[sic] Magazine

My 2010 pt.2 – Rob Gannon

Once more the nights draw in quickly. Once more I find myself hunched over the keyboard, finding solace in subjective lists. You might think I have better things to do – you’d be wrong. Hereby, with [sic] review links provided where available, I present some of the best records I’ve heard this year (part (2) of (2)):

50. Yeasayer – Ambling Alp
From the album Odd Blood “Ambling Alp” is odd pop indeed. Butterfly-like, Yeasayer emerged in 2010 with a make-or-break collection of nutbag crowd-pleasers. Apparently nonsensical, this bobs along so enthusiastically that it’s impossible not to be taken in.

49. Museum Of Bellas Artes – Who Do You Love?
The best cover since Kindess owned The Replacements ‘ “Swinging Party” last year. Yes, it’s all a bit Hed Kandi with its glitchy house progressions, but that telling Nordic cool in the vocal veers it instead straight towards keeping company with Korallreven and Air France .

48. The Art Museums – S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G
Clicking, lo-fi psychedelia, which, beneath the hiss and brevity, belies a depth of appreciation in late 60s classics. It didn’t make the album Rough Frame though. God knows why on this form.

47. White Ring – IxC999
This is where drag/wytch-house got aggressive. “IxC999” whispers intangibly over a bed of bass-heavy synth drone and beats while, latterly, the brooding result’s percussion comes courtesy of locking, loading and gunshot.

46. Melody Klyman – I Isolate
Not a million miles from the dark ballads of Zola Jesus , the atmospheric “I Isolate” has a considered plod and well-produced sheen that might seem slightly pedestrian if it weren’t for the huge wobbling dub that undercuts the expansive, echoing chorus.

45. Laura Marling – Alpha Shallows
Laura Marling matured nicely in 2010, and the complex “Alpha Swallows” was her crowning glory. Ostensibly little more than acoustic guitar and Marling’s sweet vocal, it also bursts with chiming keys and rattling percussion in between its many falls and spiky reprises.

44. Yu(c)k – Automatic
When it first snuck out, the hissing demo quality of “Automatic” made it even more appealing. It’s a tender track made more fragile still by its piano-only accompaniment. A very wise move to ditch being Cajun Dance Party it turns out.

43. Young Magic – You With Air
Pulsing with the sort of strong, fizzy beats one would usually attribute to These Are Powers , “You With Air” is a hip-hop indebted, nauseous, trance-inducing train ride through a very strange dawn of New Age. Think Telepathe covering The Knife , maybe.

42. Emanuel & The Fear – Jimme’s Song
Part of E&TF’s pop opera, “Jimme’s Song” recalls the euphoric Clap Your Hands Say Yeah if they were charged with re-writing Modest Mouse ‘s greatest hits whilst listening to The Bloodhound Gang ‘s only one. Really.

41. Broken Social Scene – Texico Bitches
Protest song against oil-producing majors? Who cares when the assured product is as catchy as “Texico Bitches”. Broken Social Scene have been at the warm edges of the indie-rock fraternity for ages. A few more like this and they’ll be welcomed with open arms.

40. Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
So, its skewed disco beat sounds quite like Swedish oddballs The Knife . We quite like The Knife, don’t we? Surprising to have Arcade Fire at this helm of this synth-laden pop beauty all the same.

39. oOoOO – Burnout Eyess
A lighter drag/wytch-house offering that simmers on tempered dub pulses, toying with the pretty, dreamy vocal and glitchy textures. “Burnout Eyess” nevertheless has a blackened heart.

38. Weekend – Untitled
There was no better noise merchant than Weekend this year. Hitting like Sonic Youth covering Dinosaur Jr , this untitled closing track from their fine debut album Sports rolls with thunderous, but patient, drums leading, perhaps inevitably, to a blistering blow-out.

37. Shimmering Stars – I’m Gonna Try
We’re in echo-y, jangly Girl-Group territory for Shimmering Stars’ impeccably short “I’m Gonna Try”. No surprises here, but if this was from then rather than now it’d be sat next to The Crystals on all your favourite period compilations.

36. Black Mountain – Let Spirits Ride
Black Mountain forgot the decade, never mind the year, when they conceived this muscular Sabbath rip-off. Early metal riffs collide with McBean-brand psych-rock heaviness. And that awesome mid-point solo has got Guitar Hero indulgence written all over it.

