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I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland being hurried along by the white rabbit who keeps telling me I’m late, late, late! While all The Blogs have published their best ofs in early December, I am still scrubbing paint from my finger nails in the last stages of renovating my house.

Scouting for good new music hasn’t been high on my agenda the last few months. Thanks to my contractor and his tone-deaf but talented workmen I have had an endless stream of David Guetta, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, LMFAO and Sean-da-bloody-Paul poured down my ear canal.  All the more reason to sit down and recap what were the real musical gems I did come across these last few days of the year.

10. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

Lykke is no longer a little bit in love, she is in charge and whoever is the object of her affection had better be ware for the girl means business. She’s your prostitute & she’s gon’ get some.

9. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

This one took some time to win me over, in no small part due to the extremely wishy washy lyrics. But the songs get me all the same, with gems like Michicant that wrap you up in a warm blanket and put you in front of the log fire with a hot toddy.

8. Other Lives – Tamer Animals

I got hooked on this album after hearing the spaced out dreamscape that is For 12, with its perfectly matched astronautical video. Luckily the almost fragile beauty of this song wasn’t a one-off, Tamer Animals is a gorgeous album.

7. The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?

On a bad day, the quickest way to perk up my spirits would be to stick on Wetsuit by The Vaccines. And then If You Wanna. And then Norgaard. And then, well, you get the idea.

6. Metronomy – The English Riviera

Another album that quietly snuck in to my top 10, but is now undeniably in a firm sixth position. I didn’t really get Metronomy before, but The English Riviera has a mellow but thoughtful summery feel to it I find irresistible.

5. James Blake – James Blake

James Blake would have to be the first artist whose name I had read about 500 times through every single social interweb exit before I even heard a single note of his work. It was the day Limit To Your Love was released, and as we all know, indie pandemonium ensued. Quite rightly so. This album shakes you to your core, both emotionally and physically if you have the right sound system.

4. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

How rare is it these days to find an album that just makes you happy from start to finish? Beautiful opening track Montezuma sets the tone and the album doesn’t disappoint from there on in. I played it to my mom when we went on a trip together and she instantly hummed along as if it was an old favourite album of hers from back in the days, brought a big smile to my face.

3. Wye Oak – Civilian

I can’t believe I haven’t seen this album make the cut of the big 2011 lists, it’s such a thrilling, honest and moving little beaut! Title track Civilian gives me goose bumps every single time, and the suppressed tension of Holy, Holy makes me want to ride super high roller coasters just like in the video. It’s Beach House with more bite, and it’s delicious.

2. Radiohead – The King of Limbs

What? Brokenbranches, named after Radiohead, positioned a Radiohead album in mere second position?! Yes. After a long hard talk with myself in the name of honest journalism I have come to the conclusion that it is only fair. Although I gobbled up every minute of TKOL many many times over and rejoice in its ever quirkier rhythms on tracks like Feral, in Thoms genius Lotus Flower spasm-dance, in the glorious glow of Codex and the old school Radioheadness of Little By Little, they all got outplayed by the undeniable number one:

1. Elbow – Build a Rocket Boys

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. Sure I listened to SBTRKT, Skrillex and Wu Lyf this year, all amazing albums in their own right. But when it comes to what really moves me I find it’s becoming more and more simple the older I get. A good honest popsong with lyrics from the heart, that’s all I really want. This description is probably what had me avoid Elbow for years and years previously. I condemned them for being ‘rather mushy’. That’s a load of bollocks looking back. Elbow have mastered the art of real, heartfelt songs delivered without any pretension to a tee and Build a Rocket Boys is crammed with them. The only really mushy thing is me at their concerts, welling up at every other song.

Listen to my favourite albums of 2011 in this Spotify playlist (sadly without the Wye Oak album).

Without much further ado I present the Top 30 singles of 2009 according to brokenbranches, all of which can be enjoyed through the means of a youtube playlist right here.

30   Spinerette

Ghetto Love

Raw, hot rock track oozing sex appeal. One can only imagine what goes on between Brody Dalle and Josh Homme. Oh-oh-oh-oh-ooh-oooooohhh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-ooohhhhh, Hey!

29   Peter Fox

Haus am See

A German track made it to my top 30, unlikely but true. Funky & funny track. Ich habe zwanzig Kinder meine Frau ist schön.

