Sunday, December 31, 2006

That was the year that was

Well, that was 2006 then. It's been a good 12 months. Just a quick one then, before I get dressed up for my NYE party, and it's really just a compilation of my best-of-2006 lists. More for my own sidebar-linking convenience than anything else, but here you have all my favourites in one place, and it serves as a useful sign-off post at the end of my first full year in blogging.

Top 20 albums of 2006.

Numbers 1-10
Numbers 11-20

Top 20 songs of 2006.

Top 10 gigs of 2006

Top artists of 2006.

Top 10 films of 2006.

OK, so that's that. I'll be back in the next day or so with all my tips for 2007, which should last me all week at least. Have a good New Year's Eve, whatever you're doing, and I'll see you on the other side...

Update: If you still haven't had enough 2006 lists, the aggregated ones are coming in. I've contributed to the UK music bloggers collected Top 20 over at Sweeping the Nation, and my choices are also a miniscule part of the much bigger worldwide blog chart collected by Heart on a Stick. Looks like it's TV on the Radio's year then.

Tops films of 2006

Although The Daily Growl is a music blog, film is my other big love. However, this year, I think that music seemed to edge out film a little for me, and I definitely went to the cinema less than usual. However, there were still loads of good films around and I saw some of them. Casting my eye over all the films I've seen that were released this year, these are my top 10 movies.

1. Volver

Almodovar – back and better than ever, with an amazing female cast in this wonderful tale of familial tensions, murder, good times and ghosts.

2. Hidden

Michael Haneke’s brilliant survelliance mystery keeps the tension going by never overplaying itself. Daniel Auteil and Juliette Binoche in the leads are excellent, taking us into the dark heart of the story.

3. Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro’s perfectly-judged combination of imaginative fantasy and brutal reality in 1930s Spain really hit the mark. Sergio Lopez's Captain Vidal must be super-villain of the year, and the eyes-in-the hand ceature the year’s best monster.

4. Walk the Line

Just to show that a populist romance needn’t make a rubbish movie. Maybe that’s because true life is so often more interesting than fiction. And the music’s great too.

5. Lady Vengeance

This brutal revenge thriller, from Korean horror master Chan-Wook Park has plenty to feed the mind after the heart has stopped beating.

6. Brick

Classic film noir (right down to the dialogue) transposed into an American High School. Shouldn’t work really, but it does – and so well too.

7. The Wind that Shakes the Barley

A return to form for Ken Loach with a political drama that avoids over-simplification, and a love story that side-steps mawkishness. And it’s his biggest film ever!

8. The Squid and the Whale

A funny and unsentimental portrait of a family break-up in 80s Brooklyn through the eyes of the child. Honest – it really does have a lot of laughs. Mostly at the expense of the insufferable father (Jeff Bridges).

9. Lemming

Dominik Moll paints a wonderfully surreal and thrilling picture of a strange encounters that follow a tense dinner meeting between two couples. All the better for featuring the lovely Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Charlotte Rampling on rollickingly good form.

10. Red Road

Previous short film Oscar winner Andrea Arnold makes her feature debut with this fine Glasgow-set thriller, focused on a CCTV operator who one day spots someone from her past, leading her along a dangerous path.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Kate Nash

To be honest, I don't know that much about Kate Nash. From a cursory internet search, I've discovered that she's a mere 19 years old, and that she loves Harrow (the area of way out North West London where she hails from) and garageband. She also loves cake. There's been a bit of a buzz about her around. From what I can hear, her music is pretty good. She did a live studio session for John Kennedy on Xfm at the beginning of December, and these are the songs she played. Birds and The Nicest Thing are lovely acoustic tunes. Caroline's a Victim is an unusual version of her slightly sleazy electro-rock tune, which is going to be her debut single. It's all good stuff, and no doubt her lyrics, delivered with London-accented glottal stops are going to get her mentioned in sentences with words like 'Lily' and 'Allen' in the very near future. She'll be one of my tips for 2007 next week, for sure.

Download: Kate Nash - The Nicest Thing (live on Xfm)
Download: Kate Nash - Caroline's a Victim (live on Xfm)
Download: Kate Nash - Birds (live on Xfm)

Update: For more recent Kate Nash live tracks (including Merry Happy), head over to this post.

