavy-hitters such as Animal Collective and Yeah Yeah Yeahs had bagsied their rightful places in Top 10 Lists. Yet, the fallout from this was that fresh, new voices and more obscure sounds that were equally worthy of great acclaim slipped under the radar. My end-of-year list has gone through many mental alterations since then- and here are some of the best albums you may not have heard about.

1. POLAR BEAR CLUB- CHASING HAMBURGAfter releasing this near-perfect album, I honestly think PBC deserve to take their rightful place amongst the greatest punk/post-hardcore bands of this generation. The opening track ‘See the Wind’ is an aggressive, visceral hardcore outing with a clear message- expect the unexpected from this band. It proves that they not just capable of the catchy hooks and math-rock riffs fans came to expect of them, but can also compose devastating breakdowns with dexterity. A ferocious and flawless sophomore effort, and one that deserves to be cherished.

Turbo Fruits is led by ex-Be Your Own Pet member Jonas Stein, and appear to have been judged solely on this. Critics have argued that Stein’s vocals cannot keep up with the brattish snarl of Jemina Pearl (of BYOP), credited the guitar-playing, and dismissed it as a 6/10.
Yet, even when judged against their previous BYOP carnation, Turbo Fruits for me still come up trumps. Comparing ‘Echo Kid’ to Jemina Pearl’s new stuff, you see where the talent lay in Be Your Own Pet- Jemina’s own sound is bland, whereas Turbo Fruits is a frenetic, drug-addled, sun-drenched frenzy.
When judged on their own, you can’t deny the ridiculously brilliant guitars in ‘Broadzilla’, Stein’s Dylan-esque swagger in ‘Get Up and Get Down (Tonite)’, and the stoner-rock poignancy of ‘Mama’s Mad ‘Cos I Fried My Brain’. In some places, the childish lyrics let down the instrumental prowess, but you cannot deny this is a stonker of an album.

3. DANANANANAYKROYD- HEY EVERYONE!There are two things to be said about this band:
1. They’re utterly unique.
2. They’re immense.
What makes them unique? Well, the fact they’ve had to coin a phrase themselves to try and describe their sound is a dead giveway. ‘Fight pop’ is a bizarre mix of twee indie and melodic post-hardcore, and is probably best demonstrated by the fact Dananananaykroyd concerts don’t have Walls of Death, they have Walls of Hugs.
‘Hey Everyone!’ is a boisterous joy ride between chants and screams, melodic even in the face of perfectly-played musical chaos. In certain places (‘Song One Puzzle’, we’re looking at you), comparisons could be drawn with, say, Los Campesinos! ; in others (‘Some Dresses’), the only accurate comparison would be a punch in the jugular. A thrilling and joyous ride from start to finish.

4. BLUE ROSES- BLUE ROSESLaura Groves’ debut album appears to be a reflection on her- dainty, pretty, seemingly romantic. And yet, there’s something in this album- largely consisting of romantic tales and Debussy-esque piano stylings, eloquently accompanied by layered harmonies- that says more. In amongst the tenderness, there’s a sense of playfulness and adventure, a tinge of theatricality- the sort of elements that make this beautiful album stand proudly above many other singer-songwriter works of 2009. Sit back, listen, treasure.

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