Well, here we are, at the end of another year, the rise of the MOR Bluntinis continues unabated, while the NME continue to make up cobblers names for bands that sound vaguely similar (Look out for the New Skiffle Revolution at some point next year) Indeed, this could just as easily have been written twelve months ago.
That said, 2006 has been a particularly stellar year for music, oh sorry, did I say music? I meant bitching. Kasabian have bitched about Razorlight, whoâve bitched about the Kooks, whoâve bitched about Kasabian, whoâve bitched about the Arctic Monkeys, whoâve said something unintelligible and put their hoods up. But donât worry, youâll find none of them here. Thatâs right; your eyes are not deceiving you, itâs a top ten albums list without Arctic Monkeys, deal with it.
While Kasabian and co have proven adept at bitching this year, none of them have quite matched up to the incisive, caustic put-downs dispensed by the Dorothy-Parker-in-Reebokâs author of the number 10 album of 2006.
10. Lily Allen
Famous for her foul-tempered blogs she may be, but Lily Allen has given pop a refreshing kick in the arse in 2006 with her quintessentially British songs. Put aside the horrific rhyming of âTescoâ and âal-frescoâ, and youâll find a pristine collection of songs that are as consistently witty as they are catchy.
There have been a few critics whoâve allowed the fact that sheâs Keith Allenâs daughter and therefore doesnât really have the working-class credentials of Mike Skinner or Dizzee Rascal, to mar their enjoyment of the songs, which, the be quite frank is missing the point. The songs speak for themselves, so there.
9. The Young Knives
Voices of Animals and Men
Ah well, while weâre on the subject of quintessential Britishness we might as well move onto number nine, by The Young Knives. This record is a cut above the droves of XTC influenced bands because it is infused with both wry humour and raw passion. The line âyou were screaming at your mum and I was punching your dadâ from Sheâs Attracted To, particularly is delivered with a blood-vessel busting intensity, which almost makes you forget the silliness of the lyric. There are plenty more gems here, and much more variety than you might expect.
HIGHLIGHT: Here Comes the Rumour Mill
8. Liam Frost and the Slowdown Family
Show Me How the Spectres Dance
Britainâs answer to Bright Eyes? Maybe. One of the most exciting new singer-songwriters around? Definitely. Show Me How the Spectres Dance is a deftly brilliant collection of folk-rock songs that will undoubtedly attain more popularity and acclaim in the future. He already has a massive following in Manchester and thereâs no reason why Mr Frost and his âfamilyâ canât become huge everywhere else if this record is anything to go by. Oh wait, there is, the public are stupid.
HIGHLIGHT: The Mourners of St Pauls
7. Plan B
Who Needs Actions When You Got Words
Plan B has crafted an amazing album that manages to sound furious from start to finish. Taking on subjects like drug addiction, murder, underage sex and religious fanaticism, he is lyrically light years ahead of most of his peers; his songs forming the perfect antidote to the virulent class hatred spewed by the tabloids every single day.
Mixing hip-hop with acoustic guitar textures, Mr âBâ is one of the most unique artists to have emerged this year, and can disarm you with an incisive slice of humour mixed in with the vitriol, the Ned Flanders reference being particularly amusing.
Dreamt For Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain
Rarely has an album born out of such despair sounded so beautiful. Veering from skeletal rockers to whispered ballads, Dreamt For Light Yearsâ¦ is a musical feast from an artist who is a grizzled veteran compared to our previous entrants. Mark Linkous has battled his demons, and this record is a wonderful scar-bearing document of triumph, rather than a bitter account of defeat. Grand.
Through the Windowpane
It may not be apparent that this is a great record on first listen; in fact, it might seem a little underwhelming. But there will be a point, I guarantee you, where Fyfe Dangerfieldâs skewed, romantic outlook burrows beneath your skin, like a bouncy, Brummie parasite, and refuses to budge.
Guitars played with drills, bizarre pseudonyms and whizzy psychedelia are all par for the course on this truly unique album.
HIGHLIGHT: Sao Paulo
4. Joan As Police Woman
Classy, resonant and distinctive. Three words that go some way to describing this album. Not, very and good. Three words that go some way to describing X Factor winner Leona. Guess which one will sell more? You guessed correctly. Lousy humans.
HIGHLIGHT: Real Life
3. Thom Yorke
Despite this album coming from a man with not one, but two superfluous letters in his name, Thom Yorke has crafted the most stripped down record of his career. With Radiohead, his twitchy melancholia is wrapped in swathes of guitar and electronic beeps, but this album shows that Yorke can carve out a Bjork-esque niche as a solo artist; if he chooses to do soâ¦ which, speaking as a devout worshipper at the church of Radiohead, I hope he doesnât, and keeps this kind of thing as a side project. Nervous? Me? Nah.
HIGHLIGHT: Cymbal Rush
Itâs Not a Rumour
A hip-hop album of this quality nowadays is rare. Dealing with the issues US rappers used to deal with before a milieu of money and bitch toting chancers took control, Itâs Not a Rumour is a truly electrifying record. Akala is part of an exciting new UK grime scene that is lyrically, and now in production, putting most US hip-hop to shame.
Many of the tracks on the album are shot through with heavy metal guitar, mirroring the righteous anger of the MC, resulting in a huge sounding record that serves as a refreshing blast between the ears.
I know this is a recurring theme here, but why the hell does the frigginâ Game and A-chuffinâ-kon get round-the-clock, relentless, excruciating, kill-me-now airplay, while a gifted rapper with a real social conscience lingers in the lower reaches of the charts? Grrr.
1. Fionn Regan
The End of History
Well, by now Iâm pretty cheesed off about many things; the radio, rubbish rappers, James Blunt of course, and, actually, people in general. (Merry Christmas!) But, here I have the antidote. The End of History is a magnificent example of pure, simple songwriting. It is perfect late night listening, each track perfectly executed folk-noir, many relying solely on an acoustic guitar and Reganâs chilling vocals. Yes, itâs been done before, but Reganâs take on it is tremendous and deserves to be heard on a wider scale. Breathtaking stuff.
HIGHLIGHT: Snowy Atlas Mountains
Well, thanks for reading chaps. Itâs been a pleasure, and may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and good luck for 2007. If you would care to contest this list or you disagree with it entirely, please address your complaints to, [email protected], or alternatively, do your own list. Itâll probably take you as long to write it as it took you to read this.
Compiled by Ben Davis