The annual list - probably after most have been published. Of best tracks there’s a little compilation you can download here. For my favourite albums, look below. These are in no particular order. Narrowing it down to ten was hard enough - this has been a very good year for music. For European readers there’s Spotify links where available. See you next year…
Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
I never really got into his last, Los Angeles. Parisian Goldfish was fun but that was all I connected with. It was all technique, no feeling. The follow up remedies this and adds even more inventiveness for good measure. Cosmogramma never stands still, it never rests - the beats in particular are hyperactive in how they change and evolve. As such it’s one of those albums you’ll be spotting things in for years.
These New Puritans - Hidden
One of the few indie bands in Britain worth paying attention to I’m pleased to see These New Puritans getting wide and richly reserved praise this year. Hidden is the album they always had in them. There’s so much ambition in the album and unlike Beat Pyramid, their previous effort, here they make good on the early promise of early singles.
Beach House - Teen Dream
Beach House previously were one of those bands that always sounded better on paper than through your speakers. This was different - thoughtful 70s pop that like the Wild Nothing album proves its worth in the execution. There’s no let downs here - just the sound of that earlier promise finally being beautifully realised.
Sleigh Bells - Treats
Sleigh Bells hit on a formula so simple you’re surprised no one had thought of it before. Rick Rubin/Andrew WK noisy metal beats fused with sweet indie girl group vocals. Addictive, fun and energetic.
Vampire Weekend - Contra
The first album for me was the very definition of indie hype. A massive buzz blowing up very quickly about a band with a derivative sound that exploited people’s ignorance of the source. In the case of Vampire Weekend’s first, Graceland was a better album. Contra was a different beast. Whilst they’re clearly still big Paul Simon fans there’s a much wider sound palette and hence a great leap forward.
Wild Nothing - Gemini
Some songwriters are so good you’ll ignore that they’re doing little new. Wild Nothing’s Gemini provides great song and after great song - there’s no flab, no filler just track after track of perfect summery guitar music. New Order, The Smiths and even The Church were among the influences but Wild Nothing made this music their own in an amazing debut.
Matthew Dear - Black City
The follow up to Asa Breed is just as strong a fusing of rock vocal and house dynamics. What it adds is greater diversity - both in sound and mood. Another great album from one of the most interesting American electronic artists of the last five years.
School of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire
The last album was great but let down by a few weak songs. The follow up saw them surpass the strongest tracks of the last and was allied to a more consistent album overall. Shoegaze as it should be done.
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
I purposely avoided the leaks to make sure I gave it a fair hearing. Even so I suspected The Suburbs was going to be where the Arcade Fire jumped the shark. How wrong I was. It’s not their lightest collection - you need to give it your attention but it has so many rewarding moments in return, including in The Sprawl their finest pop moment.
Salem - King Night
For some reason I’m unsure of, Salem split people’s opinions. I’ve heard accusations of it being fashion music for hipsters from the authenticity crowd and allegations of racism from the hipster crowd. Neither really make sense to me. King Night’s mix of woozy synths, slow beats and slurred vocals are a great update of goth for a new era.
Also enjoyed this year…
Keith Fullerton Whitman - Disingenuity, Dylan Ettinger - New Age Outlaws, Markus Guentner - Doppelganger, Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me, Pantha Du Prince - Black Noise, Delphic - Acolyte, Spoon - Transference, Four Tet - There is Love in You, Prins Thomas - Prins Thomas, Gil Scott-Heron - I’m New Here, jj - no.3, High Places - High Places vs. Mankind, LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening, Hammock - Chasing After Shadows… Living With the Ghosts, Actress - Splazsh, Eleven Tigers - Clouds Are Mountains, Mount Kimbie - Crooks and Lovers, Deepchord presents Echospace - Liumin, Walls - Walls, Arp - The Soft Wave, Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner, No Age - Everything in Between, Brian Eno - Small Craft on a Milk Sea, Moon Wiring Club - A Spare Tabby At A Cat’s Wedding, Liars - Sisterworld, Efdemin - Chicago, Ewan Pearson - We’re Proud Of Our Choices, Kode9 - DJ Kicks, Shackleton - Fabric 55, JJ - Kills, Yellow Swans - Going Places