10. Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing (ATP)
Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power’s iridescent dronecore put holiday camp festivals curator ATP on the map as a label this year.
Synths, samplers and a loud hailer were used to make a floor-shaking noise that sounded like nobody else and won them plaudits across the world.
What we said: “Play this to Courteeners and Editors fans and they’ll no doubt scarper quick smart. Unleash it onto Hoosiers devotees and you might just finish them off altogether. These are, as we know, all good signs.” – Camilla Pia
Amongst a smattering of soundtrack work and the launch of Grinderman, Nick Cave also found time for a new Bad Seeds record.
Universally seen as amongst his best work yet, it wove together Grinderman’s balls-out blues rock and the increasingly impressive Warren Ellis’s soundscape textures. Cave’s work has always been lyrically stunning, but this time the music matched them.
What we said: “DIG!!! LAZARUS, DIG!!! continues Cave’s masterful tradition of remarkable and provocative songwriting; a decadent, meaty opus worthy of slow digestion that emphasizes the transient thrills and inevitable dissatisfaction inherent in life. The concluding recommendation is to “dig yourself… back in that hole,” but indulge yourself and pack his latest work before you do.” – Ryan Helfand
8: Laura Marling – Alas I Cannot Swim (Virgin)
Charlie Fink was everywhere this year – whether it be with his own band Noah And The Whale or on producing duties for the likes of Johnny Flynn and this teenage winsome folkie.
Marling may not even be 20 yet, but this debut album displays the soul of someone much older. From the world-weary sighings of Ghosts to the eerie dread conjured up by Night Terror, each track here announced the arrival of a major new talent.
What we said: “On first hearing, you may think this is a purely acoustic album, but repeated listens throw up some subtle treats. Marling has a strong voice, and she doesn’t have to resort to wailing or stretching out her vowels either.” – John Murphy
7: MGMT – Oracular Spectacular (Columbia)
Hype, hype and more hype preceded MGMT, aided in part by their extensive spring tour of the USA in the company of compatriots Yeasayer.
Electric Feel, Kids and Time To Pretend were amongst the year’s best singles and the rest of this debut suggested a musical ambition to be reckoned with.
“Occasionally they have the glam camp of the Scissor Sisters; at other times the enjoyably madcap approach of the Flaming Lips. Hugely enjoyable and wonderfully disposable pop… An auspicious debut.” – Ben Hogwood
It was the year that Brooklyn seemingly ruled the planet, and this preppy bunch of New Yorkers coined a new, slightly cringey, term in ‘East Side Soweto’.
And so a band who namecheck Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel soon proved popular enough for a three-night residency at London’s Forum; despite the inevitable backlash, this debut was one of the freshest sounding records of the year.
“An ambitious album for good times that celebrates the positive; every one of these songs is rooted in a strong melody. A breath of fresh air.” – Michael Hubbard
5: Portishead – Third (Island)
After 10 long years, Geoff Barrow, Adrian Utley and Beth Gibbons finally got round to finishing their third album.
Third was simultaneously recognisable as a Portishead record and as a departure from their formerly chilled sound, into an angrier, more surprising area of the psyche. Machine Gun was a bizarre choice for first single, but beyond it lay some pristine gems – The Rip and We Carry On foremost amongst them.
“They still sound like no-one else, but more importantly they aren’t just sounding like themselves, either: this is an album that occupies its own space, untethered to any of the musical trappings and quagmires of genre that snare so many other artists.” – Christian Cottingham
4: Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (Bella Union)
Bella Union usually have at least one release nestling in each year’s Top 10, and this was their entry this year.
Folk certainly enjoyed a renaissance this year, and with some expert harmonies and beautiful pastoral sounds, Fleet Foxes were the year’s finest exponents. Their future is unquestionably bright.