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This year’s collection of last year’s best albums is characterised by its consensus and its diversity. Not to mention the list of luminary musical notables who have contributed (I have not the time nor space to fully laud them, Google should do the trick if you are interested). Many thanks to ‘ in no particular order ‘ Tim Ritchie, Tracy Ellis, Sam Moginie, Aidan Roberts, Paul McNeil, Billy Baxter and Nick Kennedy.


Happy listening. Chris Peken

 

In the Blinding Sunlight – The Ariel Maps
Spoken word never sounded so musical until Sydney poet Adam Gibson joined Simon Holmes, formerly of the Hummingbirds and Fragile. Think Jack Kerouac crossed with The Streets – the result is fresh, unique, expressive and nostalgic. (TE, CP, BB)

Real Emotional Trash – Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Seemingly always 5 years ahead of his time (if the time was 1974 o’clock) Malkmus continues to do whatever he wants, beautifully and effortlessly. A prog pop rock masterwork. (PM)

Me and Armini – Emiliana Torrini
Another Icelandic star is here. Member of the innovative pop group Gus Gus, solo artist in her own right, has an album that is both beautifully produced and beautifully sung. (TR)

The Week That Was – The Week That Was
10CC/XTC-style art-rock, with vague homages to Kate Bush and other Linn Drum-powered melodic vignettes. (NK)

Evil Urges – My Morning Jacket
A bit Confusing for the uninitiated, but it will all make sense when the world’s greatest live band arrives on our shores in January. This band can to anything! Essential. (PM)

In Ear Park Department of Eagles
Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen and his college roommate Fred Nicolaus have finally released their second album from this group they started over 6 years ago. Since the success of Grizzly Bear, the resources and ideas are far grander and this meloncholic and playful record takes the listener on a rather spectacular journey through adolescent pop, to a truly David Lean-esque climax with the heartstopping “Floating on the LeHigh”. Wow. (AR)

 

Death – Grand Salvo
Paddy Mann’s folk opus concerning the lives and deaths of three forest animals and a hunter, was an unexpected and wondrous thing indeed, laden with eerie Apalachian lyricism and haunting harmonies, as well as some genuinely thrilling spoken word poetry and orchestral ramblings. Fascinating and brilliant. (AR)

 

Something For All of Us – Broken Social Scene Presents Brendan Canning
Broken Social Scene’s sec
ond cab off the rank in their “presents” series sees bearded Brendan Canning lash out with an album of extremes, ranging from the jet-propelled “Hit The Wall” to the Warholian dreaminess of Take Care, Look Up. Brilliance in every stroke, this album is just so complete, so accessible, it’s hard not to love. (AR)

 

Thing of the Past – Vetiver
Andy Cabic and his ruffled indie-country band take us on a trip through his record collection, presenting a series of extremely obscure covers, breathing new life into almost completely forgotten tracks. Featuring wonderful cameos by Vashti Bunyan and Dvendra Banhart, this warm and soulful trip is ambitious, and a pleasure from start to finish. (AR)

 

The Possum Wakes at Night – Oliver Mann
Possibly one of the weirdest and most beautiful records to come out of this country this year. Oliver’s voice soars like a jumbo jet, his thick operatic baritone traversing an intriguing path through his twisted folk tales, occasionally sailing into elegiac pop glory. Wacky and unexpectedly moving. (AR)

 

For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver
Justin Vernon’s self-affronting ‘break-up record’, recorded in isolation in the woods of Wisconsin, is a rare and fragile thing of lo-fi wonder. In just 12 months he has virtually taken the world by storm with his earnest and raw music, and this stands as a signpost to many great records to come. (AR)

 

Play! Xeus! Xight! Zeen! – The Zillions
Nick Craft has spent years now slowly pursuing his considerable musical talent in London, after leaving Sydney hanging in the air for more when the brilliant Sidewinder disbanded ten years ago. This debut full-length record from his new project shimmers with life and loss, a cloudy, noisy, electric thing of great melodic beauty. (AR)

 

Visiter – Dodos
This debut record from the San Fransisco duo is instantly engaging for its inventive percussion, captivating melodies and skate-park energy. Thrill to the sounds of “Fools”, “Winter” and “Joe’s Waltz”. In all their barrel-smashing, acoustic glory, these guys are a unique treat. (AR)

 
Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – Kitty, Daisy & Lewis
Three London siblings, two still in their teens, do 50s style rock. Full of passion and joy, and covers they even built their own studio out of analogue gear from last mid century. (TR)


To Survive – Joan as Policewoman

The track To be Lonely is as heartbreaking as any song you will ever hear. So that makes it tops! (PM)

Arena – Todd Rundgren
As good as any of his albums where he plays and sings everything, non-believers should approach with caution. But Todd IS god and Courage is tune of the year. (NK)

 

Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea ‘ Silver Jews
This album has been getting a thrashing at my studio. Eccentric and popular
all at once, its fantastic now and it will be in 20 years, Plus it has one of my favourite Australian paintings on cover. (PM)

Funplex – The B-52s
Their look and sound aren’t a gimmick, it’s their brand, and no-one else can do it. And they are old’ but it’s a long time since Rock Lobster was a hit in the jukebox of the Metro vego café in Burton St, Darlo. This album shows how they can still be sonically relevant and fun. (TR)

Escaping Mankind – Charge Group
Rich orchestral rock lifted above obvious comparisons to Chicago slowcore or The Dirty Three by Matt Blackman’s unique vocals.There’s a narrative through the album and each cinematic song is like an aural Australian period piece, perfect for long country drives. (TE,)

 

Fleet Foxes ‘ Fleet Foxes
The missing link between Midlake and My Morning Jacket ‘ a complex, seamless harmony-laden hi-fi treat. (TE, BB, AR)

Dig Lazarus, Dig!!! ‘ Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Can this man really be about to clock up the half century’ How embarrassing for those pretenders half his age yet artistically impotent in comparison. For word-craft and humour he can’t be beat; and no-one does desire and repercussion as well as our (saint) Nick. (CP)

Happy Ending – Phoenix Foundation
Wellington band renews faith in the Flying Nun label with an album of pastoral pop and epic Pink Floyd-style trips. (NK)

Overland – Millers Tale
Miller’s Tale’s second album of soothing, haunting acoustic ballads showcases Bec Quade’s effortless voice, resigned but affectionate ‘ a perfect lullaby. (TE)

Dilettantes – You Am I
Lyrically biting, fiercely rock, You Am I will fight ’til the end, and if each album is a battle, Dilettantes is a critical win and really deserves more airplay and sales that it’s getting. (TE)

Object 47 – Wire
Colin Newman, Graham Lewis and Robert Grey lose Bruce Gilbert and release an album as uncompromising as it is catchy. Addictive and wonderful, reportedly recorded and mixed on a Mac Book Pro! (NK)

A Good Day For A Migraine – Jesse Younan
A beautiful folk and blues-infused record with lyrical depth and quite astonishing guitar playing. Sadly Younan found out he had leukemia two days after finishing the record and passed away a few months later. He left behind an album that deserves to be more than a lost classic. (TE)

Alpinisms – School of Seven Bells
Lush and rich, many textures and voices of angels. This is one of those albums that sets the goose bumps a tingling down your spine. (TR)

Primary Colours – Eddie Current Suppression Ring
Bogan Darlings of Melbourne. Everyone’s going nuts over them, but well worth
it. Fresh, brash and noisy, like when the Avalanches first arrived on stage. (PM)

Ladyhawke ‘ Ladyhawke
Now for some dancing, Ladyhawke (New Zealander Pip Brown) is uber cool, but still a bit daggy, obviously talented, but still irreverent, and most of all, she is a lady, not a band. (TE)

Playtime For John Mountain – Rectifiers
A psych-folk ride that evokes the beauty of Talk Talk’s later albums and Grizzly Bear’s Yellow House, an amazing 2006 release on Warp. (NK)

Re-Arrange Us – Mates of State
If your life revolves around the domestic duties of parenthood, the keyboard and drum musings of this husband and wife duo, who somehow tour with two kids in tow, might make you feel a little less crazy by comparison. (TE)

A Loud Call – Holly Throsby
Rich in character, and quickly becoming unique in voice, Ms Throsby excels. There are the moments that one’s heart skips a beat at the possibilities still to come. (CP)

