Albums of the Year: number 20 – 12

At 20, we have Hurray for the Riff Raff with... Hurray for the Riff Raff. This is really a charismatic young lady (Alynda Lee Segarra) with an interesting past and an old school country / hillbilly sound, combined with modern lyrics and a great indie attitude. Captivating.

From edgy country to smooth US pop / rock, but done with a sense of dynamics and subtlety that for me raised it above other somewhat similar bands this year such as Beach House. Phoenix Foundation with Buffalo produced a thoroughly enjoyable album that anyone who likes classic intelligent pop music will enjoy. And the title track here is just brilliant.

Now at 18 - Low have been around for years with their slow-fi, carefully paced, tuneful, atmospheric sound, but they’ve never been better than on C‘Mon. Dreamy stuff, yet with an under-pinning solidity and tension... and this track is an all time classic that we’ll be hearing on adverts and US drama series until the day we die..

Bon Iver with Bon Iver was Pitchfork’s album of the year (Pitchfork.com is the ultra-influential, intellectual top US music website). But to me, it was very good but some way short of that. It followed of course his debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, perhaps the best album of the last 10 years, so an impossible task, and in truth this was a pretty good attempt. Justin Vernon used a band this time, with some retro 80s style soft rock sounds, yet still came up with some moving and beautiful songs.

Yuck with Yuck (bit of creativity please guys next time) at 16 showed there is life after being in a "crash and burn" band in your teens, as two members of the late lamented Cajun Dance Party formed Yuck, whose debut album got critical acclaim and quite a few sales as well.  Introspective, shoe gazing, grungy rock but above all, excellent tunes and songs.

But the year’s most heartening comeback and our number 15 was Ryan Adams, the genius behind Whiskeytown, and solo albums like Gold. He went back to basics with Ashes and Fire, an album of stripped back, simple country / indie tunes with simple guitar and piano backing, yet managed to make half a dozen of them sound like instant classics you’ve known for years. If you lie modern country / Americana..  just buy it.

Now we’re getting into the serious zone. The Vaccines were media hyped to such an extent that most of us were pretty surprised when the album What Did You Expect from the Vaccines was actually really good! And they were the big new band of the festival season, with an adrenalin fuelled 40 minute set of sing-a-long and bounce-a-long punk pop tunes that harked back to Phil Spector, Eddie and the Hot Rods and the Jesus and Mary Chain in equal parts. Here they are at Reading – we were there (near the back, not pogoing in the mosh pit...)

Ben Howard was a late entry to our chart with Every Kingdom - our singer songwriter debut of the year. Such a mature, timeless album from a young man, with distinctive vocals, wonderful guitar playing and strong songs, bringing to mind Nick Drake and John Martyn as well as Bon Iver and Jack Johnson at times. Major goosebumps, to be frank.  Huge, huge potential here – a headliner and platinum selling artist of the next few years if he plays his cards right, and he seem like a good guy so hopefully he will.

Finally for today, Feist with Metals showed there was life in the “classic” US female singer songwriter genre. A style that touches on jazz, folk, pop, country, and soul at times, a great voice, interesting songs and clever use of instruments and backing vocalists (the brilliant in their own right Mountain Man – confusingly, 3 young women) make this an album that repays multiple listens.

Tomorrow we’ll have numbers 10 -6! Getting exciting...

 

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