'Tis the season to be tipping new artists, and next week the BBC Sound of 2010 list will showcase emerging acts.
But which albums from the past year flew under the mainstream radar and also deserve to be discovered by the wider world in 2010?
A selection of tipsters from the Sound of 2010 panel have chosen the most underrated albums of 2009, which they believe did not get the critical or commercial love they merited in the last 12 months.
Listen to tracks from these albums in
A CAMP - COLONIA
Eight years after their debut, The Cardigans singer Nina Persson has resurrected side-project A Camp. Working with her husband, she says the album was inspired by "the history of savagery", explaining: "The human urge to rape, conquer and pillage has always fascinated me."
James Foley, music editor,
Record of the Day:
This album was a delight. The dark undertones running throughout the lyrics (Persson sounds bitterly lovelorn at times) are all placed in front of a backdrop of lush and uplifting 60s-inspired pop arrangements. It surprised me how many times I returned to this album over the year.
BLUE ROSES - BLUE ROSES
Recalling Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell, the voice of Laura Groves is at the heart of this warm, folky album. She roped in family and friends to accompany her and recorded on borrowed equipment in bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms in her home town of Shipley, Yorkshire.
Natalie Shaw, editor,
The perfect soprano of Laura Groves, the fragile melodies, the warm thumb piano, the occasional twinkling xylophone - these were the reasons why Blue Roses' beauty didn't feel trapped by conventional boundaries of structure and harmony. Uneasy suspensions built up, descending scales and ascending sequences were sung, and I became enraptured. A stunning debut.
DIRTY PROJECTORS - BITTE ORCA
From the Brooklyn school of open-minded art rock (see Vampire Weekend, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear), Dirty Projectors mastermind Dave Longstreth aims to push every boundary. He has worked with Bjork and David Byrne and Bitte Orca is Dirty Projectors' fifth LP.
BBC Radio 1 music reporter:
After reconstructing Black Flag's seminal LP Damaged from memory, this time the odd-pop Brooklynites outdid themselves. With undulating guitars, slithery beats and harmonic sweetness, lo-fi rock somehow sounds like early-mid 90s R&B. In short, Dave Longstreth and his gang push pop in directions previously uncharted.
THE DO - A MOUTHFUL
Named after the first and last note on the musical scale, this French-Finnish duo claim to be as inspired by jazz and classical as rock and pop. The result is wilfully off-the-wall and exhilarating.
BBC Chart Blog:
Some of this album is poppy and brash like Lady Sovereign or Lily Allen. Some of it is melancholy and folky like Gorky's Zygotic Mynci or Joanna Newsom. All of it is fresh, bright and crammed full of engaging ideas.
MELANIE FIONA - THE BRIDGE
Born to Guyanese parents in Toronto, Melanie Fiona made an impressive album of upbeat soul-pop. She has supported Kanye West on tour and has a Grammy nomination for best female R&B vocal performance.
Paul Mack, station manager,
If you're looking for crisp vocals and soulful vibes to chill out to then Melanie Fiona should do it for you. Highlights include the lead single Give It To Me Right and the euphonious Walk On By.
THE LOW ANTHEM - OH MY GOD, CHARLIE DARWIN
This trio met at university in Rhode Island and have won fans with their fragile Americana. Their instruments include a WWI portable pump organ, a rusty saw, a nipple gong, a "gut-strung parlor axe" and "enough harmonicas to summon a swarm of locusts".
Leonie Cooper, music journalist,
With a former Nasa employee among their ranks, it was surprising that The Low Anthem's glorious brand of moonshine folk shimmered with an otherworldly brilliance. One of the few albums to lead me to tears in '09 (in the best possible way, of course), this was a delicate, graceful addition to the host of records by the plaid shirts'n'beard brigade headed up by Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear.
MAJOR LAZER - GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE... LAZERS DO
Major Lazer is a one-armed Jamaican ex-commando who battles the forces of darkness. Actually, he is a cartoon character devised by producers Diplo and Switch to serve their blistering cocktail of dancehall reggae, hip-hop and electro.
Adele Roberts, DJ,
Part of me can't understand why this album isn't on everyone's iPod, but then again I think maybe it's Diplo & Switch's own fault for being so damn clever. This album may be a little ahead of it's time but it's a glimpse to the future and the future looks bright.
MCALMONT & NYMAN - THE GLARE
This collaboration saw composer Michael Nyman provide the music and David McAlmont write and sing each song based on news stories from around the world. He put himself in the shoes of figures from Susan Boyle to a Nigerian prostitute in a people-trafficking ring to Silvio Berlusconi's lover.
Simon Price, rock and pop critic,
Independent on Sunday:
This incongruous but inspired partnership married the angelic falsetto of one of Britain's finest singers to the minimalist/maximalist arrangements of our foremost classical composer, resulting in an album which told the human tales behind a dozen small newspaper stories with elegance, grace and heartbreaking poignancy.
MEW - NO MORE STORIES...
Danish indie trio Mew attracted praise for their fourth studio album, which mixed jaunty choruses with adventurous storytelling and arrangements. They described the results as "dream pop".
There Goes The Fear blog:
This has been my favourite album of 2009. One moment extremely bombastic, the next surprisingly fragile and gentle, it is not your typical indie-by-numbers affair. The stunning opener New Terrain can be played both forwards and backwards, the magical Sometimes Life Isn't Easy has chirpy hand claps and uplifting kid choirs, while Hawaii has hypnotic vocals and fun, calypso-style percussion.
MICACHU - JEWELLERY
Micachu is Londoner Mica Levi, who recorded the album while studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and used home-made instruments ranging from a modified CD rack to broken bottles and a vacuum cleaner.
Paul Macinnes, entertainment editor,
Mica Levi collects sounds she finds in the street. She plays melodies on home-made instruments and takes inspiration from genres as diverse as grime and skiffle. But the real charm of this album was how Levi and her band rendered these unlikely materials into something that was distinctly recognisable as, catchy, crazy pop music.
JACK PENATE - EVERYTHING IS NEW
Singer-songwriter Jack Penate reached the top 10 with his debut album Matinee in 2007, but the follow-up Everything Is New dropped out of the top 40 after two weeks.
Lana Webb, head of music,
Everything Is New is an aptly titled, risk taking, uninhibited album. Written and produced in a refreshing way that adds an element of beauty and euphoria to everyday circumstance. The sheer volume of different instruments and influences could have made it overly complex. Instead it is infectious and unpretentious, offering something new with each listen.
SKY LARKIN - THE GOLDEN SPIKE
After four years together, this Leeds guitar trio recorded their brisk, taut and spiky debut album in two weeks in Seattle. It owes much to American alt.rock and was released by respected indie label Wichita.
Matt Barnes, editor,
This lot are simply an ace young British pop band, who recorded the most consistent power-pop album of 2009. The Golden Spike recalls the best bits of Sleater-Kinney, Death Cab For Cutie and Kenickie. It is a solid foundation for what could be a great future.
TUNE-YARDS - BIRD BRAINS
Made using a digital voice recorder and shareware software in her Montreal flat, singer and instrumentalist Merrill Garbus' rich, intimate and unpredictable album is held together by DIY charm.
Sian Rowe, editor,
BiRd BrAiNs is the sound of one woman trying to find something that's her own. Merrill Garbus uses drum loops and effects pedals but makes beautiful additions - ukulele is put together with the most imaginative sampling of the year. It takes a brave person to mess with Always on My Mind but she effortlessly slots it into a patchwork of influences ranging from traditional folk to R&B slow jams.
WILD BEASTS - TWO DANCERS
Hayden Thorpe's distinctive falsetto, coupled with Tom Fleming's baritone and a delicate, dreamy musical landscape, makes this Kendal foursome stand well apart from the conventional indie scene.
George Ergatoudis, head of music,
BBC Radio 1
Hayden Thorpe's voice and occasionally daft lyrics are never going to be everyone's cup of tea, but for connoisseurs this album is brimming with exciting grooves, beautiful melodies, fine guitar work and detailed production. This is ambitious, cerebral, alternative pop at its very best.
Listen to tracks from these albums in playlists on
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