There have been lots of hyped-up records and some typical disappointments but if there’s one thing I hope this post does is turn people’s attentions to some really great records you won’t read about in the NME or Rolling Stone. I don’t pretend to have a true ‘world wide’ knowledge of the best records this year, but at least I’ve given it a go (unlike virtually all Western music journalists). Please let me know what you think of these records (good, bad or ugly!):
30. Dorian – ‘Midori’
An excellent lounge dance record that owes a great deal to Cornelius but has more than enough great moments to stand alone.
29. Soil&”Pimp” sessions – ‘Circles’
One of the most exciting Jazz bands to have emerged in recent years, incredibly they actually make Jazz sound cool!
28. Phoenix – ‘Bankrupt!’
Another consistently excellent record from France’s best indie band. My only criticism is how much further can they stretch their signature sound? Great fun though.
27. Franz Ferdinand – ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions’
Everyone has their knives out for Franz, which is a bit unfair really. I’m pretty certain they don’t care, but if they can keep producing records this strong it will hopefully silence the naysayers.
26. Boom Boom Satellites – ‘Embrace’
Boom Boom Satellites are Japan’s answer to Nine Inch Nails and have been making excellent records for well over a decade. ‘Embrace’ finds them continuing to push the envelope after career highlight ‘To the Loveless’, and would feature higher had it not featured a head crushingly bad cover of ‘Helter Skelter’ and one of the most bizarre track-listings I’ve ever encountered (‘excellent instrumental intro track you say, okay then lets put it at track 8.’) Despite this, there are some incredible stand-outs (‘Disconnected’ being one of their best songs to date).
25. Cuushe – ‘Butterfly Case’
Cuushe is a superb new artist and her debut ‘Butterfly Case’ is one of the most immaculately constructed records you’ll hear all year. One of her earlier songs is called ‘Do you Know the Way to Sleep?’, and I think that abstract aesthetic permeates throughout this record. It’s sleepy, trippy, and powerful electronic shoegaze. A great companion piece to last year’s brilliant ‘Melody’s Echo Chamber’.
24. EL-P & Killer Mike – Run the Jewels
Forget Tyler, forget Kayne, and forget Kendrick, this is the best Hip-Hop you’ll hear this year.
23. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
‘Reflektor’ is a controversial album, not because it transforms and develops Arcade Fire’s traditional sound but rather because it smacks of over-indulgence. No, one except perhaps The Beatles have pulled off a double album and the back-peddling on this ambition is clear as the second part of ‘Reflektor’ draws to a close. Long instrumental endings and ‘hidden tracks’ of rewound tape can’t hide the fact that this is a record begging for a nice big pair of scissors. It’s agonisingly apparent when the standouts (like the incredible ‘Here comes the night-time’ and title track) are heard alongside the likes of B-side filler (‘Flashbulb eyes’ I’m looking at you!). Had ‘Reflektor’ been edited down and distilled, it would have topped most of the end of the year lists (this one included), instead it will be recognised as a flawed experiment with only moments of greatness.
22. Big Deal – ‘June Gloom’
Big Deal are a great British indie rock pair, who have tons to offer and have produced a brilliant showcase in ‘June Gloom’. There’s bags of potential here and I can only hope that more bands like Big Deal will keep the fire burning for adventurous and eccentric British Indie-rock music. The fact that they’ve been sidelined and not championed by the music press in the UK (although bizarrely I saw a sizeable review for them in Rolling Stone), bemoans how irrelevant music journalism has become.
21. The Joy Formidable – ‘Wolf’s Law’
A consistently excellent sophomore record from The Joy Formidable, clearly setting their aim very high. ‘Wolf’s law’ has lots of grand moments but perhaps is lacking in some of the more gut-wrenching intimacy that they are capable of. Great work though and a band very much on the rise!