15. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Soundtrack
Although strictly a release from last year, in the UK the film and accompanying soundtrack only really had a proper airing in January. With this soundtrack Trent Reznor completes the work he first began in 1999’s “The Fragile”, and later extrapolated on 2008’s much underrated “Ghosts I-IV”. As a result you could argue that this previously acerbic and volatile singer has now completely transformed his image, Trent now come across as an articulate and affable spokesperson for the creative music industry. However, if this is a sign as that he has somehow become acceptable and safe in his advancing years, that couldn’t be further from the truth evidenced here. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a mature work that continually manages to evoke convincing atmospheric spaces, at times perpetuating an almost Hitchcockian thriller-like dread. Rarely has the teaming up of a musician and film maker complemented each other’s aesthetic to such as degree as this. David Fincher’s glacial neo fairy-tale mystery is propelled to a higher level by the strikingly varied and modernist compositions produced by Reznor and Ross. This a commendable progression from their work on “The Social Network” and is bookended by two absolute standout cinematic themes; “Immigrant Song” covered by Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O for the opening titles and “Is Your Love Strong Enough?” by Reznor’s new band How to Destroy Angels for the closing credits.
14. iamamiwhoami – Kin
A totally brilliant and dreamy slice of electro from Sweden, “Kin” is reminiscent of the pioneering work of Goldfrapp and Bjork, and like both those acts, the songs here veer precariously from mainstream dance/pop to experimental minimalism. Starting off as a mysterious multimedia project, iamamiwhoami captivated many in the Swedish music industry, triggering off a curious search to unmask the identity behind the music. With the secret recently being resolved (it turns out that rather than Lady Gaga(?!) the work was attributed to singer-songwriter Jonna Lee), this debut was released, accompanied by a full length video project. Whilst the jury is most certainly out on the value of the music videos (which are a bit too self-consciously kooky for my liking), the record is a gem and alongside the other strange dream-pop choices in this list, is most definitely worth a listen.
13. Deftones – Koi No Yokan
In a way there is nothing special about “Koi No Yokan”, rather it’s an excellent rock record by a consistently great band in a year where decent rock records have been virtually non-existent. With any luck, someone will give this (the Deftones’ Seventh record) a heavy listen and feel inspired enough by their greatness to kick start the next generation of era-defining rock bands. Consistently filled with their trademark emotional, hard-hitting and rocked-out tunes, this really is the marching of a band at the top of their game. “Koi No Yokan” gives the fans what they want in a big way (just hear “Leathers” and “Gauze”), whilst continuing to develop their signature sound (“Entombed”), proving you can have your cake and eat it after all!
12. Jack White – Blunderbuss
After more than a decade Jack White is still the hottest ticket in town, whether it’s with The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs or even (with a touch of wishful thinking!) The White Stripes, there’s simply no stopping Mr White’s steamroller of revivalist good ole fashioned Rock and Roll. But when the tunes are this inventive (and downright eccentric), who can really argue against it? “Blunderbuss” works hard to not rest on its laurels and whilst featuring more growers (“Freedom at 21”) than gold certified hits (“Sixteen Saltines”), it provides too much fun to attempt to sneer at. Like the man himself, this record really has to be heard live for it to truly make sense, and for those who had the wonderful opportunity to do so this year, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
11. Graham Coxon –A+E
Graham Coxon burst out of the wilderness (and out from under all the lengthy talk of Blur concerts and new albums) to release this, easily his finest solo effort to date. “A+E” caught everyone off guard when it was released earlier this year, with many (myself included) still digesting its dense assortment of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of indie rock. You’ll laugh (“Seven Naked Valleys”), you’ll cry (“Knife in the cast”), and you’ll dance (“What’ll It Take”), just whatever you do, don’t touch that dial, because it’s great!