The Gymnasium Tapes – The Velvet Underground
Not really an album you could buy in the shops, but man was I excited! One of the Velvets last gigs (uncovered tape etc) and sporting a brand new song!! Look it up… (PM)

Microcastle – Deerhunter
2nd album for US band leaves behind more avant leanings in favour of tunes and melancholy moods. (NK)

Leader Cheetah
From Adelaide!. They only have 4 songs recorded so far, but they are all folk rock killers, Please look out for these guys in 09. Super good. (PM)

Oracular Spectacular – MGMT

If there was a pop record to listen to this year, this was it. We all heard those three unavoidable singles, and hummed and head-bopped like all the cool kids do. Strangely enough, there was an album there too, driven by guitars and interesting arrangements. Who knew’ (SM)


Don’t Do Anything – Sam Phillips

T-Bone Burnette’s ex grinds the axe with a short and sparse album of songs that grow on you quite different from her earlier lush pop albums. (NK)

Vantage Point – dEUS
Antwerp’s prodigal sons led by multi-media artist Tom Barman deliver 6th album of hi-fi and high-octane rock and lilting ballads. Thunder stolen inexpicably by fellow-Belgians Soulwax. (NK)

Dog House Music – Seasick Steve
Been in goal, play with an oddly tuned 3 string guitar, suffered heart attacks ‘ this is the real deal’ authentic hobo blues. (TR)

Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull – Earth
Seattle’s drone-kings led by Cobain mate Dylan Carlson get all Ry Cooder and deliver a slow-burning record immersed in blazing guitar sounds and hypnotic mood pieces. (NK)

Modern Guilt – Beck
Beck delivers as cohesive an album as he ever has and his songs have regained their soulful swagger. Producer Danger Mouse seems to be the key factor, coating every track with distorted beats and warm reverb. Yum. (SM)

Digi Snacks – The RZA
You Cant Stop Me Now (a Heptones re-make) surely the song of the summer. Killer! (PM)

Sea From Shore – School Of Language
Eno-esque rock and angular pop full of intelligence and urgency. These guys will never settle for mediocrity in pop music and anything from the Field Music stable is worth checking out. (NK)

Thank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story – Various Artists
The story of a Memphis recording studio in the 1970’s, but a bloody good one! Rock/pop/mod oddities and the songs that should have been hits (if the world was a fair place). Compilation of the year! (PM)

The Mixtape About Nothing – Wale

Extensive sampling of Seinfeld’ Meta-mixtape irony’ Hilarious, over-the-top Lil’ Wayne feature’ All big ticks. But to turn Michael Richards’ much YouTube’d racist outburst into a meditation on the mimetic nature of racism …. Wow. Rap music to make you like rap music. (SM)

Hymns in the Key of 666 – Hellsongs
Scandinavian band Hellsongs release their debut album with syrupy, sweet female vocal adaptations of heavy metal tunes originated by the likes of Iron Maiden, Megadeath, Slayer, AD/DC, Black Sabbath and more. (TR)

The Evangelist – Robert Forster
The enigma of Robert Forster, with his Dylanesque pronouncements and Lou Reed-like eccentricity, continues. Resuming his solo career in the shadow of the death of Grant McLennan and including three of his songs, it’s a proud, if sad, tribute. (TE)


Ready to Listen – Jackie Orszaczky
Simply some of the best jazz-soul playing you will hear anywhere, anytime. RIP Jack, thanks for the memories, thanks for the music. (CP)

Connor Oberst – Connor Oberst
Taking a break from his other name (Bright Eyes) Connor easily flips out a solo album that is like a personal journal that your cant quite put your finger on. More grown up than you’d expect. (PM)

Watch Me Disappear – Augie March
These boys can do little wrong. Recorded at Neil Finn’s Roundhead studios it shows. Another sublime album from Glenn Richards and the boys. (CP)

The Express ‘ Belleruche
Their first album, Turntable Soul Music, did it for me with a sweet marriage of contemporary production and timeless vocals; on their new album, they have expanded the repertoire to include blues, boogie and R&B. So with their soulful sounds and some new styles, this release is a winner. (TR)

Half Seas Over – Jeff Lang
Lang is in the best of vocal form yet, boldly allowing his considerable guitar skills to be subtly subservient to the tales he needs to tell. A rich and delicate album that will keep rewarding. (CP)