Last year I didn't really re-write anything for my list of best albums - this year I've given it a lot of thought and while I'm waiting to complete my best songs list with December, why not run down the 9 best albums of 2009?
But before everything, the rules:
1. An album may be a studio album, a greatest hits package, a compilation, a live album or in Korea's case a MINI-ALBUM (EP). As long as it has more than 10 tracks for standard studio albums and more than 4 tracks for mini-albums, it qualifies.
2. It must have been released in 2009, like duh - doesn't matter if it was digitally or physically. In the case of repackaged albums, they only count if more than one-third the number of the original tracks are new tracks. Confusing? Let's say you have a 12-track album released in 2008. If there's a repackaged version out in 2009, there must be at least 4 new tracks, remixes allowed. If the repackaged album was released in the same year as the original album, then there's no problem, both qualify.
3. If I previously reviewed it, it should have gotten a score of 4/5 and above - no less. If I didn't review it, then the rule doesn't apply.
Now that we've got the rules all sorted out - the criteria.
Albums are a songS put together - a group of songs strung together in a cohesive and entertaining way. No one song carries the album and no one song brings the album down - they all have to contribute to the over-all sound of the album because album tracks are just as important as singles. If the singles are good but the other tracks fail, it's a NO from me.
The album should show one sound and one sound alone. It's not constricting and it's not 'conservative' because one sound can mean a lot of things, the artist just has to know how to manipulate the sound into different styles. There is a difference between sound and style.
That's it, actually. The list is RANKED so #1 is my favorite album of the year.
(+/- *insertnumberhere*) - how much the score increased or decreased in relation to my first review
(retain) - That means the score now is the same as the score I gave when I first reviewed it
(UR) - un-reviewed so there was no previous score
#9: 2PM - 01:59 PM The First Album
A few days ago I was listening to Another Level's Summertime and I had a flash of enlightenment. I don't know if JYP knows who Another Level are but I'm pretty sure that's the sound he's going for with 2PM. Heck, even their vocals are reminiscent of the UK boyband - to a certain extent.
The new tracks off this album are really good, if I may say so.
The Best: All Night Long, I Hate You (Lounge Remix), Back 2U
The Bad: You Might Comeback (Bossa Nova Mix)
The Rating (as of now): 4/5 (UR)
#8: The Saturdays - Wordshaker
There are tracks on this just go right through me but there are now songs that seemed like they went through me at first but listening back, they're pretty good. There's the epic, the serious, the GA-like and the songs that I think will become pretty synonymous with The Sats now and that's what I needed from this album - didn't get it entirely though.
Wordshaker was supposed to give us material that will scream THE SATURDAYS, it didn't, but the songs as individual songs were pretty good. It may not work as a whole album but the singles work as singles and the album tracks work as songs.
The Best: Here Standing, Open Up, Denial
The Bad: 2 a.m. sounds very out of place. It's nice and all but it's not right for the album.
The Rating (as of now): 4.4/5 (-0.4)
#7: Leona Lewis - Echo
There are a lot of things I like about this album but the main thing that kept me listening was the fact that the entire package is epic without being heavy and boring - Leona has managed to sustain my attention for more than a few songs.
Echo is one of the best this year because one, I like it and two, it was actually a hit - it's rare in Western music that I put those two statements in one sentence.
Notable highlights of the album are the string section after the middle 8 of the Paula Cole-esque I Got You, the hook of Can't Breathe, the out of place but not out of place Outta My Head, the bridge of Love Letter, Naked and The Oasis cover Don't Cry Your Heart Out
The Best: Naked, Don't Let Me Down, I Got You
The Bad: Lost Then Found it's more of a OneRepublic song than a Leona song.
The Rating (as of now): 4.5/5 (-0.1)
#6: Jordin Sparks - Battlefield
Battlefield was a solid album - it had one sound and it had cohesion between the songs. Her vocals were good, the arrangements were interesting and the songs themselves delivered. Although very mainstream American, it's the type that kinda sounds like everything else but doesn't sound like anything at all.
But more than that, it successfully transitioned Jordin from first to second album - the hardest shift to make musically. She was her on her first album but she grew up on this one. She knows how to pick songs, she knows how to sing them and she knows how to deliver now. Like I said when I first reviewed it, it's epic in a gazillion different ways.
