JUICE got together with a bunch of artists, musicians, designers, friends and fire starters to pick out the gems from the sh!t. It wasn’t easy – egos and eardrums were attacked by arguments and cottonbuds – but after much debate here’s the countdown to the best albums of 2009. Turn volume to 11, please.
TEXT BEN LIEW, KEVIN YEOH, MIRANDA YEOH, MATT ARMITAGE, ALIA, ETHAN CHU, CHRISTOPHER UJINE ONG, CHOOEE, DILL MALIK, WORDSMANIFEST, NOH, ALTIMET, JEROME KUGAN, MAK WAI HOO, DJ GOLDFISH, DJ GANJAGURU, DJ VICTOR G, RUEBNI KARUNAKARAN, JESSICA TAN.
HYMN TO IMMORTAL WIND
HUMAN HIGHWAY RECORDS
My pick will be Mono’s Hymn To Immortal Wind, arguably one of the best albums of 2009. It’s very emotional, intense and cinematic. Steve Albini did a great job, the recording quality is almost flawless. He managed to capture the huge and dynamic rock sound of Mono and at the same time, he blended it in so well with the classical sounds of the New York Wordless Orchestra. Mak Wai Hoo (Soundscape Records)
RM (RAP MELAYU)
With super punch-line lyrics, I swear this was beyond my expectation. They have brought Malay rap to another level and made bahasa pasar into something of quality. The 3 boys make such a great team and this album shouldn’t be overlooked! Noh (Hujan)
YO LA TENGO
For the past 20 years or so, New Jersey 3-piece indie band Yo La Tengo (which means “I’ve Got It” in Spanish) has been living up to their eccentric name. While it’s easy to lump them in the same category as aging-rockers like Sonic Youth and The Flaming Lips, the fact remains that YLT are in a league of their own. As the “quintessential critics’ band”, YLT is known for playing a wide variety of styles, from 3-min poppy sing-a-longs to 15-min ambient epics. And their 12th studio offering shows no sign of them slowing down or conforming to typical formulas – the last 3 songs alone clock in a whopping 36 minutes plus! With the way indie is getting so bland nowadays, here’s one to tell the kids about. BL
Sounding more psychedelic than spooky is the 2nd album from British rock outfit The Horrors. Produced by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, expect no whiny emo vocals or over-exaggerated synths. Instead, sink your teeth into a cerebral kaleidoscope full of buzzing guitars, off-tune synths and 60s reverb. The Jesus And Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine seem like the key influencers here with the band playing around with emptiness and walls of noise. Let just hope that this is enough to redeem them from their much-hyped debut that sadly fell into goth oblivion. BL
INFINITY + 1
Having a nod of approval from Kanye West can’t hurt. A-Trak is one of the hottest properties in the electronic underground right now and Infinity + 1 reaffirms this. It’s an amazing exhibition of A-Trak’s flair and skills in his beatmatching, with seams put together so well that it’s flawless. When you play it, Infinity + 1 is already a heck of a party itself. It has just upped the standards of the techno dance era. If the next generation of electro DJ’s are in a race; A-Trak wins hands down, to infinity and beyond! JT
JINIUS AT WORK
JUICE Cool Lister ’08 Jin Hackman surprised us all with dope release Jinius At Work. Although he took some time to get it right, his efforts paid off as the melodic sounds of this album will attract old and new fans of hip hop through mashings of old and new hip hop flavour. Though his rhymes may come off as monotonous to the untrained ear at times, we know that’s how he rolls. The long list of guest appearances, including Schizzow, iLLevate, Bruce Dwane, Proximas, HQA, NBE, WordsManifest, Ndeesaster and Kryptik, only served to show off his MC skills. Spitting in English and Malay, he manages to make Jinius At Work sound like a cross between Eminem and 9th Wonder. From the melodic ‘Childhood’ to the darker side of ‘Double Draggan’, he took control of the album and owned it. Jin Hackman is the next real thang to have hit Malaysia, and you better know it. KY
Three parts Belgian, one part Kiwi and nothing German between them, Das Pop is a groovy ride down the old neighborhood with a couple of fun-loving guys. Think The Strokes but chirpier and without the hangover. Singer Bent Van Looy’s Euro-gentrified voice carries chorus hooks well and can go soul brother (‘Never Get Enough’) as well as mellowed-out (‘Girl Be A Man’). Championed by Parisian dance heroes JUSTICE, Das Pop looks to have a presence in the dance clubs as well. BL
At first listen, the less adventurous would probably go running back to their Coldplay and U2 albums. HEALTH are undoubtedly a noise art outfit. They gained a sizable following in the UK a couple of years ago when they released a single with Crystal Castles. Success followed when the quartet organised multiple free concerts and opened for NIN. Get Color is the follow-up to their 2007 self-titled debut and borders on insanity. However, lonely, haunting monotone vocals give contrast to the conundrum of sounds, sudden tempo changes and blaring feedback going on. It might take a few listens, but there’s beauty in there. Trust us. BL
You can throw out all those soothing nature music CDs that is said to be the cure for insomnia. This album right here is the cure for everything. From sleep deprivation to anxiety, one listen is all it takes to realign your disturbed soul back in place. Before going solo, Flica (aka Euseng Seto) was part of a duo called Muxu alongside ex-Citizens of Ice Cream’s Huat Liang. Realising his urge to perfect his own style, Flica’s 4th album Telepathy Dreams contributes to the world of downtempo and electronica. Purely music without vocals, there are no traces of an emotional goth-wannabe here. This album connects with you in a very personal way. Although he may sound dark in certain tracks such as ‘Istatic’ and ‘Drun’, that’s just a forged feeling to gain the momentum that leads you to something better. RK
MUSIC GO MUSIC
It’s time to polish those discoballs, young ones. Expressions the debut album by the mysterious Music Go Music combines all the best (and worst) elements of 70s disco pop; giving it a modern facelift resulting in genre-bending overtones of soft rock, prog and even metal. Bizarre as that may sound, the 3-piece LA-based band who go by such pseudonyms as Kamer Maza, Gala Bell and the space-babarian-like TORG, are actually quite the songwriters. Soaring feel-good melodies and pulsating choruses tie each song together regardless of the number of overdramatic synth/piano stabs and guitar passages. The band also explores “epic” territory with a 9-min plus dark-disco ballad on ‘Warm In The Shadows’. Think Blondie gone metal then, realising that they’d strayed from the light, returning to “feel-the-love”. Yes, it’s that kooky. BL
What? Couldn’t find your favourite albums in the list? Wait, there’s more to come. Click here for #30-21.