So it's that time of year again where putting things into lists seems like a good idea and we can pick up on things we may have missed and discover new and wonderful sounds.
I'm eschewing the good old numerical list this year. Not for "numbering is fruitless" reasons (justified as they may sometimes be) but more because usually there's a standout album (or three) that I know tops my list, whereas this year, while there's been lots of stuff I've enjoyed, there's been nothing I've absolutely, completely fallen in love with that was actually released this year (closest thing was the debut xx album, ages after everybody else!).
Indeed it's been a year where I've found myself mostly going through a Motown phase in the first half of the year then spending the second going from having the most recent two Half Man Half Biscuit albums to buying nearly their entire back catalogue. I also bought my first jazz album (Miles Davis - Kind of Blue, have to start with the classics yes?) But anyway, enough preamble and distractions, here's what springs to my mind from this year.
Django Django - Django Django - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDjpOrlfh0Y
Best debut album I've heard this year, best Scottish album I've heard this year and if forced to pick I'd probably say it would be my favourite album of the year. Natural heir to the inventiveness of the Beta Band.
Japandroids - Celebration Rock - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SThYnF2_ZQA
Also winner of the Ronseal (TM) sponsored "Does what it says on the tin" award. Short, loud, "whoa-oh" backing vocals. What's not to like?
Sharon Van Etten - Tramp - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zw6_GlbxqrU
Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny - Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWeE_u28myo
One of the worst album titles of the year, but closely pushes Django Django for best debut. Seems to be one of those albums that came out near the start of the year that have been unfairly forgotten about in year end lists.
Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOpkr8uNWpk
Speaking of bad album titles! Another album that seems to have been forgotten about come year end. Stripped back, heartfelt and aching. Excellent
Soap and Skin - Narrow - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wf-wz5vdyww
Speaking of heartfelt (you can tell I'm writing down albums as they come into my head!) . . . this is a difficult album. In fact I've barely listened to it and frankly never really want to be in a situation where it would feel like it would reflect me mood. An album about loss and pain, an emotional outpouring and yeah . . . that I've listened to it two or three times and it's still in this list says something.
The 2 Bears - Be strong - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6YdAzmTNGQ
After that you might need some cheering up, so why not have some infectious dance music? An album which will always remind me of good times at Bestival this year thanks to the ubiquity of Bear Hug over the course of the weekend.
Anias Mitchell - Young Man In America - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jEPwuSYG6Y
Yes it's not as good as Hadestown. Neither are most albums. Still bloody fantastic folk music though. Two superb albums in a row from Mitchell. Another album I'd perhaps be tempted to declare as my favourite of this year.
Quakers - Quakers - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWHkkVb1raA
My favourite of the small smattering of hip-hop albums I bought this year. As with any project which features a ton of people collaborating there are a few duff moments but quality control is surprisingly high for something with 40 (short) tracks.
Bloc Party - Four - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rk-J1zT7TfQ
Well slap my thigh and call me Sally! Bloc Party are back! Veering from the aggression of Kettling straight to some banjo picking on Real Talk (it shouldn't work, but it does) this is an excellent return to form.
Other Stuff I Really Enjoyed
We Are the Physics - Your Friend the Atom
Rachel Zeffira - The Deserters
Cat Power - Sun
Bat for Lashes - This Haunted Man
The Unthanks - Diversions vols 2 and 3
Bellowhead - Broadside
Sigur Ros - Valteri
Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal
Karine Polwart - Traces
Jack White - Blunderbuss
The Futureheads - Rant
Daphni - Jaiolong
Calexico - Algiers
Allo' Darlin' - Europe
First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
Then there was the stuff that was good but for me just didn't match up to previous efforts and hasn't been listened to as much; Admiral Fallow, DJ Format, Sleigh Bells, Regina Spektor, Jens Lekman, Euros Childs, The XX, The Shins.
Disappointments of the year
Always bad to end on a downer. The new albums from Islands, Yeasayer and Abdominal just didn't quite do it for me.
So yeah, I've actually acquired quite a lot of music this year and perhaps the fact that I've not fallen absolutely in love with an album is a side effect of that (though I doubt it as I bought a lot last year too and Fucked Up, Tune-Yards, Lia Ices and The Amazing all got played to what would be to death if I didn't love them so much (and are still getting played this year).
I think one thing I've noticed is that I bought a lot of stuff from artists I already liked and none of them surpassed their previous work (as I said before that's harsh on Anais Mitchell as Hadestown is extra special). Cat Power was on to do so but the album lost its way in the second half (the first half is bloody incredible though). Surprise of the year for me was the return to form of Bloc Party, who almost managed to hit the heights of Silent Alarm.
So what are your picks?
Just noticed I (completely by chance) picked 10 favourites! Is putting things into lists of 10 subconsciously ingrained? I really hope not!