1. Liz Green – O, Devotion!I first happened upon Liz Green at Latitude Festival, after being intrigued by the description in the programme guide, and fell in love with what I heard instantly. (And maybe a little with Ms Green too.) A blend of folk and jazz stylings with distinctive vocals, working together to create a blend of beautiful and haunting tunes. The album would have likely made it to the top spot in the list last year if only I’d heard it in time!
Song to listen to: Luis
A collection of classic in-game and loading music from a bygone era, where you needed a tune to help you through an eight-minute loading time from cassette. However, whilst this could have been done as a lazy hack-job, composers of the time such as Martin Galway and Rob Hubbard decided to push the boat out with what the C64’s built-in SID sound chip could do with just a three-track recording, and created some masterpieces of early electronic music. Some of the songs here have even been re-recorded on the original equipment to give the best quality of sound possible, and with the absence of a few well-known classics, a second volume is hopefully on the way.Track to listen to: Glider Rider
Vince Clarke and Martin Gore re-unite to write songs together for the first time since the early 80s, and the result is an album of not-quite-focused-enough instrumentals. There’s a few good tracks, but when you put them in the overall line-up, it begins to be difficult to tell them apart. An unfortunate miss for what could have been.Song to listen to: Single Blip
21. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
I didn’t get caught up in the hype surrounding Lana Del Rey in the run-up to the album’s release, I didn’t even listen to ‘Video Games’ until the beginning of this year. What’s been released here however, can’t have lived up to the expectations most people had however. Whilst she does have a nice voice, it’s wasted on a number of filler tracks that struggle to keep the momentum going.
Song to listen to: Carmen
A surprisingly good release from a group that common sense would dictate must surely have left their better years behind them. Thankfully, that’s not the case here, with a strong line-up of pop songs that neatly wrap up The Beach Boys with the sad, but triumphant farewell of Summer’s Gone.Song to listen to: Isn’t It Time17. Air – Le Voyage Dans Le LuneA soundtrack to the newly recoloured cinema classic of the same name, Air provide an album that manage to hold up in its own right, though not quite as strong as previous release Love 2. Also loses some points for ending somewhat rather abruptly.Song to listen to: Sonic Armada
16. The Futureheads – Rant
A completely a cappella release of songs, including past songs, covers and standards. A bold move for a current band, and one that works superbly despite expectations, with every song being performed near flawlessly by the group.
Song to listen to: Sumer Is Icumen In
15. Marina & The Diamons – Electra Heart
Eschewing the eccentric vaudeville styles of her debut for a more streamlined pop approach, Marina Diamandis got beaten to the punch by Lana Del Rey for the portrayal of a trailer-park tragic figure, but managed to write some better songs to balance that out more in her favour. Again, as with Miike Snow, this isn’t as good as her debut and I’d recommend that instead, but there’s still some strong material here such as ‘Teen Idle’, and on the extra tracks from the special edition including previous single ‘Radioactivity’.
Song to listen to: Bubblegum Bitch
14. Grimes – Visions
Whilst the music press seem intent on labelling her as the next big visionary in music, I can’t quite agree with that level of admonishment. What Claire Boucher has done though, is create an enjoyable album of slickly-produced electronica with an atmospheric edge. Her airy vocals aren’t going to sit well with everyone, and the album does feel like it goes on for a couple of tracks too many, but there’s some great stuff to uncover in the rest of it.
Song to listen to: Oblivion
13. Ladyhawke – Anxiety
A strong, and greatly anticipated follow-up to 2008’s (Was it really that long ago? Blimey.) self-titled album. Dealing more directly with her problems surrounding anxiety and asperger’s syndrome, the songs also pack a meatier punch than before, leading to a much fuller-sounding album, though losing some of the electronic magic from the debut.
Song to listen to: Black White & Blue
12. Marilyn Manson – Born Villain
A slightly divisive album over in the dedicated thread on this forum, Manson strips back the production on the songs included here to provide a sound of simply getting down to business with a guitar-based band, without pushing the theatrics quite as much. What results is one of my favourite songs in his repertoire, ‘Slo-Mo-Tion’, and the album closer ‘Breaking The Same Old Ground’, which hints at a disassembling of the Marilyn Manson character to the man underneath the make-up, and would be a great next step in his career.
Song to listen to: Slo-Mo-Tion
11. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
The Swedish sister folk-duo return with another album of great melodies and vocals, with an ever-present sense of the ladies remembering to never overdo what can be done best with some restraint. Though they do let themselves go with the brass in ‘King Of The World’. An album with a perfect dual-role as a winter warmer, and for a stroll when summer comes around for a couple of weeks next year.
Song to listen to: The Lion’s Roar
Hot Chip have always proved to be something of a dichotomy for me, they’re a great electro-pop act as well as a great electro-soul act, but the two styles have always seemed to clash on the previous two releases, with one facet getting in the way of the other, leading to a disjointed sound. This album manages to combine both with apparently minimal effort, and results in their most cohesive sounding album since The Warning. Night and Day is an eccentric yet danceable club song, Look At Where We Are a slick R&B song, and yet the two can happily co-exist in the tracklisting, without a single dud amongst the rest.Song to listen to: Flutes
6. School of Seven Bells – Ghostory
Ice cool electro-rock from the American now-duo, in a concept album where the overriding themes happily rest in the background whilst the songs get on with being great tracks. Alejandra Deheza’s moody vocals glide effortlessly over the guitar and keyboard hooks provided by Benjamin Curtis to provide an album that really needs to be listened to in its entirety to fully immerse yourself in.
Song to listen to: Low Times
5. Tame Impala – Lonerism
Psychedelic charms from an artist not tied down by adhering to the notion of psychedelica as having to sound like it came from the 1960s to be authentic. The sound here is crisp and clear, with every part carefully arranged to come together in a cacophony of music and vocals, complete with long stretches of letting the music do its own thing without an over-reliance on vocals, such as the middle-eight section of the thumping Elephant. However, Kevin Parker’s vocals never feel like they’re intruding on the songs when they do appear, and suit every track they’re on perfectly.
Song to listen to: Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
4. Yeasayer – Fragrant World
This is not the album to introduce people to Yeasayer with, it’s a much more layered and dense album than poppier predecessor Odd Blood, but it’s no worse for being so. With the songs having a much more unifying sound to them, the album flows through to the very end, despite the contrasts between discordant sounds and melodic choruses present in most of the tracks. It’s an album that shows that Yeasayer weren’t just opportunists hopping on the ’80s revival’ bandwagon when they began to use more synthesizers, as their sound continues to grow and mature.
Song to listen to: Folk Hero Shtick
3. Mystery Jets – Radlands
After seeing a number of middling reviews for this album, I decided to pass on it due to limited funds and didn’t get round to picking it up until last weekend. I’m now kicking myself for doing so, as it’s one of the band’s best releases, showing a much more reflective and grown-up sound. Whilst there’s no full-on poptastic single like Dreaming Of Another World, which if you haven’t heard you should click on that link and do so now, the album in fact shows its strengths in the slower songs throughout the album with some beautiful melodies and introspective lyrics. Notably, the song that calls back most to their earlier sound, Greatest Hits, is easily the weakest track. The album’s bombastic penultimate track Lost In Austin combines everything altogether in a fantastic life-affirming piece, piece before the calm after the storm of Luminescence brings it all to a close. An album of almost nothing but new highs for the band, and hopefully indicative of them transforming from a good band to a truly great one.
Song to listen to: The Nothing
2. Passion Pit – Gossamer
Passion Pit return with another album of happy-sounding music for melancholic people. Dealing with issues influenced by Michael Angelakos’ own problems with bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse, the songs revolve around Angelakos as he pushes away people in his life whilst blaming them and the world in general for the fact that he’s doing so. This quite dark lyrical content is contrasted by his sing-song style vocals and the chirpy nature of the musical backing, which provides for a compelling listen from start to end, that could still be feasibly danced to at a gig or or a festival. Every song sounds meticulously crafted and the true test of its greatness was the genuine sense of disappointment I felt when I realised the album had ended on my first listen-through. Almost made the Number One spot on this list until the following entry turned up out of nowhere and stole it in early November.
Song to listen to: Cry Like a Ghost
1. Dark Dark Dark – Who Needs Who
Nona Marie Invie and company return for an album that deals with the break-up of the relationship between herself and fellow band member Marshall LaCount, with the songs within covering the wide range of emotions and feelings that come out of such a situation. From the denial of feelings in the title track, to the disbelief of Last Time I Saw Joe, and the anger of Hear Me, culminating in the shared acceptance of blame for the relationship failing in The Great Mistake. All before picking up the pieces ,and remembering the good things about the other half that made you fall in love with them in the first place, in I Collect Things. The entire ensemble of songs is a heartfelt and passionate portrayal of the split and eventual reconciliation between two people, and highly deserving of the top spot on this list.
Now go and buy it.
Song to listen to: Patsy Cline