1. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Of all the records I’ve enjoyed this year, this is the one I’ve revisited most often. It’s a wonderfully energetic celebration of youth and debauchery; an exuberant, careering supernova of nostalgia brought to life through bellowing, anthemic choruses, buzzsaw guitars and breakneck-speed drums. Posturing and pretension are left at the front door: this is just two guys singing about partying, drinking and the excitement of new relationships; an honest salute to the good times.
2. Goat – World Music
Sweden’s Goat exploded onto my radar this year with a kaleidoscopic carnival of colourful, hypnotic, psyched-out jams. World Music is a dizzying, danceable disco triumph where more traditional elements of primal chanting, Afro-beat and tribal drumming collide with thudding bass, and are decorated by flourishes of spacey guitars and vintage organ.
3. School of Seven Bells – Ghostory
Ghostory is by far and away the most consistent and accomplished School of Seven Bells record to date. It’s incredibly well-paced; a perfect balance between blisteringly energetic pop gems and more floaty and downtempo offerings. The record is peppered with huge hooks throughout, creating an enjoyable and memorable listen, and a sensory experience accentuated by Alejandra Dehaza’s striking ethereal vocals.
4. Air – Le Voyage Dans Le Lune
The French duo’s soundtrack to George Méliès's 1902 silent film could be considered quite a niche listen, however there’s more than enough going on here to interest those unfamiliar with the concept of this record. A slightly menacing tension is maintained throughout, punctuated by the upbeat strut of Parade and the viscerally triumphant Seven Stars.
5. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Perhaps slightly more accessible than previous Dirty Projectors offerings, Swing Lo Magellan takes a more straightforward approach. It’s a brave record, allowing the heartfelt lyrics to come to the fore, however not impeding on the sheer artistry that makes this band so thrilling. Longstreth’s vocal acrobatics are still present and correct, and are backed up by lush and imaginative harmonies and swells of strings, exemplified on Gun Has No Trigger.
6. RM Hubbert – Thirteen Lost and Found
Hubbert teams his incredible, near-virtuoso, flamenco guitar style with a veritable who’s who of the Scottish music scene: Aidan Moffat, Alasdair Roberts and Hanna Tuulikki all feature to carve out a breathtaking piece of work. The record features evocative tracks dealing with loss, hope, death and depression, and is an exceptionally moving, beguiling and uplifting musical experience.
7.DIIV – Oshin
Fantastically melodic dream pop, with distant and almost unintelligible vocals that leave the brilliant tangle of interlinking reverb-heavy melancholic guitar lines and warm bass to communicate the musical intent. Definitely an ‘album’ album, Oshin is at its cohesive best when listened to in its entirety, and part of my fondness for this record stems from it being recommended to me by a certain shoegazer on his last day at One Up. Support your local record shop!
8. Cat Power – Sun
A bit of a departure from Chan Marshall’s previous output, the poppiness of Sun caught me off guard a little: it remains upbeat, but almost in a defiance of what no doubt have been the darker elements in Marshall’s life. Among the swagger there is an element of reflective retrospection and, notably, the best use of the word “bitchin’” I’ve heard on a record in quite some time.
9. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
It was a delightful surprise to see a new Godsepeed You! Black Emperor record this year, and I found myself particularly blown away by Mladic: a masterclass in how to use repetition at its most menacing and crushing best; a chaotic Eastern-European refrain hurtling the track to its dizzying conclusion in glorious fashion.
10. Off! – Off!
A ferociously fast slice of Californian punk by hardcore veterans, this self-titled album is an urgent and unyielding listen that goes from track 1 to 16 in just over 15 minutes. Though it doesn’t quite rage as much as some of the band’s previous EPs, a little more precision in the song writing ultimately makes for a slightly more memorable listen.
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man
The Antlers – Undersea
Ringo Deathstarr – Mauve
Dirty Three – Toward the Low Sun