MusicRadar's review of the year: 2009
23rd Dec 2009 | 17:01
Age-old tradition dictates that the music-making year is kicked off with a very special ceremony indeed – and 2009 was no different. So, with Christmas seemingly a distant memory, the entire industry jumped in planes, flew over to Orange County, California and released bucketloads of cool new products.
The 2009 Winter NAMM show might have taken place during the peak of an economic whiteout but that didn’t stop it being any less fruitful – in fact, bounties in hi-tech were the largest in years, with NAMM witnessing the launch of the market-shaking Akai APC40 Ableton Live controller to name just one product.
Meanwhile, back in the UK, MusicRadar was becoming embroiled in a bizarre fact-battle with the BBC over the supposed break-up of Led Zeppelin, which took a phone call or six to Zep’s manager and a whole lot of head-scratching to straighten out. Check out our timeline of critical events to find out how a then year-old story managed to resurface and bamboozle the entire internet.
January also saw the sad passing of John Martyn at the age of 60. We remember the innovative singer-songwriter here.
February arrives; the Joe Satriani vs Coldplay plagiarism case heats up when Coldplay brand the lawsuit "ridiculous" and rumours circulate that Chris Martin and company may be served legal papers at the Grammys.
MusicRadar, of course, remained impartial - although we did put our individual opinions on record as a one-off (if only to stop the endless arguing in the office).
February also saw the world of comics and music collide with the release of the Watchmen film - or at least its soundtrack. To our ears, it was missing a few tunes, so here are 9 songs that should have made it instead.
Oh, and there was Twitter. It almost goes without saying that microblogging blew up big in 2009 and February’s where it really started gaining momentum. Here are 21 musician Twitters you should be following.
2009 was the year of the supergroup, and The Dead Weather were its first. The latest brainchild of rock polymath Jack White, the band launched in March comprising Kills singer Alison Mosshart, Raconteur Jack Lawrence on bass, Queens Of The Stone Age's Dean Fertita on guitar with White drumming and providing additional vocals.
The Dead Weather bucked the supergroup trend and actually went on to be wildly successful, releasing critically acclaimed album Horehound and hitting audiences with some storming live shows (live From The Basement was our favourite).
Speaking of events, the announcement of The Beatles: Rock Band was a big ‘un - news that there was to be a themed edition of the ridiculously popular game franchise featuring original Beatles recordings took everyone by surprise, and was the first chapter in what was to be a very good year for the fab four (skip to September…).
Over on the hi-tech side and Ableton Live 8 was the first of the year’s big DAW updates to get a public airing, being released to beta to loud critical applause.
The niftiest tech thing of the year was surely the OP-1 from Swedish techno wildcards Teenage Engineering.
First seen at Frankfurt Musikmesse, the miniature synth/sequencer/drum machine/keyboard/kitchen sink turned heads across the internet with its neat design and innovation (check out our video demo of the OP-1 here) - although the fact that it still hasn’t reached beta has led some to speculate the gadget is ‘vapourware’.
There were, of course, many other cool new products at this year’s Musikmesse, and MusicRadar was on location filming more video than ever before. See all our coverage here.
The Frankfurters didn’t claim all of April’s product glory, though - UK luthier Manson Guitars released a long-desired production version of its famed Muse Matt Bellamy signature guitar, replete with Kaoss pad and Fernandez Sustainer. Get the video skinny on the Manson MB-1 here.
Across the pond and Kings Of Leon were deep into their world tour supporting fourth album Only By The Night. MusicRadar joined them to talk to Caleb and Matthew and to run through their live stage setups on video.
Finally for April, the theme from Doctor Who - originally realised by sound design pioneer and general hi-tech community darling Delia Derbyshire - was voted the greatest TV sci-fi theme by a poll. Which was nice.
Record! May saw Reason-maker Propellerhead finally release a full DAW - a product which would combine the ‘virtual rack’ of Reason with audio recording and editing capabilities, all routed through an emulation of an SSL desk.
