Peer to peer: The stars' albums of the year
Edwyn Collins, Midlake and Warpaint made great music in 2010. Here, they and others reveal who rocked their worlds
Brett Anderson, Suede
Warpaint: The Fool
There have been so many fantastic albums released this year but Warpaint's is the best. It's a strangely compelling record. It creates its own sonic universe and there is so much space in there. There's something quite beautiful about it. Layering sounds is easy to do but creating that sense of musical minimalism is a really hard trick to pull off and they do it very, very well.
Marina Diamandis, Marina and the Diamonds
Sleigh Bells: Treats
This album is everything I've been wanting to hear from a female singer for years. Bubblegum melodies pirouetting over crunchy, thrashed-up guitars and drums. The production is pure anger and the lyrics are pretty abstract but distinctive. The hooks are wonderfully simplistic and fairly pop. The artwork is right up my street, too. I have the cover (showing vintage cheerleaders) on my desktop. In my mind, I've already formed a fantasy girl-band with Alexis Krauss, the lead singer. Go listen to "Tell 'Em", "Kids" and "Infinity Guitars".
The Black Keys: Brothers
Stunning, raw and uninhibited on every level. When I first heard "I'll Be Your Man" I thought I was listening to an old black man from Alabama, but they're these two Nirvana-looking dudes from my hometown of Akron Canton, Ohio. "Next Girl" and "The Only One" tear my heart out.
Blaine Harrison, Mystery Jets
The world Dan Snaith has dreamed up in Swim is one of rich and raw beauty. Every frequency feels new and undiscovered, yet somehow familiar enough to fall in love with. From the Arthur Russell-esque haunted house of the opener, "Odessa", to the pulsing underwater lullaby of "Kaili", sounds effortlessly flutter and ping pong across the stereo spectrum and disappear just as quickly as they are introduced. Most remarkable of all is the sense that Dan has not only acquired blistered fingers but shed blood to assemble this collection of songs. And they are undoubtedly his best yet.
Trouble Over Tokyo: The Hurricane
This record sounds like one Jeff Buckley would make were he making pop music today. Toph Taylor really is an undiscovered talent. He wrote, produced and performed everything on the record but is so unknown here that he had to go to Vienna to get the album made. It has a very literary feel, with beautiful harmonies, but the production is very mainstream and beat-driven. I love the way the hard copy of the record is a book with the CD in the back. With a contents section and each song on a different page, it's a solid keepsake that really suits the literary beauty of the music.
Philip Selway, Radiohead
Edwyn Collins: Losing Sleep
I remember going to the hairdressers, aged 15, with a picture of Edwyn Collins, and saying, "I want to look like him." Sadly, my hair let me down that day, as it has continued to do over the years. The same cannot be said of Collins' songwriting. Brimming with vitality, Losing Sleep is a collection of songs that are as astutely observant and melodically infectious as anything he has written. Together with an amazing cast of musicians and a cover filled with his own beautiful illustrations, this has been the most affecting and uplifting record of my year.
Jenny Lee Lindberg, Warpaint
Gorillaz: Plastic Beach
There really isn't much topping that darling Damon Albarn and his genius ideas. I love a record that you can play from start to finish, and then again 500 more times. That's Plastic Beach for me, and for a number of my friends. The collection of artists on this record is phenomenal.
Tulisa Contostavlos, N-Dubz
Nicki Minaj: Pink Friday
Nicki Minaj has been on the underground scene for ages but the release of this album has finally allowed people to put a name to a face and to really stand up and take notice. She's worked with everyone from Kanye to Jay Sean and Eminem; I would love to do a fierce female anthem with her. There's no one like her, her style is so varied. She's so talented.
Jamie Reynolds, Klaxons
The 420 Lockdown, Whistla
I've been most excited this year by the work of a record label called LS2, which was founded by a DJ and producer called Whistla. They've coined the term "future garage" to describe their new and interesting take on UK garage music. Not many people know this but I'm a secret garage boy; Southampton garage music is in my blood. The label has released tons of singles and EPs this year but my top three would be "Love Rhythm" by Sentinels, which blends UK garage and old-school rave; "Tokyopop" by Submerse, which mixes UK garage with Japanese pop music and finally, "The 420 Lockdown" by Whistla himself.
Paul Smith, Maxïmo Park
Phosphorescent: Here's to Taking It Easy
Modern country music never sounded so good. No Stetson hats here, just croaky Will Oldham-esque bleating and rusty Neil Young guitars duking it out in a bar-room full of tear-stained beer glasses. Outside of some blatant honky-tonking, there's a smouldering quality to much of this music. The lyrics betray a man with working knowledge of broken promises and regret. There's a heart-stopping line in divorce anthem "The Mermaid Parade" where Matthew Houck sings desperately, "Goddamn it Amanda, oh, Goddamn it all", and it sounds like his world has fallen apart. I'm extremely glad he decided to commemorate the experience.
Tim Burgess, The Charlatans
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Before Today
From the Midnight Cowboy-inspired instrumental "Reminiscences" to the Michael Jackson boogie of "Round and Round", Sixties Nuggets-inspired "Bright Lit Blue Skies", the purely Californian Sunset Strip/beach song "Can't Hear My Eyes" and the demonic, sexually angry/lost, "Menopause Man", Ariel is the stand-out character of the year in a world where artists are getting more and more bland.
Simon Aldred, Cherry Ghost
The Besnard Lakes: The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night
A wonderful record that I seem to have been going back to a fair bit this year. I bought the single "Albatross" prior to the album and the sound of the vocals cutting like driven snow through the woozy guitar drones floored me. The rest of the album sounds like The Beach Boys on ketamine, the ambitious arrangements countered by a DIY production ethic that prevents it from ever sounding pompous. I went to watch them a couple of times in Manchester and they appeared unruffled by a relatively low turnout. That's the mark of a very cool band; it's a breeze to puff your chest out when the crowd are bouncing off the walls.
Sarah Cracknell, Saint Etienne
Janelle Monae: The ArchAndroid
As a group, Saint Etienne used to listen to a lot of the same music. Now we live in three different cities – Oxford, London, and Brighton – that doesn't happen as much. But the one album we have all been struck by this year is The ArchAndroid. The video for "Tightrope" sold me on her straight away. It has a freshness and sense of fun that reminds me of Deee-lite and De La Soul, not in sound as much as spirit. Janelle Monae is genuinely inspiring – as stylish as Lady Gaga but with much more varied songwriting ability. Nice spats, too.
Connan Mockasin: Please Turn Me into the Snat
Connan is from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, but spends the majority of the year gigging around London. I've been a fan of his music for years now, and his latest album, psychedelic with beautiful melodies, is my favourite so far. He's an extremely talented instrumentalist, and likes to push the boundaries with his playing. He's one of a kind, his lyrics are a bit cheeky, and he has a unique and instantly recognisable singing voice. So while I'm back home basking in the Kiwi summer sun, I highly recommend this album for those cold wintry nights by the fire.
Eric Pulido, Midlake
John Grant: Queen of Denmark
I know it must seem that I'm biased, having been lucky enough to be a part of making this record, but Queen of Denmark is an absolute gem, and John Grant is finally getting his overdue recognition. I've been a long-time fan of John's since his work with The Czars, and this latest record shows him at his best. The record covers several corners of influence and style, while maintaining a common thread throughout. His lyrics are the epitome of honesty, his craft of song seemingly effortless, and his voice is that of an angel.
Take That: Progress
I love Take That's new album. It's appropriately named as the boys have taken a risk and gone in a new direction with their sound. It works well, and I love all the synths. Their producer Stuart Price has done a brilliant job and Robbie's vocals sound brilliant. My favourite track, other than the first single, "The Flood," has to be "Kidz". It's definitely the one I have blaring out when I'm in the car. I can't wait to see them sing these new songs live – they'll be great tracks to perform.
Our Broken Garden:Golden Sea
When I first got this record, I was not in the mood to like something new. I put it on and it drilled straight through the many layers of my dreck-encrusted heart. I've been listening to it ever since. The first track, "The Departure", is one of the most beautiful things I have heard in a while. A few days ago, while in Den Haag for a show as part of the Crossing Borders festival, I was out in the street behind the venue when all of a sudden I heard Anna Bronsted singing "Garden Grow", one of the many highlights from their record.
Martin Noble, British Sea Power
Looking at iTunes, the album that I've listened to most this year is Deerhunter's Halcyon Digest. It's a haven, a meandering place to escape to. You get near zero experimentation with mainstream entertainment, so it's exciting to hear an album like this. It's gritty, full of psychedelic loops, and includes a mass array of instruments, even the dreaded saxophone. It's full of wonderful sounds and warm experimentation but it's not the kind of navel gazing that has its head buried in the ground. It's garage pop with a sense of adventure.
I love pop music, the proper stuff, full of tunes and hooks and lifts and energy. Carwyn Ellis, who has been my musical linchpin and who plays bass with me, has an album with his own band, Colorama. He tries so many complex yet simple ideas on it – it's definitely got a streak of psychedelia to it.
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