Music that mattered in 2009: The definitive review

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Jan 7 2010, 20h10

Another year, another dollop of fresh new musicians struggling desperately to be heard, whilst the unrelenting slew of music behemoths release their latest work and claim to have returned to their roots, or worse – have gone electro. 2009 boasted more of the same in droves, but there were a few surprises for those with an open mind and an acquired taste.

Chris Cornell - Scream

The main man of Soundgarden and Audioslave hired Timberland to produce his third solo album, with very mixed results. Whilst ‘Scream’ was a record that exemplified all of Cornell’s sound writing prowess, the switch to a synth laden R&B aesthetic proved to be far too radical for most die hard Chris Cornell fans. Still, it is an enthralling listen for those who can bypass their prejudices.

The Black Eyed Peas - The E.N.D.

Another artist that walked down the dangerous road to electroville this year, were coming off the back of two relatively successful solo endeavors. The B.E.P. have always remembered not to tamper too much with their winning formulae of simple choruses attached to shamelessly simple beats. The E.N.D. is a fantastically catchy record that changes pace at each turn without feeling disjointed or stale, and with it being their first release in 3 years, it is proof that Will.I.Am and co haven’t lost their touch.

Kevin Rudolf - In The City

Debuting this year with a sound so thoroughly fused from rock, hip hop and dance genres, Kevin Rudolf went largely under the radar and may have been passed over completely had he not collaborated with stars such as Lil’ Wayne. His first single ‘Let it Rock’ is a lively opener, indicative of the rest of the album. There is little scope here for Mr Rudolf to graft a career from this, the latest in a long line of ‘It genres’, but it is a worthwhile listen nonetheless.

Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3

What a shame that off the back of a huge year of touring and publicity, rap giant Jay-Z could not close the deal with a decent new installment of his Blueprint series. There are only so many times one can tolerate listening to Jay rap about how rich he is, but the production on the tracks on which he raps has always been there to save him. The Blueprint 3 comes off as tinny, crowded and unimaginative. Only 3 or 4 tracks are worth a listen, which given the number of cameos the album boasts, is very disappointing.

Zero 7 - Yeah Ghost

Another group that have forgotten to incorporate songwriting into their new material. A long time ago, Zero 7 were an exciting recording duo, but that is no more. Yeah Ghost washes over the listener as dull and vacuous hotel lobby fodder. Avoid where possible.

La Roux - La Roux

It is hard to categorize this young, quirky, high pitched female as a pop star, but her tunes are far to melodious for her to be written off as a cheap electro act in disguise. Her album has spawned some of the year’s most infectious singles, but the uniqueness of her voice may prove to be too much for her to establish herself in the long term.

The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die

One of the most anticipated albums of the year, and one of the most acclaimed albums of the year too. The Prodigy have maintained their sound whilst simultaneously keeping it fresh. Invaders must Die is as unrelenting as it is a musical utopia crammed full of different styles all atop a set of pounding, thumping in your face beats.

The Crystal MethodDivided By Night

One of the pioneers of the ‘Matrix’ like industrial sound, The Crystal Method have produced some of their finest work on Divided by Night. Unlike the faster and altogether more intense work by The Prodigy, TCM are the masters of the slow burning record, opting to gradually build the listener to a crescendo, and even those moments are a rare occurrence on this LP.crystal-method-divided-by-n
On ‘Smile?’, a keyboard intro draws the song to a chorus with a cool fuzzy bassline, never rushing, just plodding on into a bizarre dark ambiance. This can be said for much of the record, which features guest vocals on its livelier tracks, as obscure as the reggae star Mattisyahu on lead single ‘Drown in the Now’. The bigger beats are accompanied by all sorts of electronic noises, melodies, riffs, and a series’ of more intricate beats that litter the album and swallow the audience, for a truly absorbing and mind blowing 50 minutes.

Muse - The Resistance

‘More of the same’ is a phrase to use lightly on the alt rockers from Devon, but it is one that immediately springs to mind as ‘Uprising’ – a song in the ‘Supermassive Blackhole’ meets ‘Hysteria’ vein – opens the record with wailing vocals, wailing guitars and an all over the place bassline. Muse are making their transition to a Queen-esque neo glam rock sound but this record is more unconventional than a quick flick through the tracks may indicate. Many of the tracks are lengthy pieces, proggy and sprawling. Its a more experimental record than BH&R, and for the most part, it works.

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