StaticBlog’s Top 10 Albums of 2009
A great year for artists with a penchant for kicking over statues and lighting out for the progressive outskirts of their particular genres, 2009 emerged especially as a landmark time for adventurous female artists who laced their pop with a dangerous edge. Sure, they often sounded like sweetness and light, but then came the gut punches, one after another.
1. “Lungs,” Florence + the Machine (Universal/Island) — Coming on like an R&B diva belting out big-screen rock anthems at a renaissance fair, Florence Welch’s full-length debut is a multidimensional wonder, a near-flawless collection of giant choruses and deadly meditations. On first glance, Welch seems to be reaching back to the late-’80s, when the howling Gothic pop of Kate Bush and Sinead O’Connor bewitched post-modern drama kids, especially on showstopping killers such as “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up),” “Drumming Song” and the soul stirring “Hurricane Drunk.” But then the big-voiced Brit’s wandering stylistic compass just keeps spinning in its chamber, allowing for blood-stained revenge ballads (“Girl With One Eye”), frustrated love songs (“Cosmic Love”), and “Kiss With a Fist,” a White Stripes-style rocker in which the heroine gives as good as she gets, repeatedly. Welch is either a magical, one-off fluke, or “Lungs” is the opening chapter of a legend.
2. “Actor,” St. Vincent (4AD) — Following 2007′s “Marry Me,” Tulsa-born singer-guitarist Annie Clark completely rebuilt her songwriting process for “Actor,” conjuring mesmerizing ballads that evoked sinister Disney fantasies (“The Strangers”), vivid depictions of connubial discord (“Actor Out of Work,” “Black Rainbow”) and a truly scary depiction of a controlling relationship (“Marrow”). “Actor” is an intoxicating nightmare, sung with great beauty by Clark, an inventive guitarist whose off-kilter lines often evoke Robert Fripp but who is no mere servant in the court of the Crimson King.
3. “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” Lily Allen (EMI) — Rather than simply repeat the grime-soaked “Mockney” pop of her excellent debut, 2006′s “Alright, Still,” Allen reinvented her sound and fury on “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” opting for the synth sheen of producer Greg Kurstin of The Bird and the Bee and maturing into a keen social observer in the tradition of Jarvis Cocker and Ray Davies on “Everyone’s at It” and “22.” Beyond taking sharp aim at multiple targets, Allen also proved on “Chinese,” a great ballad about the yearning for domestic bliss, that she could sing more beautifully than anyone could have previously imagined.
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