Everything Everything - Man Alive
Released: 30th August
Manchester quartet manage to avoid sounding like any other indie scenesters around at present thanks to a mish-mash of genres, Jonathan Higgs' distinguishable falsetto, and lyrics about war, surrealism and airbrushing.
Highlight: The "too-cool-for-school" choruses of 'MY KZ, YR BF' and 'Photoshop Handsome' have been deserving of their regular radio airplay.
Auf Der Maur - Out Of Our Minds
Released: 30th March
I don't know if anyone else is aware that erstwhile Hole and Smashing Pumpkins bassist, Melissa Auf Der Maur is still recording. But 6 years after her remarkable solo debut, Mel was back with 'Out Of Our Minds'. It's a macabre, proggy, conceptual album, but the guitars and bass are predictably stunning, and it plays very well as a complete piece of work.
Highlight: "Clear the decks, there's gonna be a shipwreck" implores Mel on 'Follow The Map'
Best Coast - Crazy For You
Released: 27th July
Bethany Cosentino's debut album was a critical success, but the praise was, in this case, totally justified. This is a sunny, breezy album filled with smile-inducing hooks, recalling the Beach Boys at their best.
Highlight: Album opener, 'Boyfriend' sets the tone perfectly.
Eminem - Recovery
Released: 18th June
Marshall is still seen as a comedy figure, a pastiche, in some quarters. Personally, I find him believable, and I do feel that this album, both literally and metaphorically marks a turning point in his life. This is a mature album, dark like 'Relapse' but without being held back by the same fears that hindered that album.
Highlight: 'Love The Way You Lie' is the song that 'Stan' wanted desperately to be.
I Blame Coco - The Constant
Released: 8th November
Sting's daughter was one of my finds of the year. I heard 'Please Rewind' on the radio, went to check her out at Latitude Festival (where her set was almost cancelled because of high winds), took my now-girlfriend to see her in a dingy basement on our very first date, and bought the album at the first opportunity. Vocally, she has plenty in common with her father. But her songs are infinitely more interesting.
Highlight: In a year filled with songs about the interaction between humans and robots, 'Selfmachine' is probably my favourite.
We Are Scientists - Barbara
Released: 14th June
We Are Scientists are the most consistent band around today. Their records all sound clearly identifiable as theirs, and yet they continue to mature and develop. Still better viewed live than on record, but 'Barbara' carries on where 'Brain Thrust Mastery' left off.
Highlight: 'I Don't Bite' is classic We Are Scientists.
Kele - The Boxer
Released: 21st June
I'd always suspected that Kele wanted to drive Bloc Party towards a more dance-orientated sound (see 'Flux', 'Mercury' and also his guest appearances on Tiesto and Chemical Brothers tracks). So this album is no surprise, with Kele exploring the full spectrum of electronica.
Highlight: Cheerleader chanting gives way to wobbling synths on opener 'Walk Tall'.
Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Released: 22nd November
So much has been written about MBDTF over the past few weeks, that I couldn't possibly do it justice. Also, I'm still getting to grips with the album myself. But so far, it holds up very well. Kanye was never about the rapping, but the tunes and samples just work better on this album than on his previous efforts.
Highlight: Nicki Minaj's bit on 'Monster'. Jay-Z does his best, and then Minaj shows both Kanye and Jigga how it's done.
Los Campesinos! - Romance Is Boring
Released: 1st February
A turbulent year for Los Camps! but they maintain their extremely high workrate. By my calculations, they'd released 3 albums in 23 months by the time this was released. LC remain a garage experiment, and you wonder what they might sound like if they went for highly-honed professional production instead. I'm not convinced it would be an improvement. I like the ramshackleness of their albums to date.
Highlight: 'These Are Listed Buildings' is the best 2010 pop song that hardly anyone knows, but 'I Just Sighed, I Just Sighed, Just So You Know' is my favourite, courtesy of some delicious vocals on the chorus from Aleksandra, who subsequently left the band.
Hot Chip - One Life Stand
Released: 1st February
Those who know me know that I've long been a huge fan of "The Chip", and they continue to produce dazzling albums. 'One Life Stand' was more stripped down than previous efforts, but somehow retained an experimental style.
Highlight: 'Thieves In The Night' is an excellent album opener, setting the scene perfectly for what follows.
Mystery Jets - Serotonin
Released: 5th July
This one seemed to have flown under a lot of radars, despite some relatively successful singles. But it's a superb album. Mystery Jets have really carved a niche for intelligent indie-pop.
Highlight: 2010's best use of kazoos, on 'Flash A Hungry Smile'
Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
Released: 22nd March
Beautiful, ambitious, evocative work from the precociously-talented Ms. Marling. This was my late night chill-out CD all year long.
Highlight: It's all lovely, don't make me pick a single moment.
