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40. The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble – Mr Machine

Brandt Brauer Frick are the definition of modernity. Relentlessly forward-thinking yet cognisant of their heritage, the German trio have penned some of the most exhilarating, intelligent music of the year. Mr Machine illustrates the depth of the trio’s compositions particularly well, comprised as it is of half a dozen retoolings of previous tracks. This isn’t repetition, though; it’s exploration. Fascinating.
-Josh Hall

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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39. Battles – Gloss Drop

Blossoming from very difficult beginnings, this second release from Battles overcame all sorts of problems and adversity to provide us with a stunning collection of epic trails and tracks, knotted together by collaborations with some serious alt. world talent. Riddled with delectable rhythms, off kilter melodies and a host of outstanding guests, it’s clear that Gloss Drop’s tempestuous start to life clearly did it nothing but good.
-Francine Gorman

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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38. Dels – Gob

2011 helped to highlight that British hip-hop isn’t confined to E3. Gob, one of the year’s standout albums regardless of genre, has barely a surface coating of grime. In fact, it has more in common with the Heath Robinson instrumentalism of Micachu, who contributes production, than with anything coming out of Bow. Consistently charming, in an odd, 8-bit fashion.
-Josh Hall

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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37. Destroyer – Kaputt

Kaputt is an album of extraordinary depth. It’s languorous, elegiac and hopeful all at once; more than anything, it’s just plain gorgeous. The band’s soft rock instrumentation and near-danceable groove offers a fascinating foil for the nasty world through which Dan Bejar, weary but clear-eyed, guides us. By the time Bejar murmurs, “I’ve seen it all” on album-closer ‘Bay of Pigs,’ we believe him.
-Tyler Boehm

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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36. tUnE-yArDs – W H O K I L L

The Line Of Best Fit staff nearly came to blows over this record. I was obsessed with it on release; I still think it’s a fantastically entertaining, mildly deranged collection of songs that cast nods in the direction of three separate continents while never feeling like an attempt at co-option. Everyone else thought it was unlistenable.
-Josh Hall

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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35. Connan Mockasin – Forever Dolphin Love

Fluid and spacious, yet intricate and commanding, Connan Mockasin impressed through and through with this, his debut record. Released through Erol Alkan’s Phantasy Sounds label and self recorded in New Zealand, Forever Dolphin Love showcases Connan’s staggering musical capabilities and his talent for crafting whole worlds and stories using just a handful of instruments and his unique, magical imagination as his tools.
-Francine Gorman

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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34. Braids – Native Speaker

An impressive showcase of vocal gymnastics, musical prowess and originality is what to expect from this glorious record from Montreal’s Braids. So impressive it was that it garnered itself a nomination for the prestigious Polaris Music prize this year, and rightly so. Braids are masters of dynamics, carefully engineering the ebb and flow of their songs before flooding them with enchanting, arresting vocals to create a stunning album from a very promising group.
-Francine Gorman

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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33. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up

The debut from the Seattle-based hip hop collective stands out for its ability to transcend genres and breathe life into the word “alternative” without provoking a chorus of sneers and jibes. You need not question who’s behind it. The only thing worth asking is, “how can this be bettered?”
-Jamie Milton

iTunes

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32. SBTRKT – SBTRKT

There’s a fine line between tasteful dub and shameless pop in this record, yet Aaron Jerome walks the tightrope with relatively few slip-ups. Many self-proclaimed “experts” of 2-step, electronica or dubstep might lambast SBTRKT’s efforts but in reality, he’s crafted an album suited for both grimy basement clubs and giant festival tents. That takes some doing.
-Jamie Milton

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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31. Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo

The eleven tracks on Hotel Shampoo move in such effortless melodic patterns so as to charm the casual listener, but also brim with enough oddball invention to satisfy Super Furry Animals devoties. Such a schizophrenic realisation of Rhys’ songwriting palette could sound overcooked, or worse contrived, but cohesion is offered by the warmth of his increasingly honeyed croon – sometimes jocund, sometimes grave, but always gently recognisable, like an invisible framework upon which more esoteric whims can be fashioned. It’s the idiosyncrasies that make Gruff Rhys great; you wouldn’t change him for all the hotel shampoo sculptures in Wales.
-James Lachno

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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30. Zomby – Dedication

If you follow him on Twitter, you’d be forgiven for suspecting that Zomby is in the middle of a year-long breakdown – a suspicion to which Dedication gives nothing but credence. A claustrophobic, frequently nightmarish record that suffocates as much as it enthrals.
-Josh Hall

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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29. M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming

It seems like Anthony Gonzalez packed every captivating sound that has caught his ear these past few years into Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, crafting a sprawling but centered double-album that is both refreshingly new and unabashedly retro. The record draws on many different pop touchstones throughout its 22 lively tracks, but Gonzalez frequently takes his energetic synth anthems to a rarefied air, sounding absolutely massive in the process, but still managing to be intimate enough to find a way into your heart. The stirring songs are perfectly suited for both a packed nightclub as well as a solitary evening drive, allowing the listener both the freedom to get down to the music as well as the luxury of getting lost in it as well.
-Erik Thompson

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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28. Josh T. Pearson – Last Of The Country Gentlemen

Long as most of the seven tracks on Last Of The Country Gentlemen are, especially as they’re pretty much just vocal and acoustic guitar, you can barely tear yourself away from them for a moment. Such is the intensely compelling nature of Pearson’s long gestating solo craft, willing to bear its scars and rake over long overexamined ground, telling its frank tales of self-doubt and self-loathing in search of a singular catharsis.
-Simon Tyers

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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27. Real Estate – Days

Days follows the same sonic blueprint that made Real Estate’s debut so enjoyable: songs that run together, get jumbled in your memory and somehow make each other better, like the warm glow that nostalgia brings to childhood memories.
-Tyler Boehm

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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26. Tom Waits – Bad As Me

Given that it’s the first album of his fifth decade, Bad as Me stands proudly as one of Tom Waits’s most concise, effective statements. Old friendships get rekindled, new collaborators are introduced and Tom Waits’s unique universe is once again open for business. Bad as Me is the man’s best work since Mule Variations, and yet another fantastic Tom Waits album. To quote the good man, is there any other kind?
-Alex Wisgard

iTunes

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25. CANT – Dreams Come True

Created by the fair hands of Grizzly Bear multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor, Dreams Come True is a soul ridden, electronically driven gem of a debut record. Reflecting influences that might not necessarily sit comfortably within a Grizzly Bear environment, Taylor did everything to ensure that Dreams Come True was a work of pure self expression. Packed with masterful production and sublime textures, is there anything that this guy CANT do? (sorry).
-Francine Gorman

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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24. King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

Songs that are expansive yet filled with solitude. There’s an idyllic quality throughout that suggests Jon Hopkins has captured the very essence of what King Creosote has spent 45 albums trying to convey. A (quietly) roaring success.
-Finbarr Bermingham

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

23. Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam

The debut long player from the Coventry based poet has the potential to have wide spread appeal and is geared towards those who are receptive to pushing the boundaries of a genre that has yet to solidify its identity away from American shores. The infectious beats and relaxed style act as a persuasion to hit the repeat button and let the record play in its entirety over and over again.
-Slavko Bucifal

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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22. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Transcendent pop music rarely needs an asterisk, and even with all the subsequent (and valid) discourse we’ve assigned to a band like Girls, its sometimes meaningful to let it breathe, and let yourself fall in love. The place in the cosmos for Father, Son, Holy Ghost will be hammered out for decades. As of right now, it’s merely a great, great album with few caveats, which is something that can’t be taken for granted.
-Luke Winkie

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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21. Wilco – The Whole Love

The American Radiohead™ pull a fast one on their expanding middle-of-the-road rockist audience by slamming the brakes on 2009’s Wilco: The Album and lunging backwards towards their ‘golden era’ of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born to reveal a tough, jagged tear at the seams of rock n roll with this progressive, endlessly melodic, nudging, winking album. Tracks like ‘The Whole Love’ represent the band at their most crafted and commercial while career highlight ‘One Sunday Morning’ sees them at their most heartfelt and moving. That wonderful tracks as disparate as the 60s tinged ‘I Might’ can sit so snugly alongside misanthropic balladry like ‘Sunloathe’ is testament to why Wilco can still legitimately be called one of the greatest bands in the world.
-Michael James Hall

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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20. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

Mining heartbreak and consequent loss of self-composure is a well worn path, but Lykke Liapproached it by putting herself at the heart of darkness, both defiant and broken. Whether bleakly broken or coming on like a laptop Wall Of Sound it retains a distinctive sound even among the packed field of yearning female singers, building on the pathos of unrequited love to craft believable, effective youthful laments.
-Simon Tyers

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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19. Pure X – Pleasure

Pure X’s debut channels the stoned spirit of psychedelia through the prism of shoegaze, a hazy journey accompanied by meandering guitar lines and echoing bass. If you’ve got a totem animal, better call him now. It’s a heavy trip.
-Chris Lo

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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18. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

While Bon Iver’s debut record was firmly rooted in the romanticized Wisconsin cabin it was created in, his gorgeous follow-up is comprised of inspiration found both everywhere and nowhere all at once. It encapsulates the private thoughts that keep us up at night which we won’t tell anyone, as well as the familiar shared experiences amongst friends that grow more mythical each time the stories are repeated. The deeply moving songs are intensely personal as well as communal, with names that reflect places both real and imagined. And that uneasy dichotomy pulses at the heart of these riveting numbers, where you feel you know exactly what Justin Vernon is singing about but yet you suspect you truly have no clue. Instead of looking for answers within these delicately enchanting tracks, it’s best to just let them carry you away to somewhere you’ll either recognize immediately or will delight in discovering anew.
-Erik Thompson

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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17. Metronomy – The English Riviera

The English Riviera gives the inclination of a frontman who is on an unprecedented level of ease from a writing perspective, and this contagious aptitude has mutated handsomely to craft a refreshingly mature album that exceeds expectation. Take a bow Metronomy.
-Christian Adofo

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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16. Woods – Sun & Shade

An album seeped in the past and filled with rustic charm, beneath its twelve songs lies a band with a severe sense of split personality. On one hand, Woods are a straight-ahead (albeit lo-fi) pop group that craft sweet-as-candy tunes that could melt even the hardest of hearts, yet, underneath the hood there’s an experimental element at play throughout Sun & Shade. After all, how many albums have you heard this year that can conjur up both the spirit of Can and The Band in one fell swoop?
-Richard Thane

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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15. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact

Ultra-upbeat, startlingly sensual and madly progressive, Eye Contact represents the Florence & The Machine inspiring Manhattanites’ most consistent stab yet at the (relatively speaking) mainstream while losing none of their earlier full-pelt experimental charm. Gems like ‘Mindkilla’ feel simultaneously glass fragile and stunningly potent.
-Michael James Hall

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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14. WALLS – Coracle

Coracle is the second record from London based music makers WALLS and quickly proved itself to be a more dance orientated proposition than anything we’d heard from the duo before. Electronic twitches, seeping layers and solid sequences invite us to voyage deeper into the record, while seriously synthesised live instruments tucked beneath imaginative electronic engineering entice us towards the dance floor. Gloriously therapeutic and effortlessly cool, this is an absolute gem of a British electronic record.
-Francine Gorman

iTunes

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13. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

Ryan Adams sure does clean up well. He left behind the Cardinals (and his notoriously uneven recent output) in favor of a more tranquil, acoustic-based album, which brought a renewed sense of focus and freedom to the venerable songwriter. While his personal and emotional life seems to be sorted and blissful, his songs are still heartbreakingly vulnerable, holding as much tender charm as his best loved material. The tracks do away with the self-indulgent meandering of much of Adams’ latest work, in favor of a concise subtlety that imbues the numbers with a poignant elegance and allure that lingers long after the music stops.
-Erik Thompson

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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12. Austra – Feel It Break

Goth, electro-dance, pop – Austra reigned them all this year on their debut album, Feel it Break. Everything comes together for Katie Stelmanis and co. on this record, from the shimmering arrangements to the centerpiece that is Stelmanis’ soaring, operatic voice. An exciting introduction that leaves us wanting more.
-Melody Lamb

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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11. Katy B – On A Mission

On A Mission manages to fall, perfectly equidistant, between the two stools of Rinse-endorsed new-London magic and Magnetic Man pop-step fuckery. It’s unashamedly commercial (much to the distaste, one imagines, of many late-night Rinse listeners) but, thankfully, tends to remain several leagues ahead of Katy B’s peers’ most recent offerings. A flawed record, but a very, very enjoyable one.
-Josh Hall

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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10. Active Child – You Are All I See

R&B has been somewhat scrutinised – for the better one would argue – in the last 12 months as music fans try to decide on the merits of artists performing ‘outside’ of their apparent comfort zone. Yet, rather inevitably, instincts speak with the most clarity and they’re unlikely to deny you with the debut from Pat Grossi.

Not necessarily a break-up album but a record that symbolises the inability to let go through a fear of being alone, the man behind Active Child cuts a very lonely figure indeed; damaged from the broken promises made to him by emotional engagement. Despair hangs over many of the songs with a deeper, all-consuming balladry taking hold to smother the listener and lead to a very personal affair.

It marks a terrifically ambitious debut record; one which displays a rather unsettling sense of despondency but evades being negatively dragged down by it. Grossi stops short of stripping you entirely though – in the way Antony Hegarty and James Blake sometimes can, grandiose company you sense he aspires to be in. He won’t have to wait too long, though.

-Matt Dando

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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9. Peaking Lights – 936

The phenomenon of synesthesia- where people see sounds as colours – is often reported by those indulging in mind-altering substances. For those of us living our lives on the straight and narrow, Wisconsin analogue-pop duo Peaking Lights‘ second record is the closest thing we’ll ever get to knowing sound and colour as homogenous senses. 936 is a sonic kaleidoscope of an album, distilling all that’s bright and good in music.
-Michelle Kambasha

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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8. The Weeknd – House Of Balloons

In the rising sea of mixtapes this year, Toronto wunderkind The Weeknd rose above the pack and delivered not one but three albums. House of Balloons, the debut offering from Abel Tesfaye, is filled to the brim with drugged-out atmospherics, sexual tension and unexpected samples that turned songs by Beach House and Siouxie and the Banshees into the brickwork for R&B masterpieces. Tesfaye paces listeners from the bass-laden party jams all the way to the smooth morning-after soundtrack, never shying away from explicitly detailing everything that happened in between. House of Balloons is one of the best albums of the year and undoubtedly the sexiest.
-Melody Lamb

Free Download

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7. patten – Glaqjo Xaacsso

A strange combination of rhythmic stricture and unabashed freak-out. There is so much going on here, so many reference points; from Detroit tech to pastoral, drugged-up English electronica; from Laurent Garnier to Luke Abbott. Exhaustingly brilliant.
-Josh Hall

Listen on Spotify |iTunes

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6. When Saints Go Machine – Konkylie

Back in June, When Saints Go Machine finally unveiled their long awaited album Konkylie, and although we at The Line of Best Fit have been huge fans of the Danish collective for a long time, the record completely surpassed all expectations. The pop pinch of ‘Kelly’, the expansive sounds of ‘Parix’ and the resonating tremble of ‘Church and Law’ make Konkylie an emotionally authentic, sincerely enjoyable proposition. Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild’s soft and soulful vocal adds humanity to the meticulously arranged electronic backdrop, to provide all of the ingredients that we’d dared to hope for – blissful melodies, serene sounds and solid, hypnotic beats.
-Francine Gorman

Listen on Spotify | iTunes

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