While the day job has kept me busy compiling the greatest albums of the decade, I thought it would be worthwhile to start looking back at which albums rocked my world in 2009. I doubt there will be too many surprises on the list, if one is aware of my listening habits. I debated about including a particular archival release, but since it’s material that hasn’t been previously released I think including it on the list is allowed. If any of these releases have anything in common, it’s a celebration of excess (in the past way possible). And so here it is – Andy Burns’ 5 Favourite Albums of 2009 (in no particular order):
One of the things I love most about a new U2 album is that I always seem to think that it’s my favourite record by them. It happened with 1997’s Pop, which maintained a stranglehold on that standing until 2004’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. No Line On The Horizon has taken that place, thanks to the band’s ambition to create an album in an era where the album’s importance is almost non-existent. NLOTH is hands down U2’s most experimental and artistic endeavour in almost 20 years, full of songs that sound tailor made for a stadium without pandering to fans just hoping for the band to continue sounding the same as they ever did.
The Flaming Lips, Embryonic
For a band that I’ve never quite gotten a handle on, I immediately loved Embryonic, a 2 cd 80 minute excursion into experimentation. There’s less of Wayne Coyne’s vocals on this album, which has always been a stumbling block for me, and less straightforward songs. Embryonic feels like The Flaming Lips interpreting Pink Floyd circa A Saucerful Of Secrets, which could explain why the band will be covering The Dark Side Of The Moon on New Years Eve. A perfect night time album to these ears.
Dream Theater, Black Clouds and Silver Linings
If you’re into the whole progressive metal scene (and really, who isn’t?) you’d be hard pressed to find a band who has grown more over the past decade than Dream Theater. Since signing with Roadrunner Records in 2007 the band have been left to their own devices to create whatever they want. Black Clouds and Silver Linings finds Dream Theater pushing their limits again, with the majority of the albums six songs running over 10 minutes in length. Not for everybody’s ears, but if you’re interested and open to the sound and style, there’s much to enjoy (and the 3 cd version is even better, especially the disc of covers – DT doing King Crimson’s “Red” is worth price of admission alone).
Transatlantic, The Whirlwind
Compiling this list, I suppose it’s clear that for me it was a banner year for progressive rock. After nearly a decade hiatus. the prog rock supergroup Transatlantic reunited to record the epic album The Whirlwind, essentially one 72-minute song divided into sections. Yes, once again, if the prog isn’t your thing you might be left cold, but for fans of long songs and ambitious yet accessible undertakings, Transatlantic’s third album is an amazing experience. A welcome return.
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, The Live Anthology
There is musical excess and then then there is packaging excess. Tom Petty’s The Live Anthology manages to combine them both into a release that is an essential purchase for anyone who has ever had an interest in the band. While the 4 disc version packs a whallop all on it’s own, featuring stellar covers and the best of Petty throughout 30+ years of live gigging, the mammoth box set is awe-inspiring on its own. 5 cds, 2 DVDs, a Blu-Ray disc, a vinyl bootleg, posters, backstage passes, and more – The Live Anthology is a reminder of why people used to shop at record stores in the first place.