I first heard the song Twilight Galaxy early last year and it was on a couple of playlists that I used to whittle down my favourite tunes of the year. It didn't make the final cut, being a bit downbeat and one-dimensional, but a few months ago I found the album in our local library (rock'n'roll!) and was sufficiently intrigued to pop it into the pile along with the kids books, Futurama comics and quilting titles. It turns out Twilight Galaxy isn't really that representative of the rest of the album which is mostly infectiously catchy, polished, indie-electro-pop with female vocals. A bit like MGMT fronted by a skinny Holly Valance i.e. quite hard to resist.
Phantogram mine a similar seam to Metric, but come at it from a more leftfield, less polished, trip-hoppy direction. When I'm Small was on the stereo a lot last year and it did end up making it on to my 2009 best of, but for some reason I wasn't sure if the rest of the album would live up to its scratchy, languorous yearnings. Of course it doesn't, but even so it has plenty more tricks up its sleeve. From the slowed down dancefloor moves of Mouthful of Diamonds through the Portisheadesque As Far As I Can See to the gentle, piano fade out of 10,000 Claps it is an album that burrows into your brain and reveals new treasures on every listen.
One of my favourite finds of 2010, The Rural Alberta Advantage are a trio who, as their name suggests, grew-up in rural Alberta. Hometowns would have been well up the list in my top 10 albums of the year if it wasn't disqualified on age. But by any measure it is a great album – the 12 tracks rip past in an unusually hasty 42 minutes, leaving you pining for more as it ends. The beautiful, cello-driven melancholia of Don't Haunt this Place first caught my attention, but pretty much every track is a gem. There are acoustic foot-stomping numbers, punky lo-fi like The Dethbridge in Lethbridge and lots of unfeasibly catchy stories of small hometowns, heartbreaks and getting out for the city.
Not sure why it took me so long to catch on to These Four Walls, but it was about two weeks too late for the 2009 best albums list. Which is a shame because it certainly would have aced it if I had been a little bit more on the ball. I don't know how they have managed it, but twenty-something years too late they have written the soundtrack to my teenage years. Obviously not the soundtrack I listened to at that time, but pretty much exactly what growing up in small town Scotland sounded like in my head. Joyous, scared, petrified, confused, uncertain, frustrated, hopeful: it is all there and it is pure genius (as I would probably have said at the time).