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I remember doing one of these with 52 entries, an album which had really impressed me for every week of the year. Last year, 20. This year - a Top Ten. Wow. Obviously there were lots of other albums with brilliant bits (Her Parents, Teeth of the Sea), ones which were pleasant enough backdrops (Ejecta, Edwyn Collins), ones which were only moderately coasting (British Sea Power, no pun intended). But when you're summing up and trying to make 'almost as good as an Elcka comeback album might be' (Filthy Boy) sound like a warm recommendation, you know it's time to hack and slash the list. Honourable mentions to Lady Gaga, Mike Patton and Monster Magnet - who, if still a long way from their imperial height, have made stuff a lot more worthy of ear-space than most of their work in the interim. Dishonourable mentions to David Bowie, Adam Ant, Suede, Justin Timberlake and George Pringle. Between them, each has made music that gave sparkle to a decade. Together, they've convinced an old triskaidekaphobic that 2013 was indeed destined to suck.

10. TOTP2 - Keith Top Of The Pops & His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band
The first album was a fun souvenir of live shows it could never capture. There's a little of that this time, but also stuff which never gets a live airing (the delightfully, languidly vicious 'Proper Music'), making for an album that could thoroughly entertain someone who'd never seen them play - always handy.

9. Four (Acts of Love) - Mick Harvey
Best known as Nick Cave's wingman back when Nick Cave was good, and his most notable solo work two albums of Serge Gainsbourg covers, but there's an odd purity to the great reprobate's latest album. As the title suggests, it's all about love. Not the dark, sleazy kind from his past work. Just love.

8. Dream River - Bill Callahan
Bill Callahan hasn't really done anything new since Smog peaked towards the end of the last century. But that seam of Americana and angst he's mining is fertile enough that more often than not, I don't mind. This side of the Atlantic you could say much the same of Tindersticks, whose new album would be around here if it weren't re-recordings of old songs. Thing is, with them there's not that solid a gap between new material and re-recordings of old songs anyway.

7. Love In Arms - Gabriel Bruce
Essentially the good bits of U2 as fronted by Tom Hiddleston - I'm not surprised that nobody I know seems to like him, but it does seem a bit much that he hasn't managed mainstream success either. At his best when most like Fryars (and let us not speak of their recent work), I suspect he's fallen between two stools and will now disappear without trace, which is a great shame.

6. Skyrider - Rob Britton
The 65daysofstatic album was in the list about here. But listening back to it, they've done the whole non-specifically epic thing better before. Whereas Rob has done a lot of very good things with guitars, but really nothing to presage this tribute to old computer game soundtracks. It's beautiful stuff, melancholy both on an intrinsic level and in its retro-futurist echoes of a lost tomorrow.

5. Inform-Educate-Entertain - Public Service Broadcasting
The attempt to set 'Night Mail' to music when it already has so much of its own was an act of foolish hubris, but otherwise this feels like a broadcast from the British subconscious. Somewhere in the dreamtime, there's a mossy dancefloor where GK Chesterton, Robin Hood and William Cobbett are going mental to 'Spitfire'.

4. Master Flea - The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra
I think this may actually have surfaced at the dog-end of 2012, but that's allowable in proper awards, so it's sure as blazes allowable here. ETA Hoffman's last and, I am reliably assured, worst story, set to music with celebrity guests. A comic opera on life among and alongside the invertebrates, as inexplicable as it is delightful.

3. Folly - Kitchens of Distinction
In the pre-Britpop years, I knew some people who loved this band, but I only really got into them about a year ago. And then there they were, back, and still sounding as understatedly epic and unapologetically queer as ever. They'll never be huge, but bank balances aside, they have no need to be.

2. You Have Already Gone to the Other World: Music Inspired by Paradjanov's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors - A Hawk and a Hacksaw
Music for endless birch forests and snow-covered wooden villages in an East which, if it ever existed at all, wasn't half so beautiful as it should have been what with all those pogroms and famines. But when you hear this, you can imagine.

1. Diseases of England - The Indelicates
Predictable? Not to me. The tripartite release had me worried. Parts II and I had songs which were very good, often even necessary, but not quite startling, and when it comes to the Indelicates I expect to be astonished. Were they going to be another act where fan-funding somehow led to a drop-off, like it did with Amanda Palmer and Patrick Wolf? It seemed unlikely, given they'd never had anyone else to please in the first place. And then along came the capstone of Part III, and within it was 'Dovahkiin', and suddenly I had a song of the year (though 'Get Lucky was pretty impressive too, and I say that as someone who never liked Daft Punk before) and an album of the year, because suddenly Diseases of England clicked. A proof that, even now, an album can be more than the sum of its parts.
(I still don't really get the add-on Part IV, mind)

January 2016


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