The exceptional thing about music is that it transcends time. Although 2009 wasn’t that long ago, in the grand scheme of things, it was certainly a peak period for indie music that’s shaped what’s been produced more recently. Some of the ‘modern greats’, if you will, released debut albums that year, which have since been celebrated as pioneering, top-tier choices. And hey presto, these ten made the cut…
‘Manners’ — Passion Pit
This record is an audible representation of going through the motions. Behind each track is a harnessed power that details real highs and down-in-the-dumps lows. It’s mostly a musical expression of euphoria, with moments of whimsy, yearning and trepidation thrown in. It sets its stall out with an overtly enchanting and upbeat melody in ‘Make Light’, which follows suit particularly in ‘Sleepyhead’. If that isn’t the epitome of sheer delight, I don’t know what is. It sounds like summer, A-star grades and belly laughs, all while suggesting it could be the soundtrack to the mind of a jolly cartoon character. There’s something incredibly wholesome about ‘To Kingdom Come’, too, with its sort of melancholia-meets-happiness vibe. The whole album is deeply spellbinding and it’s one of the biggest treats to listen to in the history of the universe — as cheesy as that may be.
‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ — Animal Collective
Now, this really is sun’s out, fun’s out. This blissfully chirpy album has been widely remarked as one that’s paved the way for the electronics/indie scene to adapt and evolve. It’s just as much the must-have accessory in the pre-hipster’s wardrobe as an oversized denim jacket, charity shop blouse or thin gold chain. The achingly joyful ‘Summertime Clothes’ paints this picture from an audible standpoint. But when it comes to the most iconic of the bunch, it’s ‘My Girls’. Never heard it? I ask, emphatically, where have you been? The dainty rattle of notes that rings the track in is enough to stop me in my path. It’s the embodiment of indie music and the quintessential 2009 tune.
‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ — Phoenix
From FIFA to Gossip Girl, the undeniably catchy ‘1901’ has been everywhere. And I’ll bet it’s been in your head too, whether consciously or not. It’s a foot-tapper, fist-pumper and smile-maker all at once, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg with this fabulously funky indie album from French band, Phoenix. These gents hail from Versailles, which means the extraordinary palace isn’t the only thing the destination is worth being famous for. ‘Lisztomania’ is a sort of shoegaze number that kicks off proceedings in an effortlessly indie-esque fashion. But those aren’t the only hits — ‘Fences’ and ‘Lasso’ are right up there as well.
‘The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’ — The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
You can’t be a true indie fan if you aren’t au fait with ‘Young Adult Friction’. This absolute hit from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s debut album typifies the genre, with simple but ultra-memorable chord progressions and wistful vocals. Originating from New York City, the band started out pretty cool, but this record certainly helped them to further that swagger. If raw and grungy is more your bag, songs such as ‘Come Saturday’ and ‘Everything With You’ will undoubtedly get your vote. Don’t let this one pass you by — in its entirety, it’s a tangle of honest, humble and quaint lyrics, with superbly executed riffs.
‘To Lose My Life…’ — White Lies
I dare you to confess to getting through 2009 and beyond without hearing ‘Fairwell To The Fairground’. It’s starred in everything from adverts to numerous television series, and been aired in shops and pubs. For those of you who do recognise it or know it well, was it the first tune you heard from White Lies? It was for me. And what a banger, I remember thinking! It’s got meaty riffs, hard-hitting drums and piercing vocals matched with precision. Explore the full album and you’ll find other winners, including the affirming opener, ‘Death’, and cutting ‘To Lose My Life’. Some of the material is dark and maudlin, while others are pacy through and through.
‘The xx’ — The xx
I can recall the eerily captivating opening tune of ‘Crystalised’ first piquing my interest. For indie music as a whole, 2009 was a very transformative time, and the industry also became blessed with The xx. They properly burst onto the scene with their self-titled debut album, and this single shone. ‘VCR’ and ‘Shelter’ also proved popular, while ‘Islands’ still has a feeling of summertime excitement from the moment you press play. But, in my view, it was the ascending pitch of ‘Intro’ that ran rings around the others. It induced shivers, almost offering a sense of mystery and curiosity, which cleverly bled into the rest of the album. Wow.
‘Roulette’ — Cicada
I appreciate this isn’t it exactly ‘indie’ at its most standard definition, but Cicada’s infectious disco beats can’t be missed from a 2009 roundup. ‘Roulette’ was the ideal accompaniment to a beer in the garden as the sun reached through the trees, barbecue lit to the side. The spiralling synths, echoing electronics and magically hypnotic female vocals all played their part equally, to make what is still a really enjoyable record to put on. This album might not be as well known as those from the likes of The xx or White Lies, but it shouldn’t be disregarded. ‘Falling Rockets’ and ‘Metropolis’ will have you gripped.
‘It’s Blitz!’ — Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs weren’t a new band in 2009 — they should’ve been fairly familiar to you by then. Nevertheless, this album was noteworthy. Pop the disc into your stereo and ‘Zero’ will begin. You might think it’s a slow-burner, but, damn, that track will be in your head for the foreseeable. Cut to ‘Heads Will Roll’ and you’ll hear the dance floor calling, too. This uber-catchy tune is almost toxic in its ability to make you move to it. Let your hair down and embrace it. But the hits don’t end there — ‘Dragon Queen’ and ‘Soft Shock’ will fast become favourites as well.
‘Two Dancers’ — Wild Beasts
Honestly, ‘Two Dancers’ was where the road became clearer for Wild Beasts. But it certainly wasn’t the best record they dropped. The beauty of ‘Hooting & Howling’ is what people would’ve been most drawn to on this album, as a desperation pushes through the energy of the chorus to make it a tune you want to repeatedly hear. The other very telling song was ‘We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues’, which is a treasure to bop along to. Meanwhile, the instrumentals in ‘When I’m Sleepy…’ almost underpin a lot of the latter music the band has produced, which makes it evident now that it’s still stamped with their signature.
‘Hospice’ — The Antlers
Plainly, this album is about as raw and emotional as music can be. This darkly anthemic, bolshie record packages together stories about loss, pain and anguish, navigating themes around abortion, mental illness and people passing. It’s certainly not an upbeat example of 2009’s impactful indie albums, but the rough sounds complement a wholly polished exterior. The Antlers don’t give us a ‘one-of-the-lads’ kind of offering, but the softly melodic ‘Bear’ provides a gentle touch that your ears shouldn’t deny. Meanwhile, ‘Two’ has an enjoyably uptempo nature.