If 2008 was the year that saw some pop (Coldplay), rock (Kings Of Leon) and hip-hop (Lil Wayne) giants cement their place as the game’s big hitters, 2009 will be remembered as the year where some vital fresh blood reared their head. From the storming debuts of The xx and Florence and The Machine to coming-of-age releases from Arctic Monkeys and The Maccabees.
With much joy, sadness and a full-blown age-fuelled crisis, we’ve dug deep to remember the killer albums from 2009 that celebrate their 10th anniversary in 2019.
Words: Zoe Tidman, Maddy Taylor, Thomas Smith
Animal Collective – ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’
Critically-acclaimed and dangerously wonky experimental pop from Baltimore quartet, with trippy, ‘moving’ cover art
Release date: January 6
What we said then: “The MDMAzement is strongest on ‘My Girls’, where Panda Bear, aka Noah Lennox, concocts a starry-eyed hymn to nest-building, cooing about “four walls and adobe slats for my girls”.
What happened next: The band have released three albums since, with their latest album, ‘Tangerine Reef’, being described by NME’s Jordan Bassett as “as unlistenable as it is boring, which is almost kind of an achievement” in a one-star review.
Key track: ‘My Girls’
White Lies – ‘To Lose My Life’
The chart-topping debut album from brooding London post-punks
Release date: January 19
What we said then: “For all its glum pronouncements of murder, mortality and loss, it’s an ecstatic listen, ponderous party music.”
What happened next: ‘Rituals’, their 2011 follow-up, didn’t quite have the same effect but they’ve built a loyal fanbase and tour regularly. Their fifth album, er, ‘Five’ is out in February, if you wanna poke your head in and see how they’re doing.
Key track: ‘Farewell To The Fairground’
Franz Ferdinand – ‘Tonight’
The Scottish band continued their shimmy away from indie-discos to more straight-forward club bangers
Release date: January 26
What we said then: “This might not be the ‘music of the night’ that rotund talent show type Lloyd Webber and his phantoms had in mind, but based on the majority of this album Messrs Kapranos, Hardy, McCarthy and Thomson can definitely take us out tonight.”
What happened next: They followed it up with the relatively mellow ‘Right Thoughts, Right Actions’ in 2013, but last year’s ‘Always Ascending’ and their collaborative project with pop-pioneers Sparks marked a raucous return to the dancefloor.
Key track: ‘Lucid Dreams’
Lily Allen – ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’
Lily’s finest and most forthright album to date
Release date: February 4
What we said then: “Songs that are ultra-modern and instantly accessible, fun but never cheesy, experimental but rarely try-hard.”
What happened next: Follow-up ‘Sheezus’ didn’t fare so well and she’s since disowned that misstep. 2018’s ‘No Shame’ and her accompanying autobiography, however, found Lily back in her true voice – witty, heartbreaking and fearless.
Key track: ‘The Fear’
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘It’s Blitz!’
Karen O and the gang embraced house and beyond on this thumping third album
Release date: March 6
What we said then: “It’s Blitz!’s heartfelt love letter to the transcendent possibilities of the dancefloor is an unexpectedly emphatic reassertion of why Yeah Yeah Yeahs are one of the most exciting bands of this decade”
What happened next: 2013’s ‘Mosquito’, the band’s fourth and most recent album, didn’t pack the same punch and the band have since toured irregularly and embraced side-projects in favour of getting the band back together in the studio.
Key track: ‘Zero’
Pete Doherty – ‘Grace/Wastelands’
The middling debut solo record from the Libertines frontman
Release date: March 16
What we said then: “A contractually obliged rummage through The Poet’s bottom-drawers, ‘Grace…’ is less a masterpiece than an escape, a memento of his charisma and charm more than a leap towards new horizons.”
What happened next: Reunions with The Libertines and Babyshambles resulted in tepid comeback albums for both, while second solo album ‘Hamburg Demonstrations’ went out with a whimper. He smashed through a big breakfast recently, though.
Key track: ‘Last Of The English Roses’
The Maccabees – ‘Wall Of Arms’
The London band’s vibrant second album ensured a career beyond debut hype
Release date: April 27
What we said then: “‘Wall Of Arms’ sounds mostly effortless and unstudied. No longer too pop to be art and too art to be pop, The Maccabees are evolving into their own entity. We can’t wait to see where it takes them.”
What happened next: Two albums followed, with 2012’s ‘Given To The Wild’ elevating them to arena-beating champs. Following 2015’s euphoric but delayed ‘Marks To Prove It’, the band called it a day with some celebratory shows at London’s Alexandra Palace.
Key track: ‘Can You Give It’
The Horrors – ‘Primary Colours’
NME’s Album of 2009 saw the Essex lot transform from horror-punks to art-rock giants
Release date: April 21
What we said then: “It’s a relief to hear a band growing so impressively at a time when most others have neither the talent nor the opportunity to do so. Time will tell how ‘Primary Colours’ stands up to the likes of ‘Loveless’ or ‘Psychocandy’, but right now, this feels like the British art-rock album we’ve all been waiting for.”
What happened next: Their next album, ‘Skying’ bagged Album of The Year at the 2012 NME Awards, but recent efforts ‘Luminous’ and ‘V’ have been patchy beyond their singles. They’ll be playing ‘Primary Colours’ in full this year to celebrate the big 1-0.
Key track: ‘Who Can Say’
Grizzly Bear – ‘Veckatimest’
Commercial and creative breakthrough for the Brooklyn indie stalwarts
Release date: May 26
What we said then: “Those patient enough to wait for this record to relinquish its quiet delights, the treasures waiting to be discovered it are rich indeed.”
What happened next: Now festival mainstays, the band’s latest album, 2017’s ‘Painted Ruins’, was a genre-bending step forward for a band who continue their unbridled creative streak.
Key track: ‘Two Weeks’
Phoenix – ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’
French indie poppers go global with glorious pop hits
Release date: May 25
What we said then: “The French faux-funkers’ fourth is intended to be their Pompidou Centre – taking their formula to a yes-the-pipes-are-on-the-bloody-outside level of showmanship.”
What happened next: The band won a Grammy for this record, while 2013’s follow-up album ‘Bankrupt!’ landed them headline slots at festivals like Coachella. Earlier this year, a resurfaced video of US politician Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez dancing to ‘Lisztomania’ went viral in a smear campaign by Republicans – but everyone remembered just how good that song is.
Key track: ‘Liztomania’
Dirty Projectors – ‘Bitte Orca’
The US band’s sixth album, one that pushed how mainstream experimental pop could go
Release date: June 9
What we said then: “Tumbling together we have ’60s psych-pop, prog, Scritti’s falsetto soul, a hyperactive take on King Sunny Adé’s Afropop and, to top it all, sassy, late-’90s R&B.”
What happened next: Several members of the band left, making Dave Longstreth the only remaining member from this album these days. 2018’s ‘Lamp Lit Prose‘, their ninth album, acted as a spiritual sequel, reviving that off-kilter and playful attitude from ‘Bitte Orca’
Key track: ‘Stillness Is The Move’
Kasabian – ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’
Leicester’s finest shredded their ladrock roots in favour of harebrained neo-psychedelia
Release date: June 5
What we said then: “A shambling, splattered, ultimately much more enduring mess that will make sense if you just hang on in there.”
What happened next: Their following albums, ‘Velociraptor!’ ‘48:13’ and ‘For Crying Out Loud’ have all topped the UK charts, and they’ve since become a perennial festival headliner with coveted slots at Reading & Leeds in 2011 and Glastonbury Festival in 2014.
Key Track: “Fire”
La Roux – ‘La Roux’
The duo’s debut modernised 80s synth-pop and threw the genre back into the mainstream
Release date: June 26
What we said then: “Remarkably, with this astounding debut, an unassuming 21-year-old from SW2 has revitalised a forgotten form to make one of the finest forward-thinking British pop albums of recent memory. Sweet dreams are made of this, indeed.”
What happened next: Elly Jackson went on to release the fittingly titled second album ‘Trouble in Paradise’ without bandmate Ben Langmaid in 2014, who left the band citing creative differences. A third album has since been mooted, but no sign of it yet.
Key track: ‘Bulletproof’
Florence and The Machine – ‘Lungs’
Distinctive vocals and genre-bending indie-rock put Welch on the map with her first chart-topping album
Release date: July 3
What we said then: “Pretty much every molecule of Florence And The Machine divides opinion, It all sets up the most hyped and derided singer of the year’s debut album to be the biggest love-or-loathe opinion-divider since Jigga bought his wellies for Worthy Farm.”
What happened next: Their next two albums, ‘Ceremonials’ and ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’ both topped the charts, with 2018’s ‘High As Hope’, a stripped back fourth album, also having considerable chart success. Welch also became the first female Glastonbury headliner of this century, when she replaced the injured Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters in 2015.
Key Track: ‘You’ve Got The Love’
Bombay Bicycle Club – ‘I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose’
North London school-leavers much-hyped debut of exuberant, festival-ready indie-rock
Release date: July 3
What we said then: “If you’re over the age of 18, consider ‘I Had The Blues…’ your invitation back to the heady rush of teenaged rapture, and the rest of you, stay drunk on its certain romance while you still can.”
What happened next: Crowned Best New Band at the following year’s NME Awards, they went on to release three more critically-acclaimed albums before going on an “indefinite” hiatus in 2016 to pursue solo work. However, earlier this year they announced they’re back together and working on new music.
Key track: ‘Always Like This’
Wild Beasts – ‘Two Dancers’
The UK band continued to experiment with fluctuating vocals and bizarre lyrics
Release date: August 3
What we said then: “Any idiot can try to be weird; most will just end up being depressingly inane. But to take something as wonderfully, magically strange as Wild Beasts’ debut ‘Limbo, Panto’ and sublimate its elements into something as subtly beautiful as ‘Two Dancers’ is something very special indeed.”
What happened next: ‘Two Dancers’ was followed by less frantic and more melodic third and fourth albums. They decided to call it quits after their fifth album, ‘Boy King’, and played a farewell tour in early 2018.
Key track: ‘This is Our Lot’
The xx – ‘xx’
This iconic album embodies their signature sound with alternating vocals and moody, wistful guitar riffs
Release fate: August 14
What we said then: “The XX, four kids from the dubstep heartland of south London, have quietly set up an emotional squat in those spaces, with bedsit-delicate love songs. It’s strange that such a traditional set-up (drums, bass, keys, guitars, voices) has resulted in one of 2009’s most unique debuts.”
What happened next: Two albums have followed, with most recent ‘I See You’ pivoting to a more chart-friendly sound. Meanwhile, the band’s lead producer Jamie xx continues to have successful solo career as an influential DJ and producer, with his debut ‘In Colour’ soundtracking 2016’s heady summer.
Key Track: ‘Islands’
Arctic Monkeys – ‘Humbug’
The Sheffield lads eloped to the desert for their hip-shaking coming-of-age
Release date: 24 August 2009
What we said then: “They’re fatalistic, smirking sceptics who’ll never, ever take the soft option. They’re exactly the sort of rock’n’roll band you shouldn’t put your life in the hands of. And that’s exactly why you should love them even more.”
What happened next: In the decade that has followed, Alex Turner & co have veered from power-pop (‘Suck It And See’), through to the unbelievably slick (‘AM’) before catapulting themselves towards the stars with a space-rock epic (‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’).
Key track: “Crying Lightning”
The Cribs – ‘Ignore The Ignorant’
The Smiths’ Johnny Marr joined the three brothers for their fourth album of quintessential British indie-rock
Release Date: September 7
What we said then: “Album number four is often unlike anything the band have done before and it’s become apparent they’ve now learned the knack of making a song’s empty space ring out as loud as the bits they’ve atypically filled with Gary Jarman’s West Yorks appropriation of Kurt Cobain.”
What happened next: Marr left the group two years later but the brothers have not slowed down since, with their seventh album ‘24-7 Rock Star Shit’ being released in 2017. In that same year their hometown Wakefield celebrated their achievements with a museum exhibition.
Key track: ‘Cheat On Me’
Jamie T – ‘Kings and Queens’
The troubadour continued telling stories of London and urban grit on this more polished second album
Release Date: September 4
What we said then: “While Jamie T remains something of a flawed hero, he’s the type you just want to get behind. Where he once seemed like a busking Rodney Trotter, he’s now left the loser affectations behind and is more like Del Boy, a man aiming for bigger and better things and becoming a national institution in the process.”
What happened next: The singer went off the grid for five years before releasing two albums, ‘Carry On The Grudge’ (2014) and ‘Trick’ (2016) in quick succession . He has maintained his cult following over the last ten years and told NME last year that “new music is on its way.”
Key Track: ‘Sticks ‘N’ Stones’
Jay Z – ‘The Blueprint 3’
The rap titan went pop on his eleventh studio album and third in the hallowed ‘Blueprint’ trilogy
Release Date: September 8, 2009
What we said then: “Despite bringing in all these names to make it an event album, The Blueprint 3’ delivers because of hefty beats and quality rapsmanship.”
What Happened Next: Jay-Z’s chart domination has gone on and on, from floor-filling collab album ‘Watch the Throne’ with Kanye West, to his emotional epic ‘4:44’, and 2018’s show of solidarity with wife Beyoncé on joint project ‘Everything Is Love’.
Key Track: “Empire State of Mind”
Paramore – ‘Brand New Eyes’
The US band’s third album showcases maturity without abandoning the pop-punk melodrama
Release Date: September 29
What we said then: “Thankfully, Paramore’s new-found rage hasn’t impinged on their talent for crafting a joyful pop song, as evidenced by the high octane likes of “Careful” and “Ignorance”. They might be dark in tone, but they’re still a fairground-full of fun.”
What happened next: Founding members, Josh and Zac Farro left the band in 2011, but the latter returned in 2017 for fifth album ‘After Laughter’, the band’s kaleidoscopic shimmy towards pop magic.
Key Track: ‘Ignorance’
Biffy Clyro – ‘Only Revolutions’
The Glasgow rockers found mainstream success with a fifth album of bolshy anthems and soppy ballads
Release Date: November 9
What we said then: “‘Only Revolutions’ springs the band instantly level with the greatest rock acts in the world. The only thing that can stop them being recognised as such is the 2010 trend of UK guitar music being treated with contempt by the electro-pop-fixated mainstream.”
What happened next: ‘Only Revolutions’ got the mainstream’s attention and they’ve since headlined Reading and Leeds festival, despite two underwhelming albums ‘Opposites’ (2013) and ‘Ellipsis’ (2016). They are currently producing a currently-untitled film, which will be soundtracked by a new album.
Key track: ‘God & Satan’
Them Crooked Vultures – ‘Them Crooked Vultures’
Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones united for a one-off album of thudding guitar riffs and machismo
Release Date: November 16
What we said then: “This is evidently more Josh Homme’s record than it is Dave Grohl’s, or John Paul Jones’s. It’s a muso’s album: guitarists will love it.”
What happened next: The supergroup won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance on ‘New Fangs’ and have continued to hint at a possible future reunion. Grohl’s Foo Fighters and Homme’s Queens Of The Stone Age continue to be two of the biggest rock bands on the planet, while Jones is yet to reunite with his, Led Zeppelin.
Key track: ‘New Fangs’
Rihanna – ‘Rated R’
The Barbadian confirmed her place one of the planet’s most powerful stars with her edgy fourth record
Release date: November 20
What we said then: “Never exploited and totally in control, the sultry sexbomb of ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ is now a siren on the rocks – dangerous, self-aware and with a clan behind her. Empowered but not embittered, Rihanna turns her back on love.”
What happened next: Rihanna’s continued to rule the airwaves with four consecutive chart-topping albums, ‘Loud’, ‘Talk That Talk’, ‘Unapologetic’, and ‘Anti’, and plans to release her long-awaited ninth studio album in 2019.
Key track: ‘Rude Boy’