Top 20 albums of the year 2015

It’s that time of the year again, when everyone seems to be looking back over the best musical releases. There’s been plenty of big albums to digest and discuss this year, so let’s dive right in.

1.) Everything Everything – Get To Heaven
Staggeringly inventive stuff from a band that never seems to run out of ideas. Euphoric indie with a dark heart.
Stream: No Reptiles, To The Blade

2.) Idlewild – Everything Ever Written
Poetic Scottish rockers return re-energised after a six-year break. Guitar solos and big choruses aplenty.
Stream: Collect Yourself, On Another Planet

3.) And So I Watch You From Afar – Heirs
Urgent, explosive post rock, with more vocal hooks than ever before, and they play one hell of a live show!
Stream: Run Home, Tryer You

4.) Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool
This year’s best debut by a mile. Expect great things from this hugely versatile four-piece.
Stream: Your Loves Whore, Giant Peach

5.) Frank Turner – Positive Songs For Negative People
Folk-punk pioneer goes down the self-help route on soul searching sixth studio album. Brutally honest stuff.
Stream: Get Better, Silent Key

6.) We Are The Ocean – ARK
Bombastic rockers amp up the choruses and riffs for fourth LP. Liam Cromby’s vocals are truly spectacular.
Stream: ARK, There’s Nothing Wrong

7.) The Subways – The Subways
11 perfectly crafted pop rock tunes with a snarling undercurrent and a relentless bounce.
Stream: Good Times, Black Letter

8.) Ash – Kablammo!
Who said albums are dead? Kirkpatrick trio get back to what they do best: mixing ballads with upbeat rockers.
Stream: Shutdown, Free

9.) Nothing But Thieves – Nothing But Thieves
Gargantuan vocals and some properly tidy tunes make this a very promising debut indeed.
Stream: Itch, Lover Please Stay

10.) City & Colour – If I Should Go Before You
Dallas Green’s first ensemble album sounds properly fleshed out and has a renewed sense of ambition
Stream: Woman, Lover Come Back

11.) The Vaccines – English Graffiti

12.) Stereophonics – Keep The Village Alive

13.) Coheed & Cambria – The Colour Before The Sun

14.) Mumford & Sons – Wilder Mind

15.) Laura Marling – Short Movie

16.) Tellison – Hope Fading Nightly

17.) No Devotion – Permanence

18.) The Cribs – For All My Sisters

19.) Guy Garvey – Courting The Squall

20.) Four Year Strong – Four Year Strong

Honourable mentions to Muse, Blur and Foo Fighters for their St. Cecilia ep, which has raised a tonne of money for the victims of the Paris attacks. As tradition dictates, I’ll leave you with my video of the year, enjoy!

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Top 20 albums of the year 2014

I think it’s fair to say that this hasn’t exactly been a vintage year for rock and indie music, with big releases in fairly short order.
Nonetheless there has been plenty to enjoy, so in time-honoured fashion, here is my end-of-the-year run-down: Follow the links to listen on Grooveshark or Spotify.

1) Canterbury – Dark Days
The torch bearers for independent UK rock music come of age on their phenomenal third album. Packed with heartfelt honesty, punchy riffs and enormous choruses, Dark Days is a colossal achievement. The only catch? They broke up last night. Oh.
Top tracks: Expensive Imitation, Hold Your Own

2) Twin Atlantic – The Great Divide
Scottish singalong merchants Twin Atlantic dial up the pop sensibilities on their third full length. Sure there are some cheesy moments along the way, but they are becoming a force to be reckoned with and their live show is a joy to behold.
Top tracks: Action That Echo, Fall Into The Party

3) Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
You certainly can’t accuse Dave Grohl and Co of lacking ambition on their eighth studio album. Recording across eight cities and trying to capture the local musical history with each stop is a tall order. In truth the latter tracks struggle to match the standard set by barnstorming opener Something from Nothing, but it still shows off the full breadth of what the Foo Fighters are capable of these days.
Top Tracks: Something From Nothing, Congregation

4) Band Of Skulls – Himalayan
Highly polished third album from the Southampton power trio. The stadium-sized riffs and dual vocals work a treat, if only there were more tender moments like the spine-tingling Cold Sweat.
Top Tracks: You Are All That I Am Not, Cold Sweat

5) Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End
Rivers Cuomo and the boys go back to what they do best – “rocking out like it’s ’94”. The three-part finale shows true ambition and Da Vinci is one of the catchiest tracks of the year. Now play a UK tour, dammit!
Top tracks: Cleopatra, Da Vinci

6) Elbow – The Take-off And Landing Of Everything
A soulful return to their roots for Guy Garvey and his band of veteran balladeers. The outro of Lunette alone makes this album a serious contender, even if more ponderous moments weigh down the overall standard.
Top tracks: New York Morning, Fly Boy Blue / Lunette

7) Mongol Horde – Mongol Horde
My biggest regret this year is that I missed the chance to see Frank Turner’s hardcore side project play the Highbury Garage. By all accounts, it was utter carnage, which is hardly surprising given the sheer ferocity of this Genghis Khan-inspired scream fest of an album.
Top Tracks: Make Way, Blistering Blue Barnacles

8) Dry The River – Alarms In The Heart
There are some truly touching moments on this highly accomplished follow up to 2012’s Shallow Bed, but it ultimately fails to raise the bar in terms of emo-folk.
Top Tracks: Rollerskate, Gethsemane

9) Pixies – Indie Cindy
Black Francis and Joey Santiago are an top form here, shredding vocal chords and fretboards alike. It’s just a shame that Kim Deal didn’t fancy joining the party for old times’ sake.
Top Tracks: Bagboy, Blue Eyed Hexe

10) Maybeshewill – Fair Youth
Post rock intellectuals prove there is much more to Leicester than just Kasabian. Sharp dynamics and smart melodies abound on this taught and consistent fourth album
Top Tracks: In Amber, Fair Youth

11) The Retrospective Soundtrack Players – It’s A Wonderful Christmas Carol
12) Manchester Orchestra – Cope
13) Royal Blood – Royal Blood
14) I Am The Avalanche – Wolverines
15) Maximo Park – Too Much Information
16) Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt
17) Tim Wheeler – Lost Domain
18) Oxygen Thief – The Half-Life Of Facts
19) The Bronze Medal – Darlings
20) Lonely The Brave – The Day’s War

A lot of my favourite artists (Muse, Frank Turner, Ash, Sonic Boom Six) are holding out for 2015 releases, so there’s a lot to look forward to. But in the meantime, for my favourite music video of 2014, here’s Weezer on the moon!

Top 20 albums of the year 2013

It’s been a great year for rock and indie, with a decent number of big-name releases and very few instant turkeys.
Double-albums, disco flourishes and drop-ins from famous friends dominated the agenda. It was a tough call picking a number one, but that’s exactly the tradition I’ve started here, so for the sixth year in a row, here goes…

1.) Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

Oozing effortless cool, irresistible riffs and a roll-call of big-name cameos as long as your arm, QOTSA’s sixth studio album is a proper stunner. Every track warrants its place in this blockbuster of a record, which boasts guest appearances from the likes of Trent Reznor, Dave Grohl, Alex Turner and Elton John (no, seriously!). In fact, pretty much the only thing I don’t love about this album is the punctuation of the title.

Download: Smooth Sailing, If I Had A Tail and Fairweather Friends

2.) Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

It took eight years for the world’s favourite French electro duo to get back in the studio to record another LP, but it was easily worth the wait. Teaming up with Chic‘s Nile Rogers inspired a new sound that was more based on live instrumentation than samples. ‘Get Lucky’ was the single of the year by miles, but the record is book-ended by the barn-storming ‘Give Life Back To Music’ and the phenomenal drum-led instrumental ‘Contact’.

Download: Give Life Back To Music, Contact and Touch

3.) Biffy Clyro – Opposites

Only a truly special band can release a double-album that doesn’t feel flabby and overblown. Biffy Clyro aren’t quite at that level just yet, but they’re getting awfully close. ‘Opposites’ is their biggest sounding record yet – leaving aside the numerous singles, ‘Woo Woo’ is life-affirmingly anthemic, while ‘Different People’ is their most ambitious track in years.

Download: Victory Over The Sun, Little Hospitals and Different People

4.) Arctic Monkeys – AM

That this album should bear Arctic Monkeys’ initials seems utterly fitting, since ‘AM’ is where the band showcases the sound they’ve been building up to over the past five years. Alex Turner is back to his lyrical best on ‘Arabella’ and ‘RU Mine?’, although the most effective moment comes when he borrows the poetry of John Cooper Clarke on touching finale ‘I Wanna Be Yours’.

Download: Do I Wanna Know, Knee Socks and I Wanna Be Yours

5.) Editors – The Weight Of Your Love

On their fourth studio album, the Birmingham gloom-mongers get back to what they do best, ditching the euro-synth stylings in favour of guitar and piano-led love songs. Tom Smith’s voice sounds more urgent and monumental than ever, and while the record trails off towards the end they’ve more than made up for this slight let-down with a string of euphoric live shows.

Download: Nothing, Formaldehyde and A Ton Of Love

6.) Scholars – Always Lead, Never Follow

The temptation to rush out your first album must be overwhelming, for reasons of pride, passion and pure finance. But the long gestation period truly paid off for Scholars, whose debut is a thrilling affair, packed with acrobatic vocals, punchy riffs and even some At The Drive-In style experimentation.

Download: Hydrochaesin, Bad For Business and Scaredy Cat

7.) Arcade Fire – Reflektor

With a little discipline and some judicious editing, this could have been the album of the year. Hell, it really should have been the album of the year. However, by teaming up with hipster-in-chief James Murphy, Arcade Fire allowed their fourth studio album to drift into self-indulgence in quite a few places, which is a real shame because when they hit the mark, it’s truly electrifying stuff. Glastonbury is in for a real treat in 2014.

Download: Here Comes The Night Time, Flashbulb Eyes and Joan Of Arc

8.) Everything Everything – Arc

The eclectic indie rockers have refined their sound on this their second album without losing their exuberant and experimental edge. Elaborate melodies and inscrutable rhythms make for 2013’s most adventurous album, this side of Daft Punk.

Download: Cough Cough, Radiant and Duet

9.) Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart

The Hampshire songsmith’s world domination plans gathered some serious pace this year with a clutch well-written singles that littered the alternative airwaves for most of the first half of the year. But, as ever with a Frank record, scratch beneath the surface and there is real depth and true heart to discover.

Download: The Fisher King Blues, Four Simple Words and Plain Sailing Weather

10.) City and Colour – The Hurry and The Harm

Dallas Green is clearly settling into his stride here on his fourth solo album and with his former day job Alexisonfire sadly bisbanded, there is nothing holding him back from becoming this generation’s Elvis Costello.

Download: Harder Than Stone, Thirst, and Ladies And Gentlemen

11.) Placebo – Loud Like Love
12.) 65daysofstatic – Wild Light
13.) Jamie Lenman – Muscle Memory
14.) Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City
15.) Jimmy Eat World – Damage
16.) And So I Watch You From Afar – All Hail Bright Futures
17.) Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
18.) Electric Soft Parade – IDIOTS
19.) Travis – Where You Stand
20.) Sam Duckworth – Amazing Grace

Looking forward, 2014 should be just as jam-packed, with new records from Blink 182, the FoosMaximo Park and Brand New (hopefully) all in the works. Until then, I’ll leave you with my video of the year, enjoy…

Top 20 albums of the year 2012

It’s been a hit and miss year for rock music, with just a handful of high-profile releases, but plenty of surprise packages. In keeping with tradition, here’s my Top 20 rundown. Click on the links to take a listen on Grooveshark or Spotify.

1.) Dry The River – Shallow Bed

There were a few difficult decisions in the Top 20, but picking a top album was not one of them. Dry The River’s highly engrossing blend of folk and emo is nigh-on irresistible and sets the standard for their contemporaries to aim for.

2.) Bloc Party – Four

A triumphant return to form from Kele and his cohorts who remembered just how effective distorted guitars and thunderous riffs can be.

3.) Muse – The 2nd Law

Taking the ‘kitchen sink’ approach to songwriting, Muse threw everything at this third album and the result is a thoroughly adventurous record which improves with every listen.

4.) Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun – Death

The record I’ve been waiting four years for Jim Lockey to record – Death throbs with powerful tunes, and excellent production values underpin this meaty new sound.

5.) Sonic Boom Six – Sonic Boom Six

Running Muse close to the wire as Britain’s most inventive band, SB6 went for an electro approach on their self-titled fourth album, resulting in some hard-hitting tunes and a bit of a classic ska-punk thrown in for good measure.

6.) Mumford and Sons – Babel

More of the same from folk-rock’s darlings – they may have cracked America with Babel, but will need to display more invention next time around.

7.) Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

Five months ago I called this a strong contender for album of the year, and whilst it has faded in appeal after a few dozen listens, Handwritten remains a solid album full of big riffs and bigger choruses.

8.) Baddies – Build

First Danananaykroyd then these guys – for the second year running, I tip a band for big things, then they split up. Nonetheless, Build will stand as a fitting swansong for this dynamic quartet.

9.) Maximo Park – The National Health

Going back to their roots, a return to forum, call it what you like, this album is Maximo Park playing to their strengths and hitting heights not seen since their 2005 debut.

10.) Maps & Atlases – Beware & Be Grateful

Perhaps the most confusing album in my Top Ten – Maps & Atlases manage to blend together math rock and 80s pop into a delightful combination of charm and sheer technical brilliance.

11.) The Futureheads – Rant

12.) The Cribs – In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull

13.) Frank Turner – The Second Three Years

14.) Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – Maps

15.) Pulled Apart By Horses – Tough Love

16.) The Beach Boys – That’s Why God Made The Radio

17.) The Killers – Battle Born

18.) Air – Le Voyage Dans La Lune

19.) Green Day – Uno!

20.) Tenacious D – Rize Of The Fenix

So, what can we expect from 2013? Well the year will surely get off to a great start with Biffy Clyro due to unveil their double album, Queens Of The Stone Age will return with Dave Grohl on drums, and Lostprophets will… oh, wait.

Until then, I leave you with my favourite video of the past 12 months, enjoy:

Top 20 Albums of the Year, 2011

For the fifth year running, here are my top 20 Albums of the Year. Follow the links to listen to each one for free on Grooveshark, Spotify or YouTube.

1.) Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!

With quite a considerable weight of expectation on their shoulders after 2008’s The Seldom Seen Kid scooped the Mercury Music Prize, to start their follow-up album with an eight-minute epic should win Elbow album of the year on sheer audacity alone. Of course it helps that The Birds is a gently brooding masterpiece, complete with intricate synth riffs and a glorious orchestral crescendo.

Build A Rocket Boys! is the sound of a band finding their groove and loving every minute of it. From the joyous stomp of Neat Little Rows to the tender nostalgia of Lippy Kids, this record sees the Manchester quintet on top form. As if that wasn’t enough, they can pull it off with aplomb on the biggest of stages (see above).

2.) Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

A triumphant return from Grohl and co, which only narrowly misses out on the top spot, Wasting Light is possibly the band’s most consistent record since 2001’s There is Nothing Left to Lose. The minute the video for White Limo was released on YouTube, Foos fans knew they were in for an old-school treat. The album more than lives up to this promise; with the tortured I Should Have Known and the anthemic Walk providing a fantastic finale.

3.) Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones

The most prolific man in folk turned out another exceptional album this year, as his career continues scaling ever higher peaks. Frank is due to headline Wembley Arena next year and that would seem mildly ludicrous were it not for this collection of colossal songs. With a beefed up full band sound on If Ever I Stray and a few nods to his hardcore past on One Foot Before The Other, the Wessex troubadour is turning into a force to be reckoned with.

4.) Dive Dive – Potential

Better known as the Sleeping Souls (Frank Turner’s backing band) plus singer Jamie Stuart, Dive Dive deserve high acclaim for their long-awaited third album. From the alarm-clock riff to Mr 10% through to the bravely optimistic title track closer, this is an album full of ideas, emotion and unflinching honesty.

5.) Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

It’s hard to believe that Ms Marling is still only 21 years old. Her third record is one of world-weary wisdom, mythology and magic. The expansive soundscape of I Was Just A Card and the brooding lustfulness of The Beast offer plenty of variety. And to top it all off, Sophia is probably the single of the year.

6.) Rival Schools – Pedals

Ten years is a long time to wait for a sophomore record, but thankfully Walter Schreifels et al have rewarded their loyal fans’ patience. Drawing on influences as diverse as Weezer and The Temper Trap, this record is packed full of tunes. My main criticism would be that at just 34 minutes long, it’s too short.

7.) Danananaykroyd – There Is A Way

One of the casualties of 2011, it’s a real shame to lose the Scottish noise punks so soon after releasing their finest album. With producer Ross Robinson at the helm, this was a much more refined effort than their debut and the upbeat swagger of Muscle Memory is well worth a listen.

8.) Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math

On the first listen through, I thought this was shaping up to be the album of the year, but then it all goes horribly wrong. The first four tracks of this record are absolutely flawless, with the joyous singalong of Pensacola the standout, but from then onwards the only track worth mentioning is the spectacular title track.

9.) Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto

My guilty pleasure of the year sneaks into the top ten. This may be one of the most heavily produced records of the year, but it’s hard to resist the charm of this fantastically well-written album.

10.) The Retrospective Soundtrack Players – Cool Hand Luke

By far the best record of the year to be based on a 1960s prison movie. The execution of this ambitious idea is ropey at times, but the glorious crescendo of Three Escapes and Plastic Jesus 2 bring about a very satisfying finale. Definitely ones to watch in 2012…

11.) City And Colour – Little Hell
12.) I Am The Avalanche – Avalanche United
13.) Funeral For A Friend – Welcome Home Armageddon
14.) Swellers – Good For Me
15.) Incubus – If Not Now, When?
16.) Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
17.) The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
18.) Thrice – Major/Minor
19.) Taking Back Sunday – Taking Back Sunday
20.) Explosions In The Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

 
All in all, 2011 was a brilliant year for new albums, far better than 2010. The respectable efforts from Arctic Monkeys, Blink 182, Twin Atlantic and Sam Duckworth all missed out on the Top 20, although the less said about the fourth Art Brut album, the better… As always, any recommendations and tips for 2012 are most welcome, but for now I’ll leave you with this year’s best video:
 

Top 20 Albums of the Year, 2010

This year hasn’t exactly been a classic for rock music, with pop and hip hop stealing most of the limelight, but nonetheless there have been some hidden gems.  
So, for the fourth year running, here are my top picks for 2010. Don’t take my word for it, please click-through and judge for yourself, via the magic of Spotify and Myspace (or ‘My_’. Most ridiculous rebrand ever…)

1.)    65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway

This record has to take the top spot this year as it is the most inventive and exciting album released in 2010 by a mile. 65DOS take the best elements of Explosions in the Sky and Pendulum along with a guest appearance from The Cure’s Robert Smith to achieve a sound which will leave you rethinking your opinion of instrumental music.

2.)    The Automatic – Tear The Signs Down

Certainly the biggest re-invention of the year, The Automatic have completely transformed themselves since the arrival of Paul Mullen (formerly of yourcodenameis:milo). After playing a more subtle role on 2008’s This Is A Fix, the Geordie guitarist also assumes lead vocal duties on more than half of the tracks on the band’s latest album, and the result is a highly impressive alt-rock record that deserves to be judged on its own merits, not in light of what this band used to be.

3.)    Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

2010 was the year that Arcade Fire really took off, headlining Reading Festival, completing a UK arena tour and surging up the charts with their third album. The Suburbs is a vast, expansive record, which gets better with every listen, while the interactive video for We Used To Wait is one of the most creative musical projects of the year.

4.)    The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

For summery nostalgia, you just can’t do any better than a bit of Gaslight Anthem. The New Jersey rockers earned much UK praise with their recent appearance on Jules Holland and lead singer Brian Fallon is easily living up to his reputation as the next Bruce Springsteen with his soulful vocals on The Diamond Church Street Choir and Boxer.

5.)    Jimmy Eat World – Invented

Jimmy Eat World’s seventh record is by no means their best, but still packs plenty of memorable tunes, tender moments and singalong choruses to keep old-school emo fans happy. Teaming back up with Clarity producer Mark Trombino adds a retro edge to this release, as well as the smooth backing vocals from Courtney Marie Andrews on Coffee and Cigarettes, Movielike and Heart Is Hard To Find.

6.)    Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly

Once again, Sam Duckworth has created a remarkable album of beats, samples, arpeggios and catchy choruses. Once again he has taken his live show up a level. The truly uplifting Morning Light is a career highlight, yet somehow Get Cape’s third record lacks that extra something special to make it a truly great album.

7.)    Ash – A-Z Vol. 1 & 2

If we ignore the fact that this 26-track project was split into two physical releases, then Ash’s A-Z series as a whole definitely deserves its place in the top ten. Writing and releasing songs of this quality every fortnight is a great achievement, and Russell Lissack (on loan from Bloc Party) gives the band a new edge, but with a bit more discipline, they could have whittled it all down to one of the best albums of their career.