The Best: No Parade, Walking On Snow, Was I The Only One
The Bad: Emergency and Battlefield I've gotten a little too sick of OneRepublic this year.
The Rating (as of now): 4.5/5 (-0.1)
#5: Alicia Keys - The Element of Freedom
Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart gave everyone a dose of Alicia Keys for this year and she means business with this album. It doesn't fail to impress - listening to it is literally like a breath of fresh air. There are single-worthy tracks and album-worthy tracks, everything was just put together seamlessly and you can really hear it.
Sweeping melodies, gorgeous instrumentals and epic explosions make The Element of Freedom a brilliant, brilliant album.
The Best: Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart, Doesn't Mean Anything, That's How Strong My Love Is
The Bad: Put It In A Love Song
The Rating (as of now): 4.7/5 (UR)
#4: Britt Nicole - The Lost Get Found
I love the melodies, I love the songs and I LOVE her vocals. Deserving of the praise.
The Best: Have Your Way, Like A Star, Welcome to the Show
The Bad: I'll get back to you on this.
The Rating (as of now): 5/5 (retain)
#3: Super Junior - Sorry, Sorry
No matter how much you say Super Junior can't sing (actually that's more of me), it's time to face the truth - you don't have to be able to sing well in pop. Heck, can Britney sing well now? (she could before but NOW? Puh-lease.)
The lead single turned title track Sorry Sorry is addictive, annoying (in a good way) and everything kpop stood for this year - processed like hell, dance-worthy and to a certain extent brilliant. It pretty much started the whole autotuned like hell thing within the more popular boybands and girl groups this year and it's either a good thing or a bad thing.
BUT, the track that I never, ever get sick of listening to even if you drum it into my head is the second single It's You off the THIRD repackaged version of the album. (Tes, THIRD. What a way to milk the fans' money.) It's a more epic and subdued kind of catchy but catchy nonetheless. It's not the fearlessly addictive/annoying type like Sorry Sorry but it's epic and that's enough for me. You have to remember that I happen to like epic songs.
The rest of the album is standard kpop - ballads, the occasional uptempo, guest appearances by Lee Yeon Hee (Club No. 1), Yunho and Yoochun DBSK (Heartquake), the added tracks for Version C (in short the third repackaged version) and Super Junior's so-so vocals. Oh, and the brilliant Why I Like You.
And in case you're getting lost with all the kpop, here's something I think you'll be a little more familiar with. SM is known (by me at least) for taking Western (more like European) songs, adding Korean lyrics and putting them on their acts' albums. Super Junior are no exception. Guess what they got - A MONROSE SONG. Yes, Monster on Sorry Sorry is actually a cover of Just Like That off Monrose's 2007 album Strictly Physical. *bangs head on computer table*
The Best: It's You, Why I Like You, Love Disease
The Bad: Shining Star, She Wants It
The Rating (as of now): 4.8/5 (+0.1)
#2: Kevin Borg - The Beginning
After all, Swedish make some of the best pop music.
I won't write about every track anymore because it'll be too much of a pain for all of us if I do so I'll just quickly run-through some of the songs. Note that I think all the songs are great though.
Street Lights has the most gorgeous string section laced with a brilliant melody and his capable vocals - I mean, this is like the most perfect pop song. Epic but not serious - fun. Paint It Black seriously sounds like something fit in a Darin album, which is good. The Last Words is rock-y epic and it's gorgeous. I love it. His Idol winner's single With Every Bit Of Me is very Idol but very European as well - I couldn't imagine this being sung by an American winner.
More Than I Do Now is one of my two other favorite songs on the album apart from Street Lights. It sounds Swedish, it is Swedish and for crap's sake that just spells brilliance. I love the melody and although the instrumental is a slightly cheap-ish, AAAAAHHHHHH. Brilliance.
The Light You Leave On has the stereotypical 'girl running in a deserted/haunted mansion' piano loop but then the percussion comes in and I was like "oh shet" - the song sounds so different because of it. But the main, main, main point of this song is the melody - I honestly can't stress how beautifully stunning it is. Like, it's beaten out all the other beautiful melodies of the year with that chorus. It's simple but gosh, I faint every time.
The Best: The Light You Leave On, Street Lights, More Than I Do Now
The Bad: Can't really think of any.
The Rating (as of now): 5/5 (UR, unrated but not unreviewed)
I'll reveal my favorite album of 2009 tomorrow. Guesses, anyone?