The Top 100 Albums Of The Quietus’ Existence, As Picked By tQ’s Writers

As part of our ongoing celebrations of a decade of The Quietus, we asked our dozens upon dozens of fantastic contributors to pick their favourite albums of the site's existence. Below is their top 100, with an introduction by tQ staff writer Patrick Clarke

It has now, as you will no doubt have seen, been a decade since The Quietus first came into existence. The celebrations have been emboldening to see, tQ alumn Daniel Dylan Wray’s excellent piece in Huck on the history of the site, for example, or this special show on BBC 6 Music, or Krent Able’s brilliant new Quietus merch.

What makes tQ truly the greatest music website on earth (something I thought long before John Doran offered me a job here after I cornered him in a Butlin’s), goes far beyond our tiny, tireless crew of office staff. Our greatest strength lies in the network of extraordinary writers scattered around the globe, writers young and old, established and new, who provide some of the most genuinely authoritative and deeply passionate voices on a colossal array of music, art, film and opinion.

As the newest and most junior member of tQ’s core staff, I’ve seen first-hand just how devoted this website is to fostering those voices. It was heartening as an intern to see my writing treated with the same scrutiny by my editors as it would were it written by one of modern music journalism’s undisputed greats, many of whom have also written here. Through the revolving door of interns and pitches, I’ve seen that same philosophy extended time and time again as rafts of young writers join our ranks; no matter how experienced or what their taste, if they’re good enough tQ has found them a place. To speak personally, having been told time and time again that long-form music journalism is no longer a viable career, the Quietus bucked that trend and gave me a foot in a door that it had seemed was shut for good.

It is part of my job here to assemble our regular writers’ top 40 features, and while it is often administrative hell to wrangle the final text onto our malformed CMS, it is always a pleasure to sift through the submissions we get back, to gain their insight into our writers’ favourite books about music, or their favourite genre compilation albums, for example. I end up learning just as much about music as I hope our readers do.

It felt only right, then, to celebrate our contributors with a definitive top 100 records of The Quietus’ decade of existence, which you can read below. While you’re at it, please do consider purchasing them from our pals at Norman Records, whose links are after each entry where available, and please also consider making either a regular or one-off donation to help keep this wonderful website afloat. The best place to contribute is right HERE.

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Please note, that this was not compiled in the way that our albums of the year lists are. While those are compiled chiefly by the core office crew, this time we threw the polling out to anyone and everyone who has contributed to the site. As a result there’s a few surprises in there, bands and artists that you might not have otherwise expected to make it into a chart compiled just by the five of us.

What you can see below was compiled, in alphabetical order, by Kiran Acharya, Teju Adeleye, Jeremy Allen, Aida Amoako, Aimee Armstrong, Elizabeth Aubrey, Joe Banks, Angus Batey, Tristan Bath, Denzil Bell, Tom Bolton, Lottie Brazier, Bernie Brooks, Jenny Bulley, Cal Cashin, Patrick Clarke, Stevie Chick, Joe Clay, Brian Coney, Russell Cuzner, John Doran, Christian Eede, Olamiju Fajemisin, John Freeman, Dustin Krcatovich, Noel Gardner, Diva Harris, Phillip Harrison, Nick Hutchings, Veronica Irwin, Tara Joshi, Julian Marszalek, Joel McIver, J.R. Moores, Jazz Monroe, Ben Myers, Lucy O’Brien, Lior Phillips, Ned Raggett, Pete Redrup, Chris Roberts, Barnaby Smith, Stewart Smith, Aug Stone, Adelle Stripe, Harry Sword, Eden Tizard, Luke Turner, Ian Wade, Wyndham Wallace, Kez Whelan, Anna Wood and Mollie Zhang.


Oneohtrix Point NeverReplicaKemado, 2011

Replica, then, marks a kind of transition. It finds Lopatin moving away from these huge, propulsive productions towards a more fragmented and sprawling approach, although those expertly judged, eerie atmospherics remain intact.

The HorrorsPrimary ColoursXL, 2009

It’s a record that demands to be noticed and taken seriously, a slab of bruised, melancholic and throbbing rock that cannot be ignored. Just when it seemed that straight-up guitar music was dead, The Horrors have managed to wring a few more drops of life from it, and in the process prove that first impressions aren’t permanent.

Teeth of the SeaYour MercuryRocket Recordings, 2010

Potent and full-blooded next to their debut’s amorphous, blurry post-rock, Your Mercury crafts a distinctive alloy of transcendental juju and Noise’s junk art sensibility, toughened with marauding sci-fi Brit-prog, and occasionally blessed by minimalist ambience in the 80s post-Cluster vein.

Factory FloorFactory FloorDFA, 2013

Titling the opening track ‘Turn It Up’ is no empty instruction – and there’s a predatory, serrated edge that’s absent in most of the house contemporaries you might otherwise file it alongside. In fact, it’s one of the more sinister dance records I’ve heard in a while, precisely because everything you might expect to hear in a DFA club track is present and correct, but used in a way that feels harsher, starker and slightly sadistic.

Ursula K Le GuinThe Music Of The KeshFreedom To Spend, 2018

The Kesh exist to tell us (in the words of the late great Jim Bowen), “Here’s what you could have won” – but it’s an encouragement rather than a bitter solace. Part of what’s amazing about this album is just how deeply good it feels to listen to it. In the book, Le Guin writes that “All we ever have is here, now,” but in every note of the album we are reminded that (to quote various anarchists, although Jim Bowen would doubtless have agreed) another world is possible.

BjorkVulnicuraOne Little Indian, 2015

“Breakup album” seems a trite term, a genre too trivially mopey to fit this unflinching, devastating exploration. That sounds melodramatic, but Vulnicura is so intimate in its agonies, so clinical in its dissection that your brain, listening, tries to hide from it as if the pain was its own; and, as if the pain was its own, cannot.

Oumou SangareSeyaNonesuch, 2009

The first new studio LP from the Oumou Sangaré to be released outside of Mali since 1996 (2001’s Laban was promoted only in her home country), Seya proves an affirmation of the sheer prowess that the so-called ‘songbird of Wassoulou’ posseses. Sangaré’s stunning voice dominates the record but in a variety of ways, equally stunning on propulsive and confident opener ‘Sounsumba’ as it is on the album’s more meditative moments.

Alva Noto and Ryuichi SakamotoGlassNoton, 2018

Dreamlike to its core, sounds are amplified to their breaking point, leaving them unrecognisable. Musing on themes of existentialism, Sakamoto utilises the Glass House to its fullest extent, scraping rubber mallets across its mic’d up glass walls and producing a dread-inducing wail through digital processing.

TV On The RadioDear ScienceInterscope, 2008

A lightening of the sonic load that jettisons the muddied tans and ochres of 2006’s Return To Cookie Mountain in favour of a technicolour template which frees the band up to explore some of their most funky and direct songwriting to date. It’s also a record that wears its heart on its sleeve more prominently than before, broadening the band’s emotional range to embrace the cautiously optimistic as well as the browbeaten, the rapt and the splenetic in one fell swoop.

Ameira KheirAlsahraaSterns Music, 2014

On her second album, Sudanese-Italian singer Ameira Kheir doubles down on her extraordinary, semi-improvised blend of jazz, soul, and traditional music from Sudan. Topped with an exquisite voice and an unceasing eye for experimentation, Alsahraa is her essential release.

Dawn of MIDIDysnomiaThirsty Ear, 2013

Unafraid of discord, they break so many rules for rhythmic music here. They slow down and speed up, they knowingly stumble and break out of time, they play themes for a little too long or a little too short period of time – but the compositional precision and sheer intent is incredible, and makes the entire thing work. It’s a colossal achievement .

American Music ClubThe Golden AgeCooking Vinyl, 2008

After making their return from a 10-year exile with 2004’s Love Songs For Patriots, The Golden Age sees the pioneers of so-called slowcore cement their return by bettering that first comeback record. A glistening, expansive and emotional piece, bolstered by some of Mark Eitzel’s finest songwriting to date, it ranks among the band’s absolute best..

Cate Le BonMug MuseumWichita, 2013

With each passing release, Le Bon’s being labeled as a folk artist becomes ever more confounding, and threatens to pigeonhole her as something far more bucolic and traditional than she actually is. She’s already on her way, but here’s hoping Le Bon can one day shuck off the trappings of “freak folk” by becoming that real rarity – a 21st century career artist.

