I’m fairly opinionated about my music in general but I’m just under the line where I refuse to accept that I’ve been wrong in my opinions, so here is a list of musical things I was wrong about. Feel free to gloat if you were always right.

1. Animal Collective aren’t as bad as I first assumed. In fact, ‘My Girls’ is really rather excellent (apart from the bit before the drums kick in, that’s still quite stale). Which is annoying.

Animal Collective – My Girls (YSI)

2. Esser’s album wasn’t all that great. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the first few songs I heard, but since my somewhat exuberant response to the album’s release, I have to say I’ve retracted my love for it somewhat. It’s just… fine.

Esser – I Love You (YSI)

3. Noah and the Whale’s new, more full sound could, at times, not be painfully dull.

Noah and the Whale – Love Of An Orchestra (YSI)

What with the spirit of goodwill that’s being bandied around at the moment, I thought it only proper to recognise the achievements of those bands whose albums weren’t quite good enough (or didn’t exist enough) to be included on my end of year album list. So here we go, the unrecognised gems of this fair year of music. Oh and if you’re too lazy to download them all from below, and too impatient to wait for the next half tomorrow, here’s a big ol’ Zip file stuffed full of ’em.

Arcade Fire – Lenin (YSI)

I know this has been around for quite a while, but 2009 was the year that this song was finally released, and it’s my list, ok? A more sparse and upbeat affair than their usual offerings, Montreal’s finest have created a jaunty, guitar-driven imagining of everyone’s favourite Bolshevik’s childhood, chock-full of piano sweeps and not-quite singalong moments.

Band of Skulls – Death By Diamonds and Pearls (YSI)

I still haven’t got round to listening to this album, but if this song is anything to go by, it’ll sound like the White Stripes. A lot. I mean, everything about this song, from the vocals, guitar tone, crashing drums and even the skittering, twitching solo sounds like Jack and Meg. And in my head, that can never be a bad thing, it’s just badass from begininning to end.

Beirut – My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille (YSI)

Some didn’t take to it, but Zach Condon’s brief foray into laid back electonica made me a happy man. There’s something about the rising and falling of the underwater synths in this song, coupled with his idiosyncratic drawl that never fails to make me pleased, it sounds like a more chilled-out Hot Chip at times. If Zach ever decides to bring back his Realpeople alter-ego again, I for one will not be unhappy.

Beth Jeans Houghton – I Will Return, I Promise (YSI)

Another North-East entry, this time trying to wrestle the London-centric new-folk scene all the way up the A1. Ms. Houghton’s four track EP, Hot Toast Vol. 1 gave us an alternative to all those Southern softies (note: I am one) with a punchier folk lilt, with this opening track the standout.

Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta A Feeling (YSI)

Now, I understand this is a controversial choice for a blogger to make, but honestly, this is (to use the common vernacular) a CHOON. It always made me a little happier to be in a place playing crappy music, and when it was played in Newcastle’s coolest club (World Headquarters) by the coolest DJ (Tom), it vindicated my guilty pleasure. Plus, hearing Fergie sound like a fucking idiot when she shouts “Drank!” and “La chaim!” will never tire.

Bob Dylan – Must Be Santa (YSI)

To be honest, this is a favourite just because of how fucking insane it is. I hated it when I first heard it, but one more listen convinced me that polka + Dylan’s new voice = terrifying, hilarious, genius. It’s brightened up my whole Christmas.

Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Thou Shalt Always Kill (De La Edit) (YSI)

It’s not as good as the original, but the sound of those synths and Pip’s Essex preaching accompanied by Posdnous’ classic flow was always going to be a good idea. “Thou shalt not think that having a blog makes you a journalist”. Oops.

The Drums – Let’s Go Surfing (YSI)

Time will tell if this band can get out of the one-trick-pony phase they seem to be in now, but their first single was my song of the summer. It’s an infectiously whistle-filled romp of post-punk surf pop that charmed many a blogger and even the discerning ears (read in sarcastic tone here) of Radio 1 for a time, albeit a long time after summer was over.

Esser – Headlock (YSI)

I really liked Esser’s album when it came away, but my interest waned after a few listens, it just seems to lack the real substance that a truly good album needs, but his singles were always winners, and ‘Headlock’ is no exception. Re-released to promote the album, it just jumps out at you, all mockney vocals and cheap-sounding synths and beats. It’s endlessly danceable and emininently catchy.

Good Shoes – The Way My Heartbeats (YSI)

The sample track from the Morden boys’ second album piqued my interest in them all over again, with a heavier, quicker sound, but retaining the jangling guitar tone and Rhys’ yelping vocals that I fell in love with. Brilliant.

Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks (YSI)

I’d never paid much heed to Grizzly Bear before this, the whole American indie sound is alien to my frosty British ears a lot of the time, but this the swooning vocals put over a sluggish stomping beat in this song just grabbed me, it sounds far more sinister than it should, and the video is bloody wonderful.

Little Comets – One Night In October (YSI)

This is an insanely cheery slice of debut single indie-pop from Newcastle’s favourite new bunch of smiling loons. Full of yelps and charmingly twee lines like ‘Just like Carlisle, she lies on the border‘, the band seem to specialise in gettingnunder your skin and getting you to twitch about, just like the song. They’re getting an increasing amount of love up north, and if they keep making songs like this I can certainly see that extending all over this fair green land and maybe beyond.

Local Natives – Camera Talk (YSI)

I haven’t got hold of their album yet, but Local Natives’ indie band version of Fleet Foxes’ harmonies along with an irrepressible quick-march tempo is just beautiful. The amount of instruments they get into this song without making it sound overstuffed is a masterclass in prudent songwriting.

This is the second of the two albums I got for my birthday that I just happen to feel like reviewing:

Esser has been on my radar since I saw him at Reading Festival last year. Sandwiched between two bands, I was, embarrassing as it is to say, only there to keep my place in the crowd. However, when Ben Esser and his gang of happy cohorts took to the stage and started playing I was immediately enthralled. Relying on synths and percussion to create music that made the whole tent dance like crazy people was something to behold.

Ever since, I’ve slowly been collecting singles and getting more and more interested and, finally, his album, Braveface has been released. From your very first listen, whilst it’s clear that whilst lyrical prowess is not his strong point (“Felt so good just to be alone/Then you call me up late night on the phone”), Esser is not afraid of taking on genres. In the space of ten tracks, he slips effortlessly from the synth-samba of “Satisfied”, faux-blues in “Leaving Town” and pure synth soundscaping in “Stop Dancing”, stopping at many points along the way. It’s all held together with the languid vocals of Mr. Esser himself, this album is all about the experience of each track, not the band’s sound as a whole.

That could be unpalatable, but honestly it’s really quite refreshing. To have an album where every track is enjoyable individually isn’t a feat most bands could achieve without making the listener a little annoyed, but somehow it’s pulled off magnificently here. I’m not sure how he plans to continue from here, but this is an album for the moment, and that’s all that matters when you’re listening to it.

Esser – Braveface (YSI)

I don’t know why I haven’t blogged about him fully yet (apart from my Reading Review), and I don’t know why no-one else has blogged about him much yet, but Esser is just amazing. Eschewing many instruments in favour of samples and with the yearning vocals of a forlorn madman, every song is noticably his, but none of them are the same.

I have a really, really bad memory, so the fact that every time I hear a new song by him I remember it from watching them in Reading this summer is really quite something. I actually bumped into him at a club in Newcastle (after I missed his gig that night – annoying to say the least) and he seemed like a nice enough guy. Well, I say nice enough, he was absolutely hammered and started dancing with one of my friends. So that has only improved my opinion of him.

Listen to the samba-whirlwind of “Satisfied” and then investigate him further, he’ll put his songs in your head, and then they’ll never go away. In a good way, I promise.

Esser – Satisfied