In 2009 we lost Michael Jackson and Patrick Swayze, Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel prize for peace, there was a coup d'état in Madagascar and swine flu broke out in Mexico. Flight 1549 ditched in the Hudson River with zero loss of life, the civil war in Sri Lanka came to an end, as did my ten-year stint in advertising, and Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was elected as Iceland's first female prime minister and the first openly gay head of state in the modern world.
It was a cracking year for music too, and shortlisted albums that didn't even make my 5 runner-up slots include Muse - The Resistance, Ludovico Einaudi - Nightbook, Steel Panther - Feel the Steel, The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die, Devin Townsend Project - Ki, Lynch Mob - Smoke & Mirrors, Yoshida Brothers - Prism, Ensiferum - From Afar, and more!
Alestorm - Black Sails at Midnight
YARRR! In 2009 I was deep in the grip of my folk-metal obsession and completely unaware that Pirate Metal was even a thing, when along came Alestorm and fair shivered me timbers, so they did. Some people I know just can't get on with the singer, but for me that's proper pirate vocals. Top track: "That Famous Ol' Spiced"
Florence + the Machine - Lungs
Another amazing voice, Florence Welch and her popular beat combo took the charts by storm in 2009, and I for one applauded. This aptly named album is chock full of great pop songs, and she really can belt them out. Beezer. Top track: "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)"
Halestorm - Halestorm
Yep, Alestorm and Halestorm. Crazy, right? I only got into Halestorm recently (2014), but this, their debut album, is a total corker and Lzzy Hale's voice is one of the best female voices in rock. Top track: "It's Not You"
The Last Vegas - Whatever Gets You Off
I do like the sleaze, it must be said. A cracking collection of proper old-fashioned sleazy rock songs from Chicago, this was TLV's major label debut and it's ace. Top track: "Whatever Gets You Off"
Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
Go on, get it out. You'll feel better. No, not that, put that away, that's disgusting. No, I mean get all the anti-Mumford bile out. Go on, bang on for a while about how twee and generic their songs are, and how there are a million better faux-lk (fauk folk, get it?) groups out there and the Mumfords are just knocking out recycled insipid shite. Go on, I'll wait. In fact I'll go and get a coffee. You probably want about 2 or 3 minutes on that yeah? Cool. Off you go.
All done? Good. Now piss off, I'm going to curl up on the sofa with this cuppa and the Mumfords on the stereo. Lovely. Top track: "Dust Bowl Dance"
And the winner is...
Amorphis - Skyforger
Ah yes, Amorphis. This was in fact the first folk-metal album I ever heard, and it's still one of the best. It doesn't use the overtly folkish elements the way that Eluveitie do (no hurdy-gurdies or penny whistles here) but it does draw on folk elements in the sound and you always feel like you're being told a story. Of course, for the most part that's exactly what's happening, since Amorphis (like some other Finnish folk metal bands) often draw from the Kalevala, the Epic Poem of Finland, as a source for their lyrics.
The thing that really holds my attention here is the huge magnetic presence of Tomi Joutsen's vocals filling every corner of the band's sound. Don't get me wrong - the band are all excellent - but the character and depth of Tomi's voice as he weaves these tales just transports me to some campfire in the wilderness, wrapped in a sheepskin and sipping brandy from a flask.
Top tracks: "Silver Bride", "Skyforger", "Sampo"
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