28   Andrew Bird

Anonanimal

From Bird’s album Noble Beast, an unassuming but deceptively intricate and charming song. Hold on just a second don’t tell me this one you know I know this one I know this song, I know this one I love this song.

27   Speech Debelle

The Key

Cheeky fresh and soulful rhymes by a bright young thing from South London. Love the Tribe Called Quest vibe in this song.

26   Radiohead

These Are My Twisted Words

One of only two officially released Radiohead songs in 2009, but I much prefer it to Harry Patch (In memory Of). This slightly eerie soundscapish track has an experimental B-side feel to it, also reminiscent of Up On The Ladder from the second In Rainbows disc.

25   The Temper Trap

Sweet Disposition

Still bummed I didn’t get to see these guys at Lowlands, it was a toss up with Bon Iver at that moment. This single, which gets loads of airplay over here, has everything a good popsong should have: a nice build up and a joyous singalong chorus.

24   Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys

Empire State of Mind

Simply a great track, a worthy celebration of New York. I’m not usually that fond of Alicia Keys, but she definitely gives this song it’s infectious hook.

23   Noisettes

Don’t Upset The Rhythm

There’s no intricate explanation behind this gorgeous Noisettes song, who can resist it? Four three two one – Go baby go baby go!

22   Death Cab For Cutie

Meet Me On The Equinox

This is what Death Cab For Cutie does best, ominous guitar chords, swelling drums, Ben’s lyrics uttered with a sense of warning: Everything, everything ends. They sure had some smart kid making the Twilight – New Moon soundtrack.

21   Mumford & Sons

Little Lion Man

I never knew I was experiencing a lack of banjo fuelled tunes in my collection until I played Mumford & Sons’ debut Sighs No More. They specialise in the quiet-intro-waiting-to-explode-into-full-banjo-madness song structure, and it suits them. Don’t frown too much on the borderline twee lyrics, just enjoy the ride.

20   Matt and Kim

Daylight

Psychiatrists should show this ridiculously chirpy Matt and Kim video to depressed patients, surely things wouldn’t seem so bad afterwards?

19   Dizzee Rascal

Bonkers

With a little help from Armand van Helden Dizzee has made the ultimate rap – dance crossover single and club floor filler of the year. Some people think I’m bonkers, but I just think I’m free!

18   Patrick Watson

Fireweed

It’s a shame the band didn’t release Beijing as a single as that would definitely be my favourite pick, but Fireweed does the job as the perfect album opener. Gentle introduction, trademark drum shuffle, Patrick’s soft whispers, added layers of peculiar sounds and backing vocals all conspiring to make a beautiful composition.

17   Little Boots

New in Town

To be honest I was a bit disappointed with the Little Boots album, but that’s mainly because this tasty single really raised my expectations. It’s grimy and disco at the same time, and the killer chorus keeps you coming back. I don’t have a lot of money but we’ll be fine.

16   La Roux

Bulletproof

Definitely one of the catchiest songs of the year, it’s no wonder La Roux was played to death all over radio and tv music channels. I still haven’t bored of it yet actually, This time baby I’ll be bulleeeeeeeeeeeet proof!

15   David Byrne & Dirty Projectors

Knotty Pine

I just love this upbeat if slightly messy little song with it’s jangly guitar & David Byrne’s irresistible voice immediately coating it with indie cred. Which reminds me, must play Toe Jam!

14   Thunderheist

Nothing 2 Step 2

Yes thank you very much Thunderheist for this dirrrty, funky, head bobbing hip shaking number. Loving the eighties synth, loving the cow bells. I Want You To Know That I Ne Ver Meant To Walk A Way From You.

13   The Decemberists

The Rake Song

Is it a bad thing to love a song about murdering children? The Decemberists made me do it! This most harrowing tale on the Hazards of Love concept album is a burst of percussion and acidic lyrics, with the instant impact chorus Alright, alright, alright! Brilliant song that will have you singing along in no time.

12   Dragonette

Fixin to Thrill

Who is this strange creature in the flesh coloured leotard? For some reason Dragonette had never popped up on my radar before this buttkicking single came out, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on them from now on.

11   Beyoncé

Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)

This is the only decent thing Beyoncé released over the last year or so, but it hits the spot. You tell ‘em B! Sassy, utterly danceable and let’s not forget the most copied video clip of 2009. If you like it then you should’ve put a ring on it, oh oh oh

10   The Maccabees

Can You Give It

Ah yes The Maccabees, the band that made it to my number one slot on the Best Albums chart. There’s just so much exciting material to choose from on this album, but I’m sticking with the group-hug-sing-along-with-all-your-pubmates thriller Can You Give It.

