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I thought this was a tradition, but apparently it's not (see 2007). But my tens of readers deserve my honest judgements on the best records of the year just passing by us. It would be bullshit to claim I could recommend ten records, as I did last time. You know what? Records mostly aren't worth recommending. But I listen to hundreds of them (which I think some people might forget about me—they think the activity is something passive and trivial, like watching the news, or horse-racing highlights on YouTube). I will break my own fingers if any downloader or purchaser doesn't like any of the following five records:
5. Half Man Half Biscuit - CSI:Ambleside
Disclosure: I'm not impartial when it comes to HMHB. The thing is, Half Man Half Biscuit aren't some ridiculous enduring artists like Metallica, or Celine Dion, or the Rolling Stones. It's all the real thing: they'll never go away, and they'll never be bad. It's not cool to think someone else is cool, that's the truth no-one is ever willing to admit: but Nigel Blackwell is cool. It's not Cammell Laird Social Club–level stuff I'm recommending, but let's be proud of proper accomplishment for once, not nonsense first-record stuff and the like. Let's be proud of 'Totnes Bickering Fair' and the glorious ballad-cum-piss-take that is 'Lord Hereford's Knob.' And Nigel Blackwell's probably just wanking on the carpet watching the Poker Channel all day eating those expensive German biscuits while he writes the songs. Beat that.
4. Various - Indietracks: An Indiepop Compilation
Is recommending a compilation a cop-out? Is someone else doing the work for me? That's capitalism, like it or not. Listen to both volumes for the full effect. I'm a fool for not really going to festivals if this is the kind of fare served up. For the large part British, obviously, but not strictly. Allo Darlin' and Punk TV produce stand-out foreign entries. Sheffielders Slow Down Tallahassee's track is another winner.
3. The Futureheads - 'I Wouldn't Be Like This If You Were Here'
I love you, lads, and it was great to see you last time you were in New York. Only the lack of a B-side (and the Good Natured) knocked you down from the top. But, as a waster, I know the truth. You've written an anthem. I wouldn't be like this if she were here. I only hope some people get to hear it.
2. Various - Future Sound of Russia
A joke, isn't it? But no! Russia has offered up much of the good pop I've heard this year. Who knew Novosibirsk was a real place where real things happen, not just a place you read about when there are car-bombings? A million bonus points to Wonderkid for sounding ridiculous singing in English. Like the Germans used to do.
1. The Good Natured - Warriors
One can be a shit and actually be what some call 'sensitive,' and I call 'receptive.' And I know the chorus at 2.00 on 'Rose' is just achingly beautiful. I have wept once before listening to a record (the Field Mice, 'Emma's House'), and I've nearly done so to this record recently. I literally have found it hard to stop playing it. Like a drug it is. Keyboard and (unfairly) maligned drum machine? That's it? Billy Bragg only had a bloody acoustic guitar, but he told the best little stories through the best tunes, too. And what else are pop songs for? The world doesn't need to fill with meaningless, nasty repetitions backed by rubbish electronics. Kate Nash has taken care of that, bless her heart. Sarah McIntosh has the most pleasing, honest voice to grace pop today, the songs are perfect, and, well, she seems very nice. Not everyone who's made a good record is. A real record for once.