Jamie T @ The 12 Bar Club, 27 December

Jamie T has played the 12 Bar Club before. Early in the year, I think, under the banner of his Panic Prevention Disco. Tonight he’s reprising it for what surely must be the last time. Popular though he was before, the previous nights couldn’t have been as rammed as this one. And they probably didn’t have someone on the stairs telling anyone who dared to go upstairs that it was “reserved for Jamie’s guests”. Mind you, with Jamie sitting down on the tiny stage for his solo acoustic set, he would only have been visible to those at the very front of the balcony, craning their necks for a view. Some consolation then.

Downstairs, it's rammed to bursting point with 100 or more people all trying to get into a stamp-sized performance space. The result is less of a Jamie T gig, and more an experience of the Jamie T phenomenon. The 12 Bar doesn’t exactly have much of a sound system, so his vocals and acoustic bass plucking is often almost drowned out by the loudly singing teenage fans.

Right from the start, as he launched into If You Got the Money, the sing-along started. And then all the way through his short half hour set, through all the unreleased songs the kids have got off the internet, to the climax with Sheila. No backing vocals are required here. They all knew where to sing. “London!” they all scream at the right bits.

Where discernable, his lyrics are as witty and interesting as expected. His quickfire delivery is still exciting, and his use of bass as his instrument of choice shows that he’s as much interested in rhythm as melody. The songs are sharp and crisp, and stripped down in acoustic form they shine as much, and in some cases more, than the recorded versions. The lad’s got talent for sure. With the help of these adoring fans, we’ll watch him really take off next year, especially when he releases his debut album Panic Prevention. He’s already sold out the almost 2000 capacity Astoria round the corner on 24 January. That’ll be a crush downstairs as well, no doubt.

Download: Jamie T – Sheila
Download: Jamie T – Salvador

Pre-order Panic Prevention.

Check out more of my gig photos at my Flickr photostream.

For some Jamie T live tracks, see my previous post.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Artists of 2006

So here’s the last of my musical look-backs at 2006, before I begin to look forward to next year. I thought I’d do a top artists of the year. This is basically a short compilation of people that I’ve loved this year, for a variety of reasons. Here goes.

1. Lily Allen. For releasing a great debut album, for being surprisingly good live, and for being a proper pop star (and yes, that includes dissing other people – especially those that deserve it, like the NME.). Someone who appeals to pop fans, indie kids and tabloid newspapers in equal measure. Not many of those around.

2. Tilly and the Wall. For creating wonderfully euphoric pop music, for their brilliant, all- singing, all-tap-dancing live shows, which were always a pleasure to be at this year. And for being just generally lovely.

3. Danielson. It’s always good to get into a band when they’ve already been going for a while. Then you can explore their back catalogue, as well as their more recent stuff. Daniel Smith’s latest venture, Ships, was my album of the year. The Danielson Family Movie was interesting and enjoyable, and their live show lived up to all expectations. I’ve listened to them so much now that I don’t even consider them to be an acquired taste!

4. Sufjan Stevens. Although there was no ‘proper’ album for Sufjan this year, it wasn’t a quiet one. There was a compilation of offcuts from Illinoise, which managed to be better than most other people’s main efforts, and another recording to add to the canon of definitive Christmas albums. Oh, and the amazing live show. Is there anything this guy can’t do well?

5. Emmy the Great. In the age of myspace it’s unusual to see an artist live who you know nothing about, yet that was the case when the small woman with the amazing voice stepped up to support Tilly and the Wall in February. I found out who she was the next day, and ever since I’ve loved her wonderful folk-pop tales. And I think I’ve seen her play more than any other artist this year.

6. Jeremy Warmsley. Friend of Emmy’s and another welcome ‘discovery’ for me this year, this annoyingly talented guy produced an album of impressive range and depth and always managed to deliver the goods live, whether solo or with a band. Hopefully 2007 will see him getting the recognition he deserves.