35. Phosphorescent – Hej, Me I’m Light
Film scores cry out for samples like this. Atmospheric to the point of instant melancholy, brooding enough to beckon disaster and redemptive enough to suggest at climax, the folkish “Hey, Me I’m Light” builds on the same repeat, willing itself forward.

34. Ulterior – Sex War Sex Cars Sex
The explosive “Sex War Sex Cars Sex” announces itself with massive, slo-mo Goth-rock drums and a convincing PiL-era John Lydon impression, before lurching into a huge dark-hearted dancefloor filler rife with hooks.

33. The Soft Moon – Breathe The Fire
Post-punk and drone are increasingly common bed partners and The Soft Moon might just have themselves the bench mark in “Breath The Fire”. Whispery, obviously, it nonchalantly splurges out echo-y, early 80s riff after riff to great satisfaction.

32. The Magic Kids – Hey Boy
Ridiculous Beach Boys -pop love-in from The Magic Kids.”Hey Boy” is so damn perfect it’s close to irritating, yet it flirts its way into the heart with such abandon that you’ll be finding traces of it all over your subconscious for years to come.

31. The Bewitched Hands On The Top Of Our Heads – Hard To Cry
An anthemic indie cut that sounds like it fell from The Kissaway Trail’s fine debut. “Hard To Cry” mews into life before patiently going all Modest Mouse on us, and then building into a lighters-out finale strengthened by the emotive repeat “I’m crying forever”.

30. Forest Swords – Rattling Cage
Post-apocalyptic dub filled with echoes, chimes, metallic clanks and some of Sun Araw ‘s best pie-eyed ambience. The revelation then comes with that heavily-psyched vocal. This is a high definition release without doubt – one so wide-screen it’s frightening.

29. Blank Dogs – Northern Islands
This bubbling, nauseous post-punk/pop track flows along on Mike Sniper ‘s distorted vocal, giddy synth chatter and New Order guitar lifts. Originality doesn’t matter on “Northern Islands” when the execution is so perfect.

28. Angel Olsen – Creator, Destroyer
Echo-y, singer-songwriting doesn’t come much effective than this. Simply, Ms Olsen’s “Creator, Destroyer” is acoustic, atmospheric strumming overlain with her stunning voice, but her potty-mouthed outro elevates it into something rather special indeed.

27. 2:54 – Creeping
A right atmospheric affair courtesy of the ungooglable 2:54. “Creeping” is as its name suggests. Built on heavily reverbed guitar, it then quickly becomes the sort of track The Organ thought they were recording when they were knocking out Smiths covers.

26. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Can’t Hear My Eyes
Pink went glossy with the Haunted Graffiti boys, and no more so with the super smooth “Can’t Hear My Eyes”. Proving a very able songwriter no matter his medium, this soft soul ripples with silky sax and careless whispers. More remarkably still, it’s not at all rubbish.

25. Cults – Go Outside
Twinkling, harmonised pop that really should come with a health warning it’s so sweet. With little more than one bobbing guitar line, a glockenspiel and some reverb, Cults showed how good needn’t be complex.

24. Keepaway – Yellow Wings
“Yellow Wings” is one of those moments where everything just falls into place. The lyrics are imbued with perfect rhythm, and, on top of identifiably Brooklyn-esque bedding, they slither and pose with latter-day Animal Collective -like confidence.

23. Diarrhea Planet – Ghost With A Boner
Low budget, fuzzy punk-rock the way it was meant to be played. Massively fun, “Ghost With A Boner” pogos around its brief 3 minutes, bouncing off the walls with little more than a killer riff and, seemingly, rampant lyrical repeats stolen from Japandroids .

22. Nedry – Squid Cat Battle
A dangerously dirty dub-bass/trip masterpiece that bobs furiously beneath Ayu Okakita ‘s otherworldly vocal. In an ideal world, all the best nightspots would be rinsing this.

21. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio
The National are at that stage of their career, having become a byword for describing their own imitators, but no such worries on “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, which soars as high as Matt Berninger ‘s gravelly vocal will allow, transcending optimism and pessimism in the process.

20. No Age – Fever Dreaming
Using pedal feedback surges as a bridge, No Age let fly the superlative “Fever Dreaming”, which gallops through its hyper-ventilating noise-punk hurling barbs left, right and centre around their mantra: “Keep on dreamin’”.

19. Dignan Porch – As You Were
You can’t cram much into 100 seconds but Dignan Porch did with the immaculate “As You Were”. Forever building into the anti-climatic, but perfectly pitched title, this psych-pop echoes on much longer in the memory than its running time might suggest.

18. Dead Gaze – Take Me Home Or I Die Alone
Mississippi man Cole Furlow knows a catchy hook when he hears one, housing all those he’s ever heard in “Take Me Home Or I Die Alone”. Drowning them in underwatery fuzz and strangled distortion, he hammers some dredged-up synth-organ to his credit as he goes.

17. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Drain The Blood
Those that adore Neutral Milk Hotel might want to pay attention here, because “Drain The Blood” comes on exactly how An Aeroplane Over The Sea would sound if it were re-recorded by the Saddle Creek label, which it kinda was.

16. Richard Youngs – A Storm Of Light Ignites My Heart
Thank you Jagjaguwar for re-releasing Richard Young’s Ultrahits. Without it, we may have missed this digital psych-pop highlight, which, sounding startled throughout, brings the confident genre-bending of A Mountain Of One to mind.

15. The Mynabirds – Let The Record Go
Irrepressibly upbeat, “Let The Record Go” is the sort of closet pop that Amy Winehouse and Duffy think they’re making. Simple, as all the best pop records are, this is built on a catchy rhythm and soulful suggestions.

14. Ceremony – Someday
Easy to spot former band Skywave ‘s – and equal split A Place To Bury Strangers ‘- direct influence on “Someday”, which bleats out like a lost, speaker-blown J&MC imprint playing concurrently with any early New Order track you care to mention.

13. Dum Dum Girls – Jail La La
Another oldie makes the list, but that’s because “Jail La La” still sounds great. By now you know this is a fab garage take on Girl-Group harmonising so we needn’t elaborate further.

12. Smith Westerns – Be My Girl
Technically 2009, but not to worry because “Be My Girl” made big waves in 2010, and it’s easy to hear why. Sauntering along on lo-fi Glam patterns, “Be My Girl” is like finding an unreleased T:Rex demo right after Bolan holidayed on the West Coast.

11. Little Girls – Tambourine
An urgent post-punker that fires out guitar riffs well above a fuzzy vocal that is buried in the mix. The tight breathlessness of “Tambourine”succeeds in being both classic and contemporary.

10. WU LYF – Heavy Pop
Much has been made of WU LYF’s “urban mysticism”, but “Heavy Pop” is their signature for very good reasons. Flexing itself awake on rolling drums and slow chiming organ, it steadily contorts into to a bleary-eyed, psychedelic rollercoaster.

9. Best Coast – When I’m With You
Bethany Cosentino has not yet bettered the iconic “When I’m With You”. Retaining just enough of her familiar lo-fi production, this coasts (ha!) along brilliantly on Girl-Group rhythms while dreamy surf-rock riffs jangle out to play in the sun with Cosentino’s vocal.

8. Japandroids – Younger Us
Just having Japandroids around makes life worth living, and they’ve been living it large. “Younger Us” is once again fuzzy, noisy, reflective stuff channelled by the foremost purveyors of such things. “Remember saying things like we’ll sleep when we’re dead?” Quite.

7. Tamaryn – Sandstone
In between loops of optimistic, MBV-like organ parps that fill the track’s cavernous chambers, in sweeps Tamaryn with an enveloping vocal current in which it is more than easy to drown – and there’d be much worse ways to go too than walking straight in, never to return.

6. Male Bonding – Franklin
Proving the US didn’t have a strangle-hold on everything this year, London’s Male Bonding knocked out this stomping little echo-y rocker, which, after the jangling has finished, drifts off into wonderfully wistful “All this won’t last forever” warnings.

5. Beach House – 10 Mile Stereo
Picking which Beach House track is best is tough, but the chilly dream-popper “10 Mile Stereo” pips the rest to the post because of that post-rock-esque swell which kicks in above the tin-can drums at 90 seconds. Ms Legrand is as alluring here too as anywhere else you’ll find her. Lovely.

