Not saying this is all the best music of the year, but this is the stuff I enjoyed and rated the most.
1. Various Artists: Dark Was The Night
Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, The National, Feist, The Decemberists, Bon Iver, Andrew Bird and Sufjan Stevens all contributing new material to this charity compilation. It introduced many of us to unfamiliar artists.
2. DM Stith: Heavy Ghost
Nine months after its release I still play it regularly. Beautifully played and sung music (often called psych-folk), textured with multilayered harmonies like a choir, with strings and horns punctuating the music in a sublime way.
3. The Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca
Being more baroquey and folky I don't enjoy much straight rock (electric guitar, drums etc), so this was a treat. David Longstretch's angular compositions twist and turn with unexpected drama, jagged african style guitar vying for attention with adventurous female harmonies.
4. The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love
As if enough music fans didn't despise them enough already they go and write a rock opera! The sixy-minute suite doesn't hit the mark all the time, but there are enough highlights to make an enjoyable listen, and Colin Meloy can sure write a beautiful tune when needed.
5. Gabriel Kahane: Gabriel Kahane
A little known very talented artist, a classical pianist singer/songwriter with real craft. Perhaps a little too mannered for most, but the songs are good, lyrically and musically detailed. Incidentally, it is Mr Kahane who plays the piano cadenza on Sufjan's track on Dark Was The Night.
6. Northern Howl: All That's Under the Night's Sky
A charming self-made debut from these rustic Minnesotans. Banjos, violins, trumpets give shades of Sufjan.
7. Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest (2009)
The breakout album! Whilst there's no doubting the immediacy of some tracks, I'm not sure it marks an artistic progress from Yellow House.
8. Sufjan Stevens: The BQE
His first foray into classical music is a multimedia treat. At the end of the DVD is Sufjan's first original song in several years. And it's very good!
9. St. Vincent: Actor
Annie Clark gives us another dose of quirky punchy pop. Not sure about the muddy production.
10. Patrick Watson: Wooden Arms
After the promising Close to Paradise comes this surprisingly experimental work, the Satie influence is there again, so are Watson's distinctive vocal, and so too is a lot of percussion.
Also of interest to baroque poppers
Clare & the Reasons: Arrow
Essentially now a duo with unkempt French husband Olivier, this contains some cute compositions but lacks the weight and development of some of the tunes on 2006's The Movie.