|1. Kate Tempest - Everbody Down|
The difference between a good record and a great one is that the latter will force you to stop what you're doing and marvel at the brilliance unfolding in front of you, a grin creeping across your face as you fall in love with something that is inspirational as opposed to merely satisfying. In a nutshell Kate Tempest is like Mike Skinner reborn ten years down the line but she's much more than a simple revamp of past majesty, 'Everybody Down' taking the story album template of The Streets' 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' and layering in staggeringly accurate detail and penetrative personal analysis. She's got a vocabulary to rival Countdown's Suzi Dench and mic skills on a par with mid 90s Wu Tang Clan, the two interlinking here to craft a record that is peerless in today's music scene - her long form debut will blow your mind on first listen but will leave you struggling to put your finger on exactly what it is about it you love so much, her skills leaving you speechless whilst her insight will have you going away pondering what you've heard until you come back for more. We're pretty great at ruining this sort of stuff in the UK, piling on hyperbole without ever really understanding the material at hand so I'll shut up and just tell you to get on this one before it gathers too much attention and gets drowned in its own press acclaim. Tempest is ridiculously talented and admirably human and 'Everybody Down' is a deftly executed spectacle that deserves your undivided attention from beginning to end. Absolutely superb.
2. Eagulls - s/t
Does 'indie' even mean anything these days? Picking up a guitar and forming a band with your mates is regarded as a total waste of time by much of the music press, a wave of heard-it-all-before cynicism setting in before anyone's even heard the record. So it's even more of a joy when someone knocks out an album this good to make the pundits shut up and take notice. Leeds' Eagulls make music for our times, a feeling of suffocated rage filling every note of their debut as directionless tension reverberates around their raucous post punk clatter, a joyous catharsis to counteract the apathy and helplessness of modern Britain. This is the perfect piss and vinegar cocktail to throw back at everything you hate about the UK music scene right now - 'Eagulls' isn't just good, it's downright fucking indispensable.
3. Behemoth - The Satanist
Behemoth frontman Nergal had already piloted his band through a peerless course of Death Metal brilliance before being struck down with leukaemia a couple of years back so for him to come back from illness and make a record this good is nothing short of incredible. 'The Satanist' turns weakness into strength, his Black Metal past resurfacing in some terrifyingly caustic passages whilst the towering majesty of their more recent material remains firmly intact. The cover art even features the vocalist's own blood from his medical tests but you don't need to know the back story to appreciate 'The Satanist' - this is the sound of a true pioneer taking Metal to the next stage in its evolution. Utterly sublime.
4. Warpaint - s/t
Warpaint's debut seemed like a lifetime away when their stellar follow-up emerged in January, the campfire cool of 'Undertow' left behind for something way more expansive. I still can't wrap my head around this album, it feels like they've packed in so many sublevels that each listen strips back a layer to reveal something new and enchanting. Their debut blew my mind but 'Warpaint' sounds like music to lure Argonauts to their death, an intoxicating cocktail of grooves, beats and enraptured vocals that will make you feel like you're listening to a different band entirely. They've kept their profile up to stay big without ever becoming huge and this spellbinding second helping will have you falling in love all over again. There is still nobody like them out there.
5. Eno/Hyde - Someday World
Wading through a sea of 'bank advert indie' bands trying to recreate the elegant majesty of yesterday's electronic pioneers it's refreshing to see the old guard come back and show them all how it should be done. Brian Eno's ambient dreamscapes informed Underworld's earlier work and so matching him with frontman Karl Hyde couldn't fail to deliver, the two locking into a divine groove of lush production and hypnotic grace. Hyde's vocals lead the dance through sprightly revamps of Underworld's more beanbag friendly material and elsewhere they take off into the stratosphere to rival Eno at his cloud-touching zenith. 'Someday World' deserves to be seen as more than a mere side project, there's enough fuel in the tank for these two eggheads to go a whole lot further in this vein.
6. Mac Demarco - Salad Days
I'm normally not one for the mellow stuff, I like my music upbeat as a general rule but we all need to take our foot off the pedal from time to time and take some time to chill. Mac Demarco is all about taking life easy and he's got the perfect musical accompaniment for his chilled worldview, 'Salad Days' building on an already impressive back catalogue to ease you through the day. His delivery is gentle without being twee and every track lets you float on down the river nice and easy, memorable hooks drifting in like rays of sunlight as he weaves his magic. Mac's got one of those gap-toothed grins and you can picture him smiling his way through every moment of this gorgeous ride. You cool, cool bastard you.
7. Gallon Drunk - The Soul Of The Hour
Gallon Drunk are the sort of band you're happy to see back in action, their absence triggering concerns that they've split up or perhaps more conceivably shuffled off this mortal coil through a catalogue of vices. Thankfully they're still alive and kicking and 'The Soul Of The Hour' is perhaps their best work yet, a glorious spectacle of dishevelled brilliance. James Johnston and co stagger their way through seven slabs of mesmeric late night drama, tracks spiralling off into a haze of booze fuelled romance and thundering pathos. They're not afraid to spread their weight over longer songs here, building up into howling epics that'll leave you stunned and amazed. File this one against the Nick Cave and Mazzy Star records from last year as another one to listen to with a bottle of whisky in the wee small hours.
8. Tripykon - Melana Chasmata
Extreme Metal visionary Thomas Gabriel Fischer has locked into a reliable schedule of dropping another masterpiece every World Cup year, although unlike World Cups they're all consistently fantastic. 'Melana Chasmata' follows Tripykon's staggering 2010 debut and the Celtic Frost's equally wonderful comeback record from 2006 to deliver once again with a barrage of colossal riffs, doomy ambiance and elephantine weight that'll have you cowering behind the sofa in terror. Unlike many Metal veterans who burn out or simply end up recycling their old ideas Fischer seems to be improving with age - I can't wait to hear him banging 'em out at 80 with a lifetime of woe behind him.
9. Lockah - Yahoo Or The Highway
Bedroom electronics seems to be the new outlet for today's youth with a universe of bleeps and drum effects ripe for exploitation by creative young minds. Aberdeen's Lockah aims for the livelier end of the spectrum, throwing out chunky piano riffs and twirling synths over a solid base of House rhythms with added bounce to make his debut a thoroughly enjoyable ride from beginning to end. We've got the moodier end of dance music catered for already so it's nice to see someone turn their talents to making stuff you can actually dance to. 'Yahoo....' is a pleasant surprise, a bout of electro gymnastics that'll have you picking a different favourite every time you stick it on for another run.
10. Gardens and Villa - Dunes
Electropop songwriting has been back in vogue for a while but there are still precious few bands capable of writing material that doesn't sound like vapid tripe fit for an afternoon stuck in the underwear section at American Apparel. Gardens and Villa sound like an outdoor furniture outlet but make silky synth pop worthy of Talk Talk and Bronski Beat back in the day, delectable hooks chiming in with a sublime recreation of the stick mic 'n' pink neon vibe of Top Of The Pops circa 1984. 'Dunes' is the soundtrack to a debonair aperitif rather than a late night bosh-out but there's plenty of substance behind the style and this is one that has enough to withstand multiple listens as the year wears on.