So, the musical year has drawn to an end. True, Cracker have just put out Berkeley To Bakersfield, which is well worth a listen (though don’t try to find it on Spotify), but this is the time to reflect on the musical year that was. Or wasn’t. Still no word from Elvis Perkins, after all. Anyway, here are my top 20 albums of the year in a reverse sort of order. Here we go.

Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son

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For an album that promised the uncomfortably weird, this was Damien Jurado‘s most mainstream offering to date. It was difficult to know which track to like best, ‘Silver Timothy’, ‘Silver Donna’, ‘Silver Malcolm’, ‘Silver Katherine’, or ‘Silver Joy’. But in the end the award went to ‘Suns In Our Mind’, which contained the most tuneful snoring of the year.

Wooden Wand – Farmer’s Corner

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This was James Jackson Toth at his most melodic and most rewarding. Filled with great songs, but ‘Dambuilding’ and ‘When The Trail Goes Cold’ stood out. Oh, and ‘Sinking Feelings’ sounded awfully like ‘Pocahontas’.

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billie – Singer’s Grave – A Sea of Tongues

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Will Oldham is a frustrating artist. Sometimes sublime – The Letting Go. Other times unlistenable – Trembling Bells anyone? Here, he was already half-way there by reprising a bunch of songs that had appeared on the wonderful Wolfroy Goes To Town album. Singer’s Grave etc filled in the gaps and sounded almost welcoming, which can’t be said about every B’P’B album.

Elbow – The Take Off And Landing Of Everything

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What’s good about Elbow is that they’re willing to think about their music, and quite a lot. After ‘One Day Like This’, it’d be easy to make music purely for the lad on the Ramsbottom omnibus. But there’s a cosmopolitanism to this album. Well, a New York-centric cosmopolitanism at least. But that’ll do nicely, ta very much.

Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy

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There were three great songs on this album – the title track, ‘Long Long Way’, and the utterly mind-blowing, ‘It Takes A Lot To Know A Man’. Otherwise, it’s pretty much a case of ho-hum. But if it takes eight years to make three such good tracks, then let’s hope there’s a follow up album in 2038. It’ll be an all-time classic.

In the dog days of summer, new releases are hard to find and good ones even scarcer. So, this is a chance to catch up some albums that really should have been reviewed.

Honeyblood

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EHL – 1 month

There’s a definite riot grrrl thing going on here. Just drums, guitar and vocals. This is serious Glasgow girl power. “I will hate you forever, Scumbag, sleaze, Slimeball, grease, You really do disgust me”. But this is no nostalgia trip, or musical equivalent of an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. This is an album full of fantastic hooks. And on songs like ‘(I’d Rather Be) Anywhere But Here’, ‘Biro’, and ‘Choker’, the vocals by Stine Tweeddale are utterly mesmerizing.

NME review

The Line of Best Fit review

The 405 review

Pitchfork review

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

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EHL – 3 weeks

The Söderberg sisters experience a certain crisis of conscience on their follow up to the The Lion’s Roar. Low key. Reflective. Doubtful. Well, it was recorded in Omaha by Bright Eyes’ producer, Mike Mogis. But, don’t worry, Johanna and Klara haven’t invented a new genre of emo-folk. This is still First Aid Kit at their uplifting, anthemic best.

Pitchfork review

Music OMH review

The Line of Best Fit review

American Songwriter review

Horse Thief – Fear In Bliss

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EHL – 3 weeks

More beautiful bardology from the Bella Union label. This time from new signing, Horse Thief. Packed full of indie-guitar hooks, there’s an infectiousness to the sound. Plus, there’s the first ever song to begin with the line ‘I want to be a Human Geographer’. Physical geographers have apparently taken umbrage.

The 405 review

The Line of Best Fit review

Music OMH review

Wooden Wand – Farmer’s Corner

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EHL – 3 weeks

This is perhaps the closest James Jackson Toth will ever come to a mainstream album. Darn if ‘Sinking Feelings’ don’t sound like ‘Pocahontas’. And both ‘Dambuilding’ and ‘When The Trail Goes Cold’ are instant Harvest-era classics. But this is still a Wooden Wand album. It’s scarcely prime time listening. And that’s the very appeal.

The Line of Best Fit review

Pitchfork review

Pop Matters review

The Black Keys – Turn Blue

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EHL – 2 weeks

The Black Keys are an easy target. Global success has ensured that. Yet they’re still worth a dispassionate listen. While they could have delivered another album full of T-Rex-influenced, three-minute earworms, they’re confident enough to take a step back and slow things down. The opener, ‘Weight of Love’, is a particular favourite in that regard.

Music OMH review

Pretty Much Amazing review

Consequence of Sound review