Albums of the Year – numbers 10 to 6

I’m cheating because I have two joint songs next as I couldn’t decide which one to knock out of the top 10.

So at joint number 10...   I was all ready to hate James Blake when his tediously titled debut album “James Blake” arrived. Precocious youth, dub step tendencies, tipped for the top...  but I was knocked out by the sheer creativity and songwriting. This is classic singer songwriter territory but passed through a distorting lens, as the music breaks up, swells and sinks. It works for me on many levels – you can use it as background music and it won’t disturb your work; but listen to it more carefully and there is so much going on. Funny to think he was being positioned as a “pop” artist when this is one of the most experimental albums to ever get in the top 10.

The Horrors with Skying confirmed an amazing rock odyssey – from scorned goth pretenders to “the next U2” in two easy steps and about 5 years. This is a classic big, bold, rock album, with touches of (yes) mid period U2, Simple Minds at their best as well as more contemporary rock / indie bands. It deservedly broke them into the big time, and I suspect there’ s more to come from this lot – main stage / Arena headliners by 2013, methinks.

At 9, we’ve got Laura Marling with A Creature I Don’t Know. Yet it could have been a higher position – much of the album was as good as anything she’s done, high praise when her previous album was my 2010 album of the year. However, I actually disliked a couple of tracks here where she tipped over into annoying, mannered jazz type vocals. But when she does her Led Zep meets Sandy Denny thing, this is as good as anything this year.  So 80% of the album is top 3, the other 20% not placed, which averages out at number 9!

And then another  band who were following up a previous album which was a best of the year – Wild Beasts with Smother. Like Bon Iver yesterday, an almost impossible task to follow an all time classic, Two Dancers, but the new release is a very good work in its own right. Smooth yet with a hint of menace, danceable but with clever and at times stunning lyrics, catchy yet repaying multiple listens.

At 7, my debut album of the year. Another leftfield American lady, this one called EMA with Past Life Martyred Saints. Her uncategorisable and disturbing at times folk / rock / country/ goth had the reviewers struggling to make connections.  She doesn’t sound like anything else around and when we reviewed the album back in March and included a track, our most music-savvy reader Mr Atkinson gave me this insightful comment. “Blimey” he said, and that just about sums up this work of near genius.

When Bombay Bicycle Club started as a bunch of middle class north London sixth formers, they looked like another “hobby band” that would fade when university beckoned. But releasing a second album last year of acoustic songs showed they were pursuing a different and longer term goal, and they moved up another notch this year with A Different Kind of Fix . Clever indie-pop songs that capture real emotion while being easy on the ear – another band on the way to serious stardom.

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