Willy for Album of the Year 2009

The album format was once seen as a dying art, with singles seen as the way forward. This idea was given even more creedence with the rise of digital downloads, allowing people to easily cherry pick their chosen songs from albums and ignore the deeper cuts or intended order. However, this shift seems to be turning with the fall of the physical single, and bands being more adventurous with their album releases and concepts. This years Willy for Album of the Year goes to a band who are bringing the once unpopular idea of the concept idea back to the mainstream. And the award goes to…

21st Century Breakdown by Green Day

Building on 2004’s seminal American Idiot, 2009 brought about the classic rock influenced, pop punk, concept album wonder that was 21st Century Breakdown. Though with less of a plot than their previous release and possibly weaker singles, this was a far more cohesive album in this reviewer’s opinion, and is one that is designed to be listened to in once sitting, rather than cherry picked from. Songs flowing seamlessly into each other at points, the final track referencing the opening and many more touches like this make this a true representation of the album experience. While there may be argument over whether Green Day are punks any more, it matters little when they can produce albums like this.

Honorable Mention: Them Crooked Vultures- Self Titled

Advertisements

Willy for New Artist of the Year 2009

Every year we get an influx of brand new artists and bands, giving amazing new music to the world in a way that hopefully no-one will have heard before. New music can be an interesting category, because it can mean a variety of different things. It could mean a band who only started playing this year, or it could be a band who came to fame this year. It could even be a supergroup formed this year. For the 2009 Willy for New Artist of the Year, I have chosen a group from this second category. The award goes to…

White Lies

Kings of doom laden indie rock, White Lies came to fame in 2009 with the release of their wonderful “To Lose My Life” album. Despite forming in 2007 under the name Fear Of Flying, it wasn’t until the change to the White Lies moniker that they garnered success. Eloquent lyrics and a heavy atmosphere are what set White Lies apart from the pack, getting gloom back to to top of the charts for the first time since the goths of the 80s. Aren’t we glad they did?

Honorable Mention: Them Crooked Vultures

Them Crooked Vultures- [Self Titled]

"Them Sweaty Vultures"

Superbands are an interesting concept. Members from successful bands getting together and writing new songs, which would in theory sound like a mix of the styles of the bands involved. From a marketing standpoint, it’s great. Bringing the fans of the component members together, all buying one album. It’s probably a load of fun for the band members too, as they get to step out of the shadow of fan expectations and have a glorified jam with other great musicians doing the same.

When it comes to ‘Them Crooked Vultures’ and their self -titled debut, they do sound like they are having a hell of a lot of fun, and you can definitely hear each member’s influence. ‘Them Crooked Vultures’ comes out of the confluence of Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. The root of the band’s sound comes from Homme’s gritty lead vocals and distorted guitar work, Grohl’s tight drumming and John Paul Jones’s melodic basslines. However, because of Josh Homme taking lead vocal duties, and the fact that both Grohl and himself have played on Queens of the Stone Age albums, “Them Crooked Vultures’ do have more than a hint of Homme’s influence in their sound. If you can imagine Queens of the Stone Age, filtered through bluesy classic rock and with a little sprinkle of playful avant-garde, then you’d be somewhere close to imagining the sound of ‘Them Crooked Vultures’

At first, I felt sorry for John Paul Jones, being the old classic rocker in with these 2 younger kings of alternative rock. Even more when I heard his bass being put through distortion effects on a few of the tracks. Then I realised that he probably had much more influence on the sound of the band that I had originally given him credit. After all, he’s the one in this group with nothing to lose. He was a part of one of the most iconic rock bands of all time! He wouldn’t have agreed to join if he didn’t like Homme’s dissonant leaning sound, and to add in those basslines underneath just give the songs an extra sparkle of classic rock energy.

For the Foo Fighters fans out there, don’t worry, you can hear Dave’s voice in there in places, harmonising with Homme and occasionally getting little moments to sing on his own. It’s incredibly likely that many of the guitars were recorded by him too, the multi-instrumentalist that he is. It does make me wonder though, what my impression of this album would be if it was Grohl taking lead vocal duties rather than Homme. On first listens, my dominant thought was “This is very QotSA”, but while the overall sound of the band is reminiscent of Josh Homme’s band, the fact that he is also the singer plays a big part in this impression. This said, the influence the other band members have on the sound make me prefer this album to Queens of the Stone Age’s last effort, ‘Era Vulgaris’.

This is quite a strange album, but a very good one. Sweeping pianos mix with out of time guitar distortion, some songs end with sound-a-likes of old movie soundtracks, and bluesy guitar riffs trade off with ones that border on the dissonant. What’s amazing is that it all works, and is a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. For Queens of the Stone Age fans, this album should be an instant purchase, and Foo Fighters fans won’t have much to complain about either. If any Zeppelin fans are on the fence about it, by the time you hear the bass in Scumbag Blues, you won’t be, I promise.

8.5/10

Standout Tracks:

Scumbag Blues

Reptiles

Gunman