Best albums of 2010 part 4: numbers 10-6

As the tension mounts, we have a surprise entry at number 10 - an album that grew and grew on me after seeing Chew Lips at the Victoria Park Lovebox festival in July. Unicorn highlights soulful vocals; Tigs (?), their lead singer, is a very charismatic performer as well, flirting madly with the crowd, and bringing real engagement and warmth on record and live to the cool 80s style electro-backing.

Less of a shock at 9, but what a great album from a guy who you might expect to be settling into pipe and slippers mode.  But Paul Weller's Wake up the Nation is as challenging in places as anything I've heard this year. Tracks come and go rapidly, in styles recalling Bowie, Scott Walker, Motown, experimental jazz... pretty amazing.

At 8, the other crazy concept album (see number 19) - virtually an opera, incorporating rock, folk, country, brass bands.. you name it, Anais Mitchell throws it into Hadestown, a re-telling of the Orpheus / Eurydice myth, with artists including Bon Iver and Ani DiFranco playing 'roles'.  I couldn't decide whether it was madness or genius for several listenings. It's genius.

I should say now that I really struggled to separate choices 7 through to 2.  It seemed to me that there was one outstanding album this year, then 5 or 6 others all a little way behind but very close to each other .

So bearing that in mind, at 7, Stornoway with Beachcomber's Windowsill.  They win my new artist of the year award for this lovely collection of modern pop / folk songs about growing up, love, travelling, the weather, long car journeys when you're 9 years old, and walking along the shore... Life-affirming, happy and sad at the same time.  A band full of PhDs and great musical talent, but they wear that lightly, and were excellent live too.

At 6, The National with High Violet. Their two previous albums have been excellent and this one has broken them through into the big league.  Deservedly so, with their complexity and depth in the music and lyrics, yet with tunes that lodge pretty quickly in the brain.

And tomorrow.. the top 5. Anyone like to predict? A bottle of champagne for anyone outside my family who gets it spot on...

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