I seem to publish my albums of the year every other year. Here's the 2006 list and here's 2008. I didn't publish a list last year because I was doing my albums of the decade instead. First of all, here are the new albums that Last.fm says I've listened to most, based on the number of tracks played by each artist:
1. The Roots - How I Got Over* 2. Field Music - Field Music (Measure) 3. Mount Kimbie - Crooks & Lovers 4. Mulatu Astatke - Mulatu Steps Ahead* 5. These New Puritans - Hidden
*There are probably some older tracks being counted in there too.
That might be a more honest measure of my favourites but it might not. Albums with more tracks naturally have an advantage.
No album has really blown me away this year but here are my 20 favourites with links to Spotify where available:
1. Mount Kimbie - Crooks & Lovers The dubstep genre has provided some of my favourite albums of recent years. File this alongside Burial and King Midas Sound.
2. These New Puritans - Hidden This is a little self-conciously 'arty' but there's something very compelling about it. Great percussion and strings add to the depth of sound.
3. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me I didn't really get Ys, her previous album, but this is wonderful. Beautiful, fragile piano-driven songs that sound great on snowy evenings, as I've recently discovered.
4. The Books - The Way Out This year's Broadcast & The Focus Group, this is a collection of menacing, atmospheric, sample-driven electronica.
5. Field Music - Field Music (Measure) Seventy minutes of precise, sinuous tunes that will appeal to anyone with a taste for XTC.
6. Pantha Du Prince - Black Noise The latest from German techno producer Hendrik Weber. Highly recommended.
7. Wildbirds & Peacedrums - Rivers This minimalist, percussion-driven album by Swedish husband and wife team Mariam Wallentin and Andreas Werliin was originally two EPs. Putting them together creates an old-fashioned album of two halves.
8. The Knife, Mt Sims and Planningtorock - Tomorrow, in a Year Another Swedish duo, siblings this time. The Knife got together with a host of collaborators to produce this electronica-meets-opera concept album about Charles Darwin. It's heavy going in places but stunning in others.
9. Actress - Splazsh An eccentric - and eclectic - collection of "R&B concrete" that is The Wire's album of the year, which should be all the recommendation you need.
10. Beach House - Teen Dream Taking their 60s and 70s rock influences and pairing them with an almost 80s sound, this is a compelling album that bears repeated listening.
11. Bonobo - Black Sands The fourth album of downtempo electronica from Simon Green is more of the same - but that's no bad thing at all.
12. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today I've heard bits of Ariel Pink over the last 10 years or so but this is the first album that's really impressed me. It's psychedelic rock that reminds me of Of Montreal's Hissing Fauna... album.
13. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz Sufjan Stevens really will have to get a move on if he's going to complete his series of albums about every US state. In the meantime, however, this is a pretty good stopgap.
14. The Roots - How I Got Over Not the best of The Roots, by any means, but the quality - and the consistency - is still higher than most hip hop records of 2010.
15. Gonjasufi - A Sufi and a Killer This is a strange album and something of an acquired taste but it rewards persistence. It reminds me a lot of a hip hop Cody ChesnuTT.
16. Caribou - Swim Another case of more of the same being no bad thing, the latest outing from Daniel Snaith is every bit as good as his previous albums.
17. Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks I've got a bit of a soft spot for this Scottish indie outfit after seeing them play at SXSW this year. At root they are quite conventional but some neat production tricks and some anthemic songs make this worth a listen.
18. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare Monster stands so far above everything else on this album that the rest can feel like a bit of a disappointment but this is still a very good album.
19. Broken Bells - Broken Bells That bloke from The Shins and producer Danger Mouse get together for an album of song-based electronica. Recommended for fans of The Postal Service.
20. Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here Gil Scott-Heron has been given the Johnny Cash treatment - wheeled out by a producer/record label owner and dusted-up for a new generation. It's flawed - Scott-Heron's lyrics are sometimes weak and the production doesn't always work - but there are enough moments of brilliance to make it worth a listen.
And here are five disappointments:
Eels - End Times I like Eels a lot and this has had good reviews but I just haven't been able to get into it.
Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Pt 2: Return of the Ankh New Amerykah part one was fantastic but this is mediocre. A missed opportunity.
The National - High Violet I've tried and tried but I can't see what the fuss is about with The National. It all just merges into one mid-tempo, Ian Curtis-voiced, sub-Wilco drone. I like the drummer though.
Belle & Sebastian - Write About Love It's now more than a decade since Belle & Sebastian released an album that I loved. Still, the ones since then have usually had a handful of excellent songs. This doesn't, as far as I can tell. They've always been twee, of course, but this time they've dialled the tweeness all the way back to bland.
Of Montreal - False Priest This isn't a bad album. It's worth listening to, certainly, but I'm listing it as a disappointment because I'm still waiting for them to produce another record that matches Hissing Fauna... This isn't in that class.