As always, on Christmas Eve I look back over the best albums of the last twelve months. It has been a pretty dire year for music, with the music industry hamstrung by the twin onslaughts of changing technology and TV talent shows. However, there have still been some records as good as anything else that has been released in the last fifty four years since a young Elvis staggered out of Sun Studios with an acetate in his hand...
1. Embryonic by The Flaming Lips
A welcome change in direction for Wayne Coyne's mob. The last album was great fun but threatened that one of the best contemporary bands would become stuck in a stylistic rut. With this double album of experimental organic electronica they have proved otherwise
1= Slow Attack by Brett Anderson
For the third year running the one-time Suede frontman is top of my personal pops. This is a glorious return to orchestral form after the starker sounds of last year's album, but interestingly, it has a preponderance of woodwind rather than strings, which bring a welcome new texture to his music.
3. Dark Night of the Soul by Sparklehorse, Dangermouse et al
Roher Heywood up at the pub turned me on to this record, which sounds like an entire album of out-takes from A Tragical History Tour by The Rutles and you can't get better than that. Truly Dangermouse gets better and better.
4. Between my head and the sky by Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band
In 1974 I bought the first Yoko solo LP by mistake, thinking it was her husband's. I was entranced. That and Don't worry Kyoko are some of the greatest, most primal slices of avant-rock music ever. Now, at the age of 76, she has resurrected the Plastic Ono Band moniker and made a worthy follow up with some of the most intense and frightening music for many a year.
5. Horehound by The Dead Weather
Jack White continues to surprise. I was torn whether to put this album or Them Crooked Vultures - the OTHER blues rock supergroup of the year - but this one has an insanely manic version of Bob Dylan's New Pony so it pipped Dave Grohl and my old acquaintance John Paul Jones at the post.
6. Here's the Tender Coming by The Unthanks
Formerly known as Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, this is some of the most gloriously wintry roots music I have ever heard. Traditional Northumbrian folk for the 21st Century. Peerless.
7. Roadsinger by Yusuf Islam
This isn't as good as his 1970s output. It is not even as good as his 2005 comeback album. But in the Godawful world we live in it is good to know that we still have Cat Stevens no matter what he calls himself these days. A bloody smashing album!
8. Fever Ray by Fever Ray
I only discovered this a few days ago, but it is some of the most brutally elegant electronica I have heard in years, and it is the work of one woman who uses pitchshifters to completely torture her voice into submission. Well worth investigating
9. Long Live Pere Ubu by Pere Ubu
I have been a fan of David Thomas et al since Datapanik in Year Zero back in 1978. Finally he has released a musical version of the Alfred Jarry play from which he got the name.
10. Two Suns by Bat for Lashes
The album itself is OK. In fact, it is pretty good, but Natasha Khan deserves note for managing to get a guest vocal from Scott Walker on one track, and wait for it... She managed to get Scotty singing something with a tune for the first time in decades!