Before revealing the final few records in my Best of 2009, it’s worth pointing out that 7 of the Top 10 acts are Scottish with no fewer than 3 of these albums available on Chemikal Underground. Enough talking …
6. We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls [Buy it]
It’s remarkable how far these guys have come since the first time I saw them at Baby Tiger in May 2006. By the next time I saw them they’d junked their entire set, and written at least some of the material which made the LP (including ‘Quiet Little Voices’). Subsequent shows invariably brought at least one new song as they expanded their repertoire and pushed their boundaries as a band.
So it seemed a long time coming when ‘These Four Walls’ was released in June but it brilliantly realised their potential and demonstrated their progress over those 3 years. A terrific debut.
5. The Phantom Band – Checkmate Savage [Buy it]
Another record that seemed a long time in the making although in fact it was probably less than 18 months since I bought the debut single. But the fact that they didn’t release anything at all in 2008 built up a fair degree of anticipation for the LP when it was finally released in January.
And like the Jetpacks records, it was well worth the wait. Its eclecticism has been well documented here and elsewhere but it still seemed to all hang together. There are a couple of things which maybe work better live but there was still a real sense of power to the songs.
4. Malcolm Middleton – Waxing Gibbous [Buy it]
‘Waxing Gibbous’ didn’t quite reach the heights of ‘Into The Woods’ and ‘A Brighter Beat’ for me – it could have done with a little judicious pruning to these ears – but Malky at 90% is still better than most other artists.
In places the record’s quite barking (indie calypso rockers anyone?) which rather gives away the fact that they weren’t originally all intended for an MM solo record. But his songwriting was as strong as ever and his imminent solo sabbatical is a matter of real regret.
3. Lucas Renney – Strange Glory [Buy it]
Actually Lucas Renny’s solo LP has probably been longer in the making than any other record in this list. But in October the former Golden Virgin finally released a gorgeous lush suite of songs about the darker side of love which probably was more downbeat than even the Mr Middleton of popular misconception.
Despite the support of the NME, ‘Strange Glory’ is a classic from a hugely under-rated songwriter. Regrettable though it is it seems that that situation isn’t going to be rectified any time soon so do yourself a favour and join the small group of Renney devotees.
2. Lord Cut-glass – Lord Cut-glass [Buy it]
Despite having such a fine pedigree as a song-writer it’s fair to say that Alun Woodward’s debut solo release actually surpassed any expectations. ‘Lord Cut-glass’ is simply a stunning collection of concise pop songs with unconventional arrangements and instrumentation. And there’s no shortage of lyrical finesse either.
Disappointingly the proposed tour in the autumn never materialised but his Lordship is playing the Chemikal 15th anniversary gig in January.
1. De Rosa – Prevention [Buy it]
No-one’s going to be surprised that this finished top of my list but actually it was a close call between ‘Prevention’ and LCG. In the end what tipped the balance in favour of De Rosa was the versatility that they displayed on the record adding electronic elements to their sound yet still sounding like De Rosa.
De Rosa have been lauded on these pages once or twice before but even more than the Middleton sabbatical, it’s a huge shame that the record was barely out before they split.
Mind you, the really scary thing about ‘Prevention’ is that no matter how good it is, it still feels like something of a transitional record for Martin Henry. His solo LP should be something to behold.