1. Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It
This one had to be my number 1 album of the year because of the sheer length of time I’ve spent absorbing and appreciating how profound and well arranged it really is. This is a deeply personal record for Mike Hadreas, and you can tell from the distorted vocal effects that, in his turmoil, he found it hard to talk about many of the subjects he discusses throughout this epic and tumultuous journey. Hadreas' distinctive, fragile vocals are some of the best I’ve heard in years and the orchestral compositions combine to create some of the most beautiful music I have heard in just as long. If you cried at Marley & Me, or hate Radiohead because they’re depressing, then don’t even touch this album. For damaged people like me, this is a deep and rewarding piece of work.
2. Grizzly Bear – Shields
This is by far my favourite Grizzly Bear album. It’s an ambitious plethora of several genres, some of which Grizzly Bear haven’t even touched before. Notable tracks like the worryingly psychedelic What’s Wrong, the jangly indie-inspired Yet Again, and my favourite track Sun In Your Eyes – which is a paranoid, wailing track along the same veins as Radiohead – show how much potential these guys actually have. I wasn’t too impressed with their last album, and I was initially sceptical of this one, but the sheer variety and vitality of this effort nearly put it on the top spot. I can’t recommend this album enough... Buy it, NOW.
3. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Dirty Projectors are tragically not getting enough recognition for their innovative and inverted style of pop. Swing Lo Magellan is a slightly different animal to earlier Dirty Projectors releases, although definitely still the same species. While previous albums have been traditionally quite succinct and organised, this one buzzes with life. Swing Lo Magellan is definitely darker but also more organic and distinctive, which is why it sets itself apart from most of this year’s competition. I love David Longstreth’s swooping, soulful voice, particularly in the single Gun Has No Trigger which, despite being quite minimalist, is a very brave and catchy tune.
4. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself
Andrew Bird is a maestro of creating beautiful narratives that have fed my weary brain imagery and snappy wordplay. His very unique and complex compositions and techniques are essential to making all this expression and poetry work. I know people who find it hard to adapt to Bird's constant interplay of different styles, particularly his compulsion to whistle... a lot... but I love it! He whistles very well and each album is like reading a book with pictures; Break it Yourself is no different. Like a warm coffee and a pair of slippers, Bird’s metaphorical and poetic lyrics lull, and let the mind wander.
5. Toy – Toy
These guys are one of my favourite new bands. It’s like Jesus and Mary Chain sat up all night, got wired by drinking coffee and then watched the original animated Transformers movie. The result is colourful, psychedelic flurries and effect-laden, twangy guitars that combine to create a visceral pop-rock sound which most modern bands are just not capable of delivering. Their ability to experiment is also highlighted in the final track Kopter, which is nearly 10 minutes long and builds up tremendous pace like a mighty locomotive. Expect big things from these guys in the future.
6. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
They’ve been on a bit of a hiatus but Godspeed's music is as political, noisy, angry and epic as it ever was. While not their best album, it still makes me want to go and kick the establishment in the face.
7. The Shins – Port of Morrow
A traditionally uplifting and catchy album by the band that make the cast of Glee look like manic depressants. Many claim this is not up to scratch with their finest work, such as Inverted, but I wouldn’t entirely agree as there are some fine tunes that have kept me returning to it.
8. Sigur Ros – Valtari
Not their best album but the familiar themes of nostalgia, melancholy and fear all intertwine once more to create an absorbing album. It is indeed a testament to the enduring appeal these guys still have.
9. The Lumineers – The Lumineers
While The Lumineers’ popularity is certainly synonymous with the rise of Mumford & Sons and bands of that ilk, they are a refreshing and intriguing band. Their songs ooze character and feature nice country-inspired, crowd-pleasing tunes.
10. Christopher Lee – A Heavy Metal Christmas
I have to mention this ‘masterpiece’ as it’s nearly Christmas and I don’t want to use up space talking about The XX’s Coexist or Mumford & Sons’ Babel or other similarly dull and overrated albums.