Friday, December 18, 2009

40 Best Albums of 2009

Below is my round-up of 40 of the best albums of the year. At the beginning of the year I made a pact to branch out and listen to different genres of music, which included more alternative rock, general rock, punk-rock, post-punk rock, electronic rock and more jazz-influenced stuff, which lead to 2009 being my most experimental in terms of music.

1. Muse - The Resistance. This was a tough decision to decipher but in the end I decided, British rock band Muse delivered the years best album. A consistent, robust and eagerly creative set of wonderfully mastered alternative rock and electronic songs that each shine in their own light. A truly flawless affair and a more than perfect follow to their last album, Black Holes and Revelations. Best: Uprising

2. Dave Matthews Band - Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King. Until this year I was wasn't a fan of Dave Matthews Band but their seventh album converted me. Its seamless blend of alternative rock, folkish pop and disheartening undertones did the trick. Crafting their darkest (and what I think is their best) album to date. Best: Funny the Way it Is

3. Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown. Green Day further positioned their status as one of the decade best rock bands with their eighth album following their groundbreaking American Idiot album, the band once again pushed the boundaries delivering a solid 18-track set laced with an arresting storyline and a powerful journey administering three alternative eras of rock. Best: 21 Guns

4. Little Boots - Hands. This years biggest British breakthrough act delivered the years best pop album. Showcasing Little Boot's winning blend of '80s influenced and contemporary pop adhering a bold pop set, even the albums more subtler moments worked. Best: New in Town

5. Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You. Lily's first album displayed fun British pop, a cool jump-off point for her more serious follow-up. It's Not Me, It's You illustrated Lily's more contemplative sense of pop, initially thinking it lacked some sort of edge only to conclude that she had just embraced maturity. Best: The Fear

6. Agnes - Dance Love Pop. After conquering Sweden with her first two albums, Idol winner Agnes blossomed into the international limelight with her third album album. Packed with top-notch Swedish pop production, baring a slick blend of '80s influenced dancefloor fillers and modern pop. Best: Release Me

7. India.Arie - Testimony, Vol 2: Love & Politics. I wouldn't still award this 5-stars, however India.Arie still delivered one of the years strongest R&B albums. Possibly her best collection since her second album Voyage to India. Fueled with enough soul and passion to seal yet another knockout from her, even with its commercial lows. Best: River Rise

8. Robbie Williams - Reality Killed the Video Star. After the cold reception of Rudebox and a series of personal downfalls, Robbie Williams overcame the odds, returning to classic British pop with his eighth album, a refreshing stray from the experimental foils of Rudebox. Best: You Know Me

9. Kelly Clarkson - All I Ever Wanted. Following the dark My December, Kelly Clarkson saw the brighter side of life with her fourth album. All I Ever Wanted captured her signature pop/rock sound that was lacking her last album and made her breakthrough Breakway so successful. Best: I Do Not Hook Up

10. Black Eyed Peas - The E.N.D. (The Energy Never Dies). Whilst not a big hit with the critics, the Black Eyed Peas fifth album sure was with me. The album embraced the blend of hip-hop and pop that made their third and fourth albums big and adding a touch of electronic, dubbed Electro-hop. Best: I Gotta Feeling

11. Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3. With the decrease in the quality of hip-hop this year, Jay-Z easily delivered the years best hip-hop album. It was definitely more interesting than American Gangster from two years ago. Best: Empire State of Mind

12. Daughtry - Leave This Town. Solidarity was a minor problem for Daughtry's second album, however they masked aptly as they capitalized solely on their now signature hard rock and pop influenced sound. It was a great follow-up to their successful debut that made me a fan. Best: What I Meant to Say

13. The Veronicas - Hook Me Up. It's been two years since The Veronicas second album has been out, however only finding its UK release this year; still racks up with the best, its fun pop/rock with dark electronic undertones. Best: Revenge is Sweeter (Than You Ever Were)

14. Chrisette Michele - Epiphany. Probably learning that her obscure blend of '70s soul and jazz on her first album wasn't going to sell records, Chrissette Michele switched things up for her more accessible second album delivering a winning blend of pop and R&B. Best: Blame it On Me

15. La Roux - La Roux. Off-beat vocal skills couldn't stop pop duo La Roux's self-titled debut album from being a dud, in fact becoming one of the most cohesive dance-pop albums of the year. I'm anxious to see how they follow this up. Best: Bulletproof

16. Lady Gaga - The Fame. Woman of the year Lady Gaga, delivered a winning debut full of great electronic dance-pop hooks and sass ultimately shaping the sound of the year. Best: Poker Face

17. Pixie Lott - Turn it Up. Drawing influences from Natasha Bedingfield and Duffy--Pixie Lott delivered a solid debut, showcasing her versatility within a mix of pop, R&B and soul. Best: Gravity

18. 311 - Uplifter. Versatile alternative rock/pop with some hard rock sounds and some Caribbean influences. 311's ninth album didn't fail to impress despite minor flaws. Best: Hey You

19. The-Dream - Love vs Money. The Dream didn't really win me over with his first album however his second offering did the job and did it well showcasing a winning mix of modern R&B and '90s inspired sounds. Best: My Love

20. Leona Lewis - Echo
. More confident than her first album, however keeping that solid blend of classic pop and soft rock with the new addition of dance-pop, varying her sound a bit. Best: I Got You

21. Rihanna - Rated R. After showcasing her nack for frothy upbeat dance-pop on her successful third album, Rihanna seeked out darker endeavors for her fourth, embracing artistic control that worked for the most part even if the sift in sound was a bit hit and miss. Best: Fire Bomb

22. Rascal Flatts - Unstoppable. A worthy follow-up to their underwhelming last album--although it's pretty crystal clear they aren't reaching the heights of their masterpiece, Me & My Gang again. Best

23. Whitney Houston - I Look to You. Following a long seven years, Whitney Houston finally made a solid comeback album, returning with a forceful and winning set of great pop and R&B mixed with some traditional balladry. Best: A Song for You

24. Owl City - Ocean Eyes
. They might have had a hit single this year, but I'm sure this album will be very big next year as their popularity grows. It's a lighthearted mix of breezy electronica and pop. Best: Vanilla Twilight

25. The Saturdays - Wordshaker
. More cohesive than their first album, The Saturdays delivered a charming follow-up album proving their a force to be reckoned with within the British pop world. Girls Aloud and Sugababes 3.0 watch out. Best: Wordshaker

26. Arctic Monkeys - Humbug. The Arctic Monkeys have had an successful decade, but their third album really brought the band into my personal limelight. It was more solid than their previous two releases and possibly even better. Best: Cornerstone

27. Alexandra Burke - Overcome . This had some time to grow on me, X Factor winner Alexandra Burke's debut album showcased more personality than any other X Factor debut album, showcasing a fulfilling mix of pop, R&B, soul and dance. Best: The Silence

28. Maxwell - BLACKsummers'night
. Embracing a warming blend of top-notch '70s and '80s influenced funk and modern urban sounds, Maxwell made a successful returned after seven years since his critically acclaimed last album. Best: Playing Possom

29. K'naan - Troubadour. After Owl City, K'naan was my favorite discovery of the year. His creative take on modern hip-hop captivated me. Best: Dreamer

30. Moby - Wait for Me
. Moby delivered yet another symphonic, angelic and mostly instrumentally driven album, definitely more solid than his last album. Best: Mistake

31. Mariah Carey - Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel. Mariah's twelfth album was a more down-beat blend of R&B, soul and pop in comparison to the retro pop of her last album, not as solid however still delivering some great moments. Best: H.A.T.E.U.

32. Carrie Underwood - Play On. American Idol winner Carrie Underwood delivered yet another solid country album although not as much pop influences as her last. Best: Change

33. Keri Hilson - In a Perfect World
. After six years of lurking behind the scenes, Keri Hilson finally delivered her debut, a solid R&B set with some hip-hop influences that didn't weaken the album at all, in fact added more grit. Best: Make Love

36. Alicia Keys - The Element of Freedom. Following the critically acclaimed but personally disappointing As I Am, Alicia Keys followed it up with soemthing much more solid and enduring, showcasing that fulfilling sound that the last album lacked. Best: Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart
37. Florence + The Machine - Lungs . Tipped as one of the best "new" acts of 2009, Florence and the Machine delivered a pretty satisfying debut and aside from minor flaws--a couple tracks that didn't quite live up to the hype, there were a lot of great moments on here. Best: You've Got the Love

38. Jonas Brother - Lines, Vines and Trying Times. For their third album the boys embraced a more mature sound, a far cry from the scrupulous pop of their highly successful second album, which managed to score way more hits than this. Best: Paranoid

39. BoA - BoA. Korean pop singer, BoA delivered quite a spectacular first English album, full of great pop hooks and beats bringing in help from Bloodshy & Avant, who've shaped the sound for the likes of Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue. Best: I Did it for Love

40. Daniel Merriweather - Love & War. Daniel Merriweather's album was slightly underwhelming however there were some great moments espcially where it didn't try to emulate the rich jazz sound that Mark Ronson composed for Amy Whinehouse's masterpiece Back to Black. Best: Red


Nikki said...

So many brilliant albums that I can't point them all out! Hahah. I'm surprised that BoA's on the list though.

Ken said...

I'm having a hard time ranking things up. But MUSE is a deffo great choice for a #1. Awesome list!!!!!!

Paul said...

my god, that's a huge list. Dave Matthews - i was hugely into them in the 90s, perhaps I should re-visit. I get a bit put off by all the live albums inbetween the studio stuff! Little Boots features in exactly the same position on my best of albums list! Love Lily's album too. I'm a bit late to Agnes - i had the album but didn't listen to it that much. Love Love Love has totally won me over lately though so i am belatedly spending time with the album!

Robbie i think has pulled out one of the finest albums of 2009. I love it a lot and can't get enough of it. Leona I think is a sterling album, but one I need to listen to a bit more. I adore Stop Crying.,.. though! Whitney wasn't all it could have been but i really like so many of the songs and have a real soft spot for her because of the long history of listening to her music. Alexandra for me had a MUCH stronger album than the patchy saturdays effort.

Great list!

ww_adh said...

You really cover all the bases from British indie pop to mainstream American R&B. Even country! Bravo. But where's Cheryl Cole?

J.Mensah said...

Nikki: BoA's album was really good, I really enjoyed especially "Did it For Love." Are you a fan?

Ken: Yeah, it a pretty hard thing to do, especially when you review so many albums during the year.

Paul: Everyone always says that, but I've only heard the albums they've released through this decade,which I've loved. And about Little Boots, great minds think alike haha! :). I think you should totally get into Agnes, her albums so good! Hm, is Robbie at the top of your list? I'm sure you wouldn't give it away in a comment on my blog lol.

ww_adh: Why thank you :) Well I reviews 60+ albums and so I picked my favorite 40 and you know I hated Cheryl Cole's album lol.