9     Metric

Help I’m Alive

Such an addictive song this lead single from Metric’s fourth album release Fantasies. Emily Haines vocals are disconnected and desperate at the same time. I tremble, they’re gonna eat me alive. Can you hear my heart beating like a hammer…

8     Gossip

Heavy Cross

God bless Beth Ditto, first and foremost for rocking it out, secondly for adding some very necessary different scenery in between all the MTV polish and veneer. Here’s another inescapable monsterhit by the Washington based threesome.

7     Fanfarlo

Howard T. Wilkins, or How to Wait for a Very Long Time

This band “had me at hello” when they played a great gig at Lowlands this year despite lacking half the band members due to a missed flight. They play a happy brand of orchestral pop, not afraid to amp up the drama and throw in some trumpets and violins. Howard T. Wilkins is probably the best track on the album.

6     DM Stith

Pity Dance

The Spanish guitar strumming combined with strange electronic sounds and DM Stith’s plaintive wailing make for an odd but seductive concoction. By the time the dramatic piano comes in you feel like doom is on your doorstep and there is no escape.

5     Bat for Lashes

Daniel

Although an entire Bat for Lashes album can sometimes be too much of a good thing, this single is a work of art. Natasha Khan took everything that is beautiful about Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting and Running Up That Hill, mashed it up and updated it to 2009.

4     Clues

Remember Severed Head

When ex-Unicorns and ex-Arcade Fires mingle, this overwhelming severing of heads is what happens. A psychedelic and bizarre but utterly terrific romp of a song. You never quite know what’s around the corner, but you’re looking forward to it all the same.

3     Fever Ray

If I Had a Heart

Surely one of the most exciting releases of this year, If I Had A Heart is the lead single from the self titled album. It simultaneously scares and moves me. I read somewhere it was about post natal depression, which seems to make sense. What an amazing way to deal with such a delicate subject.

2     Florence + The Machine

Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)

I could have chosen any of the singles Florence + the Machine released this year, but this is the one that, well, enchanted me seems the right expression. Such drama such passion, and what a refreshingly different sounds to everything else out there. This is a gift, it comes with a price…

1     Grizzly Bear

Two Weeks

With Two Weeks this Brooklyn foursome, who are about as far removed from a grizzly bear as imaginable, have produced the best single of 2009 by far in my opinion. The attention grabbing opening chords on the piano, the glowing harmonies, the spacey sounds that kick in with Would you aaaaaaaaaalways, it’s just a perfect package.

If you’re a brokenbranches regular you’ll know that even a selection of 30 is a painstaking process for me, with many casualties along the way. Here are some of the beautiful losers:

Alberta Cross – ATX

Animal Collective – My Girls

Antony and the Johnsons – Crazy In Love

Basement Jaxx – Raindrops

Beirut / Realpeople – Venice

Bell X1 – The Great Defector

Bowerbirds – Northern Lights

Dirty Projectors – Stillness Is the Move

Dodos – Fables

Emilíana Torrini – Jungle Drum

Friendly Fires – Kiss of Life

Girls – Lust For Life

Hockey – Song Away

Jack Peñate – Be The One

Jay-Z – Empire State of Mind (feat. Alicia Keys)

Julian Casablancas – 11th Dimension

Lady Gaga – Poker Face

Le Le – Luxe Benen

Lily Allen – It’s Not Fair

Mando Diao – Gloria

Micachu & The Shapes – Golden Phone

Neko Case – People Got a Lotta Nerve

Passion Pit – Moth’s Wings

Phoenix – 1901

Portugal. The Man – People Say

St Vincent – Actor Out of Work

The Killers – Spaceman

The Low Anthem – Charlie Darwin

The Raveonettes – Last Dance

The Veils – Sit Down By The Fire

The Very Best feat. Ezra Koenig – Warm Heart of Africa

Thom Yorke – All For The Best

Vampire Weekend – Horchata

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll

It really doesn’t get any easier. My perfectionist personality doesn’t help either, it makes me read through the entire list of the 2009 album releases, 5000 albums give or take, just to make sure I don’t overlook anything. Then comes the relistening, the scrapping, the adding, the positioning, the turmoil. But eventually I get to my destination, invariably feeling hopelessly incomplete and doubting my final list before it even hits this screen.

