No. 8: Sub Focus - Could This Be Real
Exactly what pop music should be doing in 2009. The initial Chicago house vibes give way one of the year's best wonky basslines (and that is a strongly contested category). In a lesser song these two sections would feel disjointed, but Sub Focus has more talent than that. A lesser artist could also be accused of selling out with a track like this, but here Sub Focus can be excused on the grounds that he is making pop music as interesting and high quality as is possible.
It comes from a (self-titled) album that nearly matches 2008's Chase & Status record as an urban album that deserves to steal the mainstream limelight.
No. 9: Jamie T - Sticks 'N' Stones
Credit to Mr. T (as everybody should refer to him) for nailing the artform of comeback single. Easily at his best both lyrically and musically, anybody who wasn't sold on his music surely was by now. There's a clever narrative structure in there and everything!
Which makes it all the more of a shame that the follow up single Chaka Demus was his worst single yet. Whoever released it needs shooting.
No. 10: Arctic Monkeys - Cornerstone
The welcome relief on their otherwise overblown album, here's a terrifically confident waltz that knows it doesn't have to try too hard. Seemingly Alex Turner is missing Alexa Chung a lot, so is wondering around town kissing similar looking girls whilst asking if he can call them Alexa Chung. Bit odd, but polygamy is one of the job perks of being an international rockstar I suppose.
It's a shame it's the song picked to sell the album to christmas buyers - many will feel cheated by how out of place it sounds.
No. 8: Muse - The Resistance
If you've come here looking for Knights of Cydonia v2.0, you'll be leaving solely disappointed.
The sound of a band deciding they've conquered rock music, and climbing into their spaceship to fly off and see what other genres they can invade. There's R'n'B (Undisclosed Desires), pop (The Resistance), classical (the wonderful Exogenesis: Symphony), and rock pomp channeling Bon Jovi (Guiding Light) and Queen (United States of Eurasia). What's special about the band now is their justified musical confidence in pulling these tricks.
Continue to push creative boundaries at the same pace please, Muse.
No. 9: Sweet Billy Pilgram - Twice Born Men
Completely unheard of before gaining a Mercury nomination, here's an album that marries left-field experimentalism with Elbow's gift for beautiful melodic sentiment. It's a thrilling combination, packing a sentimental punch that lingers long after its final note. Q Magazine readers especially should investigate immediately.
No 10. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
Experimental wankery from Bristol, five of the seven tracks here come in at over eight minutes, so prepare to get lost in some seriously epic soundscapes.
And get lost you inevitably will do. This is ideal walking home, headphone music. Even better, find a dark room, a fine soundsystem a bottle of red. It's an often relenting and oppressive listen, but a hugely rewarding one.