1. Stefan Wilson suggests… ∆ (Alt+J) – An Awesome Wave
After starting in fairly low-key circumstances in 2007, ∆ have gone from strength to strength. An Awesome Wavecombines so many genres of music, it’s impossible to categorise it into a single one. Perhaps an umbrella title of ‘Alternative’ works, but I feel this does it a great injustice. There are stand-out tracks, such as ‘Breezeblocks’, ‘Dissolve me’ and ‘Bloodflood’, but such is the quality of the entire album, even the weaker tracks do not let you down. In addition to rave reviews, the band recently won the Mercury prize. A definite highlight of the year for me.
3. Laura Jones suggests… Taylor Swift – Red
After a wait of two years following Swift’s multi million selling album Speak Now, fans were given her new album Red in October this year. After four pre-released teaser songs, her fans eagerly received the pop and country icons’ fourth hit album. As ever, Swift’s songs are fuelled by her life experiences; romance, fame, and her life as a 22-year-old woman. Her songs provide a melody for many moods and mindsets, delivering relatable lyrics to her listeners. With features from Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody, this album provides a new Taylor Swift experience with much diversity, as well as following her usual carefree, romantic style. A must-have for any pop fan.
4. Joe Russell suggests… Lucy Rose – Like I Used To
Lucy Rose, whose music broadly places her in the ever-expanding bracket of delicate, largely inoffensive folky female artists that currently pervade Britain’s subterranean music scene, is definitely one for the future. ‘Like I Used To’ is good enough to suggest she’ll be here to stay.
‘First’, containing poignant allusions to the difficulties in admitting love, is emphasised with lines such as ‘I talk to myself at night/I talk inside my head/ Better if nobody knows what I said’. These lyrics give Rose’s debut album a frighteningly personal feel; very few people knew anything about her before this. One listen and you begin to relate to her.
5. Lizzi Bryant suggests… The Maccabees – Into The Wild
With songs including the epic single ‘Feel to Follow’, which begins with the stripped back sounds of Orlando Week’s haunting and vulnerable vocals and builds gradually to the signature fast-paced energetic guitar melodies The Maccabees built their careers on all those years earlier, and ‘Forever I’ve Known’, which begins with soothing guitar and moody bass, then suddenly transforms into a hurricane-force crescendo; The Maccabees are, despite a much more mature album, inviting us to walk the final yards of youth with them. Some criticised the change in direction, however, we at Seren applaud The Maccabees for bucking the trend and urge you all to add this album to your Christmas list to Santa!
6. Joe Keep suggests… The Hives – Lex Hives
The latest Hives album sees a return to what is the Hives greatest. After openly admitting their last album, The Black and White album, wasn’t up to par, the band took time away from music and came back fresh, and it tells. With tracks such as ‘Go Right Ahead’ that are so catchy they get stuck in your head for months at a time, it has the legs to go the distance with other great tracks such as ‘Tick Tick Boom’. The album encapsulates the Hives sound, and each track builds on the last, creating one of the greatest albums of the year.
9. LJ Taylor suggests… Madonna – MDNA
This year the Queen of Pop returned with the shamefully addictive MDNA. It wasn’t an amazing album, it was definitely not groundbreaking but it was Madonna. Even better, it was an angry Madonna screaming her frustrations at ex-hubby, Guy Ritchie, through the means of song. First impressions of MDNA weren’t great but the drum and bass breakdown in ‘Gang Bang’ won me over. Seriously. Its hilarious. Not genius but bloody funny. Some say Madonna’s past her age and they aren’t wrong but you’ve got to give it to her, Pop’s highest grossing pensioner knows how to adjust with the times and keep those ‘hits’ coming.
10. Tom Emlyn Williams suggests… Storm Corrosion – Storm Corrosion
This darkly ambient self-titled debut album arose from a long-planned collaboration between Mikael Akerfeldt, known for his progressive death metal band Opeth, and Steven Wilson, best known for his band Porcupine Tree. The album is an interesting twist in the career of both musicians and has a very unique sound, harking back to the darker side of 60s psych folk, but including jazz, dark ambience, and progressive influences. Subtle and imaginative, the record creates an abstract atmosphere that leaps from quiet ethereal beauty to harsh electronic noise. Standout tracks include the title track – a ten minute, fantastically melodic soundscape that gradually builds in tension, the dissonant ‘Hag‘, and the post-rocky ‘Ljudet Innan‘.
11. Becki Watson suggests… The Lumineers – The Lumineers
The Lumineers are an American folk rock band who released their debut album back in April, which has received positive acclaim from critics across the board. While drawing comparisons to Mumford and Sons for their love of banjos, they set themselves apart with their raw, honest sound, and their album is one that truly wears its heart on its sleeve. Lead single ‘Ho Hey’ is a purely feel good tune for all occasions, and the stripped back ‘Slow It Down’ is a great song to chill out to. Another personal favourite is ‘Big Parade’ for its stirring beat and melodic harmonies, but the whole album is a treat to listen to. I for one can’t wait for their next release.
12. Sean Talbot suggests… Bloc Party – Four
Bloc Party, who’ve been with us since the early days of indie post-punk, returned with their aptly named fourth studio album, Four, after a long break following Kele’s solo venture. Their last album, Intimacy, demonstrated the band’s (or perhaps just Kele’s) desire to experiment with electronic aspects. Tracks such as Ares were a great shock to fans of Silent Alarm. However, Four is the produce of a gap year in Thailand to “find one’s self.” Bloc Party seem more sure of their sound, influences and the direction they want to go in. This album hosts some beautiful tracks reminiscent of the old days, notably Real Talk and The Healing. Definitely a good present for any music fan.