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COOL LIST 2010

 

It's NME's favourite time of year, as we herald the dudes du jour.

Disagree with our choices? Have your say here. And watch a behind-the-scenes video of the Cool List cover shoot here.

The Cool List 2010 was originally published in the 23 October issue of NME.

Have your say - Vote for the readers' Cool List

 
 
 

There’s something to be said for a band that inspire hatred so fervent that critics spaff out nonsensical phrases like “continuum” and “coordinates” in fits of outrage; a band that provoke YouTube commenters to summon every offensive musical touchstone they can think of (“Jamiroquai, Simply Red, Queen”) in an attempt to express their disgust at someone who dares flirt with so many lavish,...

 
 
 

Marina has always craved fame. And now, somehow she’s turned into a not-too-polished pop star with a Top Five album and an outrageous gob on her. She knows full well the irony of singing monstrous pop tunes about the divviness of fame while clad in lavish costumes and Elton sunglasses, but do you think she gives a shit?

Giggle all you like, but Marina’s having the last filthy cackle.

 
 
 

OK, so picture this what-if, yeah? What if Rizzo had never got knocked up by Kenickie but instead fucked him off and hitched a ride on the first ‘big rig’ outta town, somehow ending up in San Diego with the kind of badass that could roll Kenickie up in a cracked cigar leaf and blaze him whole. Then what if she worked out some process – part science, part alchemy – of creating newfangled hybrid spins on her...

 
 
 

A large part of being cool, of course, is being your own person rather than a second-rate copy of someone else’s idea. Bombay Bicycle Club might have got a lot bigger a lot sooner if they’d been more willing to rummage in the dressing-up box, to act like divas or to shoot their mouth off. Instead they played to their strengths, went for the long game, and finally, with ‘Flaws’, inherited the Earth....

 
 

21

Jay-Z

 

Jay-Z is more than a rapper; he’s our Elvis: an emblem to possibility and ascending to amazingness; more in-the-blood ‘New York’ than all of the Brooklyn bands put together. But it’s more than that; he provided the link between the gangsta-rap of the ’90s and the progressive playground the last decade has seen it bloom into.

Every time he hits what looks like a career summit, he swerves sideways,...

 
 
 

The striking, white-haired, fraggle-throated frontwoman was the breakout star of this year’s Emerge NME Radar Tour, with the band’s symphonic garage-rock winning over hearts and minds across the country. Onstage, she’s a veritable force of nature and years spent toiling unsigned mean that she’s refreshingly free of bullshit.

As the band prepare to release their debut album proper – last year’s...

 
 
 

By rights, when frontmen of indie bands relaunch themselves as surname-free solo artists it’s usually time to cringe. Add a switch from Gang Of Four to clubland’s dancefloors and many were predicting a Kele Okereke-shaped car crash. Well, with solo album ‘The Boxer’ and his festival slots going off like the raves he hoped for, the sceptics have been well and truly disappointed.

“I’ve never...

 
 
 

You know how everyone goes on about how brilliant it is that bands can now just write a song and then upload it to MySpace and cut out the record companies, who are now all totally fucked? Well, that’s total bullshit, and Theo Hutchcraft is the only person in music saying so. He sees the bigger picture – that bands should be about ridiculously meticulous preparation, about signing massive record deals and then...

 
 
 

For ‘Losing My Edge’ alone we should have retired Murphy’s number years ago and given him the keys to the Cool List Lounge. The odd thing though is rather than rest on his laurels, James Murphy actually gets cooler.

Delivering ‘This Is Happening’ and the ‘Greenberg’ soundtrack within months of one another was pretty impressive, but having also written for a literary mag and played gigs that...

 
 
 

It’s thanks to Yannis that we first heard about Oxford’s Blessing Force scene, made up of skittering, minimal R&B perverters Pet Moon (the new project from ex-Foals, ex-Youthmovies man Andrew Mears), Foals’ sensitive younger brothers Trophy Wife, pastoral chill waver Chad Valley and more besides.

This is someone hellbent on cutting the crap in interviews to highlight the bands he loves so much.

 
 

15

Robyn

 

People always praise nerd-friendly bloke bands for being go-your-own-way music industry trailblazers – but what about Robyn? Self-releasing three albums in one year, with not one filler track between them; that’s revolutionary. The ‘Body Talk’ trilogy is evidence of Robyn’s fearsome work rate.

She’s a super-driven fembot who’s already done 20 phone interviews and churned out 10...

 
 
 

Calling yourself Zola Jesus when you grew up in Nowheresville, Wisconsin and your real name’s Nika Danilova? That’s a classic pop-star affectation, right? No, actually – she came up with the name on the first day of high school, in a bid to “alienate” her classmates. That gives you some idea of Zola Jesus’ contrariness. She’s obviously a goth, but she claims she isn’t.

Now 21, as a teenage...

 
 
 

Few on this list would cheerfully admit to having been a teenage choirboy, but then, Hayden Thorpe, chief vocalist of Kendal’s Wild Beasts, has never appeared terribly troubled by popular notions of fashion. Instead, he packs his songs with daring poetry and feats of lyrical antiquity that cut a merry dance and dare you to follow. Your more bookish rock lyricists can often seem like rather cold fish, more...

 
 
 

And so it came to pass, as one day it inevitably would, that the NME office was forced to hold a discussion about whether it’s possible for a man with an entirely yellow head to be cool. And the conclusion reached was: yes, so long as that man is Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil. For here is a man who has laughed in the face of pin-up convention and dived headfirst into the ‘canary yellow’ tanker at Dulux....

 
 
 

‘Band Of The People’ is a cliché, but come on: what else can you call Mumford & Sons? The ubiquity they have achieved is such that even the people who do not like them have been forced to get involved. At the centre of it all is young Marcus. His voice – to borrow a phrase Bowie used to describe Dylan – is like sand and glue.

His eyes tell you all you need to know. He plays kick drum, one-man-band...

 
 
 

All the Richard Dawkins acolytes who drone on about how all religion is benighted, all bollocks and basically pure evil, need a few elementary lessons in Darwin-ism. Darwin Deez is indie’s exemplar of all that’s positive of living according to your holy principles. His lifelong devotion to the teachings of Indian mystic Meher Baba seems to have gifted him with the warm, graceful, joss-stick hazy spiritual air...

 
 
 

Some people are just, y’know, born with it. No matter that Carl was the one who kept us waiting so long for the Libs reunion – and despite all the dodgy acting and modelling shoots – a Cool List without a mention of Carl Barât would be as inconcievable as an egg-less omelette.

For almost a decade he’s been the standard of cool by which all other are judged, and the grace with which The...

 
 
 

He claims influence from RZA, Aphex Twin and The Smurfs. He wanted his band’s last album to sound like “dancehall meets Steve Reich”. He’s a bastard for the bassoon. For some the vaporous mists of ‘cool’ aren’t built on attitude, wit or trouser, but on the sense that they’re just not of our planet.

Such a man is Jack Barnett from These New Puritans: smasher of cracker-covered melons with a...

 
 
 

Cheekbones on their own do not make a star, but if they did, Jonathan Pierce’s imperiously perfect face would be a diamond-encrusted AAA pass to the rarefied boulevards of Icon City. But he also has a colossal ambition that contrasts with The Drums’ C86-tinged summer-crush pop, a charmingly careless combination of perfectly straightfaced deadpan humour and ludicrously grand statements like, “Stars will...

 
 
 

Some people might ask why and how a 52-year-old man who refers to Facebook as “The Facebook” in song has in fact turned out to be one of the most relevant forces in UK music. We like his suits as much as he does, but the secret to his cool is simpler than the leg-hugging cut of his cloth – it’s just that ‘Wake Up The Nation’ was one of the best, most exciting albums of 2010.

Hitting the jackpot...

 
 
 

Almost every band we’ve spoken to in the last year, from the Manics to Mumford & Sons, have – without prompting, and way before their Mercury win – sung the praises of The xx. There are many reasons why that’s the case, not least the small matter of having made the album of 2009. But by far the most significant one is Romy Madley Croft.

She looks incredible and much like the music she makes,...

 
 
 

Whether she’s single-handedly resurrecting bubblegum grunge-pop for the Twitter generation or skinning up massive doobies, Beth Cosentino oozes slacker style. The true embodiment of California cool – and by that we mean she’s the absolute antithesis of Katy Perry – she’s addicted to Seinfeld, totally in love with being lazy and completely obsessed with her pet cat Snacks (want proof? Google...

 
 
 

Obama thinks he’s a “jackass” and, for a while there, we were inclined to agree. But after a rough couple of years – the VMA debacle, that ill-advised Auto-Tune album – Kanye West is reinvented, rejuvenated and back in the upper echelons of the Cool List. Why? Well the humanising effect of Twitter is one reason. Most artists use their account to remind you their new single is out on Monday; Kanye’s is...

 
 
 

Pop only functions when artists so ridiculously brazen – whether brilliantly or offensively so – cause everyone else to chase, groping desperately at influences like a greedy Supermarket Sweep contestant. Although Gaga’s totally badass, that didn’t happen with her as she just took pre-existing filth-pop and put a mask on it. Janelle Monáe, however, is a new kettle of fish.

She’s a mixture of...

 
 
 

Musically, it’s been an upside-down kind of year. Rather than cyber-grime or hologram-hop, 2010 has been headlined by the anachronistic nu-folk types tinkling their ivories, squeezing their harmoniums, plucking their banjos, sliding their pedal-steels into a future no-one could have predicted for the second decade of the new millennium. So it seems fitting that its standout musical figure has such an upside-down...

 
 
 
 
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