It's been a great year for music, and here's my selection of the best of it. I've chosen one 'if you only listen to one...' track for each album, which I think is the best/one you might not have heard of. Feel free to praise or abuse as you want.
16. Lissie - Back to Forever
There seems to have been a emergence of Fleetwood Mac-love in recent years. Tapping into this nostalgia is Lissie (real name - Elisabeth Corrin Maurus), a 30-year-old Illinoisan, with this, her sophomore effort following the moderately successful Catching a Tiger. Back to Forever starts in cracking fashion, with The Habit, Further Away (Romance Police), and Shameless - three slices of classic Americana which make you - or at least me - wish they were played blasting out of the transistor radio of a 67 Camaro with the top down on the American open road. Indeed, the album consciously harks bark to the America of yesteryear, with lyrics of beer kegs, pick-up trucks, "cheap thrilling" and "freewheeling" and laments over celebrity culture (Shameless) city living (the inappropriately named Love in the City) and how America lost the trees, lakes and mountains to factories and now doesn't even have those (Mountaintop Removal). An intriguingly romantic vision to these ears - and I daresay many Americans too, Republican and Democrat alike, given the county's troubles with debt, the environment, big data, Medicare and actually having a functioning government. I say we aid our transatlantic cousins and help Lissie rescue Ammuurrrikkaaa. The Habit.
17. London Grammar - If You Wait
Following in the steps of The xx, come this (suffice to say) London girl-boy-boy trio of Hannah Reid (lead singer), Dot Major and Dan Rothman, who make stylish, noir-ish electronic indie for the after hours. Beauty and boredom are often two sides of the coin in music, and this may well be soporific to some, but there's real craft in these songs and they do sometimes let loose, such as Metals & Dust, the vague calypso strains on Flickers and Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me?, and, courtesy of Disclosure, the squelchy electronica backing to Help Me Loose My Mind (sic...I think - why does everyone spell 'lose' like that?). Hopefully, they break out of their shell a little more in the future. Metal & Dust.
18. Daughter - If You Leave
Ok, so this new(ish) London trio are hardly going to win any prizes for originality, with their fragile, torchlit indie emoting. But they're ahead of many of their peers, thanks to the instrumentation and Elena Tonra's superb voice, which make it sound both big(ish) and intimate. Destined to soundtrack the relationship-trouble bits to high-brow British indie films and BBC dramas. Youth.
19. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
The National have been ploughing a similar musical furrow for over a decade now; yearning orchestral-y folk-rock perfect for beardy English Lit students. The Ohioans fittingly-titled Trouble Will Find Me offers more of the same, which is nice, but mostly just that - nice. And it's best taken in small doses, before Matt Berninger's voice goes from 'earnest' to 'droning'. Sea of Love.
20. Anna Calvi - One Breath
Anyone who thinks Florence (her of the Machine fame) has gone a bit mainstream would be well advised to check out this successor to Anna Calvi's Mercury-nominated self-titled debut. But Anna Calvi is no newbie just out of Brit School. At 33, she's amassed a breadth of experience in the industry, and this is evident in the her vocal range, which, even in the same songs, thrillingly veers all the way from operatic to grungy. Tristan.
21. Woodkid - The Golden Age
...Yes, that one off the o2 advert (Run Boy Run) or the Assassin's Creed advert (Iron). Bit hard to describe this one, but it sounds a little like a medieval musical prodidgy transported into the 21st century and let loose on protools; and like something which could soundtrack both the slow, tense bits of Game of Thrones and, for a few songs, the more epic, death-y parts. Which can only be a good thing, even if more of the latter would be preferable. Run Boy Run.
22. Disclosure - Settle
It's a very impressive achievement if an act can conquer the charts, the Mercury Prize (nominated) and Ibiza. But that's what this Surrey duo did this year with their sleek (some would say overly so) electronica, featuring a veritable who's who of new British talent, including Sam Smith (on the toe-tapping Latch), AlunaGeorge (the number one White Noise), Jessie Ware, Jamie Woon, London Grammar, and even Eliza Doolittle sounding edgy and cool by association. Latch.
23. White Denim - Corsicana Lemonade
I've always felt White Denim deserve a bit more recognition, given people are now growing tired of fellow Deep Southers Kings of Leon's brand of anthemic rock. But then again, part of these Texans' appeal is precisely their lo-fi carefree aesthetic. Corsicana Lemonade carries this on - their intricate and improvised guitar jams sounding like a perfect soundtrack to a Texan barbecue (indeed that might be the kind of theme the title points to - Corsicana is a place in Texas). Cheers Up/Blues Ending.
24. Drake - Nothing Was The Same
Aubrey Drake Graham may be hard man for most of us to relate to, what with all the record sales, fast cars and A-list women and still usually not seeming that happy with all of it, but at least he's more interesting than most rappers today (though that's as much a slight on current rap music as praise of Drake). His fourth album mines similar territory to his previous albums - Drake's languid, introspective, articulate rapping over the type of drumbeat-heavy electronica The XX might make and those weird high-pitched autotuned voices in the background. It's not as good as it's predecessor Take Care, but it has its moments, including Wu-Tang Forever, Hold On, We're Going Home, and Too Much, which features the very impressive Londoner, Sampha (whose own version is much better in truth). Hold on, We're Going Home
25. Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle
In between this and her third album, A Creature I Don't Know, Laura Marling moved to LA, and many commentators made much of the move, claiming it had a profound effect on her music and that she had matured. There's maybe slightly more echoes of the 60s and 70s folk of Joni Mitchell and co, but this has always, to some extent, been Marling's bag, and even on debut album Alas, I Cannot Swim - released just three days after she could legally drink, many songs written when she was 16 - she sounded 18 going on 38. This is another solid album of earnest, emotional, erudite folk, even if songs blend into one and pass you by a bit. Maybe best listened to in her now home (she actually moved just after recording it) - cruising the LA hills, top down, and hair, as one of her icons would say, blowin' in the wind... Saved These Words