Propellerhead’s Record was possibly the biggest new product of the year and, after being released in September, it’s going strong. MusicRadar was there when it all started and filmed this video of launch day featuring interviews with the Props and more.
Artist-wise, May was the month that Michael Jackson postponed his planned London O2 gigs, further fuelling speculation as to the state of the King Of Pop’s health.
Another gigantic ‘80s pop act was also in the news: Queen announced they were parting ways with Free and Bad Company singer Paul Rogers after a long-term collaboration spanning four years.
June 2009 - an absolutely huge month for music. The world was shocked by the death of Michael Jackson, who passed away following a cardiac arrest at his home just days before the planned start of concerts in London. Music stars worldwide paid tribute.
Chickenfoot was this year’s second supergroup and the release of their album in June was preceded by colossal hype. The ‘foot, made up of Joe Satriani, Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith, went on to play a series of smokin’ sell-out shows, one of which resulted in the fire department being called out (really). Satch caused further fuss in June by breaking his longstanding alliance with Peavey and switching back to Marshall for amplification.
Meanwhile, on the greyer, muddier side of the pond: festivals! We clearly couldn’t go to every one of the hundreds of UK summer festivals June had to offer, so we hedged our bets on Glastonbury and Download being the best. The gamble paid off, too - see our Glastonbury picture diary and our Download video highlights for coverage of mud, tents, rock stars, mankinis and more.
Anti-Auto-Tune sentiment boiled over in June. A year of rampant and unchecked pitch correction had been met with a harsh backlash from Jay-Z, Death Cub For Cutie and other heavyweight stars in preceding weeks, but the online “Auto-Tune must die” campaign at www.deathofauto-tune.com was the most focused and definite attack yet.
From blogs vs Auto-Tune, we finish up our re-cap of June with Eminem vs Bruno’s arse - and the 'revelation' that the stunt was staged. It's still funny though!
July, for MusicRadar at least, was all about It Might Get Loud, the rockumentary about the individual approaches to guitar of three massive stars: Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. We managed to borrow all three rock gods for a four-way interview on the making of the film.
Meanwhile, on the tech side of the July coin, Apple was releasing Logic Studio 9. The latest iteration of the do-it-all DAW added new toys for guitarists in the shape of the Amp Designer and Pedalboard modelling plug-ins, plus elastic audio-style functionality dubbed Flex Time, Drum Replacer and more.
August was the month that guitar designer, music tech pioneer, jazz player and all-round legend Les Paul passed away, at the age of 94. We were at the Gibson HQ the day he died - you can read our account of the day here and our tribute here.
The month saw Noel Gallagher finally quit Oasis, after months of not-so-veiled hints that him and Liam weren’t getting on. Actually, make that years of not-so-veiled hints. Still, it was big news nonetheless - here’s looking forward to a Noel Gallagher solo album, and here’s looking back at 15 years of Oasis: in pictures and videos.
OS X Snow Leopard arrived in August - key features of Apple’s new operating system such as improved mutli-thread processor support and disk space savings pleased music makers, although legacy users were inevitably peeved at Apple finally dropping support of PowerPC machines.
August also hosted a major new music festival. It might have been Sonisphere’s first year but that didn’t stop the event taking place across multiple countries and bagging some serious big name headliners - including Metallica, Linkin Park and Avenged Sevenfold.
Beatlemania returned in 2009 and peaked in September.
First there was the release of The Beatles Remastered box set (check out our comprehensive reviews of ’63-’66 and ’67-’70 for everything you’d ever need to know about both the mono and stereo versions). Next there was The Beatles: Rock Band, finally released in September (read the review from our resident Beatles specialist for more).
