Effortlessness takes a lot of work, and there are few people who do such a smooth job of taking their technical geekery, dance obsessions and high-falutin’ lyrical inspirations 
and styling it out into some of the year’s most fetter-free and joyous pop music than our intrepid St Albans trio. Their onstage collaborations are inspiring to a new generation of bosh-heads, but ultimately, it’s all about those...

 
 
 

Previous to ‘Dye It Blonde’, Smith Westerns were shouty, bratty, spotty and oiky fuckwits who didn’t actually need proper lyrics because nobody could hear what the fuck they were going on about anyway. That was fine, of course, but what a leap! In 2011 they returned obsessed with Suede, Marc Bolan and Noel Gallagher’s six-string set-up (circa 1995), churning out one of the great guitar albums of the year...

 
 
 

When attention spans are increasingly shot to pieces, 
Axel Willner makes music that circumnavigates the Tumblr-numbed brain, tuning instead into some natural, eternal rhythm. On ‘Looping...’ he perfected his style of rich techno fastidiously built from loops of sound. There’s no slow build or euphoric drop (Jesus, please), no sonic cues telling you when its OK to, y’know, feel. Instead these songs are...

 
 
 

Black Lips have said many things worth remembering this year: “Tourbuses are for bathrobe-wearing motherfuckers”; “We’re personally responsible for many people’s alcoholism”; and, most fittingly, “We don’t give a fuck!” These five words define everything they do, from their chaotic early albums to their dumbass, X-rated live shows. That’s why they demanded a producer with a Grammy for their...

 
 
 

There’s something special about Girls going kinda overground in 2011. While 2009’s spiky debut was undoubtedly a brilliant record, the fact is no-one bought it. So to see touts scrambling to buy and sell tickets outside their tour dates here last month felt like a proper victory – that as well as being praised by every cool band on the planet, the wider world was finally starting to take notice too. This...

 
 
 

On first glance, Janine Rostron’s Planningtorock project seemed a peculiarly art-world experiment. Even discounting her co-writing credits with The Knife on ‘Tomorrow, In A Year’, there 
was enough eerie percussion and drone at play on ‘W’ to suggest an artist who spent most of 2011 poncing around Berlin’s avant spaces. And while pretentiousness is good, pair it with a pop instinct and you isolate...

 
 
 

Way back in February, when Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr announced that he was releasing a solo album, we had a little laugh to ourselves and wondered for a minute if it’d be even half as good as the one the drummer from Slipknot put out. Ten months later and we’re still playing ‘Big Talk’ so often it’s probably quite unhealthy. But to be honest, it still feels very good indeed. Doused in whiskey...

 
 

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A quartet who didn’t so much take influence from the trailer trash halycon days of ’90s indie rock as dive head-first into its sharks-in-leather-jacket-infested waters and gleefully bathe in the swathes of muddied sonic H20. Sure, their debut dug deep into the combined, low-slung, tunneling DNA of messrs Mascis, Moore and Malkmus, but this wasn’t pure parody. Frontman Daniel Blumberg created a wholly...

 
 
 

Tom Petty. The Cars. The Psychedelic Furs. Um, The Traveling Wilburys. Such legends of ’80s US radio rock were the touchstones of Noah & The Whale’s immaculate third album, ‘Last Night On Earth’, in which Charlie Fink left the relationship turmoils documented on 2009’s ‘First Days Of Spring’ for dust and hit the 
open highway with the top down, shades on and a roadmap to nowhere in particular. The...

 
 
 

Having proved their avant-garde credentials with ‘West Ryder...’, album four allowed Kasabian to get on with the simple business of being Britain’s most beloved band. Not that there was much ‘simple’ in ‘Velociraptor!’ and its mescaline-drenched flights of fancy into the desert and beyond; it just had the new directness and, yes, even the subtlety of a band free of any need to prove themselves. The...

 
 
 
 
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