2009 ended the decade on a high, with a plethora of inventive, endlessly diverse albums that saw the genre we know as ‘indie’ become even more slippery and difficult to define. The seemingly endless stream of new releases, offering up as they do the promise of something fresh and eye-opening didn’t slow down at all this year, with sub-genres, labels and movements sprouting up all over. It would be a near-impossible task for us to try and list our ‘best’ albums; this is just a selection of the albums we’ve enjoyed the most, the ones that urge us to reach for them over and again and will hopefully do so for years to come.
It’s also restricted to the broad genres that Colour covers: indie rock, electronica, folk and Americana, and is presented in no particular order.
Veckatimest // Listening to Veckatimest is a little like falling down the rabbit hole into a world that’s familiar yet subtly twisted; the composite parts are recognisable but the whole is something else entirely. Working as a tight suite of songs with musical motifs recurring across its twelve songs, it has the feel of the classic (and increasingly rare) notion of the album. It’s a body of work that compels you to keep visiting its labyrinths in search of unearthed treasures and unexplored nooks and although it presents an impeccable veneer,Veckatimest hasn’t lost any of its strange charms through over-polishing.
Logos // With Deerhunter, Bradford Cox invigorated the classic ’90s indie rock sound, keeping the sugar-rush guitars and lo-fi aesthetic associated with the era, while stirring in a dose of slacker insouciance and a heady hit of dream pop. Logos, Cox’s second album as Atlas Sound, sees him slip further into the latter, a somnambulistic space between waking and dreaming. The indulgent side-project is a long-standing staple of indie music and Cox’s yields more exciting results than most, with Logos’ best moments rivalling those of his main band. // Spotify
In All The Empty Houses // This mini-album saw Epic explore the resonances of abandoned buildings; the ghosts of past lives and memories that inhabit them as they fall into dilapidation. Sonically, there’s a shift towards intricate electronics and a subtle integration of 198os electro-pop synths into their sound. It’s a natural progression, working as a perfect atmospheric expression of the record’s concept and heightening its emotional impact.
Eskimo Snow // Recorded at the same time as Alopecia but released a year later, Eskimo Snow’s ten songs feel like the closest thing to a bright side. Produced by Mark Nevers, who has previously worked with Americana artists including Lambchop and Calexico, this new one immediately feels cleaner and more organic, delivering a sound more akin to seeing the trio live. Intricately connected percussion, glockenspiel and keyboards play off each other, drawing you unwittingly into Yoni Wolf’s dark narratives, morbid and blackly humorous as ever. // Spotify
Arrivals // Leeds duo Tom Ragsdale and Gavin Miller’s debut Arrivals subtly weaves ambient, minimal techno and post-rock structures to create an incredible sonic landscape, recalling godspeed! you black emperor and Aphex Twin’s ambient works in its ability to summon and sustain a vivid, otherworldly environment.
We Used To Think The Highway Sounded Like A River // Will Vlautin’s storytelling plays a large part in distinguishing Richmond Fontaine from other bands that channel the ghosts of Alt. Country, but aren’t the sole reason for this release being such a success: Vlautin’s experienced bandmates are adept at inflecting his words with mood and drama, taking them off the page and making them into engaging, widescreen dramas. They are able to take the single repeated line of ‘Watch Out’, into something deeply evocative and genuinely sad and turn the direct, jangly pop-rock of ‘You Can Move Back Here’ into a three minute, hook filled wonder. // Spotify
Josephine // On his first release since the epic Sojourner box set over two years ago, Jason Molina pares down the powerful guitars that dominated much of his previous Magnolia work, mounting heartbreaking ruminations on grief, faith and the Midwest in a exquisite frame of piano-led ballads and old country sentimentality. The loss of the titular Josephine courses through the lyrics, reflecting the universal and inevitable pain of losing someone dear and the inner strength that carries us through. Molina’s wavering, bruised vocals and the music that holds them up make for one of the most beautifully sad albums in some time. // Spotify
Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle //After building up a strong cult following under the Smog name for over a decade, Bill Callahan’s reversion to his birth name for Woke on a Whaleheart signified a refinement of his more experimental past. Sometimes… takes this a step further, Callahan’s honeyed baritone backed by rich orchestration and the soulful sound of old weird America.
Merriweather Post Pavillion // Animal Collective’s relentless and restless envelope-pushing hasn’t previously done it for me, but the way Merriweather… channels their admittedly impressive dedication to experimentalism into more conventional songs structures has deservedly taken them into the mainstream consciousness. ‘My Girls’ is surely one of the best pop songs of the last few years. // Spotify
Noble Beast // Bird offers a refreshing approach to standard singer-songwriter fare: songs ornamented with baroque vocals, intricate strings and plenty of whistling. At first Noble Beast feels warmly rustic and inviting, but with repeated listens the richness of the individual songs really hits. As well as a refined sense of composition, what makes Noble Beast so remarkable is the clear delight he takes in wordplay and the complexities of the English language- Noble Beast is peppered with archaic and rarely heard terms that seem to be employed as much for the way they sound as their meaning. // Spotify
Click album titles to listen on Spotify.
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard – ‘Em Are I
Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Beware
The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
Cass McCombs – Catacombs
Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs
Dan Deacon – Bromst
Volcano Choir – Unmap
Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca