15. Working For A Nuclear Free City – Jojo Burger Tempest
This album more or less blew my mind when I first heard it. Its never-ending switches of musical styles and references (see: Thom Yorke, The Beatles, The Flaming Lips, Weezer, Sebastien Tellier and some or all of the Warp artists) its insane overlength and the fact that its second disc is one long track are all things that would usually upset me about an album, but somehow seem entirely natural in the grand scheme of Jojo Burger Tempest. I could ramble on for many paragraphs, or point you to my frankly overwhelmed This Is Fake DIY review, but, in fact, the best way to describe it is perhaps visually – see that album artwork up there? That off-kilter, patchwork aesthetic is entirely informative of the sound of this album. At some point I’d like to make a little chart of how each song sounds and write them down in sequence, but for now I’ll just say this: it’s fucking nuts. Listen to it.
14. Woodpigeon – Die Stadt Muzikanten
Perhaps less so than the last album, but still very much in the bracket of “diverse”, Mark Hamilton and co.’s third album is a wonderful exercise in how to craft an album just perfectly. Starting with pretty saloon piano pop, the album never stops moving about stylistically, but stays entirely familiar throughout. Traditional Canadian indie fare becomes Belle & Sebastian-indebted twee becomes sparse folk becomes shimmering love song and you never lose track. It might be hard to describe in a forthright, definitively descriptive way (are you getting that?), but the album itself never stops making beautiful, beautiful sense.
13. Spoon – Transference
The fact that this album was far less polished than their previous output was commented on endlessly at the time of its release but even now, months later, that’s still the most important facet of this album for me. The fact that many of the tracks here were just demos means you listen far harder to what the band is doing, not what they’re trying to do. It’s a fairly nebulous distinction, but one that gains weight as you listen – every untreated aspect just plays what it’s meant to, not what production dictates it should. That’s not to say there aren’t more treated tracks, but Transference feels honest in the way it just sits there, rhythmic, throbbing, occasionally ferocious and displays all it has with no pretence (unlike this review).
12. Bombay Bicycle Club – Flaws
Ridiculously youthful, musically talented and now multi-genred? Bombay Bicycle Club have always struck me as a bunch of precocious bastards, but their move into lilting folk-pop territory bloody proved it. Jack Steadman’s quavering tones sound just as at home fronting this mix of older tracks remade and newer ones purposely created in an acoustic mould and their occasionally more complex guitar arrangements sound wonderful when a banjo’s added to the mix. You just have to feel a little sorry for drummer Suren – he doesn’t get much of a look-in really.
11. The National – High Violet
I wrote a ridiculous treatise about this album when it was released, claiming that it emulated Gustav Freytag’s Dramatic Arc, the way all traditionally told stories progress. I can’t claim that it entirely holds water as an idea, but there is certainly something enticingly dramatic about High Violet – the stories of beautifully told emotion complemented by music that could soundtrack any number of fictional scenes. I defy anyone not to feel moved by the distant shout of ‘It takes an ocean not to break‘ as ‘Terrible Love’ forces its way into a blustery climax. And that’s just the first track. But if carefully-constructed, ideas-driven rock is not your thing, fear not! At the centre of the album lies the year’s best triumvirate of songs – ‘Afraid of Everyone’, ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ and ‘Lemonworld’ are the beating heart of this work, embodying the sound and sentiments articulated throughout. It’s startlingly intimate, loud and quiet in equal measures and was just the thing to finally get me off my arse and listen to this band.