For me this has been one of the best years for music in a long time. A handful of new bands have emerged with debut albums that have set the tone for a promising career, and this is the first time I have struggled to narrow down the list of favourites... rather than struggle to fill it. Accomplished debuts from The Early Years and The Longcut just missed out on a place, as well as albums from returning artists like Yo La Tengo, Yeah Yeah Yeah's and M. Ward finally making it clear to me what all the fuss is about. And Pearl Jam had a new album and put on the show of a lifetime in London.
My top albums, reduced to as few as possible and in a vague ascending order:
6. Tapes 'n' Tapes - The Loon
With the awesome single leading the charge (see below) this self-released debut from the Minneapolis band has all the right ingredients, and as one inspired hack wrote "This is the record I'd want to make if I formed a band". It's certainly not perfect, and although it never lulls it doesn't quite flow in a couple of places... but for a debut album it's awesome.
5. Oxford Collapse - Remember the Night Parties
These guys were a shot from the blue and if this was a November/December list they'd probably take the gold medal. Again it's a slightly uneven start, but by the midway point I'm totally hooked. Pure garage band fun.
4. The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth
I've been so generally underwhelmed by The Strokes that it took a hooky copy of this mid year to even provoke me to try before I buy... but I take it all back. Far more adventurous that Room On Fire and an easy equal to Is This It?
3. Band of Horses - Everything All The Time
The ups and downs or the tone of an album has been on my mind recently and this is possibly the one album in this list that gets it right. Mellow start, build up, high point around the middle, wind down, strong finish. A definite band to watch.
2. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium
I was already thinking the worst when this album arrived, and the double track listing took a look to break down. It's biggest flaw is the length and pacing - as track by track there's hardly a dud on here. Easily their best album, with some absolute classic tracks. Their next one will surely get it just right...
1. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
You can argue that it's a 2005 release, but since it took off 12 months ago this infectious debut has never faltered and never lulled on rotation. You can't listen to track one - which is surely a negative - but it's like a non-stop rollercoaster ride with your friend who's one drink a way from plastered, with a finale that should never stop.
Midlake - Head Home. Great rolling vibe that is slightly lacking on the album as a whole.
Tapes 'n Tapes - Insistor. I thought it might dull, but it's still the note-perfect highlight off The Loon.
Chili Peppers - Snow (Hey Oh). For a track that momentarily sounds like it's heading into funky monk territory, this is possibly RHCP's greatest. The constant build up and the amazing final chorus are inbelievebale. Just when you can't take any more you can almost hear Frusciante plugging in an extra guitar.
Brick - a great Sundance debut
The Departed - flawed but thoroughly entertaining
Little Miss Sunshine - touching, with non-stop laughs
Awesome - awesome. Resurrecting the near zombie that is the concert movie.
Biggest Let Down:
20th Dec 2006 - Tumblr5
Some Loud Thunder
Leaving The Nest
Another touching Pixar tale from Pete Docter. Stylish and inspiring.
29th Dec 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Perfect Christmas movie that sails close to the wind of parody without getting swept away.
26th Dec 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Stirring, straight shooting, well rounded finale to a classic trilogy.
13th Dec 2020Read more 4.5 star reviews
Note perfect, brisk, entertainingly convoluted classic.
13th Dec 2020Read more 5 star reviews
Genre defining 80s classic that still hits all the right notes.
13th Dec 2020Read more 5 star reviews
Unsurprisingly slight, but the one thread of plot is held together by an enjoyable Bill Murray.
21st Nov 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Incredibly straightforward Clint drama, anchored by some great central performances.
10th Nov 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Not exactly imaginative re-imagining, but it gets the job done in the right spirit.
1st Nov 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Ambitious, stagey epic. Plenty of tropes and it falls in all the usual 1-take potholes.
27th Oct 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Thoughtful, stylish drama with a zen central performance.
17th Oct 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Stiff, poorly paced innovative film that hasn’t aged well.
11th Oct 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Inspiring, tightly scripted gem - overlooked by lockdown.
4th Oct 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Standard-issue airplane movie, with Joel Kinnaman standing in for Vin Diesel.
3rd Oct 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Sub LA Confidential gumshoe thriller - with an underplayed USP. Ed Norton misses again.
27th Sep 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Over explained threequel, that undermines a low key original.
18th Sep 2020Read more 2.5 star reviews
Intriguing, but generally incomprehensible sci-fi gobbledegook.
31st Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
The Next Level
Marginally less fun sequel, but still plenty of laughs.
16th Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Beautifully imagined and lovingly restored, but it still alternates between a snail's pace and feeling like a trailer edit.
12th Aug 2020Read more 4 star reviews
Surprisingly enjoyable plane movie, though it owes a lot to the magnificent Copland.
8th Aug 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Tension-free Bateman rom com. Lacking rom and com.
8th Aug 2020Read more 2 star reviews
Incredibly stylish and wannabe cerebral sci-fi, that’s ultimately a little thin.
19th Jul 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Underwhelming space drama that’s a bit too intimate and not very epic.
5th Jul 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Dire, tension-free postcode gang drama. Just add drama.
21st Jun 2020Read more 1 star reviews
Magnificent documentary, re-assembling the moon landing from beautifully remastered footage.
14th Jun 2020Read more 4 star reviews
The 8th slow-paced Tarantino pic. Literally half entertaining / boring.
24th May 2020Read more 2.5 star reviews
Entertaining Brit-com, though it’s a bit on-the-beaten-path for Danny Boyle.
13th Apr 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Mildly enjoyable, thoroughly forgettable Nick Hornby pic ...once you get past the contrived set up.
4th Apr 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Kid-friendly(ish), super fun superhero movie.
23rd Mar 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Impeccably realised remake, but it’s emotionally flat.
15th Mar 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Standard festival thriller, with some style and decent moments - but it’s all a bit thin.
10th Mar 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Surprisingly enjoyable, Guy Ritchie-fied Disney remake.
10th Mar 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Cookie cutter biography that could literally have been written from his Wikipedia page.
7th Mar 2020Read more 1.5 star reviews
Text book indie, literally days out of Sundance. Interesting until it gets a bit too wacky.
9th Feb 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Strong slice of 90s skate nostalgia. Slow and subtle.
8th Feb 2020Read more 3.5 star reviews
Considered character study that strays into pretentiousness here and there.
25th Jan 2020Read more 3 star reviews
Enthusiasticly directed sequence of unrelated musical set pieces.
31st Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Yet another biggest-battle-yet, with more than a passing nod to BTTF2.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Thoughtfully assembled montage doc.
30th Dec 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Decent origin story, with charm and some 90s nostalgia.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
The Rise of Skywalker
Freestyle bouillabaisse with all the ingredients, but no chef.
27th Dec 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Quintessential indie movie ...funded by Netflix. Great perfs, lovely camera work and solid direction.
22nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Superior modern thriller. Smart script and accomplished direction.
15th Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Long, slow, thoroughly enjoyable loose jam through Scorsese/DeNiro/Pacino/Pesci/Keitel’s greatest hits.
2nd Dec 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Batman via Scorsese, in impeccably art directed, neatly packaged origin story.
28th Nov 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Surprisingly strong sequel that gets going after a convoluted start.
24th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Casual drama from Clint Eastwood, with the man himself anchoring things through a charming turn.
16th Nov 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Luscious period drama. Beautifully put together - like Wolf Hall+.
3rd Nov 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Throw away Breaking Bad expansion piece with little tension or jeopardy.
13th Oct 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews