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Everyone was intrigued by the potential of shirtless Manc publicity-dodgers WU LYF, but no-one really expected them to come out with an album as stunning as ‘Go Tell Fire To The Mountain’. Apart from themselves, that is – their cockiness was duly converted into a record as unique as it was accomplished, Ellery Roberts’ dog-bark vocals fusing with the glowing guitars of ‘Such A Sad Puppy Dog’, capturing...

 
 
 

"Do you wanna live?” Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards screamed at crowds across the world this year, brow furrowed and voice a low growl, like she’d personally be over with her warpaint to sort you out if you didn’t answer yes. That attitude runs through ‘Whokill’, from ballsy sex-song ‘Powa’ to the elated ‘You Yes You’, on an album that could have garnered sneers for its theatrical honesty,...

 
 
 

The Top 40’s bursting with a host of joyless songs about being at the club, and here was a genuine first: 
a whole album of songs that perfectly captured the fizz, intrigue and sheer fun of nights spent out at the discotheque. South Londoner Kathleen Brien seemed like 
an unsuspecting ambassador for 
the new wave of dance music, but if you dismissed her, you did so at your peril. ‘On A Mission’ proved...

 
 
 

Annie Clark’s third album is not only her best yet, but her most beguiling too. Touching on the sheer weirdness that started creeping out of Brit-rock in the late ’60s (Bowie, Abbey Road-era Beatles) and combining it with the same ‘anything goes’ sensibilities of Kurt Vile and Ariel Pink, she’s become a siren for intelligent, pure alt-rock. And while on the face of it melody appears to be king, listen a...

 
 
 

After ‘Humbug’, listening to ‘Suck It And See’ for the first time offered the ‘Yesss… still got it!’ relief of a five-hour tantric session the night after a spot of brewer’s droop. They’d later manifest their funtime credentials in leather trousers, quiffs and videos with tits flying all over the place, but the most potent evidence of the Monkeys’ renewed vigour was in this album, full of...

 
 
 

Three albums in, few people really knew or cared who the fuck Kurt Vile was – and then came March, when this beautifully gloomy slice of “epic folk” (his words) parked itself in the canon of classic American songwriting, turning its creator into a longhair antihero for generation meh. To come to be talked about in the same breath as Bob Seger, Tom Petty and – most fittingly – Bob Dylan in less than a...

 
 
 

As a feast of aural eroticism it may have made us blush but, more importantly, as a piece of state-of-the-art indie-pop, ‘Smother’ was astonishing. The delicate choirboy grace of the Kendal quartet remained from their previous records, but on their third album it pulsated with urgent desire and need. By reaching back and borrowing a few tricks from the sonic broom cupboards of ‘Sensual World’-era Kate Bush...

 
 
 

Before ‘Skying’, there was a lot of talk that The Horrors could be on the verge of creating their masterpiece – their ‘Screamadelica’, their ‘The Stone Roses’, their ‘Ladies And Gentlemen…’. ‘Skying’ isn’t quite their masterpiece – ‘Primary Colours’, NME’s Number One album of 2009, is actually a marginally greater piece of work by, well, just the two steps – but it was the album...

 
 
 

Losing to PJ Harvey must be about as galling as coming second at Scrabble to Stephen Fry – a foregone conclusion that’s unlikely to give Joe Mount sleepless nights. Indeed, he can feel pretty pleased with himself, because if ‘Let England Shake’ clinched the World Cup, then Metronomy’s ‘The English Riviera’ is at the apex of indie’s Premier League.
Like their Brit contemporaries The Horrors...

 
 
 

There are many, many reasons to call ‘Let England Shake’ a masterpiece and the best record of 2011. So let’s just stick with this one, shall we? PJ Harvey’s 10th studio album is, at root, a work of serious engagement with the world, at a time when people on every continent seem to be grasping the importance of doing just that.
Everywhere you turned this year, there was the smell of fear. Westerners...

 
 
 
 
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