2009 MUSIC A-Z: B for Belle & Sebastian vs. Beirut

BEIRUT-La Llorona

It looks like the B of 2009 is going to be quite disputed, with two of our favourite chamber pop bands returning. The first of them, Beirut, is meant to release a new album in the autumn, but before that there’s a new record compiling two EPs that showcase Zach Condon’s two different musical directions: His usual, gypsy-flavoured, itinerant orchestra has carried on travelling the world, moving from turn of the century Paris to the Latin American latitudes of Oaxaca, Mexico in “March Of The Zapotec”; back to back with a return to the laptop electronica of his origins, under the moniker of Realpeople, in “Holland EP” .

The second, Glasgow Finest, Belle & Sebastian, will be following the steps of many of their heroes from the sixties and fulfilling another of their pop dreams with the release of their first musical movie, for which they have been auditioning in search of two new female vocalists. “God Help The Girl’s” soundtrack, scheduled to see the light by the end of the year, will include brand new versions of popular classics next to a whole lot of new tracks and could become one of the year’s most pleasant highlights.

Other noteworthy contenders for the B:

BLK JSK-Lakeside

Among newcomers BLK JSK seems to be generating the bigger buzz; they moved from Johannesburg to Brooklyn, where their blend of afrobeats, psychedelia and noise fit perfectly among the current trends, getting nicknamed as the South African TV on The Radio. With Diplo championing them, the re-release of their debut “Mistery EP” on Secretly Canadian will preceed “After robots”, the album they’re currently giving the finishing touches to. From the trend-setting heaven of Brooklyn too and heavily indebted to Joy Division, lo-fi and psychedelia the prolific Blank Dogs have also gained the tag of ones to watch. In the same vein, but based in England and infused with a touch of 80s techno pop, The Big Pink are one of the most talk-about new bands in the isles and one of the few proper bands getting media recognition against the wave of plastic electro-pop solo acts sweeping the nation. Banjo Or Freakout sounds like the British answer to Animal Collective. The artist is currently giving away an EP worth of material on his blog, and it’s highly tipped for glory. Also in the UK, another nu folk chanteuse, Laura Groves, under her Blue Roses moniker, is getting a lot of attention.


Another of the big B’s in 2009 is the return of Britpop. With Blur’s reunion gathering headlines, and forthcoming albums by Noel Gallagher (solo); Shirley Manson and/or Garbage; Placebo; Divine Comedy and rumors of Happy Mondays going back into the studio. It’s like the Ninetees all over again. But this is not only a nostalgic phenomenon, last year there were already clear signs given by usual hip-chasers like CSS (who failed on making sound like Echobelly trendy again) that the revival machine is finally reaching the Nineties. And in 2009 bands like The Joy Formidable or the Brit-awarded Florence & The Machine are hoped to make it succeed.


And not only Nineties Britpop is back, also the biggest names of the decade’s dance and electronic music are planning a comeback, beginning with Fatboy Slim, rebranding himself as The Brighton Port Authority and surrounded by a constellation of Stars (David Byrne, Iggy Pop, Calvin Harris, Emmy The Great, etc) for his new album “I think we’re gonna need a bigger Boat.” Other electronic giants on the industry’s release schedules are Basement Jaxx, The Prodigy & Massive Attack.

Awaited returns in other genres are the second album of Brit female singer Bat For Lashes “Two Suns”, whose first track “Glass” is already circulating online. Bonnie “Prince” Billy excellent and ambitious “Beware” will arrive in March, in which Will Oldham counts with a number of excellent musicians (from Wilco, Mekons, Exploding Star Orchestra, etc). Bill Callaham will release his second solo album “Sometimes I wish We were an Eagle” and even more veteran acts such as Blondie; the delayed solo album by Outkast’ Big Boi and Booker T. Jones, backed by Neil Young and Drive-By-Truckers on his “Potato Jones” in which the legendary keyboardist even dares to cover Outkast’s “Hey Ya;” could be among the season’s biggest surprises.


Back in more independent waters, Ontario will offer another arty collective to the world, Bruce Peninsula; The Black Lips will carry on recovering Garage rock for a new generation of listeners in their new effort “200 Million Thousand“, and there’s also new albums by ex-DFA avant-garde act Black Dice, “Repo” and judging by its first track “Glazin” they’re following the world travelling steps of El Guincho; multi-moniker Carey Mercer has also just released his latest work as Blackout Beach. “Skin Of Evil”.


And last, but not least, the Beastie Boys are releasing a remastered 20th anniversary special edition of their influential second album “Paul’s Boutique”. Undoubtedly one of the reissues of 2009.

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