For me, one of the highlights of the year has to be the _Hold Steady’s _fourth album, _Stay Positive_. I was a little worried when I heard Finn had been taking singing lessons, but this turns out to have been a good move: it has a refreshing effect on the band’s sound, and his lyrics are still as vibrant and relevant as ever.
My next choice is a debut album – _White Denim’s _self-titled offering sounds like 3 aliens on LSD trying to work out what guitars are supposed to be used for, but in the best possible way.
For pure danceability alone, _Tilly and the Wall _deserve a place on the list. Their third album, _O_, is packed full of sing-along disco tracks, and any band with a tap dancer instead of a drummer must make even the most miserable of music critics smile.
I have a strong suspicion that my love for _The Gaslight Anthem’s The ’59 Sound _is due to my having been brought up on a strong diet of Springsteen, but this is no slight; like all art forms, the best music invariably comes out of the recycling and reshaping of old ideas.
And of course, no Best Of Anything list would be complete without a certain _Mr Ryan Adams. Cardinology_. Stunning. But enough of him already.
_Sun Kil Moon – April_: Kozelek is touted as never quite making the masterpiece that he is capable of. While this album won’t fulfil these expectations, it is still as hauntingly beautiful as ever. From Monument to Masses Beyond God & Elvis: While not strictly an album, this EP shows as much accomplishment and promise as most LPs released this year. An album is promised for early 2009.
_Coldplay – Viva La Vida_: This inclusion will probably be seen as a ‘controversial’ decision. But there are some great pop songs on the record, and people that rant against Coldplay love The Pigeon Detectives and think Foals invented mathrock.
_Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Ask Forgiveness_: Will Oldham can do no wrong at this stage in his career. I haven’t got the LP yet so this choice is slightly dated, but that an EP of covers could sound so fresh is a testament to his genius.
_Lakes/ Zettasaur – Split EP_: While the latter-half does not deserve a ‘Top 5’ billing, Lakes deserve a mention for being one of the best bands in the country.
_British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?_: Indie music that actually sounds smart. Saw this album performed live at Leeds festival and it just completely engrosses you. On CD it isn’t half bad either. Think along the lines of Arcade Fire with guitars and you can’t go too far wrong.
_Glasvegas – Glasvegas_: On occasion NME likes to hype up a band to a ridiculous extent, and this Scottish four piece just so happened to have that honour. Shockingly, though, the praise didn’t die down when the album was released. But you can see why. It’s a sound that seems far removed from the generic music that fills our airwaves, and its a joy to behold because of it.
_Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s Dig!!! – Lazarus Dig!!!_: To my shame I knew nothing of Nick Cave a year ago. Then this album came along. Lyrically, this guy is something else. His songs tell meandering tales with a feisty energy that seems out of place for a man in his 50’s. It deserved all the praise it got.
_Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago_: Stripped down stuff. One man, a guitar, and atmospheric sound from a far flung log cabin in the American woodlands. I heard ‘Skinny Love’ and fell for a song that tenderly pulls on the heart strings. The rest of the songs don’t disappoint, either, in an album that’s perfect for those cold winter nights by the fireside.
_Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Flight_: Melodic, low key, beautiful. Granted, its not an album you can dance to, but lyrically and vocally its really rather good. Go on, you can take my word for it.
_Spor – Stoppit (Lifted Music)_: Over the space of just five releases, Lifted have established themselves as one of the finest labels for disgusting techstep, and this tune epitomises their style: a twisted bassline and stupidly cheeky techno-esque bleeps made to utterly destroy any dancefloor.
_Alix Perez – Crooklyn (Soul:R)_: Man of the moment Alix Perez proving why he has become one of the most sought-after names in DnB. Sparse, infectious liquid with perfectly executed use of classic hip-hop samples.
_Klute – Halloween (Commercial Suicide)_: Beautiful. Haunting strings and subtly chopped drum breaks combine to make a genuinely affecting piece of music. One of the best ever releases from the king of all things leftfield.
_Danny Byrd – Shock Out VIP (Hospital)_: Standout track from one of the most successful DnB albums of the year. A tongue-in-cheek tribute to mid-nineties Bristol jungle, packed full of references to classics. An anthem which you can’t help but dance to.
_Original Sin – Cheater Cheater (Ganja Recordings)_: A guilty pleasure for a purist like myself; silly rave fodder done perfectly. The kind of record that you play a lot more often than you’d care to admit.
_The Hold Steady: Stay Positive_
_Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!_
_Fucked Up: The Chemistry of Common Life_
_Wolf Parade: At Mount Zoomer_