8.)    Pulled Apart By Horses – Pulled Apart By Horses

The Leeds quartet burst onto the scene this year with a debut as mental as it is memorable. I Punched A Lion In The Throat, Back To The Fuck Yeah and High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive all hit the spot with remarkable ferocity. Definitely ones to watch in the future, these lads.

9.)    Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun – Atlases

Cheltenham-based Lockey’s second album saw him recruit a backing band and take the ambition and the intensity up a notch. This release sounds much more professional and accomplished than Jim’s folsky debut, with stand-out track Waitress boasting more tempo changes than you can shake a stick at.

10.)    Weezer – Hurley

Rivers Cuomo just keeps churning out the quirky songs and catchy hooks that have got Weezer where they are. Whilst Hurley has plenty of top tunes, such as Memories and Trainwrecks, perhaps the strains of releasing a record every year have made the Weezer well of ideas run a little bit dry.

11.)    I Am Kloot – Sky At Night

12.)    Vampire Weekend – Contra

13.)    Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can

14.)    Young Guns – All Our Kings Are Dead

15.)    Taylor Hawkins & The Coattail Riders – Red Light Fever

16.)    Gogol Bordello – Trans-Continental Hustle

17.)    Canterbury – Thank You

18.)    Minus The Bear – Omni

19.)    Jil Is Lucky – Jil Is Lucky

20.)    The Coral – Butterfly House

 
As always, please let me know what you think, if I’ve missed anything off, or you think I’m just plain wrong. Here’s to more great music in 2011, and I leave you with what I think is the best music video of the past year:

Sorry about the advert, but it’s worth sitting through for the video.

Top 20 Albums of the Year, 2009

It’s that time of year again. In keeping with a three-year-old tradition, I present for your delectation and discussion my top 20 albums of the year. The main difference this year being that, thanks to the wonders of Spotify, you can now debate and dispute my choices at the click of a button. Anyway, this year’s list is topped by:

1.) Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything To Nothing

Worthy of their place at the top this year if only for the fact that their keyboard player resembles the bastard lovechild of 70s soul legend Lionel Richie and Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite. Their second record sees the Georgia quintet mature into a potent force of emotional rock, blending the best bits of Brand New and Weezer into an irresistable package.

2.) Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions

Having taken the UK by storm with their fourth album Puzzle, you would be forgiven for expecting the Biff to go mainstream and placate the American market. Not so, with the incest jibes of Born on A Horse, the jagged riffery of That Golden Rule and the pirate laden sea shanty The Captain. A real triumph.

3.) Frank Turner – Poetry of the Deed

Frank’s third record is a significant achievement, proving that he is a one-man band in name alone. Pianist Matt Nasir adds a noticeable roundedness to this record, whilst the folksy melodies of tracks such as The Fastest Way Back Home and Sunday Nights are real growers.

4.) Doves – Kingdom of Rust

Maybe it was because I wasn’t clued up enough to fully appreciate their previous LP, 2005’s Some Cities, but this album blew me away. Doves’ unique sound is finely honed on Kingdom of Rust and it is a complete travesty that they did not follow in the footsteps of Elbow and finally achieve the mainstream recognition they deserve after this barnstorming album.

5.) Placebo – Battle For The Sun

It’s amazing what a new drummer can do for a band. Steve Forrest’s arrival breathed new life into Placebo this year, who are back to their best – sounding as vibrant and edgy as ever, albeit with a subtle emotional twist.

6.) Arctic Monkeys – Humbug

The northern lads have taken a bold step on their third record; one which may yet see them earn real recognition as a sophisticated rock group, not just a bunch of oiks who use Yorkshire slang in their lyrics.

7.) Muse – The Resistance

I suppose the only thing predictable about Muse is that they will always continue to get more absurd and flamboyant as their career goes on. The impact of their style may have faded somewhat, but that doesn’t stop this from being the most ambitious album of the year, if not the most subtle.

8.) Brakes – Touchdown

This Brighton four-piece started out life as the side projected for the disaffected members of Electric Soft Parade and British Sea Power. On their third record, they have well and truly eclipsed both of their former bands to create a folksy record of indie-pop gems.

9.) Cougar – Patriot

Inventive, inspiring, instrumental joy from deepest, darkest Wisconsin. It only takes a few listens to see why Cougar are the logical inheritors of Explosions In The Sky‘s post rock crown.

