Top 20 albums of the decade 2010-2019

The end of the decade brings a nice opportunity to reflect on the good and the truly exceptional. If you happen to have missed any of these, I implore you to give them a listen – needless to say every one is a gem in its own way…

1.) 65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway

This album opened my mind to a whole new genre of instrumental music and is one of the all-time best driving records.

2.) Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!

A graceful masterpiece that captures both the innocence of youth and the humility of ageing. Forget the Mercury-winning Seldom Seen Kid, this is Elbow at their finest.

3.) Gang Of Youths – Go Farther In Lightness

The only album on this list that I discovered late (so it doesn’t feature on any of my album of the year lists), Go Farther In Lightness is a sprawling epic, capped off by one of my all-time favourite songs, Perservere.

4.) Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

I was very excited when Pat Smear rejoined the Foo Fighters and sure enough this record sees them scale the heights of their previous record with him, The Colour and The Shape (still my #1 album of all time).

5.) Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Cinematic in its scope and acutely observed, Win Butler’s world-weary lyricism instantly transports you to suburban Texas. A massively underrated album due to the lack of a standout single and perhaps the quintessential grower.

6.) Dry The River – Shallow Bed

The peak of the new-folk movement, Dry The River’s debut is a blissfully brilliant listen and made for a fantastic live show.

7.) Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones

In an era when English national identity has become something of a thorny issue, the warmth and honesty of this album is something to be cherished.

8.) Arctic Monkeys – AM

After two hugely underwhelming albums (Humbug, Suck It And See), this record heralded the rebirth of the Arctic Monkeys and made Alex Turner the coolest man in Britain.

9.) Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Daft Punk don’t release many albums (only 4 in their 22-year career) or play many live shows, but when they do it’s pretty special and makes the world sit up and take note. Of all the cameos on here, Nile Rogers’ collaboration seems like a match made in heaven.

10.) Biffy Clyro – Opposites

Most double albums leave me wishing the band had trimmed it down to one amazing record. Not this one, which is arguably the best of its kind. One of my biggest live music regrets is not shelling out to see them headline Reading with this wonderful noise.

11.) Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley

12.) Mystery Jets – Curve Of The Earth

13.) Band Of Skulls – Himalayan

14.) Twin Atlantic – The Great Divide

15.) Dive Dive – Potential

16.) Idlewild – Everything Ever Written

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

18.) Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

19.) Canterbury – Dark Days

20.) Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

Thanks to those of you who have followed my blog for the past 10 years – here’s to the next decade of fantastic music!

Top 20 albums of the year 2019

A great year for new music in my humble opinion, here’s my annual rundown…

1.) Indoor Pets – Be Content

This delightfully dorky debut album is absolutely brimming with shout-along choruses, clever hooks and distinct personality from the band formerly known as Get Inuit.

2.) Jimmy Eat World – Surviving

Their best record in over a decade, encompassing everything from cheesy saxophone solos to six-minute riff monsters.

3.) Vampire Weekend – Father Of The Bride

A diverse and sprawling record that shows off the maturity of Ezra Koenig’s songwriting skills.

4.) American Football – LP3

From emo revival to full-blown renaissance, American Football are back for good and their third self-titled album adds a new dimension with the female guest vocals supplied by Rachel Goswell, Elizabeth Powell (Land of Talk) and Hayley Williams (Paramore).

5.) Band Of Skulls – Love Is All You Love

Few bands can balance two styles so evenly as Band of Skulls, veering from a glam-rock strut to a reflective saunter and back without ever jarring in your ear. This is another fine addition to their increasingly impressive back catalogue.

6.) Get Up Kids – Problems

The emo pioneers roll back the years on this hugely satisfying record, their first in eight years, but their best in 20.

7.) The Amazons – Future Dust

“This is how Arch Rivals* would sound if you were in charge,” said Helen**. I’m gonna take that as a compliment…

8.) Idlewild – Interview Music

As subtle and diverse as you’d expect from Idlewild, this wonderfully poetic album rewards repeat listens.

9.) The Flatliners – Inviting Light

Chris Creswell’s voice leapt out at me from Spotify album radio and I still haven’t got over it. This fifth album from the Canadian quartet is a true revelation.

10.) Elbow – Giants Of All Sizes

Lead singles Dexter & Sinister and Empires set the bar very high indeed, and while the rest of this album doesn’t quite live up to that standard, it’s still a delightful record.

11.) Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost p1

12.) Foals– Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost p2

13.) Biffy Clyro – Balance Not Symmetry OST

14.) Whenyoung – Reasons To Dream

15.) Rival Sons – Feral Roots

16.) Weezer – The Teal Album

17.) Millencolin – SOS

18.) Dinosaur Pile-up – Celebrity Mansions

19.) Human Pyramids – Power Pose

20.) Dive Dive – The Waves Behind

There are plenty of new records to get excited about in 2020 from the likes of Green Day, Twin Atlantic and Weezer (yes, another one!) But for now, I leave you with my video of the year…

*My old band
** My wife

Top 20 albums of the year 2018

My first post in over a year* is the compulsory albums of the year round-up. Read on to listen to my top picks from the past 12 months…

1.) The Vaccines – Combat Sports

A perfect half-hour of pop rock delights from “the last of the great romantic poets”. The ideal soundtrack to the hottest summer in living memory.
Stream: Out On The Street, Rolling Stones

2.) Press To Meco – Here’s To The Fatigue

Croydon power trio hit the big time with Marshall Records and supremo producer Gene ‘Machine’ Freeman.
Stream: Familiar Ground, A Place In It All

3.) Eels – The Deconstruction

E lays his heart bare once again, taking in everything from fatherhood to divorce.
Stream: Sweet Scorched Earth, Today Is The Day

4.) The Go! Team – Semicircle

A dazzling smorgasbord of instrumentation and genre-bending, even better than their 2004 debut.
Stream: Mayday, All The Way Live

5.) Editors – Violence

Brummy quintet bring real electro swagger to their latest offering.
Stream: Belong, So Low (Hallelujah)

6.) Muse – Simulation Theory

So garish, so kitsch, so much fun. Their 2019 world tour can’t come soon enough.
Stream: Pressure, Propaganda

7.) Fatherson – Sum Of All Your Parts

This Kilmarnock trio have been lauded as the next Frightened Rabbit, and whilst they may not be at that level just yet, their third album is a huge step forward.
Stream: The Rain, Oh Yes

8.) Art Brut – Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!

The archetypal comeback record from Eddie Argos and co. Feat big brass.
Stream: Kultfigur, Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!

9.) LUMP – LUMP

Laura Marling/Mike Lindsay collab shimmers with chilled-out brilliance.
Stream: Late To The Flight, Curse Of The Contemporary

10.) Ash – Islands

Tim Wheeler’s break-up album is packed with hidden charms.
Stream: Incoming Waves, Buzzkill

11.) Orchards – Losers/Lovers
12.) Smashing Pumpkins – Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.
13.) Frank Turner – Be More Kind
14.) Black Foxxes – Reiði
15.) Thrice – Palms
16.) Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
17.) Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. – Young Adult
18.) Trophy Eyes – The American Dream
19.) Alkaline Trio – Is This Thing Cursed?
20.) The Magic Numbers – Outsiders

Looking forward to 2019, we can expect more pop-rock silliness from Weezer’s Black Album, comebacks from Millencolin and Doves, as well as the rumoured reincarnation of Creeper. In the meantime, I leave you with my video of the year – guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

*Convenient excuse – I became a dad!

 

Top 20 albums of the year 2017

It’s been a particularly strong year for new music – for the first time in a decade I could have easily stretched this to a top 40 – but in keeping with tradition, here are my top 20 albums of the year. Click on the headline to listen in full on Spotify.

1.) Creeper – Eternity In Your Arms

Quite simply the most exciting debut album to come out in years. The goth punk six-piece’s first full-length is electrifying stuff, combining the dramatic riffs of AFI with the gritty vocals of Alkaline Trio and the unashamed mythologising of My Chemical Romance. Their upcoming US tour supporting Neck Deep should see thousands more recruited to the cult.
Stream: Hiding With The Boys, Suzanne

2.) Elbow – Little Fictions

2017 may have been the year that Elbow recorded the John Lewis advert, but the Manchester indie veterans kicked off the year with another memorable record packed with melodic masterpieces and lyrical delights.
Stream: K2, Kindling

3.) Laura Marling – Semper Femina

A dazzling return to form from Britain’s most underrated solo artist, which was capped off by an effortlessly beautiful set on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.
Stream: Wild Fire, Nothing Not Nearly

4.) Arcade Fire – Everything Now

Fully embracing their disco and glam-rock influences, Arcade Fire’s latest release is a significant improvement on Reflektor, although the self-indulgent finale We Don’t Deserve Love is definitely one to skip.
Stream: Creature Comfort, Infinite Content

5.) Tall Ships – Impressions

The long-awaited follow-up to Everything Touching finally saw the light of day after a five-year gestation and it was more than worth the wait, with the band focusing on direct songwriting over gradual crescendos. Clearly it took a lot out of them, as they announced their break-up in  the summer and played their final show just last Saturday.
Stream: Home, Will To Life

