1. Liars – Scissor
Art rock’s scariest bastards are back… so don’t take your eyes off them whatever you do. This might start off all spooky and quiet, but before you know it, ‘Scissor’ is at your throat with a bloody-edged riff and a brutal howl. The first release from new album ‘Sister World’ is a feral thriller.
2. Hot Chip – One Life Stand
It seems like an eternity since infamous Elliott School alumni Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard got their shit together to release some paranoid electro pop. The Hot Chip boys have finally emerged from the collaboration, compilation and solo project marathon they seem to have been running since ‘Made In The Dark’ though, and the first single from ‘One Life Stand’ is a splice of bombastic ’80s electro paired with a dreamy vocal from Taylor that dances fancifully over what sounds like a computerised trombone.
3. Delphic – Doubt
The more we hear from this lot, the more excited we get. The stuttering, staccato vowels that open this track give way to sky-reaching radio dance-rock and the most urgent of choruses, wracked with angst and clutching at synths for cold comfort.
4. Badly Drawn Boy – Is There Nothing We Could Do?
It’s that time of year when the icy black rock that is your heart thaws a little and where holidays and general goodwill to all men allows for a little sentimentality in your life. So the timing couldn’t be better for Damon Gough to release this ballady, weepy number. It’s part of a soundtrack the woolly-hatted one has written for a film by comedian Caroline Aherne called The Fattest Man In Britain, about an obese man who becomes a living freakshow by attempting to maintain the title of the UK’s largest fella. Gentle, rolling and string-swept, it sounds like Damon trying to snatch the crooner crown back from Richard Hawley.
5. Fan Death – Cannibal
These Canadian disco witches are mistresses of high camp, and their deft way with hi-NRG basslines, itchy string-stabs and slinky sauce has allowed them to weather the demise of that whole Italo-disco revival thing (remember Heartbreak? LIIIEEEES!). Don’t worry about scenes, just get some wedges and glitter on and swish round the living room like you’re in The Last Days Of Disco.
6. Exlovers – Wicked Game
The xx captured our hearts this year with many a subtle echo of this deathless track. Yes, Chris Isaak’s wounded rockabilly bad boy shtick is cheesy as hell, but don’t tell us you weren’t having a little swoon. London lovelies Exlovers have gone one further and smeared their mucky paws all over the original.
7. Late Of The Pier - Blueberry
Many uses, the humble blueberry. Rich source of antioxidants, vitamins and of course, muffins. But now, also the inspiration for the return of our fresh-faced prog voyagers. Squigglingly vibrant with heavy doses of both Kate Bush and White Album-Beatles, this new tracks unveils a maturer but no less exciting LOTP – pretty much what Muse wish they could still afford to sound like. In fact, it’s so scrumptiously immersive and rich, we could bake them into a pie and EAT THEM UP.
8. The Kissaway Trail - SDP
This Danish quintet had us all-a-flutter two years ago with their debut album, and this first cut from their second, ‘Sleep Mountain’, has us palpitating again for their dream-pop-tinged melodic rock, kind of like a less proggy Mew, or a gutsier The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. No-one knows what the letters stand for, but we’re presuming not Social Democratic Party.
9. The Soft Pack – Answer To Yourself
Rougher and readier than a sexy badger, we’re still loving these San Diego scamps. They’re particularly attractive when they’re angry, as on this scrappy, stonewashed-denim track from their debut due early next year.
10. Smoke Fairies – Gastown
Produced by one Jack White, Smoke Fairies’ latest was always going to raise eyebrows. Their earlier alt.country offerings could be a little too prim, but there’s something darker afoot here. Their mirroring vocals make Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire sound like 40-a-day smokers; and it’s paired with some nifty guitar picking and a love story to rival any Patsy Cline number.