David Sylvian

1. David Sylvian, Manafon (Samadhisound): If ever a record felt like a culmination of a life’s exploration, this was it. In positioning that striking voice and those disarming lyrics in an avant-improvisational setting, with some top class collaborators, Sylvian truly reached a new frontier, with this, the year’s best. Where can he go next? I for one can’t wait to find out.

MvO trio2.

Moritz von Oswald Trio, Vertical Ascent (Honest Jons): It took me quite some time to appreciate just how good Vertical Ascent actually is, but with each play, new layers of rhythmic and textural fascination were revealed to me. Vertical Ascent is a welcome return to health and form for the peerless Moritz von Oswald, featured here with Max Loderbauer and Sasu Ripatti.

The Necks

3. The Necks, Silverwater (ReR): Impetuous it may be to put a record only released a few weeks ago so very close to the top of the pile, but Silverwater has all the hallmarks of a classic. Australian trio The Necks added to their trademark none-more-patient sound with kosmiche keyboards and guitar, but retained and built upon their intuitive sense of dynamics. The results were truly magnificent.

Bill Orcutt

4. Bill Orcutt, A New Way To Pay Old Debts (Palilalia):

This was another stunning comeback which sailed into the top twenty, this time for the long-time-missed Bill Orcutt (of Harry Pussy fame). Orcutt’s solo demolishment and reconstruction of the (four-string) guitar resulted in the most outrageously thrilling record of the year. Given the justifiable demand, a hasty repress was required of this too-limited release.

Leyland Kirby

5. Leyland Kirby, Sadly The Future Is No Longer What It Was (HAFTW): If there was an award for longest track titles or for most confusing format of the year Kirby’s triple double set Sadly The Future Is No Longer What It Was would have been a shoo-in. Happily these many many words and sides also contained some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful work of Kirby’s career.

Peter Wright

6. Peter Wright, Snowblind (Install): After an inordinate delay, Wright’s Snowblind finally made an appearance. The cause of the delay still baffles: this was the pick of the albums Wright released this year, and probably even of his career. This incredibly ambitious work spread all manner of highly atmospheric ambient and harsh noisescapes across its two discs.

Broadcast and the Focus Group

7. Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age (Warp): The idea of pairing Broadcast with the music and/or visuals of Ghost Box co-founder Julian House (with his Focus Group) was a good one on paper, and also on stage. Happily, the album also surpassed all expectations with its intoxicating collage of brightly-coloured retro-cinematics.

Sunn O)))

8. Sunn 0))), Monoliths and Dimensions (Southern Lord): With strings and brass mixing with black metal vocals and huge walls of guitar, this latest salvo from Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson could have been an unholy and unlistenable mess. Not so. All those elements combined to produce a layered work of extraordinary power, with the trombone of Julian Priester transporting it heavenwards.


9. Eleh, Homage To The Sine Wave (Taiga): Just who is the mysterious Eleh? And how can he make so much out of seemingly so little? “Volume Reveals Detail’ proclaim the records, and this was no exception: a hypnotic trip into the microscopic qualities of sound itself. Getting your head into the prescribed position to get the most of this required a tape measure and perhaps some gymnastics.

Kevin Drumm

10. Kevin Drumm, Imperial Horizon (Hospital Productions): The follow up to last year’s Imperial Distortion mined similar ground to similar chart-bothering effect. Imperial Horizon is all shadows and reflections, with little hard surface, but may well be Kevin Drumm’s minimalist masterpiece. Its one track stretched on and on, but even the slightest shift in its deep drones was hypnotic in its power.

Tuma Weis

11. Scott Tuma and Mike Weis, Taradiddle (Digitalis): From the hazy fragments of Tuma’s guitar (Tuma’s Not For You was one that should have made last year’s list, to be honest) and Weis’s percussion, these two fashioned their own dreamlike soundworld, a mix of deep, swirling, blurry atmospheres and strange emotions. This LP was the pick of another great year for the Digitalis label.

Hildur Gudnadottir

12. Hildur Gudnadottir, Without Sinking (Touch): This was an album which seemed to touch the hearts of those I enthusiastically recommended it to this year. And there were quite a few. It was a record seemingly unlike any other Touch release, but on Without Sinking, Gudnadottir’s cello seemed to illuminate a sky full of wondrous cloud formations.


13. Emeralds, Emeralds (Gneiss Things): Not ones to willingly court the notion of selling any records, this limited edition CDR from the hypanogic front-runners Emeralds became a marginally less-limited LP run, bringing this stunning set of mind-expanding kosmiche to a (slightly) wider audience. Those failing to secure a copy should check out What Happened from earlier in 09.


14. Monolake, Silence (Imbalance): Given that it wasn’t released until December, Monolake’s Silence will probably have missed the boat for most other year-end lists. Shame on them. Don’t miss out: Silence built effortlessly on Polygon Cities with a collection of rhythms and sounds that were put together with a perfectionist’s ear. Sonically, nothing was sharper.

Alva Noto15. Alva Noto, Xerrox Vol.2 (Raster-Noton): The second of Carsten Nicolai’s five (five!) planned Xerrox volumes contained some surprisingly powerful emotional themes, but you had to wade through layer upon layer of uncompromising electronic noise to reach them. As ever with Nicolai, your efforts any efforts thus expended were well rewarded in the end.

Daniel Higgs

16. Daniel Higgs, Hymnprovisations For Banjo With Piano AND Raindrops (iDEAL): That lengthy title tells you everything you need to know about this album from ex-Lungfish member Daniel Higgs, other than its absolute genius. The expected, experimental and wholly excellent banjo expositions were supplemented by ghostly gamelan-like piano and Scottish storms.

Black To Comm

17. Black To Comm, Alphabet 1968 (Type): Alphabet 1968, the remarkable new work by the Dekorder label’s Marc Richter, set the seal on a stunning year for another label: the thoroughly rejuvenated Type Records. It ran the gamut from Gas-aping rhythms to the murkiest of drone, but somehow it retained a compellingly cohesive feel. His best to date, I thought.

Isambard Khroustaliov

18. Isambard Khroustaliov, Ohka (Not-Applicable): Since the last Icarus album Sylt, the projects of Isambard Khroustaliov (better known as Sam Britton) have taken him further and further out into more abstract compositional and improvisational fields. His new album Ohka is the culmination of that journey, a fastidiously-constructed and starkly monochrome collage of the classical and the electronic.

Tara Jane O'Neil

19. Tara Jane O’Neil, A Ways Away (K): Songs. Yes, proper songs. In my end of year list. Truth be told, there was much more to this album by Portland, Oregon’s Tara Jane O’Neil than initially met the eye. It took those songs, a beautifully-voiced hushed folk music as a starting point for its exploration into some much darker instrumental territory. A real tonic.

Ben frost

20. Ben Frost, By The Throat (Bedroom Community): Building on his last release The Theory Of machines, sonic terror Ben Frost upped the horror ante with the dark cinematics of By The Throat. Who else in 2009 managed to make a bass sound like a baying pack of wolves? No-one. In the list it goes.


25 thoughts on “FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2009

  1. Scott McMillan and Mapsadaisical staff, you are a rare demonstration of musical distinction. We salute you from the wintery banks of the Amsterdam docklands.

  2. Who else has the guts to place Sylvian’s “Manafon” at the top of the year’s best
    releases?. This is just one of the reasons why Mapsadaisical is a favourite reference. Best wishes for Christmas and a sonorous New Year!

  3. Great list – plenty for me to investigate… I think the latecomer for me is the Oneohtrix Point Never – Rifts collection, love it. But nice to see Manafon up there and Peter Wright, certainly two of my favourites of the year.

  4. Ah, at last! We nearly had to wait. Had the cat eaten the original list or something? Anyway, now it’s here, I can safely say that I have missed quite a few of these records. I definitely need to get my hands on the Monolake album as it’s been gathering praises recently, and Hildur Gudnadottir also sounds like something I need to investigate. Unlike most people, I didn’t really get into the Leyland Kirby bumper release. I think it was just too long to keep my attention in check. Perhaps I need to get back to it without the pressure of ‘getting it’ and see how that works.

    I am quite surprised to see Ben Frost just about scraping into your top 20, but it’s good it’s in there somewhere still.

    A fine list, as usual. Looking forward to your list of the decade… I still can’t be bothered with mine.

    May you and Mrs Maps have a wonderful Christmas and NY, and see you on the other side of the Hogmanay celebrations…

  5. Brilliant and individual list as always Scott. I’ve enjoyed a number of these myself – particularly Tara Jane O’Neil, which I don’t think I’d have heard were it not for your review here. I still have some reservations about Manafon, although I think it’s a brave and important work.

    I still need to check out the Leyland Kirby, Ben Frost and Tuma/Weis records, so they may miss out on my list unfortunately.

  6. Thanks Milkman, your list is – as ever – well worth a read.

    I’m always late with these things, but the problem was even more acute in 2009 – too many great records were still being released right at the end of the year, including the Monolake and Ben Frost you mention, but also the Necks, Oneohtrix Point Never and King Midas Sound. If I’d published earlier, I’d have missed some of those out. And, having heard them, I’d never have forgiven myself for that.

    I do feel that the Kirby album has to be long. It isn’t a song or even an album of sorrow, but instead a whole world of hurt. You can’t escape, it never seems to end.

    And a Joyeux Noel to you, whoever Noel is…

  7. Some I could pull together (not in order) :


    L’Autopsie Phénoménale De Dieu





    Gesellschaft Zur Emanzipation Des Samples




    Truth & Distance


    TU M’

    Monochromes Vol. 1



    Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was



    The Visitor





    Mika Vainio

    Black Telephone Of Matter



    Alphabet 1968



    Give It Up


    william basinski




    Your Eyes the Stars and Your Hands the Sea



    Intermission 2000-2008





    Good to have discovered your blog this year, and still owe you one for hooking me up with the Gas ticket – perhaps my event of the year.

    Enjoy whatever it is you get up to during the break…

  8. Thanks Matthew, a great list, and some of those almost made my list too – in particular the Concern and Zelienople ones. I know a lot of people seem to really love it, but I never took to the Atom TM record at all, found its use of the mobile phone signal interference to be just really bloody irritating.

    Ah yes, the Gas show – my “events of the year” list will be posted just after xmas…

  9. That’s an excellent list! I’ll have to admit that there are a few in your top 20 that I haven’t heard yet. And this is where the end of year gets fun – I usually tend to spend a ton of money in January picking up some recommendations, and be assured that some entires from your list are already in my cart!

    I just published Headphone Commute’s Best of 2009 last night. But I’m doing it a bit differently this time. Revealing 15 different themed lists, with 10 albums in each, one day at a time… It’s a lot of fun!



  10. Hello HC! I love the titles of your lists, some are like titles for imaginary albums by Leyland Kirby e.g. “Music For The Frosty Night When I Miss Your Warm Light”. And “Music For Sonic Installations In The Cavern Of Your Skull” does sound particularly appealing.

  11. Great list – of course! This is one I’ll definitely be coming back to in the coming weeks, in my ongoing efforts to find all the great stuff I missed out on this year, for whatever reason. My list will be online in a few days and you won’t be surprised to hear that it will share some common ground with yours.

  12. Scott, even by your standards, this is a great list to be savoured & saluted! In the rotation era, it’s clearly right that you have a second 20 too – & they’re outstanding as well.

    I doubt there’s five records in the whole 40 I wouldn’t love (though slightly more than that yet to hear, regrettably…).

    Thought I was about done with Sylvian, but your appetite for ‘Manafon’ requires me to revisit him.

    As for other choices, I’d of course shift a few up or down – & swap a few in & out too. But I prefer to emphasise the commitment, open-mindedness & taste that you’ve brought to mapsadaisical again this year (& which the list underscores): many thanks for yet more inspiration & encouragement towards great music!

    Am looking forward to your albums of the decade (10? 20? second 20 too?) with genuine anticipation…

    Julian / LMYE

  13. Not heard the majority of your list but there are many I have wanted to get – Scott Tuma & Mike Weiss, Tara Jane O’Neil, David Sylvain, really there’s no point re-typing half your list.

    Did you hear the Red Horse LP on Rel Recs (http://www.relrecords.net/RedHorserel007.html)?

    Like Headphone Commute, it looks like an expensive January is coming.

    Have a good Christmas.

  14. Thanks for the comments everyone. Andrew – I haven’t, but it sounds like something I really should hear!

    Julian – I think there will be an albums of the decade list. God knows how many will be in there. I started with ten, but it is currently a Top 16. If I can’t be a bit more decisive I might have to scrap it, it is driving me crazy…

  15. hey scott, as always great list. i wait for it every year ;D
    totally agree with david sylvian in the top place! and i have to get a lot that i missed.
    happy holidays!


  16. Pingback: Albums of the Year 2009 « Bubblegum Cage III

  17. Your lists continue to shock me, and then sometime in January after getting some deep listens I get it. No Riceboy Sleeps? I’m most surprised by that. My 2009 list in comparison is very dancy and predictable. Well, see you in February when I will be droning your praises.

  18. I’m a bit surprised nobody has said very much about Biosphere, “Wireless”.
    Although it’s a live album for me it outstrips “Substrata” and it shows how Geir casts off a skin while being in mastery of his best moments.

    I’d also like to add that the Pet Shop Boys at O2 Centre was magnificent to put into context those nights at Cafe Oto.

  19. Pingback: Undomondo Best of 2009 Mentions | undomondo

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