6.) Foo Fighters – Concrete And Gold

With no gimmicky concept or studio-hopping marathons, the ninth Foos album is a straight-up classic of hard rock instrumentation and catchy tunes in perfect harmony. The litany of cameos (Paul McCartney, Justin Timberlake etc.) doesn’t disrupt the flow and the loud-quiet dynamic is as punchy as it has ever been.
Stream: T-Shirt, Run

7.) Queens Of The Stone Age – Villains

The Josh Homme show continues in full flow, with the ginger Elvis recruiting Mark Ronson to add an extra layer of swagger to the production of this, the band’s seventh studio album. Irresistibly devilish.
Stream: The Way You Used To Do, The Evil Has Landed

8.) Wolf Alice – Visions Of A Life

This incredibly versatile quartet’s sophomore album is every bit as varied and intriguing as their debut, with singer Ellie Rowsell channeling the spirit of Courtney Love, Billy Corgan and Taylor Swift by turns.
Stream: Yuk Foo, Beautifully Unconventional

9.) Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley

A concept album about a Welsh mining village might seem like a stretch for this most English of art-rock bands, but with clever use of archive samples and some truly stellar guest vocals, the result is utterly heart-warming.
Stream: Turn No More, They Gave Me A Lamp

10.) Everything Everything – A Fever Dream

It’s really saying something that an album about the nightmarish state of media, culture and politics including a song about Michael Gove can still make you want to dance until you drop.
Stream: Big Game, Run The Numbers

11.) Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface
12.) The xx – I See You
13.) AFI – AFI
14.) Alt-J – Relaxer
15.) Jamie Lenman – Devolver
16.) Death From Above – Outrage! Is Now
17.) And So I Watch You From Afar – The Endless Shimmering
18.) At The Drive-In – in.ter a.li.a
19.) Arcane Roots – Melancholia Hymns
20.) Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?

I’m sure I’ve missed plenty off, so please let me know in the comments below, and I’ll leave you with my video of the year:

Top 20 albums of the year 2016

For the tenth year in a row, here’s my list of the best albums released over the past 12 months. Follow the links to listen to the full thing on Spotify:

1.) Mystery Jets – Curve Of The Earth

Far more ambitious and adventurous than I ever thought this lot were capable of – the outstanding surprise of the year and a worthy winner.
Stream: Telomere, 1985

2.) Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack

Perhaps the most underrated indie-rock band in the UK are finally starting to get the recognition that they deserve.
Stream: Lump Street, Die Like A Rich Boy

3.) Explosions In The Sky – The Wilderness

Yet another atmospheric masterpiece from the kings of post-rock, which rewards repeat listening.
Stream: Disintegration Anxiety, Colours In Space

4.) Band Of Skulls – By Default

Southampton power trio add some serious swagger to their bombastic mix of riffs and choruses. Irresistibly catchy stuff.
Stream: Black Magic, By Default

5.) Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere

Well worth the wait after a four-year hiatus. Orange Country’s emo veterans are back with a bang.
Stream: Hurricane, Black Honey

6.) The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come To Expect

Alex Turner and Miles Kane join forces once again for the second spectacular album from their orchestral indie supergroup.
Stream: Dracula Teeth, Bad Habits

7.) Twin Atlantic – GLA

Glasgow rockers get rowdy on their fourth album, which is interspersed with some truly touching acoustic tracks as well.
Stream: I Am Alive, Whispers

8.) Blink 182 – California

Who needs Tom DeLonge? A change in frontman threatened to derail Blink 182, but Matt Skiba has slotted in seamlessly.
Stream: Kings Of The Weekend, No Future

9.) Weezer – The White Album

Set aside the daft ramblings of Thank God For Girls and this is the most consistent album that Weezer have released since Maladroit.
Stream: King Of The World, Wind In Our Sail

10.) Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway

Still going strong in their fourth decade, the grandaddies of funk-rock are back on form with this solid collection of effortless tunes.
Stream: Goodbye Angels, This Ticonderoga

11.) Pixies – Head Carrier
12.) Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
13.) Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues
14.) 65daysofstatic – No Man’s Sky: Music For An Infinite Universe
15.) Biffy Clyro – Ellipsis
16.) Taking Back Sunday – Tidal Wave
17.) Travis – Everything At Once
18.) Sonic Boom Six – The F Bomb
19.) Green Day – Revolution Radio
20.) PAWS – No Grace

Plenty to look forward to in 2017, with Arcade Fire, Foo Fighters, Elbow and Tall Ships all shaping up to release new records. I’ll go into more depth on those in a future post, but for now I’ll leave you with my video of the year:

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!

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: