Arcade Fire sets alight the critics, but the public prefers Coldplay

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The Independent Culture

A poll of critics' choices compiled by HMV's rock and pop buyer, John Hirst, names Arcade Fire's debut, Funeral, as the year's best album ahead of popular hits such as Gorillaz' Demon Days, and the Mercury Prize-winning I Am A Bird Now from Antony and the Johnsons.

Like the Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire's success began with a word-of-mouth buzz on the internet, they then made attention-grabbing performances alongside David Byrne and David Bowie and a sell-out gig at the London Astoria.

"They were the band on the tip of everyone's tongue," Mr Hirst said, having pooled the results of 22 polls from publications including Q, Mojo, Uncut, Time Out, MixMag and The Independent, as well as radio stations such as BBC6 Music.

"The album benefited from coming out quite early in the year so people have had most of the year to sit with it and let it grow. It's not the most immediate of albums, but it ingrained itself," he said.

"They've also got a really great live reputation, did a couple of live tours and all the festivals. They serve up a real racket live. Funeral just built momentum all the year and it's selling really well now as a result of all the end of year polls."

But Demon Days from Damon Alburn's cartoon band Gorillaz gathered votes quickly as each new individual poll was published ­ in an unusual combination of critical and commercial success. "The last album was dismissed as a pop record but this one seems to have picked up a lot more credibility," Mr Hirst said. "It's quite rare to be that kind of critical success and commercial as well."

Mr Hirst said the label Rough Trade, which released Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens and Antony and the Johnsons, had been especially successful this year. "They've underlined their importance as one of the great indie record labels by having three albums in the top 10."

While the critics entirely dismissed popular acts including James Blunt, Robbie Williams, Westlife and Katie Melua, other acts beloved by real record-buyers do feature in the top 50.

Coldplay, whose album X&Y was one of the best-sellers of the year, makes number 30 in the critics' poll while Kaiser Chiefs are at number nine.

Eminem was in the public's top 10 but the critics favoured Kanye West, whose Late Registration is in third place in the poll of polls. "Kanye won it last year and was on pretty well every single list this year. He did really well," Mr Hirst said.

HMV, which has carried out a poll of polls for the past seven years, weights the results so that specialist genres, such as hip-hop, which are covered by fewer magazines, are not disadvantaged by the greater number of titles covering mainstream rock and pop.

Mojo and Uncut were the most influential music magazines in terms of influencing sales, Mr Hirst said.

"What they say carries a lot of weight. Their readers have more expendable income. The NME has a younger readership which doesn't necessarily have £15 spare when they recommend something." The disparity between the bestsellers' list and the HMV poll of polls show the critics have their limitations. But Mr Hirst said he was pleased the critics had highlighted artists such as Sufjan Stevens, an American singer-songwriter, Richard Hawley, a singer-songwriter from Sheffield, and the Animal Collective, a New York band whose previous albums had been " pretty odd".


1 The Arcade Fire: Funeral

2 Gorillaz: Demon Days

3 Kanye West: Late Registration

4 Sufjan Stevens: Illinoise

5 Elbow: Leaders of the Free World

6 Antony & The Johnsons: I Am a Bird Now

7 The White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan

8 Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better

9 Kaiser Chiefs: Employment

10 MIA: Arular


1 James Blunt: Back to Bedlam

2 Coldplay: X & Y

3 Robbie Williams: Intensive Care

4 Kaiser Chiefs: Employment

5 Westlife: Face to Face

6 Gorillaz: Demon Days

7 KT Tunstall: Eye to the Telescope

8 Eminem: Curtain Call - The Hits

9 Kelly Clarkson: Breakaway

10 Katie Melua: Piece by Piece