Ah well, sod it. Here are my top 10 albums of 2009. I will be soon posting the best single releases list too, just need to get a xanax refill first. 

10. Rock Plaza Central

…at the Moment of Our Most Needing, Or If Only They Could Turn Around, They Would Know They Weren’t Alone

No mechanical horses this time, but there’s still plenty of off beat story telling on Rock Plaza Central’s 2009 lengthy titled album. Arguably RPC singer, or often narrator, Chris Eaton’s voice is a bit of an acquired taste, but hey, so was your first beer. Do try and stick with him, because you will reap a great reward of orchestral Canadian quirkiness!

9. Fanfarlo

Reservoir

Fanfarlo’s album is an unassuming little number but it packs a multi instrumental punch. From the toe tapping crescendo of songs like I’m a Pilot and the amazing Howard T. Wilkins, driving piano chords and banjo strumsincluded, to the gentle meandering of Comets, this album is bursting at the seems with love for making music.

8. The Decemberists

The Hazards of Love

Say the words ‘concept album’ and most folks, brokenbranches included, usually won’t be overexcited. The risk of overworked, far fetched constructions looms dangerously. In a way Hazards of Love is indeed far fetched with it’s tales of fauns, forest queens, impossible love and wicked baby murdering rakes, but how wonderfully weird it is! 

7. Gossip

Music for Men

Beth Ditto does it again. She gives you a kick up the arse directed towards the dance floor and gives your hair an orange mohawk makeover in the process. Heavy Cross is without doubt one of the best singles of the year, but the rest of the album is not to be sniffed at. Yes it’s shaky in parts, no it isn’t very innovative, but this is ROCK ladies and gents. Not for wall flowers.

6. Patrick Watson

Wooden Arms

What a great idea of Patrick & co to record and tour with The Wooden Arms! They add such warmth to this album and lift their trademark cinematic compositions to new heights. Stand out track Beijing showcases Robbie Kuster’s status as percussion genius, the pretty Big Bird in a Small Cage superbly shows their radio friendly side and Man Like You is bound to be their new Great Escape

5. Fever Ray

Fever Ray

Karen Dreijer Andersson possesses the rare talent to explore the darker side of life without alienating you. When she sings If I had a heart I would love you, you feel her desperation. In When I grow up you simultaneaously experience the joy of being a child and the pain of still waiting to be acknowledged as a grown up. It is haunting and sincere, a thing of sheer beauty.

4. Grizzly Bear

Veckatimest

All of a sudden there it is, the album you know will see you through the year. Right from the magnificent opening composition Southern Point (preferred concert opener and rightly so), stunning lead single Two Weeks (the creepy video is a must see) all the way through to the fragile still-life closer that is Foreground. Harmonies that Brian Wilson would take notes from.  Repeat.

3. DM Stith

Heavy Ghost

Take Patrick Watson’s soundscapy experiments, add some falsetto Antony Hegarty come Jeff Buckey vocals, warm strings, electronic glitches blips and bells, a dash of slightly unsettling multi layered vocal arrangements and you might get an idea of what DM Stith’s debut album Heavy Ghost sounds like. I am entirely seduced. Possibly one of the most accomplished debuts ever.

2. Florence + The Machine

Lungs

When I first heard Florence I was intrigued; who is this Kate Bushy vixen? The album sucks you into every song, despite the potentially off-putting variation of styles. But what all the songs have in common, whether they discuss coffins, one eyed girls, fist fights or drums, is the unabashed and irrisistible celebration of love. I think the world could do with some more colour and heartfelt drama and I think Florence is the one to do it.

1. The Maccabees

Wall of Arms

What a sneaky little gem of an album took the lead! On first listen I didn’t really take that much notice, but enough to keep it in rotation. Then, slowly but very surely, it completely won me over. This is an album full of pent-up excitement, like wanting to tell your major crush you fancy the pants off them but only just managing to keep a lid on it. Practically every song on this album is single worthy, but Young Lions, Seventeen Hands, Can You Give It, William Powers and No Kind Words I just want to lock up in a box for safekeeping.

Incidentally I was lucky enough to see both my numbers 1 and 2 live at Lowlands this year and Florence admitted she had a massive crush on Maccabees singer Orlando Weeks and could later be seen jumping around and singing along to their gig at the side of the stage.

If anyone is remotely interested to see the debris of my album list turmoil, here are the runners up in alphabetical order:

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