1. Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
The debut album by this ragtag collection of art and literature graduates is a brooding, lyrically-diverse slice of alternative minimalism, combining the strangest, most interesting vocal work heard on a record for years. It's very much a grower, if only to make out what the ideas behind the lyrics are; references to an obscure banned novella from past decades are only the icing on this here cake.
2. Django Django - Django Django
Expatriate Scots make psychedelic rock album. Chaos ensues. But seriously, Django Django’s weird mix of Beach Boys-style harmony, weird guitar filters, and synths that sound as though held under a sea of raspberry jelly sounds practically unlistenable on paper, but when placed onto an LP like they have here, it makes for one of the most well-crafted records of the year, if not the century thus far. Top notch.
3. Crystal Castles - III
Much like encasing a rabid leopard in a vat of treacle, Crystal Castles’ third record takes all we know about the group - their vicious, abrasive glitch frenzies and raucous screaming vocals - and slows it all down into a reverb-soaked hour of chillwave. It perhaps isn’t the direction most fans were expecting, maybe even hoping for, but what it achieves is far greater than what the fans were holding out for.
4. Bloc Party - Four
Okay, so the record heralding the return of London’s finest can’t hold a flame to their debut, but Four is still a highly entertaining ruckus with some remarkably good guitar sequences wrapped up deep inside it. They have attempted to expand and develop their sound, ditching the electronic influence that dominated Intimacy before it, and for the most part it is a highly entertaining album with some definite replay potential.
5. Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal
Iceland’s answer to Mumford and Sons? Perhaps, but lazy journalistic similarity-finding aside, the debut from Reykjavik's newest wonderkids makes my top five for sheer catchiness. In a time where the charts are dominated by studio noises, booming bass and computer-generated loops, it feels incredibly satisfying to hear the thumping horns on breakthrough single Little Talks bring us back into reality.
6. The Yawns - The Yawns
The Scottish supergroup’s debut, released for free on Bandcamp earlier this year, uses deliciously lo-fi guitar licks and whispery, heavily-echoed vocals to craft a dreamy, psychedelic soundscape that’s easy to lose oneself in.
7. Chairlift - Something
Determined to lose the dead albatross that is “you guys were on that iPod ad once, right?”, Colorado’s Chairlift released Something, an inventively-titled sophomore effort carefully walking the tightrope between “pop” and all-out strangeness.
8. POLIÇA - Give You the Ghost
Famed mostly for being one of Bon Iver’s favourite bands, the Minneapolis group proved there was more to their image than his opinion. Relying heavily on autotune and aural manipulation, they alienated many, but enthralled many more.
9. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Trouble
Okay, I’ll admit, I was expecting great things from Oxford’s Orlando Higginbotham, and while this clearly didn’t reach the massive hype that he built up around himself with last year’s blog hit Garden, it was still a great exercise in staccato electronica.
10. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
Annoyingly I only properly heard this record recently so I wouldn’t feel comfortable sticking it right at the top, but the energy and excitement it manages to contain within its eight tracks is nothing short of astounding. Definitely one that slipped through my fingers.