4. Grave Babies – Skulls
It’s a well-tested formula but far more often than not lo-fi + J&MC = win. Crackling, tape-warped and amazing, “Skulls” has crappy drums, a strangled vocal and a nauseous synth tag that runs freely among the super-loud fuzz. Outstanding.

3. Sealings – My Boyfriend’s Dead
Slinking out via the blogs, this crippling dystopia threatens, menaces and terrorises its way through insidious drum machines compressions, squalling guitar FX and chugging bass work. Fighting to be heard, the androgynous “My boyfriend’s dead” repeat is cold gold.

2. Zola Jesus – Night
“Night” is so strong as to run the risk of overshadowing all the rest of Nika Danilova /Zola Jesus’s excellent recent offerings. Full of disturbing whispers, rattling drums and downtempo, synth-driven almost-pop, it shimmers darkly against Danilova’s Gothic-ly theatrical voice. Intriguingly deep, it then builds into a soaring icon supported by fluttery echoes and balladesque hooks.


1. SALEM – King Night
In “King Night”, SALEM have brought something truly new to the table and this rattling, disturbing cut gave drag/wytch-house its most powerful calling card. The sort of track you delight in discovering, and all-conquering loud, it perverts and destroys “O Holy Night”, which hovers ghost-like in their mix as slo-mo house heroics, atmospheric shoegaze washes and more bass than Sleigh Bells thought possible all fight it out. Stretched out, rack-like, across the track’s opening bars we hear “I love you” – a sentiment perhaps much more apt to mouth back to these Michigan misfits than to receive.


100. The Strange Boys – Be Brave (Alt-Country/Garage-Rock)

Be Brave review

99. Ice, Sea, Dead People – Teeth Union (Art-Punk/Hardcore)

Teeth Union review

98. Happy Birthday – Happy Birthday (Garage-Rock/Indie)

Happy Birthday review

97. Procedure Club – Doomed Forever (Lo-fi Garage-Rock/Noise)
96. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast (Indie)

Astro Coast review

95. Las Robertas – Cry Out Loud (Garage-Rock)
94. Darkstar – North (Ambient/Dubstep)
93. Super Wild Horses – Fifteen (Garage-Rock)
92. Jaill – That’s How We Burn (Garage-Rock)
91. Death To The King – Unearthly Cosmic Sounds (Drone)

Unearthly Cosmic Sounds review
90. Magic Kids – Memphis (West Coast Indie/Pop)
89. Les Savy Fav – Root For Ruin (Indie Rock/Post-Hardcore)
88. Joensuu 1685 – Joensuu 1685 (Psych-Rock)
87. Circle Pit – Bruise Constellation (Garage-Rock)
86. The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack (Garage-Rock)

The Soft Pack review

85. Phosphorescent – Here’s To Taking It Easy (Folk)

Here’s To Taking It Easy review

84. The Last Battle – Heart Of The Land, Soul Of The Sea (Alt-Folk)

Heart Of The Land, Soul Of The Sea review

83. Teeth Of The Sea – Your Mercury (Prog/Post-Rock)
82. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record (Indie Rock)
81. U.S. Girls – Go Grey (Lo-fi/Drone/Experimental)

Go Grey review
80. Not Cool – Rugged Paw (Garage-Rock)
79. Blank Dogs – Phrases (Lo-fi Post-Punk)
78. Frog Eyes – Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph (Alt-Rock/Experimental)

Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph review

77. The Black Keys – Brothers (Blues/Soul)
76. Pulled Apart By Horses – Pulled Apart By Horses (Rock/Hardcore)
75. Darwin Deez – Darwin Deez (Pop)

Darwin Deez review

74. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang (Punk-Rock)

American Slang review

73. Grinderman – Grinderman 2 (Rock/Garage-Rock)
72. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (Electronica)

This Is Happening review

71. Creature With The Atom Brain – Transylvania (Alt-Rock/Psych-Rock)
70. Baths – Cerulean (Electronica)
69. Ceremony – Rocket Fire (Noise/Post-Punk)
68. Cloud Nothings – Turning On (Lo-fi Garage-Rock)
67. The Bitters – East General (Garage-Rock)

East General review

66. Sleigh Bells – Treats (Noise-Pop)
65. Murder By Death – Magpie (Alt-Country)
64. Gayngs – Relayted (Soft Rock)

Relayted review

63. Frankie Rose & The Outs – Frankie Rose & The Outs (Lo-fi West Coast Pop)

Frankie Rose & The Outs review

62. Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be (Garage-Rock)
61. Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rivers (Experimental Folk)

Rivers review
60. Wavves – King Of The Beach (Lo-fi Pop-Rock)
59. Suckers – Smile (Baroque Pop)

Smile review

58. Mountain Man – Made The Harbor (Folk)

Made The Harbour review

57. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can (Singer-Songwriter)
56. Emanuel & The Fear – Listen (Pop-Opera/Experimental Pop)
55. Sore Eros – Know Touching (Psych-Folk)
54. Woven Bones – In And Out And Back Again (Garage-Rock)
53. Tamaryn – The Waves (Shoegaze)

The Waves review

52. Crocodiles – Sleep Forever (Psyche/Post-Punk)
51. Anika – Anika (Dub/Krautrock)
50. School Of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire
Sleek, shiny shoegaze buffed with dreamy pop washes. Useful.

49. LoneLady – Nerve Up
Whipcrack post-punk given some female-fronted minimalism. Tidy.

Nerve Up review

48. Liars – Sisterworld
Alternate LA concept laid bare by this sinister, shouty art-rock outing. Scary.

Sisterworld review

47. The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster – Blood & Fire
Out with this schlock-rock silliness, back with the psychobilly noise. Welcome back.

Blood & Fire review

46. Wolf People – Steeple
Classic psyche revivalists blend 60s’ freedom with the 70s’ best riffs. Groovy.

Steeple review
45. The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
The Besnards are many things; hairy psych-rock overlords just one of them. Cosmic.

Are The Roaring Night review

44. Effi Briest – Rhizomes
Echo-y, mildly Gothic post-punk ladies manage being cool and credible. Nonchalant.

43. Haunted George – American Crow
Veteran Mojave desert weirdo serves up creaking Big Black -style opus. Dark.

42. Wolf Parade – Expo 86
Consistent, composed and commercial, Spencer Krug ‘s indie-rock has never been better. Finally.

Expo 86 review

41. Caribou – Swim
Thinking-man’s electro chatter gets many a pair of knickers in a twist. Justifiably.


40. Warm Widow – Widower
Raucous, lo-fi, Mark E. Smith -loving punk clatter. Rebellious.

Widower review

39. Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
Dark, rippling, experimental rock with post-rock and noise leanings. Muscular.

38. Golden Triangle – Double Jointer
Dynamic psychobilly-garage with ants-in-its-pants rhythms. Irrepressible.

Double Jointer review

37. Band Of Horses – Infinite Arms
Becoming MOR/alt-folk album that’s much better than expected. Stately.

36. Avi Buffalo – Avi Buffalo
Neil Young /latter-day Flaming Lips middle-grounder from exciting young talent. Precocious.

Avi Buffalo review
35. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Nope, their baroque pop still doesn’t suck. Sorry to disappoint. Subtle.

The Suburbs review

34. The Walkmen – Lisbon
Assured guitars and vintage excellence from these now-veterans. Majestic.

Lisbon review

33. Abe Vigoda – Crush
Sprightly, svelte synth-pop from former tropical-punks. Surprising.

Crush review

32. The Soft Moon – The Soft Moon
Impressive, whispery post-punk/drone debut rife with sci-fi synth. Atmospheric.

31. Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart
Stephen McBean goes all Sabbath over his psych-rock roots. Monolithic.

Wilderness Heart review

Wilderness Heart

30. Warpaint – The Fool
Chilly little mournful dream-pop collection with bite and depth. Cool.

29. Twin Shadow – Forget
Ultra-polished, apartment-bred new-wave synth-pop. Wistful.

Forget review

28. Best Coast – Crazy For You
Cheery West Coast, lo-fi pop offering about nothing much in particular. Charming.

Crazy For You review

27. Moon Duo – Escape
Tunnel-visioned psych-rock/drone that challenges parent-group Wooden Shjip ‘s crown. Mesmeric.

Escape review

26. Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts
Wholly viable, Sub Pop -signed UK pretender to US garage-rock scene. Fuzzy.

Nothing Hurts review
25. CocoRosie – Grey Oceans
The freak-folk Cassidy sisters finally iron out an entirely enjoyable exercise in experimental electronics. Their best to date, having toned down their childish antics.

Grey Oceans review

24. Harlem – Hippies
Perfectly pitched garage-rock in the Black Lips vein. With generous reverb, bar-room bounce and under-produced appeal, Harlem are all about laidback rhythms and sing-along melodies.

Hippies review

23. eels – End Times
Another tear-jerking release from the master storyteller who’s had a worse life than you. End Times is the second part of a trilogy focusing on desire, loss and redemption.

22. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
Former lo-fi socialite goes over-ground with varied psych-pop release. In stepping from under-financed shadows, Pink grabs the chance to bask in the sunlight with both hands.

Before Today review

21. Antony & The Johnsons – Swanlights
Doesn’t quite have the highs of last year’s The Crying Light, but this inimitably fluttery singer-songwriter is still very much on form.


20. Danny & The Champions Of The World – Streets Of Our Time
Loveable, warm folk that wears its heart on its plaid sleeve. A more rounded, huggable running order you are unlikely to find. Timeless.

19. Future Islands – In Evening Air
Get past the Vic Reeves -style club singing, and you’ve a highly likeable post-punk collection beset with rising/falling organ-drone, new-wave synths and echoing drum machine patterns.

In Evening Air review

18. Big Troubles – Worry
Fuzzy takes on Jesus & Mary Chain , nostalgia à la My Bloody Valentine , pop turns provided courtesy of C86, proper original lo-fi credentials, friends with Real Estate and Vivian Girls – need we go on?

17. Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago
Gently lapping in places, crashing in like a storm elsewhere, and buoyed by Jonathan Meiburg ‘s theatrical vocal, this epic folk-rocker, by way of aquatic concept album, proves something special indeed.

The Golden Archipelago review

16. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Like a faltering memory Halcyon Digest hangs on hazy rhythms, beckoning devotion almost subliminally. The band’s dreamscape ultimately comes punctured by sparse percussion all bathed in shimmering beauty. One to savour.

Halcyon Digest review
15. Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz
Once again Sufjan Stevens doesn’t disappoint. The Age Of Adz follows his recent trajectory exploring experimental electronica/folk crossovers, often with dazzling results. It’s not an overstatement to say that there are few better practitioners around today.

14. Nedry – Condors
Out-of-nowhere dub/trip/shoegaze hybrid which is half wonky, speaker-bothering stuff, half Portishead -like ambience, yet Nedry have truly created a world of their own with Condors.

Condors review

13. JEFF The Brotherhood – Heavy Days
Imagine squeezing Dinosaur Jr and Hüsker Dü into the same car and crashing it into Kyuss ‘s own cactus – this is Heavy Days. Fans of Japandroids will also find their time very well spent with The Brotherhood.

Heavy Days review

12. No Age – Everything In Between
Another fine blast of noise from one of LA’s best. Blasts of feedback smash into Fugazi fuzz, smashed sonics into Sonic Youth ‘s melody to create a crazy party album for crazy party animals.

11. Dignan Porch – Tendrils
With strong lo-fi, acoustic-folk overtones, huge melodies and a bouncy jangle, and just as A Grave With No Name do it with shoegaze below, so are Dignan Porch doing it with psych-pop on Tendrils. Wonderful stuff.

10. The Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt

The Wild Hunt

Deftly filtering a little country into his toe-tapping delivery, The Tallest Man On Earth’s Kristian Mattson creates a very welcome ride down Highway 61, The Cave Singers to the left, The Strange Boys to the right (no jokers in sight).

Certain bobbing chord progressions and intricate melodies prove him equally happy in more traditional folk too. High calibre musicianship and make no mistake.

The Wild Hunt review


9. Little Girls – Concepts


Full of Wire -like tension, New Order riffs and driven by drum machine, Concepts pulses with rival chords, most tracks finishing breathlessly short.

Playing tight guitar angles off against crunching drums and outrageously catchy vocal patterns, this is an nervous album than nevertheless ripples with swagger and sneer. As such, Concepts instantly becomes infectious, admirable and utterly indispensable.

Concepts review


8. Weekend – Sports


This is indie rock where indie still means independent, the stress is on rock – that rock is loud – and the whole lot is fuzzed out to hell. Yet, though it might take an attuned ear to get it, it’s the closely-guarded melody in the band’s maelstrom that pleases most.

With a vision borrowed from Sonic Youth ‘s Goo, Sports runs with heavily sludged guitars, borrows No Age ‘s wind tunnel for recording purposes and daubs on enough feedback to induce pity for the equaliser.

Sports review

7. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

The Monitor

Building on last year’s impressive The Airing Of Grievances, Titus Andronicus let fly the unexpected American Civil War-themed follow up to The Monitor. Sprawling decadently across 65 minutes and opening with a reading of Abraham Lincoln, it later takes fourteen (14!) minutes to tackle the epic cut “The Battle Of Hampton Roads”. Suffice it to say that dumb punk-rock this is not.

Studded with vocalist Patrick Stickles ‘ nihilistic vitriol, the project comes to a head with drunken-punk, Pogues -like charm, whilst still retaining the band’s native and identifiable New Jersey schooling.

The Monitor review

6. The National – High Violet

High Violet

Each of The National’s superb albums to date have had a sleeper quality to them, hitting hardest when your guard was lowered. None more so than High Violet, whose reserved songcraft, swelling instrumentation and stylised baritone allow it to bridge occasions, simultaneously seeming sombre and joyous.

Characterised by a deftness of touch, yet wholly anthemic in parts, High Violet courses with choruses, gauging when best to land a killer blow.

The National – Editorial


5. Woods – At Echo Lake

At Echo Lake

There’s an adage about true perfection having to be imperfect and it’s one that Woods nailed on At Echo Lake, achieving a difficult balance between sounding ill at ease, yet also frostily beautiful.

With tape-deck production, scuffed guitar lines and a creaking falsetto, this rag-tag bunch flashed back to the psychedelic 60s thanks to their strong melodies, echo-y guitar licks and Doors -like guitar pillars that stand bloodshot and swaying in most corners.

At Echo Lake review


4. These New Puritans – Hidden


Hybrids have very much been in this year and These New Puritans mashed more into their sophomore album Hidden than any other.

With rattling chains and clashing swords, latter-day Radiohead experiments in electronica, aggressive bass structures and a strangely classical overtone, Hidden hides its intentions well – right up to the point that it has you by the throat. Post-everything, Hidden’s scattergun wounds deeply and unforgettably.

Hidden review


3. A Grave With No Name – Mountain Debris

Mountain Debris

Slipping out on UK release in January, Mountain Debris was partly recorded in a converted church and also partly in bedrooms. Accordingly, certain of its tracks roam the album’s cavernous spaces; others tellingly hug sonically-challenged equipment.

Together, they comprise an album that runs with the echoing folk-influenced template that Woods have recently been perfecting (see above), but here shoegaze, reverb and acoustic strumming are equally showcased. And it’s a truly refreshing hybrid created, sounding for all the world like the first steps of a major talent.

Mountain Debris review

2. Beach House – Teen Dream

Teen Dream

Plugging away at the same impeccable sound has worked wonders for Beach House. The band’s previous offerings – though largely similar – failed to gain the same attention as Teen Dream, due, perhaps, to the then musical landscape. 2010 has been much more welcoming to dream-pop and Beach House’s shimmering, chilly pop came to define the resurgence.

Hazy ditties come propped on effortless rhythms and gentle percussion. Sparkly melodies echo out atop stately slowdances. Intangible lyrical themes blend into softly soupy sonics, and the frosty result is as hyper-pleasantly dreamlike as one could possibly hope for.

Teen Dream review


1. SALEM – King Night

King Night

Be them darkwave, drag, illwave, witch – or indeed wytch – house, SALEM’s genre-straddling debut LP morbidly carves out its niche from the belly of shoegaze, the aggressive end of dark dance and down-tempo rap. As a result, King Night is surprising throughout and entirely powerful.

From the band’s evocative band name to their foreboding artwork, from their edgy promotional shots to their sanity-questioning vocals, from their echo-y compression to their clanking industrionics, it’s all seriously dark stuff with speaker-crumpling bass to boot.

Epic and urgent, primal and industrial, light and very heavy, King Night is an album of contrasts drawn together with the skill of an old master, yet it still sounds like what the conspiracy theorists wanted to find when they so painstakingly spun all their records in reverse.

At every turn, SALEM are not for the unadventurous. From the very opening strains of King Night they enter deep into places most fear to tread, beaming back their strangled missives from beyond and haunting the living with their screaming murmurings of the dead.

King Night review