30. Lykke Li – Youth Novels (Atlantic)
Well here’s a surprise. Camille, The Bug and Rokia Traor didn’t make the list, but this did? Well, well.
It won’t have hurt the globetrotting Swede that her compatriot Robyn guested at her Camden Crawl appearance back in April, but her burning ambition may yet see her supplant the blonde bombshell in the nation’s hearts.
What we said: “A lot of people are going to fall in love with this new young talent and her ambitious and creative debut.” – Ben Urdang
29: Martha Wainwright – I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too (Drowned in Sound)
No releases from Rufus this year, but younger sister Martha more than did the family proud with her second album.
This was more straight-ahead pop-rock than her folky debut, but as ever with Wainwright she added various degrees of shade which meant it was never easy listening. Her future is a remarkably bright one.
28: British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music? (Rough Trade)
“Easy! Easy! Easy!” – previously a chant only heard at wrestling matches and football games, but suddenly being bellowed at British Sea Power gigs.
The Isle of Wight eccentrics chose a more windswept rock sound for their third album, and it was a gamble that paid off – garnering some of the best reviews of their career and a Mercury nomination to boot.
27: Teddy Thompson – A Piece Of What You Need (Verve)
Being the progeny of a rock legend is no guarantee of quality – for every Rufus Wainwright there’s a Julian Lennon after all.
Richard & Linda Thompson’s son has been around for quite a while, but it was with this album he finally stepped out of his parents’ shadow with some beautifully crafted pop/folk – and that natty suit helped as well.
26: Shearwater – Rook (Matador)
Guillemots weren’t the only seabird-inspired band to release a record this year.
The Okkervil River offshoot came of age with their fifth album. If there really is such a thing as pastoral post-rock, this was the year’s finest example.
25: Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl)
Kevin Barnes may be the quintessential quirky indie rocker, but on Skeletal Lightning he was transformed into the funkiest diva this side of Prince.
Pop, rock, disco and a whole big dollop of funk were all mixed together for Of Montreal’s ninth album – as typically esoteric, psychedelic and eccentric as we’ve come to expect from them.
24: The Hold Steady – Stay Positive (Rough Trade)
They may look like singing plumbers, but the spirit of early Springsteen is deep in Brooklyn’s The Hold Steady.
Often described as ‘the best bar band in America’, Craig Finn’s beautifully sketched characters were as finely honed as anything you’d find in a Kerouac novel. And did we mention they can rock?
23: Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke (Island)
Pip Brown came all the way from New Zealand with a Fleetwood Mac obsession to become the year’s most unlikely hip icon.
In a year in which the sounds of the ’80s seemed to be everywhere, Ladyhawke invoked the spirit of Stevie Nicks and Cyndi Lauper. Most impressively, she did so while sounding impeccably modern.
22: Neon Neon – Stainless Style (Lex)
Super Furry Animals meets shiny electro disco? With a concept album about John DeLorean? That’ll never work.
So seemed to be the general consensus when Gruff Rhys teamed up with producer Boom Bip. Yet it became the Welshman’s most successful release yet. Danceable and intensely thoughtful, it also bagged a Mercury nomination for good measure.
The Beeb’s Planet Earth turned them into unlikely superstars; the Icelanders showed no signs of losing their touch.
A song sung in – shock, horror – English still couldn’t detract from their music’s otherworldly beauty. And they had the sense of humour to call one track Gobbledigook.