7. Richard Hawley. No new stuff from the Sheffield balladeer this year, but instead a lot of capitalising on last year’s breakthrough Coles Corner. He might have lost out on the Mercury Prize but he gained more than any other nominee in spin-off sales. He was so ubiquitous in the summer festival circuit, that by the end his jokes were wearing a bit thin, but he’s still a fine performer, and his success is well-deserved.

8. TV on the Radio. Not only for their great album Return to Cookie Mountain, but for the glorious intensity of their live show, which just has to be experienced.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown RIP

I would never have thought that my first post back after Christmas would be a RIP to James Brown. The Godfather of Soul departed this world early on Christmas day, a rather fitting time for a man whose larger-than-life character was so prominent across the music world for so long. My only regret was that I never got to see him live, strutting his funky stuff, which he always seemed to do so amazingly well for a man of his age. I guess I thought there would always be another chance. Even as recently as October he played in London at the BBC Electric Proms. I was in Scotland at the time. Maybe that's a new year's resolution for me - to see as many of these old living legends as possible before it's too late. But enough about me. I don't intend to do a big obituary here. Other people have done that at more length and more eloquently. And there will be loads more. I just want to say thanks for all the brilliant music James, and rest in peace.

Here's a famous, and a slightly less-famous song from the Godfather.

Download: James Brown - Soul Power
Download: James Brown - Your Cheating Heart

(Yes, that is the Hank Williams song - it's off a great compilation called Dirty Laundry: The Soul of Black Country. Photo from the NY Times.)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Stepping into Christmas with me...

Christmas is always upon us. And I've only just finished my shopping. In the rush to finish off my best of 2006 lists, I haven't been purveying much of the usual music-blog Christmas cheer, with accompanying mp3s. After all, 'Christmas' is the most searched word on the Hype Machine at the mo, so there must be a lot of the ol' seasonal stuff going round.

However, I haven't been prevented from contributing to the second edition of the special Christmas Contrast Podcast. you probably don't need me to tell you about it, but if you don't have these, head over now and get yourself both of them, and enjoy some Christmas faves, some more off-kilter numbers and a whole load of dodgy intros. My choice comes from a new compilation called It's Not Like Christmas, which is another one of these indie Christmas albums. If there's one thing as sure as yearly complaints about how political correctness is ruining Christmas, it's indie bands trying their hand at Christmas standards, or sometimes sticking their necks out and recording their own originals, with mixed results. Anyway, INLC is a pretty good album as these things go, has many fine tunes on and is well worth your money, especially as some of it will go to Shelter. Like I said, my Contrast submission was from it, and it's Daily Growl fave Emmy the Great duetting with Lightspeed Champion - ex of short-lived London noiseniks Test Icicles - on John Prine's Christmas in Prison. I'm also posting the 747s' uncharacteristic upbeat take on Blue Christmas, and Iain Archer's 'black forest' (eh?) version of Little Drummer Boy.

Download: Emmy the Great & Lightspeed Champion - Christmas in Prison
Download: Iain Archer - Little Drummer Boy
Download: 747s - Blue Christmas

Of course, it's too late to go to the shops to get this now, but you can head over to Rough Trade Digital and download your copy. £6.99 for 18 tracks can't be a bad deal. Then you can hear all the others. You can even be its friend. By the way, for the downloaders, the Joseph and Mary Chain are a North East supergroup consisting of The Futureheads. Field Music and Kathryn Williams (and maybe more).

And while I'm on the festive tip, here are a few more Christmas songs that you may not have picked up on your rounds of the blogs.

Download: The Mules - Wassail Song
Download: Lucky Soul - Lonely This Christmas
Download: Noah and the Whale - To Cyril at Crunkmas
Download: The Hot Uncles - The Joy of Giving

For the fact fans:

- If you don't know what Wassail is, look here for yer answer
- Yes, that is the Mud song Lucky Soul are doing. Wonder what it sounds like with a southern soul re-rub? Wonder no more.
- Noah and the Whale is Emmy the Great's backing band, which is also a band in its own right.
- The Hot Uncles are Dan Michaelson from Absentee and Steven Adams from The Broken Family Band, bringing you some seasonal misanthropy.