10.) Fake Problems – It’s Great To Be Alive

Unashamedly erratic folk-punk from the Florida quartet who supported Frank Turner on his American tour. The least understated record of the year, riven with religious angst and gutteral singalongs.

11.) Idlewild – Post Electric Blues

12.) Conor Oberst – Outer South

13.) Baddies – Do The Job

14.) Art Brut – Art Brut vs Satan

15.) Thursday – Common Existence

16.) The Mars Volta – Octahedron

17.) Brand New – Daisy

18.) Thrice – Beggars

19.) New Found Glory – Not Without A Fight

20.) Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown

As always, I’d love to hear any recommendations of decent albums that I’ve missed off the list. This is by no means definitive and I’m always keen to hear about great new albums.

Top 20 Albums of the Year, 2008

In an attempt to branch out and diversify my blog, I thought it would be worthwhile recapping the year gone by and the best Indie/Rock albums released in my humble opinion, starting with:

1. Frank Turner – Love, Ire & Song
A mature, diverse record from the cult hero who is fast becoming the defining songwriter of our generation.
Download: Love, Ire & Song; A Love Worth Keeping and To Take You Home.
2. Fighting With Wire – Man Vs Monster
Snarling, energetic punk-rock from Northern Ireland that makes you feel 16 again – Fighting With Wire finally released the sizzling debut album they had been threatening for 3 years.
Download: The Quiet; Cut The Transmission; All For Nothing.
3. City and Colour – Bring Me Your Love
Alexisonfire guitarist, Dallas Green continues to grow in his own right with this touching acoustic album. I’m still kicking myself that I missed his show at Islington Union Chapel.
Download: As Much As I Ever Could; The Girl; Forgive Me.
4. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst
Richly lyrical, ponderous and observational, this record is the beginning of a new era for the man formerly known as Bright Eyes.
Download: Eagle On A Pole; Souled Out!!!; Cape Canaveral.
5. Kings of Leon – Only by the Night
A cracking album, packed full of tunes, provided you love, rather than loathe, Caleb Followill’s voice.
Download: Sex On Fire; Crawl; I Want You.
6. Funeral for a Friend – Memory and Humanity
Welsh rockers return to what they do best after a year in the wilderness singing about deep sea fishing, for some reason. Expect riffery and screamage aplenty.
Download: Constant Illuminations; Rules and Games; Waterfront Dance Club
7. Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. – Searching For the Hows and Whys
Sam Duckworth’s sophomore effort is overflowing with new ideas and orchestral flourishes, but somehow lacks the earnest charm of his debut.
Download: Moving Forward; Find The Time; Postcards From Cataluña.
8. We Are Scientists – Brain Thrust Mastery
America’s wittiest export, Keith and Chris’ latest album is instantly loveable.
Download: Lethal Enforcer; After Hours; Let’s See It.
9. Coldplay – Viva La Vida
Chris Martin’s voice and lyrics remain charming as ever, as Coldplay’s sound reaches epic proportions. (Disclaimer: may contain stolen Joe Satriani riffs…)
Download: Cemeteries Of London; Death And All His Friends; Lovers In Japan.
10. This Town Needs Guns – Animals
The most technically inspired album I’ve heard in a long time. I can only assume that the guitarist in this Oxford-based quartet has seven fingers on each hand.
Download: Pig; Baboon; Chinchilla.

11. Travis – Ode to J. Smith
12. Thrice – The Alchemy Index, Vols III & IV: Air and Earth
13. Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
14. The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age of the Understatement
15. The Music – Strength in Numbers
16. Jim Lockey – I’ll Be Neon
17. Senses Fail – Life is not a Waiting Room
18. Weezer – Red Album
19. Bloc Party – Intimacy
20. The Mars Volta – The Bedlam in Goliath

So, it’s been a very acoustic year for me, with four of my top 20 being mostly non-electric. Kerrang! Magazine went with Metallica’s Death Magnetic as their album of the year, but what do they know?!
Now, what can we look forward to in 2009?
The elusive fifth album from Muse is in the pipeline and Idlewild have already entered the studio for a new album. Hundred Reasons are well overdue a return to form, while Biffy Clyro are recording new material. Lostprophets say they will unveil their long awaited fourth record in “April or May”, perhaps we’ll even see some new material from Rage Against The Machine? We can but dream…