Marina & The Diamonds - The Family Jewels
Released: 22nd February
A surprise, in that I was expecting this to be a small handful of serviceable singles and a lot of filler. What it actually turns out to be is a rather coherent modern pop album, with changes of pace just when you'd expect/want them. Some say her voice grates, but I find it rather endearing.
Highlight: 'I Am Not A Robot' and 'Mowgli's Road' are both brilliant, but the chorus and backing vocals of 'The Outsider' will take some beating.
Robyn - Body Talk Pt.1/Body Talk Pt.2/Body Talk
Released: 14th June/6th September/29th November
Tough to decide which of Robyn's contributions deserve inclusion, so I've bundled them up together. 2010 has truly been her year, and these three albums would each make my Top 20 in their own right. Pop music for people who understand pop music.
Highlight: Everyone else seems to love 'Dancing On My Own' but my favourite is 'Dancehall Queen', with Robyn channelling her inner Jamaican.
Foals - Total Life Forever
Released: 10th May
I really disliked this album when I first heard it in May. But gradually, as the year progressed, I found myself revisiting it with increasing frequency. And yes, I'll admit my first impressions were totally wrong. It's an art-rock masterpiece.
Highlight: It's all good, but 'Spanish Sahara' builds and builds to a majestic conclusion.
Lostprophets - The Betrayed
Released: 13th January
Lostprophets were pretty much an afterthought in the world of nu-metal, but 10 years on from 'Thefakesoundofprogress', they're still going strong, and 'The Betrayed' is their finest album to date.
Highlight: Take your pick. Lead single 'Where We Belong' is epic stadium rock. 'Dstryr/Dstryr' is heavier and darker. 'Next Stop Atro City' might be the standout though.
Magnetic Man - Magnetic Man
Released: 11th October
Bringing dubstep to the masses, Skream and Benga are aided by some impressive guest appearances (notably Katy B and John Legend, but the highlight is Ms Dynamite's massive contribution to 'Fire')
Highlight: Ms Dynamite rapping over the crunching, distorted bass of 'Fire'.
Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (II)
Released: 23rd April
Perhaps someone at Fiction Records had a word with Ethan Kath, or perhaps it was the influence of the mercurial Jacknife Lee on production duties, but this was a much more accessible album than their debut ('Doe Deer' being the exception). As if uncomfortable about becoming more commercially viable, the duo then proceeded to give the album the exact same title as its predecessor, making it a nightmare in the 2010 world ruled by search engines. Kath is rapidly becoming the best producer of his generation, allowing free rein to the freakshow/sideshow that is Alice Glass.
Highlight: I already noted that 'Doe Deer' was my single of the year, but 'Baptism' is a huuuuuge tune, and both that and 'Celestica' would be a good starting point for anyone new to Crystal Castles.
Klaxons - Surfing The Void
Released: 23rd August
Oh. Just me, then. Klaxons' second album received an average reception from the journos, and had average commercial success. Maybe the lengthy gap between first and second album was a mistake. Or maybe it was no longer "cool" to like Klaxons. But 'Surfing The Void' deserves more praise than it has received. Klaxons tackled the "difficult second album" head on, and produced a work vastly superior to its predecessor. The title track took the style of 'Myths Of The Near Future' and brought it up to date. 'Venusia' might be the best thing they've ever recorded. And playing live, they continue to impress.
Highlight: 'Echoes' was a brilliant choice of Track 1 and a great lead single. It bridged the times between the two albums and screamed "hey, remember us?" at passers-by.
Delphic - Acolyte
Released: 11th January
January's a bad month to release an album, especially when it comes to making end of year lists, and even more so if it's your debut album. But 'Acolyte' was rarely off my stereo all year long. Much like the Friendly Fires debut last year, or even the Everything Everything and Klaxons albums mentioned above, this is the real sound of indie in 2010. The three-chord guitars are long gone, replaced by intelligent hooked synths, loops, samples and catchy choruses. 'Doubt' suffered from radio overkill, but 'This Momentary' and 'Counterpoint' were really special, and the album opener sent out a clear message - a mission statement from Delphic HQ to the British public. It's just a shame so few were listening.
Highlight: 'Clarion Call' is a succinct introduction and a brilliant opening to a perfectly-formed record.
Honourable mentions go to:
Jenny & Johnny - I'm Having Fun Now (released 31st August)
- Tron Legacy - Original Soundtrack (released 6th December)
- Rihanna - Loud (released 15th November)
- The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang (released 14th June)
- Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (released 3rd March)
- Warpaint - The Fool (released 25th October)
- Fenech-Soler - Fenech-Soler (released 27th September)
2009 winner: Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions
2008 winner: Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
2007 winner: Britney Spears - Blackout
2006 winner: The Pipettes - We Are The Pipettes
2005 winner: The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan