1. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
The album that just blew me away this year. Number one easily. Nothing else I heard really came close to the beauty and emotion of this one. (Also, although some people left it off their lists as it was originally released in 2007, it wasn’t released in the UK until this year, so I’m including it).
2. Amanda Palmer – Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
I’m a big fan of Amanda (I even played football with her this year) so this is a bit of a no-brainer. So many great songs, such a range of stuff and such good production to show it all off (courtesy of Mr Ben Folds – shame his own album this year wasn’t produced as well as this). I have no idea why Roadrunner have declared this album as uncommercial and pulled all promotion. They must be idiots.
3. The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride
OK, another no-brainer for me as I love The Mountain Goats but one that’s well worth its place. As ever there’s John Darnielle’s brilliant lyrics to admire, but more than ever it’s backed up by brilliant instrumentation (the strings on San Bernadino do something special to that song), with some guest appearances including Annie Clark (aka St Vincent) who also turns up on Amanda Palmer’s album. It’s a small world.
4. Shearwater – Rook
Along with Bon Iver, one of the most beautiful albums I heard all year. Jonathon Meiburg’s voice has never sounded better and the rest of the band produces the perfect sound to entwine with that. They supported Coldplay this year, so hopefully that helped them sell a lot more copies.
5. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins
This album took me a long time to get into. The first few listens left me a bit cold but then somewhere along the line it all clicked into place. I think Lost Coastlines is a heavy contender for my song of the year and Singer-Songwriter and Pop Lie are other big highlights.
6. Laura Marling – Alas I Cannot Swim
My friend Nikki pointed me in her direction (which is a good recommendation, as she introduced me to the Mountain Goats and Elliott Smith). I’m very glad she did. Lyrically this album is excellent, Laura tells brilliant stories, and musically there’s plenty of room for the songs to breathe, with just enough instrumentation to keep it from being too samey.
7. Thao with the Get Down, Stay Down – We Brave Bee Stings and All
This album came out of nowhere early in the year and just etched itself in my brain, so much so that it’s made my end of year list. It’s joyous, exuberant and catchy as hell. Go listen to it and try not to smile. I dare you.
8. The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely
My response to The Raconteurs first album, Broken Boy Soldiers, was a lit lukewarm - it felt to me like they were still finding their feet as a band and that it was their second album that we should look out for. Hurray for being right. Released with almost no advance publicity (it was a very refreshing “We’ve finished it, here you go”) it’s the album I hoped that Jack and Brendan would make when I first they were going to collaborate.
9. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
A very late entry in my list. I bought this album at the same time as ‘Boys and Girls in America’ and so it languished mostly unlistened to for a long time. Finally I dug it out and gave it a proper listen or three (mainly as I was going to see them live) and realised what a great album it is. Good light and shade, anthemic choruses, and brilliant lyrics.
10. Dawn Landes – Fireproof
I don’t really expect to find this one on anyone else’s best of list, but it’s an album that I’ve listened to more consistently throughout the year than pretty much anything else. There’s a quirkiness about it that I really like, even if it’s maybe not the most groundbreaking album of the year. Also, her version of Tom Petty’s ‘I Won’t Back Down’ (which is the hidden track on the album) is my favourite cover of the year.
Other stuff that I liked but didn’t quite make it into my top 10 included:
* Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit - A Larum
* Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
* The Magnetic Fields - Distortion
* Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us
* Islands - Arm’s Way
* Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
* Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue