1. Micachu & The Shapes - Jewellery
Micachu's incredible debut is a smashed together musical shantytown that seemed to spring up from under the concrete of east London. It contains as many influences as you care to name, from chittering mobile phone music heard on buses to dubstep rhythms to Waits-ian instrument invention to blistering noise outbursts and atonal yelps. A creative, open, joyful record brimming over with ideas, spirit and personality.
2. The xx - XX
These indie-darlings-du-jour actually turned out to be totally amazing. The xx play musically economical, stripped down torch songs that sound wise beyond their tender years. They managed to perfectly convey love and intimacy and emotional honesty, without ever sounding cloying or clichéd. And that's a pretty huge deal in these cynical times.
3. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
This is a full on 'quality' album that Mojo and Q might stick in their top ten as well as the hundreds and thousands or blogs and zines that worship the ground they walk on. But musicianship aside, Grizzly Bear really found their songwriting stride on Veckatimest. 'While You Wait For The Others' is one of the songs of the year, and just jaw-dropping live.
4. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
A masterful slab of wide-eyed, hopeful, dancey noise-tronica that sanded off some of the harshier edges of their earlier stuff thanks to producer Andrew Weatherall, gaining some more accessible moments. Inspiring, energizing, evocative music that conveys a surprising amount using no words whatsoever. Listen c/o The Decibell Tolls
5. The United Colours Of Trouble Books
A deeply beautifully album, embracing twee folk vocals, blankets of drone, ambient post-rock sections and even some dense noise passages - all laced with pretty, soft-focus vocal meandering and a very human warmth. Listen on last.fm
6. Peter Broderick - Home
A heartfelt collection of genuine, sweet and sad acoustic songs. Listen on Spotify
7. Fever Ray
Karin Dreijer Andersson peeled back the surface of domestic and suburban life to reveal loneliness, neuroses and a strong heart full of solitude and doubt.
8. Gus Gus - 24/7
Techno reinvented the Icelandic way. Daniel Agúst takes his komrades' compulsive flat-beats and pulsing synths and adds glamor and sex appeal via a towering soulful vocal contribution. Utterly brilliant.
MP3: Add This Song (truncated version)
9. Skeletons - Money
Dark, fucked up, jazzy alt-everything from these awesome muso-nerds who reinvent themselves (band name included) for every record.
10. Telepathe - Dance Mother
Telepathe seemed to develop before the eyes this year... from a cool but introverted duo muttering over plaintive backing tracks, they found themselves a lush, mature sound via the production input of TV ON The Radio's Dave Sitek. Listen On Spotify
11. Frankmuzik - Complete Me
Pop music reworked, by punchable hipster Vincent Frank. 'Complete Me' falls somewhere between Max Tundra and Robbie Williams. Shame about the shit ballads and the sulphurous smell of marketing spends, but there are some real pop gems in here.
12. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
Much feted at the time, but repeated listening revealed the patchy nature of this rich audio tapestry. Still, there are some amazing moments amid the fog of sound - 'In The Flowers' and 'My Girls' are themselves enough to make it essential.
13. Horrors - Primary Colours
An awesome return from the bargain bin - Primary Colours saw the flamboyant garage rockers digest the history of krautrock and shoegaze and come out with something perfectly formed but oddly detached. A highly successful exercise in musical study and synthesis. Listen on Spotify
14. Casiotone For The Painfully Alone Vs. Children
Following on the wall-to-wall amazingness of 'Etiquette' was never going to be easy, but this was a sweet and careful album placing American lives under the microscope. Listen On Spotify
15. Bleeding Heart Narrative - Tongue Tangled Hair
Euphoric post-rock crescendos tied together with anthemic singalongs... big things to come for this lot.
MP3: Colours Turn Colours
16. Sufjan Stevens - The B.Q.E.
Sufjan is pretty clearly out of his gourd, as illustrated by this densely orchestrated, neurotic and expansive album. "Traffic Shock" provided the surprise-attack jaw-dropping listening moment of the year. Listen on Spotify
17. Helios - Unleft
A subtle record of rippling ambient electronica. Get it on Emusic
18. Atlas Sound - Logos
Bradford Cox's latest was less awesome than his recent output, but who the hell could keep up the standard he's set himself? Logos is more like a collection of songs than an album, so pick out your favourites. MP3: Walkabout
19. Mt Eerie - Wind's Poem
This album opened with a ferocious black-metal pummeling. No fucking about. Massive riffs, tumbling drums, and those heart-piercing vocals from the Microphones lynchpin Phil Elverum. Flags sometime. But worth having.
MP3: Wind's Dark Poem
20. Antony & The Johnsons - The Crying Light
More top-drawer stagey, heavyweight emotional angst for Mr Hegarty.