Finally, there were the myriad other features that made up MusicRadar’s Beatles Week. The greatest Beatles song ever revealed, the greatest Beatles album ever revealed, Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick on Abbey Road, what The Beatles mean to me by Joe Perry, Richie Sambora and Alan White plus a whole lot more.
On the instrument side in September: the most controversial product launch that MusicRadar can remember. The announcement that Gibson was making a Jimi Hendrix Strat copy signature guitar was met with the year’s loudest collective WTF? from the guitar community and resulted in some swift back-peddling from Gibson when it removed the page in question from their website. MusicRadar muses on the whole Gibson Jimi Hendrix debacle here.
We also saw a couple of resolutions: Melodyne DNA was finally released to beta after months of silence from the Celemony camp and speculation as to the projects’ health from the tech community, and Coldplay and Joe Satriani settled their lawsuit.
It’s very rare that any new product announcement is met with universal praise - there is always, inevitably, at least one cynic that will criticise even the very best product.
Props to Novation, then, for their Launchpad dedicated Ableton Live controller, which received cries of ‘well, that seems like a really good idea’ from across the board. Except perhaps from Akai. One of the years’ hottest products for sure - check out our exclusive video first look then the in-depth review for more.
Speaking of really cool products, October had another up its sleeve: The Eigenharp. It might look like the kind of cosmic techno-bassoon you’d expect to only be good for playing the Star Wars Cantina theme, but Eigenlabs head honcho John Lambert insisted the Eigenharp is a tool for serious musicians. After attending the launch event, we’re inclined to agree with him. Check out the video for more.
On the slightly less cool but equally welcome side of tech was the release of Windows 7 – an OS that has massive potential for future music-making app development given its memory and multi-thread processing capabilities.
Riff Week! After polling nearly 5000 musicians over the preceding few weeks, MusicRadar was both surprised and delighted when our poll to determine the greatest guitar riff of all time appeared on BBC Breakfast and Sky News. Find out which riff clinched the number one spot here.
The Tenori-on Orange from Yamaha arrived in November; the gadget is basically a cheaper version of the Little Boots tech-weapon of choice - but with orange lights. Look out for some video on MusicRadar soon.
November also yet another 2009 supergroup: Them Crooked Vultures. Comprising Josh Homme on vocals and guitar, Dave Grohl on drums and Zep’s John Paul Jones on bass, the band’s super-album was, after those of Chickenfoot (see June) and The Dead Weather (see March), the third of the year to be met with critical acclaim.
Finally for November: Steven Tyler quit Aerosmith. Or did he? A very confusing series of events started when guitarist Joe Perry told the Las Vegas Sun that Tyler had quit Aerosmith “as far as I can tell”. Tyler retorted by appearing on stage at a gig Joe Perry Project gig, telling both Perry and the audience that he was not quitting Aerosmith - only to have Aerosmith’s Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford express their doubts as to a Tyler return.
The whole episode left us all utterly perplexed, and rumours of Lenny Kravitz taking the maybe-vacated mic spot confounded even further…
The month isn’t over quite yet but it’s still seen some pretty big music news. John Frusciante quit the Red Hot Chili Peppers (actually, it seems he quit some time ago - we just couldn’t tell you ‘til now) sending shockwaves around the musosphere.
There was further upset when Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name beat X Factor winner Joe McElderry’s debut to the Christmas number one spot. Controversial - but not quite as controversial as the week before when, playing live, RATM swore all over Nicky Campbell’s breakfast radio show despite apparently promising they wouldn’t. The line in question, “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!”, was probably a clue.
Then there was the Gibson Dusk Tiger - the US guitar giant’s latest robo-axe. The Dusk Tiger was packed with technology (check out our picture overview) being the most advanced model in the Robot Guitar series yet, and it also featured one of the most innovative (if divisive) designs to come out of the Gibson camp in years.
And that’s it! 2009, done. We’ll leave you by wishing you happy holidays, and with our rundown of the 25 best Christmas songs of all time - voted for by you.
See you in 2010…