As selected by Magnus Barkman …
1. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
The National’s sixth album was a huge relief to me. They did it … again. Nothing really changed since High Violet, and why should it! If I were to make a top ten songs of the year, three or four of them would be from this magnificent album. Matt Berninger’s voice and lyrics are as strong and intimate as ever.
2. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Specter At The Feast
Co-founders of the 00s garage rock revival, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their seventh album earlier this year. Building on a solid foundation of their previous ventures in garage rock, blues, folk and neo-psychedelia, Specter At The Feast is a perfect mixture of gloomy atmospheric noise rock and mellow shoegaze.
3. Sigur Rós, Kveikur
After losing keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson last year, Sigur Rós embraced the opportunity to change course and dodged a looming danger of repeating themselves. With Kveikur (which in English means Candlewick), Sigur Rós burns with an aggressive and unpolished collection of sounds that elevates them beyond their romantic and soothing universe.
4. Boards of Canada, Tomorrow’s Harvest
Darker and more streamlined than ever, the electronic Scottish duo Boards of Canada dragged me into their eerie, melancholic realm on their fourth release Tomorrow’s Harvest. The album reminds me of warm, analogue sounds of 1970s media and contains themes of childhood, nostalgia, and a fascination with retro science fiction.
5. The Black Angels, Indigo Meadow
Produced by John Congleton, this album is rich in detail and crisp-sounding instrumentation complemented by persistent blasts of fuzzed out, distorted guitar and singer Alex Maas’ Doors-like vocals. The sound is dark and (flower)powerful, and bassist Nathan Ryan delivers a solid ‘60s rock ’n’ roll groove to the neo-psychedelic storm.
Best of the rest:
6. Arcade Fire, Reflektor
7. My Bloody Valentine, MBV
8. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
9. Deerhunter, Monomania
10. Spids Nøgenhat, Kommer med fred
As selected by Justin Cremer …
1. Pelican, Forever Becoming
Post-metal stalwarts Pelican hadn’t delivered a full album since 2009, and in the meantime had parted ways with a founding member. But with Forever Becoming, they produced an album that was instantly familiar while also breaking new ground. The instrumentalists delivered some of the best tracks of their career with songs like ‘Deny the Absolute’ and ‘Threnody’.
2. Palms, Palms
Can Chino Moreno do no wrong? The Deftones frontman teamed up with three fifths of the now-defunct Isis for an album that had hypnotising beauty and moments of subdued power. ‘Shortwave Radio’ was one of my most played tracks of the year and the highlight of an album that sounded exactly like what you’d expect from the collaboration.
3. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Kurt Vile did it again. This follow-up to 2011’s excellent Smoke Ring for My Halo was a bit more spacious than its predecessor, but also provided some of his catchiest songs to date in the form of ‘Never Run Away’ and ‘Shame Chamber’. With Vile consistently turning out albums of this calibre, he deserves all of the high-powered comparisons that have been thrown his way.
4. Queens of the Stone Age, … Like Clockwork
QOTSA produced what was easily their best album since 2002’s Songs for the Deaf. The band’s signature swagger is in full force in ‘If I Had a Tail’, ‘My God is the Sun’ is stadium rock at its most catchy, and ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory’ and the title track are gorgeously melancholic. A terrific album from end to end.
5. Russian Circles, Memorial
With the release of Memorial, Russian Circles once again delivered a sonic masterpiece. From the open and close bookends of ‘Memoriam’ and ‘Memorial’ to the crunching brutality of ‘Burial’ and the soaring beauty of ‘Cheyenne’, the instrumental trio’s fifth album was a stellar addition to their catalogue.
Best of the rest:
6. Portugal. The Man, Evil Friends
7. Tomahawk, Odd Fellows
8. Philip H Anselmo & The Illegals, Walk Through Exits Only
9. Arcade Fire, Reklektor
10. Chelsea Wolfe, Pain is Beauty
As selected by Allan Mutuku-Kortbæk …
1. London Grammar, If You Wait
The vocals of Hannah Reid are possibly the best of any British artist out there. Cast on a backdrop of minimalist, pop that triggers vague memories of bands like the XX, London Grammar are the next big thing. ‘Wasting my Young Years’ is the cream of the crop and easily the best song I’ve heard this year.
2. Disclosure, Settle
Disclosure are two brothers from Surrey who’ve gone all the way to the top and beyond with their debut album. Theirs is a pop-esque, synth-rich universe that evokes dense euphoric landscapes that’ll be the soundtrack of some of the best times of your life if you let them. Epic showings at Roskilde and Vega this year are a testament to this.
3. Cut Copy, Free Your Mind
Australian band Cut Copy are the cool kids of disco these days, fusing a wonderfully vintage inclination with nomadic vocals and a lingering synth-kick that runs riot in one’s mind. Their previous albums were equally overwhelming, albeit less libertine than Free Your Mind, whose title speaks for itself.
4. Agnes Obel, Aventine
Denmark is now the land of Kim Larsen, Aqua and Agnes Obel. Obel has by far the most skilled vocals and is the most emblematic of the three. Dark, minimalist and meandering, Aventine features characteristic compelling piano arrangements alongside the petal-soft vocals that have come to define Obel’s sound.
5. Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady
Janelle Monae is sheer class, and her second album is everything her last one was not. Spontaneous, elegant and diverse, Monae’s sound follows a typical R&B vocal trajectory spread over a varied, gentle backdrop of beats that give her the space to sing loud and clear. Collaborations with Prince and Erykah Badu strengthen the mould of a solid album.
Best of the rest:
6. The Lumineers, The Lumineers
7. Rhye, Woman
8. Black Milk, No Poison, No Paradise
9. Jon Hopkins, Immunity
10. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories