Here is the Top Ten and I’m rather pleased with it. There’s a bit of dance music, some esoteric British aptitude/attitude and experimentalism, plenty of guitars and plenty of synthesisers, some hearts worn on sleeves and some curious meanderings that keep you guessing. These are recordings I return to again and again, old friends and worthy cohorts. I could cope quite happily with just these ten LPs for company and ne’er feel bored or unchallenged. Deciding which Sufjan Stevens album was my favourite proved tricky but the sheer class and majesty of Michigan won through.
1. Sufjan Stevens – Michigan
More breathy and less vigorous than Illinois. An understated classic teeming with subtle glimpses into ordinary lives and humble routines. Makes trailer parks and K-Mart jobs appear utterly mesmerizing. Contains countless unreservedly astounding and beautiful songs. Spine-tingling and essential.
2. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
A colossal kitchen sink is dropped on the Prairie State from a considerable height; the resulting blast offers significant aural treasures. Songs about serial killers, superheroes and sightings of extraterrestrial craft intersperse with more personal reflections on death and self-discovery. Striking American songcraft dominates every second. Every home should possess this recording and play it at least fortnightly.
3. Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther
A delectable and rather unfashionable collection of songs transporting the listener into a strange other-world of isolated communities, hunting trips, hardship and youthful brides. Authentically bewitching.
4. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Perfect songs galore. Uncompromising and belligerent and challenging and tuneful and gritty and poignant: a grateful audience genuflects.
5. Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans
Weighty and reflective. Endorses the ‘less is more’ maxim with pared down arrangements supporting introspective musings and spiritual contemplations. Utterly beautiful.
6. Calexico – Feast Of Wire
A spectacular aural trip into sun-baked one horse towns and scorpion-infested desert-scapes. Evocative and resonant. Big, big music as wide and as awesome and as sweeping as a Monument Valley sunset.
7. Radiohead – Kid A
A guitar-free zone and convincing evidence that electronic music can proffer moving and emotional sentiments. Challenging yet reassuring; obtuse yet charismatic; otherworldly yet recognizable.
8. Scritti Politti – White Bead, Black Beer
Homemade treats. Tender, delicate and haunting lyrical offerings and soaring melodies. A plush pleasure from start to finish and - important this - a grower that throws up new hooks, new ideas with each spin.
9. Ryan Adams - Gold
Was playing this fellow’s Heartbreaker this morning and experiencing pangs of guilt that it hadn’t made the thirty. Gold deserves this high placing though. A storming and sprawling set of brooding and/or bombastic belters.
10. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
Sardonic wit and acerbic knowingness gleefully smothered in big beat beauty. Glorious songs about cultural differences, growing old and general world-weariness with the catchiest IDM rampaging in the background. All killer, no filler from the coolest man on the planet.