Click the image above for a Spotify playlist featuring all of these songs.
Isabel – Baxter Dury
I love Baxter Dury’s album, ‘Happy Soup’ as much as I did last year’s ‘Things To Do and Make’ by Ergo Phizmiz. Dury’s vocals have a sloppy, sub-rehearsal quality, he mutters, he’s cynical and he sounds wonderful. ‘Isabel’ is probably my favourite song of the year, mainly for the chorus: Isabel’s sleeping / Isabel’s sleeping / I think my mate slept with you when you were in Portugal. There are at least three other tracks on the album that are standouts, too.
Lonely In Your Arms – Deep Sea Arcade
Excellent jangly surf pop.
Satellite – The Kills
I first listened to ‘Blood Pressures’ in my now-deceased Ford Ka. The speakers were barely operational and the music was being fed from my iphone to the radio via FM transmitter. The door kept vibrating with the farting motion of the ragged speakers and it sounded like nothing on Earth. One of my favourite moments in any track this year is one minute and twenty-three seconds into ‘Satellite’, where the thumping guitar winds down to an abrupt silence – for just a moment it feels that the track ends, making the remaining three minutes a joyous lap of honour.
Future Crimes – WILD FLAG
This will keep me going until the reformed Electrelane finally record some new material. WILD FLAG’s self-titled album is rock-solid and raw.
If I Keep On Loving You – Let’s Wrestle
Straightforward indie pop and all the better for it.
Shark Ridden Waters – Gruff Rhys
Andy Votel’s sampling adds a kitsch, comic element that, in retrospect, seems to have been missing from the majority of Gruff Rhys’ solo work. I only wish that the final sampled chorus had been used more throughout the track – other than that, it’s blissful pop.
FFunny FFrends – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s music sounds like it’s been recorded on C-90 cassette and then retrieved from a puddle. A bizarre slice of grungy funk through destroyed speakers.
Midnight Wave – Two Wounded Birds
More surf pop, this time even more indebted to Dick Dale.
Waveforms – Django Django
Oh, I love this. Beta Band vocals against DIY, skittery beats and 303 mayhem.
Mindkilla – Gang Gang Dance
Another of my absolute favourites this year. More than any other track on this list, this is the one that’s been drawing me back again and again. And surprisingly, I found that ‘Eye Contact’ was the perfect album to use as a backdrop for November’s novel-writing frenzy. Who’d have thought it?
Hipster – Monky
I love the chiptune vibe here. If I was a DJ, you’d all be dancing to this.
Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win – Beastie Boys featuring Santigold
It was a bit of a surprise to find this catchy dub pop buried in the Beasties’ ‘Hot Sauce Committee Part 2’. It definitely benefits from pushing the Boys down in the mix and the bassline is infectious.
Please Don’t Take Him Back – Bearsuit
Bearsuit straddle the line between catchiness and annoyingness throughout ‘The Phantom Forest’. This song is one of the more conventional but still catches them at their best.
Be a Doll and Take My Heart – Herman Dune
I still haven’t really got over the disappointment of ‘Strange Moosic’, in which David Herman Dune’s freewheeling lyricism is cut back to endlessly looping choruses. ‘Be a Doll and Take My Heart’ is lovely, albeit far less special than the brothers are capable of being.
There’s Nothing in the Water We Can’t Fight – Cloud Control
Is this great or awful? Last.fm tells me that this is one of the tracks I’ve listened to the most over the last six months, so it’d be hypocritical not to include it, even though Cloud Control is the worst band name ever.
Now the Smile Comes Over In Your Voice – The Wave Pictures
In an opposite trajectory to Herman Dune, The Wave Pictures have upped their game this year. Now that they’re signed to Moshi Moshi they’ve achieved a cleaner studio sound that befits them and sounds far closer to their live shows, but Dave Tattersall’s focus on British mundaneness remains intact.
Lotus Flower – Radiohead
‘The King of Limbs’ is the Radiohead album I’ve been hoping for since ‘Kid A’. I may be in the minority here, but with this release, Jonny Greenwood’s soundtracks and Thom Yorke’s coming out as a dubstep DJ, I think that Radiohead have never been in better shape.
Death Major – 13 & God
This track is more heavily weighted towards Anticon’s Doseone than the Notwist’s sweet choruses and features one of the best raps I’ve heard this year.
The Merry Barracks – Deerhoof
This appeared on last year’s list as a pre-release single, but is worth including here now that ‘Deerhoof vs. Evil’ is on Spotify. It’s a shame the rest of the album couldn’t live up to this glorious mess.
A Candle’s Fire – Beirut
This song does little to further Beirut’s sound and even sounds familiar on first listen. But it’s absolutely joyous, all the same.
Teenagers in Heat – Caged Animals
Childlike and wonderful, with a chorus that endears itself to me by sounding a little like ‘Tim Major’s in heat’.
Ping – Hauschka
More than any other Hauschka album, this captures the excitement of one of Volker Bertelmann’s live performances. It’s a rush of staccato rhythms and rattling, often achieved by placing a bundle of ping pong balls into the grand piano to be bounced up and down on the strings. Like Battles’ ‘Mirrored’, the effect is of machine-like intricacy, but ‘Salon des Amateurs’ somehow manages to remain soothing throughout. ‘Ping’ is one of my top tracks of the year.
It’s Choade My Dear – Connan Mockasin
Is this as lovely as it seems? I just looked up the word ‘choade’ and now I feel queasy.
Balance Her in Between Your Eyes – Nicholas Jaar
Chosen as a representative of the excellent album, ‘Space is Only Noise’. Once again, this woozy, hypnotic album turned out to be an excellent writing aid.
Abu Dhabi – Rough Fields
In its own odd way, this is probably the most beautiful song on this list. The listening conditions need to be perfect, but if you get it right this can be transcendent.
by this river – Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto
‘summvs’ is another of my favourite albums this year, even though I still don’t have much of a handle on it after many listens. This cover of Brian Eno’s song is the most accessible track on the album. I really love the high-pitched tone that’s used as a kind of punctuation mark.