Finally on the indie Christmas thing, thanks to Sweeping the Nation for giving us the heads up on this site with more indie Xmas tunes than you can shake a tinselled stick at. And even more finally, a Saint Etienne Christmas song, that's slightly less-heard than I Was Born on Christmas Day.

Download: Saint Etienne - Come on Christmas

Now I'm retiring off downstairs to the bosom of the family, with all our food, drink and stuff we've amassed to be consumed over the next few days. Once the goose has been cooked, and the leftovers have been put in the fridge, hopefully I'll have enough time in between assaults on the sales to bring you a few odds and ends I've failed to post recently. These include my top 10 artists of 2006, an overdue review of that amazing No-Neck Blues band gig last week, a Kate Nash radio session, a whole heap of other random radio stuff I've recorded but never posted, and a review of Jamie T's 12 Bar Club gig that I've been lucky enough to get tickets for.

Happy Christmas everybody!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Top 20 songs of 2006

Here are the songs (or maybe that should be 'tracks') then. I’ve laboured (intermittently) long and hard over these, because it’s pretty impossible to choose 20 songs from so many great ones this year. I've restricted myself to tunes that have been given an official UK release inthis year. The thing is, these probably aren’t even my best tracks of the year, but they have meant something to me over the past 12 months. I’m sure that if you ask me next month, I’ll have a slightly different list, but for now, here’s my song-record of 2006.

20. Primal Scream – Country Girl
Somehow this one lost a bit of the excitement that accompanied it at first. Still, if you want a blast of dumb ass rock ‘n’ roll, this does the trick nicely

19. I’m From Barcelona – We’re From Barcelona
Sometimes it’s the simplest tunes that are the most effective. Mind you, helps when you’ve got 28 people to add to the fun

18. Emmy The Great - Secret Circus
A lovely downbeat, Folk-pop gem, made even greater by Emmy's lovely voice. And the good thing is, it's not even her best song! This is the demo version I've posted. Buy the single version at Rough Trade Digital.

17. Jamie T – If You Got The Money
My favourite of the singles the promising sarf London lad released this year. Hopefully there are many more where these came from.

16. Roddy Frame – Western Skies
Roddy's own version of his 2004 Lazyboy collaboration shows the former Aztec Camera man still has a fine way with a tune

15. Jeremy Warmsley – Modern Children
The most lush and epic track on his brilliant album The Art of Fiction. Lovely.

14. The Knife – Marble House
This atmospheric, glacial beauty is my pick of their classic Silent Shout album

13. Gotan Project – Diferente
This was the pulsing beat at the heart of the fine album Lunatico and the amazing live shows from the Parisian purveyors of tango-with-beats

12. CSS – Music is My Hot Hot Sex
Not as saucy as it sounds – just a great song about being obsessed with music. I can identify with that then.

11. Beirut – Elephant Gun
Not even on the Gulag Orkestar album, but possibly the best thing Beirut have done. Beautiful and mournful, like the rest of Zach Condon’s music – just a little bit of a cut above.

10. The Rumble Strips – Hate Me
It’s the horns that do it for me with these guys. And maybe the fine tunes they write too. This is a live version. Once I get round to doing the vinyl rip, I'll post the single version.

9. Amy Winehouse – Rehab
If not going to rehab means that la Winehouse continues to produce pop-soul-funk delights like this, maybe she’d better stick to the booze.

8. Coldcut – True Skool
Matt Black and Jon Moore returned after a long time away this year with their patchy Sound Mirrors album. It still had some fine tracks on there though. This is the best, with Roots Manuva lending his vocals.

7. Lucky Soul – Give Me Love
A fantastic retro soul ballad from the south east London band, fronted by the lovely Ali Howard. Tops tips for next year.

6. The Aliens – Robotman
Half the Beta Band returned as the Aliens, sounding not exactly unlike, erm, the Beta Band, and with even less lyrics. That’s good enough for me.

5. M. Craft – You Are The Music
London-based Aussie Martin Craft delivers up this fine platter of wobbly folk-funk. It’s been brilliantly remixed and reworked but the original still shines.

4. Danielson – Did I Step on Your Trumpet?
I’m glad Daniel Smith trod on someone’s trumpet some time back in the dim and distant past – it’s eventually led to this sparkling awkward pop gem

3. Lily Allen – LDN
A song that manages to capture perfectly what it’s like to live in London. Sure there are dodgy people and bad things happen, but when the sun is in the sky, why oh why would I want to be anywhere else? Greatest city in the world. Top tune too.

2. Camera Obscura – Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken
It’s that intro, isn’t it? So euphoria-inducing. And what follows is just as good. “indie anthem of the year” says my friend Dan. I think he’s right.

1. The Gossip – Standing in the Way of Control
Track of the year? I’m still not totally sure, but it’s certainly a brilliant tune – all blasting grooves and belting vocals from the “coolest woman on the planet”.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Daily Growl top 10 gigs of 2006

While I’m trying to work out what my top 20 songs of the year are (so many songs, so hard to choose!), I’ll press ahead with the next installment in my end of the year best of lists - my favourite gigs of the year. And because I’m not finding much time to post these days, I’ll save myself some writing time by quoting my own reviews of these gigs.

10. No-Neck Blues Band @ Barden’s Boudoir (13 Dec)

The self-quoting lark has got off to a bad start, since I haven’t actually reviewed this one yet, because it was just on Wednesday last week and I haven’t got round to it yet. I will eventually, but suffice for now to say that it was awesome. I didn’t know what to expect from this New York freestyling improv outfit, but when it all came together it was amazing. If the amazing bits had continued through the whole gig, it would have been the best of the year. Even so, it was quite an experience.

Download: No-Neck Blues Band - Live Your Myth in Grease

9. CSS / 1990s / Rogers Sisters @ The Scala (14 Nov)

"it was a great show. CSS are the best type of live band - out for a good time, to give their best, and most of all they have in Lovefoxx a real pop star in the making."

Read the full review

Download: CSS – Alala
Download: 1990s – You Made Me Like It
Download: Rogers Sisters – Why Don’t You?

8. Calexico @ The 100 Club (5 Apr)

"It’s a really special gig, and a great privilege to see Calexico in such a small venue – pretty rare in London. I’ve seen them a few times now, but never fully appreciated the brilliance of drums and percussion maestro John Convertino. Heck, they’re all amazing."

Read the full review.

Download: Calexico – Across the Wire

7. Richard Hawley / Micah P Hinson @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire (18 May)

"There’s so much to enjoy here. Lush ballads, late night pop, extended rock-outs (betraying his indie rock roots a little), rockabilly, an impromptu cover of Long Black Veil, and to end it all a brilliant knees-up rendition of It’s Alright Mama which gets the whole place on their feet ... He certainly rose to the big occasion. It’s probably the best I’ve seen him – a gig to put a tingle in the spine, and a swoon in the step."

Read the full reviews – Richard Hawley and Micah P Hinson.

Download: Richard Hawley – Baby You're My Light
Download: Micah P Hinson – She Don't Own Me

6. TV on the Radio / Celebration @ ULU (15 May)

"Live, they take it to another level. There’s more energy, even more urgency in their performance, which really rubs off on the crowd. But they’re intense without being po-faced ... They’re not too cool for school. They look like they really love what they’re doing."

Read the full reviews – TVOTR and Celebration.

Download: TV on the Radio – Ambulance
Download: Celebration – Diamonds

5. Danielson / Jeffrey Lewis @ The Luminaire (3 Dec)

"I don't remember a gig when I've worn a smile on my face all the way through like this one. Maybe I didn't, but it felt like it... it's not like Daniel and co are all happy bounciness or fake cheer. They just get on with playing the great songs, and let them do their own work, getting in under the skin, working their way inside and making smiles suddenly pop onto faces."

Read the full review.

Download: Danielson - Flesh Thang
Download: Jeffrey Lewis - Don't Let The Record Label Take You Out to Lunch

4. Low performing Things We Lost in the Fire @ Koko (26 July)

"Goosebump moments were a-plenty. The first major one was during the achingly gorgeous Laser Beam, but they continued throughout.. The harmonies were just perfect, and Mimi Parker's few lead vocal slots just leave the desire for her to sing more. And the album was over way too soon."

Read the full review.

Download: Low - July

3. Sufjan Stevens @ The Barbican (3 Nov)

"he gets a standing ovation, followed with a three-song encore, which I’m not sure was all totally planned. As he stands there playing guitar or banjo, rocking backwards and forwards, his wings flap gently, as if he’s warming up for flight. He may as well have. Tonight he really does soar. "

Read the full review.

Download: Sufjan Stevens – The Transfiguration

2. Tilly and the Wall / Emmy the Great @ The Buffalo Bar (19 Feb)

"I’d advise you to beg, borrow (and perish the thought) steal to get to one of their gigs. I can’t remember such an infectious, joyous atmosphere at a gig [for a long time]. The band were on fire, full of smiley manic energy, and "feeling the love" as they ripped through songs from Wild Like Children and a whole heap of other new ones"

Read the full reviews – T&TW and Emmy the Great.

Download: Tilly & the Wall - The Ice Storm, Big Gust and You
Download: Emmy the Great - The Woods

1. End of the Road Festival @ Larmer Tree Gardens (15-17 Sept)

Maybe it's a bit cheating to give it to a whole festival. I could have singled out a few individual performances, like Micah P Hinson, Kathryn Williams, Simple Kid, I'm From Barcelona and James Yorkston to name but a few, but the whole thing was just so special. For a heap of personal reasons, as well as a brilliant line-up, wonderful location, lovely people, good food and drink and fantastic atmosphere. Well worth their 'best new festival award' and a trip next year.

Read the full reviews: day 1, day 2 and day 3, and my 'other highlights'.

Download: Simple Kid - Lil' King Kong
Download: James Yorkston – The Year of the Leopard
Download: Kathryn Williams - We Dug a Hole

All the photos are mine. That explains why some of them are rubbish.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Top 20 albums of 2006: 10 - 1

10. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain

I struggled to love TVOTR's debut Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, but this album is a different matter altogether. It's more accessible for sure, but that doesn't mean they've gone pop. Their music's not particularly immediate, but is dense, complex and beautiful, There are finely blended, harmonised and looped vocals, but most of it’s about Tunde Adebimpe's wonderfully rich voice. There are swathes of layered guitar and deep, pounding bass, and the beats threaten to become just plain funky. But always, TVOTR just stop short of categorisation. And I think that's the way they like it.

Download: TV on the Radio - Blues From Down Here

Buy Return to Cookie Mountain.

9. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar

One of the most overused phrases in the UK music press in the latter part of the year was ‘Balkan wedding music’. So what’s that then? Sure, Beirut’s music borrows heavily from the folk tradition of Eastern Europe, but why Balkan? And why wedding? Anyway, this aside, the kid from New Mexico has immersed himself in something other-worldly for some time to come up with an album like this. Maybe because it sounded like nothing else on the indie scene this year made it stand out. Whatever, it did stand out, not least due to the haunting vocals of Zach Condon, the perfect accompaniment to the Balkan wedding music.

Download: Beirut - Prenzlauerberg

Buy Gulag Orkestar.

8. Lily Allen - Alright, Still

In many ways, 2006 was the year of Lily Allen. Over the summer, certainly she was ubiquitous – from the tabloid gossip columns to the geekiest blogs. All of which would have been worth nothing had her album not have been totally great. Sure, it’s reggae-lite, but the samples check all the right boxes, and the songwriting’s more than up to scratch. A fine summer pop record which still sounds good come the winter chill.

Download: Lily Allen – Friday Night

Buy Alright, Still.

7. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

This year, Amy Winehouse blasted back onto the music scene with fresh tattoos and attitude, leaving behind the patchy jazziness of 2003’s Frank for full-on retro soul on Back to Black. And what a result! It's a fantastic album. From the rolling grooves of You Know I'm no Good, to sublime ballads like the title track and the full on ass-shaking funk-pop of Rehab. In a year when celebrity residential drug treatment was all the thing, it was quite refreshing to hear the north London gal protest – “They tried to make me go to rehab, I won't go!” So, you won't see her in the Priory with Doherty and Chaplin then.

Download: Amy Winehouse – You Know That I’m No Good

Buy Back to Black.

6. Hot Chip - The Warning

This album was long awaited (I was looking forward to it this time last year) and certainly didn't disappoint. The promise suggested on the release of Over and Over last year was fulfilled in an album of fizzy electronic goodness. Over and Over (released a further two times in 2006) and Boy from School became indie anthems, The Warning was nominated for a Mercury Prize, and Hot Chip rose into the major league. All totally deserved too. The only disappointing thing was that I didn't get to see them play live this year. Hot Chip in full effect - bobbing up and down behind their synths is truly a treat that needs to be experienced.

Download: Hot Chip – No Fit State

Buy The Warning.

5. Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country

Even if it were just for the lead track Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken (surely one of the indie anthems of the year), this album would be worth including in the top 10. but they’ve only gone and recorded a whole album full of indie-pop gems. Though not as good as Lloyd, they’re still lovely things and Traceyanne Campbell’s effortlessly sweet, pure and clear vocals glide beautifully above the band’s sweeping sounds. At last, Camera Obscura have stepped out from the shadows of Belle and Sebastian, and have made an album worthy of far more praise than their more illustrious Glasgow peers’ effort this year.

Download: Camera Obscura – Dory Previn

Buy Let's Get Out of This Country.

4. Jeremy Warmsley - The Art of Fiction

A few months ago, someone at Drowned in Sound said that that this album was the best one released by a solo artist this year. And now, looking at this list, by ‘eck they were right. Jeremy Warmsley specialises in a pleasingly complex type of pop music. He has a great vocal range, as well as an impressive range of musical styles, often within the same song. It starts with a blast on Dirty Blue Jean, and then proceeds to weave its way through different styles, complex arrangements and literate lyrics. It's not straight pop then, but there's something immensely satisfying about immersing yourself for a while in this fine album.

Download: Jeremy Warmsley – Dirty Blue Jeans

Buy The Art of Fiction.

3. CSS - Cansei de ser Sexy

OK, we've had all the blog-hype. We then had the subsequent music press hype. Now they sell out shows all over the land. But rightly so. Sometimes bands are just in the right place at the right time, and CSS have come as a blast of fresh air across the scene this year. Maybe the fact that they're a (mostly) girl group from Brazil, and because they've got a mad but loveable singer all helps the cause. But maybe they're good because they have put out an album of sparkling electro-pop-rock without a bad track on it.

Download: CSS - Off The Hook

Buy Cansei de ser Sexy.

2. Absentee - Schmotime

This year, I’ve been finding that Schmotime is an album I’ve kept coming back to again and again. And not just because it’s near the top of the artists list on my iPod. It's because of their songs, all scuzzy pop and lovely warm guitar riffs. These are good in themselves, but they also give me a whiff of nostalgia, reminding me what Teenage Fanclub might be these days if they hadn't lost the rough edges, and added boy/girl vocals. Oh, and there's singer Dan Michaelson’s deep, grizzled vocals, and the lyrics – gloriously shot through with an earthy pessimism and grubbiness are well worth listening out for. There's only a certain type of band that would write a song called There’s a Body in a Car Somewhere, and that band is Absentee. All things considered, this isn't really an album that you'd call original, but its rough hewn charm and great songs are enough for me.

Download: Absentee – Getaway

Buy Schmotime.

1. Danielson - Ships

It was hard to come up with a top album this year. Unlike last year, there were no clear front-runners. It wasn't until last week, when I was writing my review of Danielson's Luminaire gig and listening to Ships again, that it hit me. Yes! This is totally brilliant! Not that I hadn't realised it before. So I'm not sure what it was. Maybe the live experience helped enhance the recorded one. Maybe because it's such a mad, joyful album, full of fantastic tunes. Maybe having been inaugurated into the Danielson (Familie) sound, I've forgotten how odd it all sounds at first. Now I just think it's great pop music. I love the way that Two Sitting Ducks collapses into controlled mayhem at the end. I love the wide-eyed childlike happiness of Five Stars and Two Thumbs Up. I love Did You Step On My Trumpet? - just one of the most poptastic songs of the year. And all in, there's not a duff track in sight. Not even close. That's the sort of thing that makes an album of the year.

Download: Danielson – Two Sitting Ducks

Buy Ships.