My favourite albums if this year:
First Aid Kit - The Big Black and the Blue
I spent the whole year raving about these Swedish schoolgirls. The idea that these two savants would filter folk and country through the suburbs of Stockholm and the nearby forests is so far out I have to love it... especially when the harmonies are so creative and so perfect. I saw them live in Sydney and they lived up to expectations.
Villagers - Becoming a Jackal
Conor O'Brien's voice is kind of old, kind of high-pitched in a Neil Young-ish way. Then when you see him he's this bug eyed Irish kid with a bowl cut and a too-small acoustic guitar. The hugeness of his ideas and the sound of this album belie the image. Listening to this, I think I can never get enough of songs about love and death.
Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History
Pop songs with two guitars, bass and drums... or drum machine. The nebulous status of the percussion section is just one of the things about this Northern Ireland group which reminds me of my beloved XTC. Great indie pop tunes that are fresh, young and somehow uplifting.
Bombay Bicycle Club - Flaws
Buried somewhere in the megabytes of its online noise, NME can still find me a good group. Like Villagers, this band came to me from the venerable British mag's half-yearly report. I hardly bothered to read the review, just listened to it to decide for myself. It's sad and pretty acoustic pop, just right for the neo-folk boom I am unexpectedly swept up in.
Johnny Flynn - Been Listening
Johnny Flynn was the one who started me on this whole folk trip. Davendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom just didn't do it for me, so it's a revival of my old musical Anglophilia too. Just like his debut, this album takes time to grow, but it gives great rewards, especially the beautiful centrepiece, The Water.
Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
Someone on Youtube commented that Laura and Johnny Flynn should have babies. The Water is the musical offspring. Laura also immaculately conceives a couple more saviours here, especially Goodbye England (Covered In Snow), and Rambling Man.
jj - no. 3
Almost, but not quite as good as the sublime dream-pop of their debut. Let Go should waft out from the billowing curtains of every beach house, loud enough to be heard across the sand and down by the water.
Arcade Fire - Suburbs
It was so completely ordained that this would be a massive hit. It's weird when indie steps in to the mainstream of American commercial music, and it seems choreographed. I still don't approve of Kid A and (Gawd help us) The Fat of the Land. Even Modest Mouse had an element of WTF. But this deserves its moment in the Billboard sun. I like them, I like their songs,and their multi-instrumental gang mentality.
Brad Smith - Moon 8
I need only say it's an 8-bit cover version of the entire Dark Side of the Moon album. And yes, it is one of the best things I heard this year.
Emeralds - Does it Look Like I'm Here
It was a bit drone, a bit Krautrock. But all of it is excellent. For so long electronic music's best was to be heard on the dance floor, but these guys feed your head.
LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
Nearly as good as Sound of Silver.
Little Red - Midnight Remember
The joy of classic pop music rediscovered. Unpretentious and individualistic.
Saint Etienne - Foxbase Beta
One of my all time favourite albums gets a brilliant remix treatment.
The Drums The Drums
Pure pop, but kind of raw and stark, with wonderful nods to the likes of New Order.
Walls - Walls
It's a few years now since it seemed like every other great record we released by Cologne's Kompakt label. This year Walls emerge as a distinctive electronic sound.
The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
Take Bob Dylan, add Sweden and better melodies and you get this.
Honourable mentions: Yeasayer - Odd Blood, Teeth of the Sea - Your Mercury, Beach House - Teen Dream Tame Impala - Innerspeaker, Jonsi - Go