From list

Best albums of 2017

Except any of my own, of course!

Alternate title for this post: Albums by old dudes that didn’t completely suck in 2017. Just a generalisation. Not all of them are dudes.

10. Ryan Adams – Prisoner 

Took me a bit to get into this one. It didn’t help that it dropped the same week my family and I were forced into a hotel after a massive water leak/flood… I know, Prisoner sounds appropriate for six weeks in a sterile room unable to go home… but it just didn’t fit.

It lacks the spontaneity and zest of past Adams efforts, but over time it’s revealed itself to be something of a world unto its own. One of those records that seems impenetrable until you find yourself inside it.

9. Roger Waters – Is This the Life We Really Want?

Speaking of worlds unto their own… On the surface, this is a somewhat lacklustre meshing of Animals,The Wall and Amused to Death – but considering the strength of the source material, even a retread – done tastefully as it mostly is here – can be worth the time.

8. Liam Gallagher – As You Were

The lesser Gallagher’s first proper solo debut wasn’t bad. Had a killer song in ‘Bold’ that was just as good as anything off his brother’s record, the rest sounded pretty much like Beady Eye with a pop sheen. I liked Beady Eye, so no complaints.

7. Grandaddy – Last Place

Jason Lytle is one of the most consistent songwriters/recording artists of the past 20 years – in terms of quality and style. Any song from Last Place could have been on Fambly Cat, or with a slightly looser production, on Sumday or Sophtware. And even after all this time, that’s a good thing. No one does the fuzz+ELO+melancholy thing like he does.

6. Noel Gallagher – Who Built the Moon?

Funnily enough, I know exactly where Noel Gallagher got this album title from. A few years ago, I picked up the book Who Built the Moon? from my local library. Only slightly embarrassed, I took it to the counter – only for the librarian to tell me it was a good read.

I read it on my lunch breaks at work sitting in a park full of mysterious stone circles. I’m not kidding. It has just shy of four stars on Goodreads.

The album won’t quite blow your mind the same way, and I must be the only person who doesn’t really dig the opening track ‘Fort Knox’, but it’s worth it for ‘Holy Mountain’ alone. Who knew a cross between ‘She Bangs’ and ‘Let’s Stick Together’ would even work, let alone be this good?

5. St Vincent – Masseduction

A bit more pop than before, and now some are comparing her to Prince… in terms of being surface-level pop-appealing yet with unrivalled musical talent and depth to spare… sure. Could have done with a bit more of her freaky guitar work, but even without it, St Vincent is killing it.

4. Paul Draper – Spooky Action

I was doing one my occasional ‘has Paul Draper from Mansun done a solo album yet?’ searches when, for the first time in a decade of googling, a positive result! He had! And it was pretty damn good, too.

I know it might seem weird to check if a guy from a B-level fame Britpop band that collapsed in the early ’00s was still in the game… but anyone who was into Mansun back then knows why. There were no other bands like them, particularly on Six.

3. Arcade Fire – Everything Now

Still wondering if I’m the only person in the world to think this was a return to form after the lacklustre mess that was Reflektor… Even the parts I hated at first – the barely-in-tune Regine vocals, largely – have grown on me. Sure, the double-barrelled title track could have been dropped, and I can understand how some would find many of the lyrics hard to stomach (personally, I’m a fan of the bordering-on-parody style). But from Reflektor, Arcade Fire rebounded nicely.

2. Morrissey – Low in High Places

You could hardly pick a better record title for the former Smiths frontman in 2017. I expected Low in High Places to suck just as hard, if not harder than his awful previous album, which came after a pretty good run stretching back to the early 2000s.

Morrissey is not an easy artist to like, nowadays… but damn, he hits it out of the park here. ‘I Wish You Lonely’, ‘Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage’, ‘I Bury the Living’ are all great. Even when he gets lyrically dubious – on the awfully titled ‘When You Open Your Legs’ or any of the multiple tracks about Israel – it’s musically fantastic.

I’ve kind of given up trying to figure out what Morrissey actually thinks about… anything. And I was ready to hate this record. But it’s great.

1. Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life

I didn’t do a top 10 last year. But in 2015, declared Wolf Alice’s debut album My Love Is Cool the best of the year – and they’ve done it again.

Visions of a Life is, I guess, a variation on that record – they’re not reinventing the wheel – but rather cementing their position as the best rock/alt band on the planet right now.

Tracks like ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ and ‘Sky Musings’ are what Sonic Youth would sound like if they were surviving on streaming rations, while ‘Yuk Foo’ and ‘Sadboy’ take the grunge template and shower it in shoegaze.


Some honourable, others not so…

Weezer. For a band who recently apologised for forgetting ‘disco sucks’, they sure lost their memories fast again. For all the hate their mid-2000s stuff gets, Pacific Daydream is a turd beyond any lingering fans could have expected.

Queens of the Stone Age. Villains was good… just not good enough. Mark Ronson might have been the right guy to fix Duran Duran, but he’s the wrong guy for QOTSA, who didn’t really need fixing after …Like Clockwork.

The Killers. See Weezer.

The Foo Fighters, Royal Blood, Blondie, LCD Soundsystem and Goldfrapp all released listenable records this year. I guess. Haven’t listened to a couple that have got my attention yet, like Drunk by Thundercat. And Lorde I guess is great, but just not my thing.



Best albums of 2015!

I was kind of dreading writing this year’s list, under the impression it had been kind of a lacklustre year for music. At least the kind I’m into.

So over the last few weeks, I went out of my way to listen to as much stuff popping up in other people’s best-of lists that piqued my interest. And I was wrong – it’s been a pretty great year!

That in mind, there’s every chance as time goes on, I’ll realise I have these albums in totally the wrong order. Such is life.

10. Ryan Adams – 1989

Before you ask, no, I didn’t like the Taylor Swift original. No, I hadn’t heard her version beforehand. No, this doesn’t invalidate my opinion.

A lot of the time people say they like a piece of music, it’s got nothing to do with the song – it’s the recording, the production, where they were and how much they’d drunk the time they first heard it. I can’t stand the sound/production of the original 1989;; I suspected this would be the case, so didn’t bother listening to it until Ryan Adams showed there were some good tunes in there. Gave it a go, didn’t like it.

Like the sad-sack white-boy-with-guitar version though. *shrugs*

9. Silversun Pickup – Better Nature

I’ve always found the Silversun Pickups to be one of those bands in the background who seem to have all the pieces of a great album in them, but it never really comes together. The sound is there, the style, but not the songs.

Without dramatically changing their sound, I think Better Nature will probably as be as close as they come. Songs like ‘Connection’, ‘Nightlight’ and the title track nail the smoother end of grunge-pop, while ‘Circadian Rhythm’ points at a new direction for the band with bassist Nikki Monninger taking the lead. ‘Tapedeck’ also suggests an Adore-style complete makeover.

If they want to stick with being 2015’s Smashing Placebo though, ‘Latchkey Kids and ‘Ragamuffin’ work.

 8. Blur – The Magic Whip

There are perhaps three songs on the reunion Blur record that sound like the band people like me grew up with – opener ‘Lonesome Street’ is half self-titled album, half-Parklife; ‘Go Out’ is a ‘Music is My Radar’ revamp by way of 13; and ‘I Broadcast’ the ‘Chinese Bombs’/’E.M.I.’/’Bank Holiday’ stand-in pretty much all of their records (bar The Great Escape) seem to have.

The rest though aren’t unrecognisably Blur; in a lot of ways, The Magic Whip is what 2003’s Think Tank should have been. There’s a lot of that album’s loose experimental flavour, but the pseudo-world music indulgences have been swapped out for a good dose of The Good, the Bad and the Queen, megaphone effects and reverb-drenched keyboards.

It’s good – not the place to start if you’re wondering why Blur are so revered, but more interesting than Damon Albarn’s solo record, and it makes you wonder what Parklife would sound like were it recorded by this middle-aged version of the band.

 7. Muse – Drones

Promoted as the band’s return to rock, it seemed strange the first single was the Depeche Mode-esque ‘Dead Inside’. It all started to make sense when Drones dropped – it was the best song.

Follow-up singles ‘Psycho’ – a decent, but derivative and too-long rocker – and ‘Mercy’ – a ‘Starlight’ rewrite with a fraction the charm of the original – didn’t bode well, but a mediocre Muse album still has its moments, and there are enough on Drones to justify its place on this list.

And it’s a list ending in ‘list’: the robotic backing vocals on ‘Reapers’, the blatant Queen-isms of ‘Defector’, from 2.20 of the otherwise plodding dirge ‘The Handler’, the disjointed entirety of ‘The Globalist’.

It sounds strangely dismissive of a #7 album to call it ‘mediocre’, but with a back catalogue including Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations, it would be odd not to use the term of Drones, as enjoyable as it is. Fanboy, I guess?

6. Drenge – Undertow

This is one of those records I discovered quite recently, and it took a few listens to sink in. What really converted me to the cause though was this live gig I found on YouTube last night. In contrast, the album has a muted, swampy and dark sound – if Steve Albini or Butch Vig were at the controls, it would have been so much better.

But even as it is, it’s infectious, heavy and unrelenting, and well worth checking out if you miss the raucous, sinister end of the early ’90s grunge boom.

I’m not sure what the band’s name means, but it suits their sound most excellently.

5.  Cage the Elephant – Tell Me I’m Pretty

I’d literally never heard of these guys until a few weeks ago. Caught ‘Cigarette Daydreams’ in the car, sought out the band and found they had a new album out. Listened to the album, wondered where the song was, only to realise it was a couple of years old already!

Love it when that happens – I get two ‘new’ albums to check out for the price of one song.  Didn’t like the old one, but the new one – without ‘Cigarette Daydreams’ has loads of other good songs. Typically the ones that sound like the Beatles, of course.

So that’s ‘Sweetie Little Jean’, ‘How Are You True’ and ‘Trouble’, while ‘Mess Around’ is for all intents and purposes the best Black Keys song of the last few years, and there’s a track near the end which might as well be the Troggs.

These are all good things, by the way.

4. New Order – Music Complete

Peter Hook left, the remaining band members’ other gig – Bad Lieutenant – sucked, the clock ticked over to 2015… none of these things suggested New Order were about to put out the best album they’ve done in nearly three decades. But that’s what they did with Music Complete, with a little help from uber-fans Brandon Flowers, La Roux and the Chemical Brothers; and randomly, Iggy Pop.

Much has been written about the hard-hitting opening trio of songs, but for me the highlights are ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘Academic’. The former’s a pop gem in the vein of ‘True Faith’ (still their best song), the latter a jangly thing that appears to be going nowhere until the chorus lifts it to classic status.

I hope the album title’s not prophetic and they can keep going,. Hook might be gone, but the hooks aren’t.

3. YACHT – I Thought the Future Would be Cooler

I have no idea what this album cover is meant to mean. The album’s a lot better than it would suggest.

Shangri-La from a few years back was the first album I heard by YACHT, and loved it – if LCD Soundsystem aren’t going to put out new albums, what does it matter when there are other bands doing the same thing just as good?

I Thought the Future Would be Cooler is arguably even better despite a sharper turn towards pop, strangely enough.

A song like ‘Ringtone’ should be aggravating, but it works. The opening track is longer than ‘Hey Jude’, but never gets boring.

‘Don’t Be Rude’ is the standout though – it’s the closest thing to classic indie-pop on the album, playing it straight on an album full of sonic and lyrical quirks.

2. Noel Gallagher – Chasing Yesterday

Speaking of playing it straight, Mr Dad-Rock himself vastly improved on his solo debut with Chasing Yesterday – and much like Drenge totally suit their name, a better phrase has probably never been coined to describe Noel Gallagher’s entire shtick.

It opens with a Beatles lyric (‘There’s something in the way she moves me…’), pinches a song title from Led Zeppelin (‘While the Song Remains the Same’) and largely rests on the Oasis formula of mixing a bit of Kinks, a bit of T Rex and a whole lot of the Fab Four – I wouldn’t expect anything less from Noel – but there’s saxophones and David Gilmour-style solos (‘Riverman’), a bit of Bacharach pop-jazz (‘The Right Stuff’) and some murky dance-rock (‘Ballad of the Mighty I’).

‘You Know We Can’t go Back’ is ironically the closest thing to an early Oasis-style rocker, and ‘The Girl With X-Ray Eyes’ is essentially ‘The Masterplan’ with a new coat of paint. Both are great. So is b-side ‘Leave My Guitar Alone’. I’m yet to decide if he was robbed or had a nasty break-up.

Taken alongside the second, highly underrated Beady Eye album, I guess the Gallaghers have it over Blur for the time being.

1. Wolf Alice – My Love is Cool

This record floored me. I’d never heard of Wolf Alice a month ago, and saw their record My Love is Cool pop up in one of those premature best-of lists published at the start of December.

Within one listen I knew it’d feature on my own (literal) end-of-year round-up, and a few later, there’s no place for it but at the top. It’s that good.

It won’t win any production awards, but nor would Arcade Fire’s Funeral, which is probably the closest analogue I can think of for My Love is Cool. It’s an epic first album, lurching from ethereal folk to speaker-shredding Pixies-style freakouts – often in the same song. There’s My Bloody Valentine levels of distortion, with Nirvana riffs and Blonde Redhead melodies and mood.

It’s all good, and if Wolf Alice can hook up with a producer like Rich Costey, even greater things could be in store.

– – – – – – – – – – –

Anyway, that’s my list. Let me know anything else I should check out – @radioovermoscow on Twitter. And no, I didn’t forget to put Coldplay’s latest record on this list – last year’s Ghost Stories was great, but A Head Full Of Dreams is pretty much a marginally improved Mylo Xyloto. Marginally.

Best albums of 2014!

Time for the best albums of the year list! Aside from Paradox on Earth, of course… here’s my favourite records of 2014. That I’ve heard. With some thoughts.

St_Vincent_artwork10. St Vincent, St Vincent

St Vincent’s one of those artists I’d heard about, but no one had ever said to me, ‘Hey, you should listen to this.’ All I’d heard was her album with David Byrne, and as strange as this sounds, I didn’t dig it. Nor did I like his albums with Brian Eno. Basically, what I’m saying is, reform the Talking Heads already…

But one morning I gave this St Vincent record and her previous one a listen, and wow. Sometimes a bit too clever for each song’s good, but when it clicks, there’s nothing else quite like it. Though I think I prefer the previous one on the whole, I just wish I’d heard it three years ago!


9. Pink Floyd, The Endless River

All they had to do was toughen up the production a bit and chuck in some Roger Waters screams, and The Endless River could have been a contender for #1. But as it is – essentially an instrumental Gilmour/Wright record, with Nick Mason’s signature plod – it’s pretty damn fine. I tempered my expectations, not being the biggest fan of post-Waters Floyd – or as I like to call them, Mullet Floyd – and didn’t really get it on the first or second listen. One night though I put it on as some background sound, and it clicked – I know Roger Waters would have hated that, but sometimes you’ve just got stuff to do and The Wall would just get in the way (oh yes, pun intended).

Ryanadamsselftitled8. Ryan Adams, Ryan Adams

2014 was one of those years when Ryan Adams went a bit nuts and released a whole bunch of stuff, but unlike last time he did that – a decade or so ago – this time I just stuck with the big album. I don’t think at 34 I have enough room in my musical interests for thrashy 80s-inspired American-style punk. Anyway, this self-titled record fell in a bit of a no-man’s land stylistically in Adams’ oeuvre. It’s largely a subdued affair like his acoustic albums, but he spends most of it wielding an electric guitar – but not in any attempt to ‘rock’;  it eschews obvious singles, without being impenetrable; and it’s mostly just a nice, warm-sounding soft-rock album without being cheesy. The way I’m describing it sounds boring as shit, but trust me, it’s not! I mean, it’s no masterpiece like Love Is Hell, though that’s probably the Adams record it’s closest in sound to. But it’s good.

Lana-Del-Rey-Ultraviolence-2014-1500x15007. Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence

By playing down the obviously poppier elements of her first album – the weaker songs, mostly, and the one or two horrific dance remixes I had the misfortune of hearing – Lana Del Rey made an album even more languid and hazy, and Ultraviolence was the better for it. My opinion was almost completely changed one afternoon when I listened to it while out for a walk that was supposed to be invigorating, but I quickly realised that was my own stupidity for trying to exercise to an album that makes Pink Floyd sound like Dragonforce.

homepage_large.351037356. Interpol, El Pintor

I’ve always been out of step with Interpol. When I first heard them, I dug the Joy Division-style sound before liking Joy Division became a hipster thing and Antics blew up huge. I didn’t really dig much of Antics, instead preferring the third album – you know, the one everyone else thought was shit. The fourth, well I think everyone was a bit meh on that one, and that seems to have been the general reaction to El Pintor too – but after the first listen, on which I actually laughed out loud at how precisely ‘Interpol’ it sounded, it burrowed in… and now I think it’s probably the best thing they’ve done since their debut. Maybe. At the very least, losing their bassist seems to have done them a world of good.

5weez. Weezer, Everything Will Be Alright in the End

Debates might range on Interpol’s trajectory, but there’s not a person on Earth who’ll deny this was Weezer’s return to form. Though lyrically there’s still much to cringe at, if you’re that way inclined (I’m not! ‘Back to the Shack’ is hilarious), musically it’s all fuzzed guitars, big drums and power chords. Classic Weezer. No ill-advised forays into techno-pop, faux-hippy crap, polished pop designed for radio stations that still play that kind of stuff (I’m not even sure they exist anymore, to be honest). And the songs are good, tight and catchy. Soundwise it’s probably closest to Maladroit,  with a hint of modern sheen. Ignore the reviews comparing it to Pinkerton – it’s not, and I’m not sure such a detour would work for Weezer at this stage anyway. If you’ve avoided it because of Hurley, Raditude and Make Believe, give it a go (I actually like a lot of the Red Album… I’m sorry!)

Manic_Street_Preachers_Futurology4. Manic Street Preachers, Futurology

It’s pretty much a given when the Manics put an album out, it’ll be somewhere in my top 10. Last year’s Rewind the Film had its moments, but was a sub-par Manics album; this one’s not. It’s not the guitar-flinging Manics of Journal or Bible, the version us diehard fans always hope for – but nor is this the chart-loving pop Manics we secretly adore but have to put at arm’s length ’cause you know, it’s not what Richey would have wanted. Or something. Instead, on Futurology we got the weird side of the Manics which has until now largely been consigned to b-sides and deep cut album tracks. About time too – the Manics take a lot of flack for being ‘meat-and-potatoes rock’, and unfairly so, considering their range. As underrated as it is, Lifeblood was a restrained, neutered version of this particular Manics; Futurology is the Manics throwing caution to the wind and belting out krautrock with an actual German, rewriting the Clash’s dub side and layering on the ’80s synths, for better or worse. It’s a real mixed bag stylistically and about as far from the polished pop-rock of Postcards as you can expect from a band their vintage. Amazing stuff from a band 25 years in.

Hesitant_Alien3. Gerard Way, Hesitant Alien

I’m old enough to remember mocking the kids listening to My Chemical Romance. But I’m also open-minded enough to admit I joined them when they put out The Black Parade. I bought it for my little sister, but intrigued by some of the reviews gave it a listen before handing it over, and was converted. The follow-up was so terrible however I would never have picked Gerard Way as forging a solo career that would kick off as strongly as it does with Hesitant Alien. Much has been made of the overt Bowie influence, but it really doesn’t extend past the title, cover and opening track, which is Way’s best go at aping ‘Five Years’. The rest is beefed-up power pop mostly, so not too dissimilar to what MCR was doing at the end, but much, much better.

Coldplay_-_Ghost_Stories2. Coldplay, Ghost Stories

Another unexpected comeback, this time from a band who’ve been on a downhill trajectory for more than a decade. Parachutes is great, Rush of Blood a masterpiece, X&Y a mixed bag, ditto Viva, but the fifth record was so atrocious I can’t even bring myself to remember WTF it was called. So when Ghost Stories appeared with the media narrative it was Chris Martin’s ode to breaking up with Gwyneth Paltrow, I understandably expected the worst. Instead what we got was a lightly electronic-tinged throwback to their debut, with some of the simplest and most touching melodies of their career. Would be a contender for #1 if it weren’t for the god-awful execrable ‘Sky Full of Stars’, which sticks out like a sore thumb. Imagine listening to Parachutes, then halfway through someone cranks up Crazy Frog. Absolutely horrible. Talented band, but little sense of taste – which explains so much of that unnamed previous album, whatever the fuck it was called. Ghost Stories though, excellent.

Shihad_-_FVEY1. Shihad, FVEY

I might be the first person ever to compare Coldplay to Shihad, but hear me out (there’s also a bit of a Manics analogy here too). Like Coldplay, Shihad have a ‘sound’ that’s theirs, which they’ve abandoned at times to chase where the audience is. I can only assume this is the case, ’cause there’s no other explanation for how you go from making records like Killjoy and The General Electric to ‘One Will Hear the Other’.  Okay, I like that song, but can’t listen to a whole album of it. Not when I want classic Shihad riffage – which is what we got with FVEY. It’s not coincidence FVEY saw the return of Jaz Coleman as producer, which I guess places it in the same category as Weezer’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End, which was handled by Ric Ocasek – mastermind behind the Blue Album. Anyway. This record kicks arse. Not really sure how they’ll follow it up – more of the same with diminishing returns, or a swing back to the commercial radio rock? It wouldn’t surprise me if Shihad decide to call it quits here. What a way to go out if they do, though.


So that’s my top 10 this year. Of course, I’m bound to discover others I haven’t heard yet, which kinda sucks when someone in 2034 says, “Damn, I can’t believe you put St Vincent in your 2014 list.” Well no… if I had known about Radio Over Moscow then, they would have been #1!

Albums that just missed out… Damon Albarn’s Everyday Robots, Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways, Smashing Pumpkins’ Monuments to an Elegy, Morrissey’s World Peace is None of Your Business, The Flaming Lips’ With a Little Help From My Fwends and La Roux’s Trouble in Paradise.

And whatever I didn’t hear yet, or will learn to love later.

2013: Best albums of the year!

No, this is not a post about my album Contact (in some alternate universe it would be, I like to think). It’s my annual list of the best albums of the year! Which each year seems to be getting shorter and shorter, as I age and my bands break up and new music all sounds like noise to me, etc.

So expect, like last year, to see a few records by bands you thought broke up in 2002 (they probably did, but got back together again, or they never did and you stopped paying attention).

The advantage of a shorter list I guess is being more inclined to say a few words about each one.

Anyway… here we go!

1. Beady Eye – BE

If you had told me a decade ago I’d rate a post-Oasis band led by Liam Gallagher over an unadulterated Noel solo record… yeah. So I’m as surprised as anyone at how good BE turned out to be. Particularly coming after the decent, but unspectacular first record.

Of course it didn’t get amazing reviews – it’s not exactly groundbreaking music – instead just a set of really f**ing great songs, with a sprinkle of psychedelia on top.

And like Weezer’s recent albums, some of the best songs are dumped at the end of the record as bonus tracks! (Yes, I’ve made it to the end of Weezer’s recent albums… it’s actually worth it in a few cases.)

Best tracks: The World’s Not Set in Stone, Start Anew, Flick of the Finger

2. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

Like Beady Eye (surely that’s the first time anyone’s used that phrase in talking about QOTSA), the best songs on the Queens’ new record were the ones that stripped things back and toned down the rawk.

Except If I Had A Tail, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Songs for the Deaf.

Best tracks: If I Had A Tail, The Vampyre Of Time And Memory, I Appear Missing

3. Arctic Monkeys – AM

What is this, the year of bands releasing records titled after their initials? (See #1 above.) I’ve never been the biggest Arctic Monkeys fan – Prior to this album I could probably have counted the number of songs of theirs I liked on one hand.

But after hearing this album a number of times thanks to Tariqa, who’s a bit of a bigger fan than me, and the presence of a song that sounds exactly like early post-Beatles John Lennon, I realised this album – at least – was pretty damn good.

Best tracks: No. 1 Party Anthem, I Want It All, Knee Socks

4. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Not so much a Daft Punk record as a collaboration between Pharrell and Nile Rodgers, masterminded by the robotic duo, with an android stepping in when Pharrell was busy writing the 1000 other hits he pens each year.

I’m not sure what hardcore EDM fans made of it, but if you weren’t demanding another record like their last two, then it’s a welcome diversion.

Best tracks: Giorgio by Moroder, Get Lucky, Lose Yourself to Dance

5. Suede – Bloodsports

Usually the bands who have the best latter-day records are the ones who stick it out through the fallow periods and get their mojo back, but Suede showed that’s not always the case with Bloodsports. I never totally bought into the criticism of their last album before the split – A New Morning – which many found limp and uninspired, but I thought was a decent lsiten.

But in a strange way Bloodsports somewhat retroactively ruins A New Morning by being so damn good and raw, yet imperfect in a way that suggests there’s plenty left in the tank.

Best Tracks: Snowblind, For the Strangers, It Starts and Ends With You

6. Manic Street Preachers – Rewind the Film

To be honest, a year in which the Manics release an album and it’s not in my top five is a strange year. I’m not convinced it was because there was so much other great music this year, but that Rewind the Film is a bit of a sub-par effort.

Still, a sub-par effort from my favourite band in history (I’m not sure you’re legally allowed to call anyone the best band in history if you’re not referring to the Beatles) is still better than 95 percent of shit out there, and Rewind the Film certainly has its moments – though its almost exclusively acoustic focus does serve to grow anticipation for the upcoming Futurology, which promises a return to the angry flipside of the Manics’ sound.

Best tracks: Show Me The Wonder, This Sullen Welsh Heart, 3 Ways To See Despair

7. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action

It took a few listens to realise this, but the new Franz album is easily better than their third, and may even be better than their somewhat underrated second. Of course it’s not as good as the debut, but what is?

They didn’t change their sound a bit while they were away, so while it sounds a little 2005, in amongst some of the dross 2013 served up, that’s no bad thing.

Best tracks: Right Action, Love Illumination, Treason! Animals

8. Depeche Mode – Delta Machine

Depeche Mode’s last three albums have been three of the best they’ve ever done, and though Delta Machine‘s probably the weakest of the trio, that much of it holds up against career highpoint Violator is impressive for a band in their fourth decade.

Oddly enough the album’s at its best when it strays from its central motif of electronic blues and into Songs of the Universe and Playing the Angel territory. Sure, Dave Gahan has the voice, but he – and most Depeche Mode fans, I’d wager – are synthpoppers at heart.

Best tracks: Secret to the End, Soft Touch/Raw Nerve, My Little Universe

9. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

It actually saddens me a little to put this album so low. Yeah, it made the top 10 – must be a good album – but like the Manics, I expect better of Arcade Fire. And not just Arcade Fire – it’s Arcade Fire produced by James Murphy, with special guest David Bowie – so it’s a wonder Reflektor isn’t the greatest album ever made, just #9 in 2013.

Still, Arcade Fire on a bad day is still able to produce epic songs like the title track, so despite a clear downhill trend from the masterpiece that was Neon Bible, I suspect there’s life in the band yet.

Best tracks: Reflektor, We Exist, You Already Know

10. Gary Numan – Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind)

It was a toss-up between this and Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks, which is somewhat apt considering Gary Numan’s been making the music everyone thinks Trent Reznor’s been doing all this time. Reznor’s effort contains a couple of absolutely brilliant tracks – think Copy of A and Come Back Haunted – but can really drag outside of those peaks.

Splinter, on the other hand, has all the beats, digital distortion and despair you’d expect from Nine Inch Nails, plus Numan’s absolutely unique vocals – no one in the history of music sounds anything remotely like him – and catchiest batch of songs he’s written in decades.

Best tracks: Who Are You, I Am Dust, Love Hurt Bleed

The runners-up

So what almost made the list, aside from Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks? Paul McCartney’s New, Travis’ Where You Stand, David Bowie’s The Next Day and Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City were all pretty decent. There was also good stuff on Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt, Johnny Marr’s The Messenger and Atoms for Peace’s Amok.

Some of the year’s disappointments – aside from the still pretty good Reflektor – included Joy Formidable’s Wolf’s Law (more of the same, just not as good), Duckworth-Lewis Method’s Sticky Wickets (a rare misstep from genius Neil Hannon, particularly when his first cricket-themed album was so good) and Primal Scream’s More Light (a bit of a mess, really).

But the year’s biggest letdown had to be the MGMT self-titled album. There’s a good chance you didn’t even realise there was one – it had nothing even remotely approaching a hit single, and the one that was released barely scratched the two-minute mark, and was probably the only listenable part of the record.

People slammed Congratulations – which I actually thought was an improvement on their debut, and the best album of 2010 – but pretty much everything wrong that record was wrongly accused of can be applied here.

Then again, perhaps I just haven’t listened to it enough – only managed to make it through the entire thing once or twice. It’s no Lulu or Metal Machine Music – far from it – but I get the feeling MGMT don’t actually like any of the music that made them famous!

So that’s 2013, then. I wonder what’s out there I completely missed that’ll force me to revisit this list in the future…