KiasmosKiasmosErased Tapes, 2014

The debut album from Ólafur Arnalds and Bloodgroup’s Janus Rasmussen’s collaborative project Kiasmos rewards a patient listener with a single, gorgeous weave of ebbing, emotional electronics, inflected with ambience, strings, and yearning mid-tempo beats.

Wolf EyesUndertowLower Floor Music, 2017

Slower, grimmer, prone to slipping into sidereal currents but still repping a spumescent avant punk noise blowout versed in the temporal black magic of experimental electronics and dub, this isn’t what many would want but this is what many deserve. An unholy and timely acid test for the Trump era. The soundtrack to signing out, getting blasted and letting your head melt.

Chora(s)san Time Court MirageLive at the Grimm Museum Volume OneImportant, 2012

By the time the disk has finished, each musician gracefully dropping out to leave the omnipresent sinewave to fade alone, you realise how affecting the journey’s been and how sharpened your hearing has become by the experience. A distant road, birdsong, an aeroplane, the refrigerator and your own bloodstream all seem to conspire to continue the flow for a while

Julia HolterHave You In My WildernessDomino, 2015

There’s a lot of density to this record and sometimes I worry that it’s too dense. The arrangements are very simple, in my opinion. I kind of just write them out and there wasn’t a lot of changing, just a little bit of improvising.

Lou Reed & MetallicaLuluWarner Bros, 2011

On its release, Lulu was deemed by tQ to be “a candidate for one of the worst albums ever made.” Now the dust has settled, we can all agree that this radical meeting of minds is not only a grower but a post-metal tour de force. As David Bowie put it to Laurie Anderson, “This is Lou’s greatest work. This is his masterpiece. Just wait, it will be like Berlin. It will take everyone a while to catch up.” There will never be another Lou Reed. And there will certainly never be another album quite like this mad swansong.

The BodyI Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any LongerThrill Jockey, 2018

Despite shedding metal’s generic trappings almost completely, The Body have created some of the heaviest and most intense music we’ve heard this year, a devastating multi-faceted gut-punch of a record that asks you to come face to face your most primordial, deep-seated fears, acknowledge and accept your failings and emerge from the experience a stronger person.

Snapped AnklesCome Play The TreesThe Leaf Label, 2017

This album represents the outlandish innovation and fun that defines so many of the UK’s independent arts and music collectives, and does so with a smile on its face and a sharp wooden tongue driven firmly into its cheek. Snapped Ankles, and many more like them, whether they would care to admit it or not, stand for that which enriches the blood of our wonky creative corners. Long may the likes of them clatter.

D’AngeloBlack MessiahRCA, 2014

Black Messiah is part ‘What’s Goin’ On’, part ‘Let’s Get It On’, and well worthy of sitting alongside D’Angelo’s brilliant back catalogue. Here’s to his future and, by God it is good to have him back.

ObjektFlatlandPAN, 2014

Flatland feels perfectly formed out of the clay of a multitude of styles, and, with rhythms this tight, it’s something of a triumph, even if it reflects nothing back but strobe lights.

VNV NationAutomaticAnachron, 2011

Their ballads are their secret weapons, especially the ones that aren’t entirely ballads per se, and closing track ‘Radio’ is definitely something that combines the propulsive with the contemplative. Radio signals quietly emerge in the mix, the big surge in the centre ramps it up and out, it ends almost where it began, a signal beyond isolation looking for something more. Ronan Harris continues his uncanny knack of making what could be so much empty rhetoric sound like a reason to keep going in the face of humanity’s follies and miseries, and even the echo on his voice causes me to gulp slightly as a result.

Alasdair RobertsAlasdair RobertsDrag City, 2015

It is a rare talent – one who is now bordering on auteur territory – who can relate folk music with such scholarly authenticity, and penetrate on such an emotional level at the same time.

East India YouthTotal Strife ForeverStolen Recordings, 2014

One of the most striking things about this strange and idiosyncratic record is how not-strange it feels. That, along with Doyle’s very contemporary refusal to impose dividing lines between the musical styles he’s interested in – shoegaze and orchestral pop rubbing shoulders with ambient music and even, on ‘Hinterland’, fuzzed-out techno – makes Total Strife Forever that most welcome of things: an often fairly classicist pop record which nods heavily towards naggingly familiar influences, yet doesn’t feel like it could exist at any other time than now.

BurialRival DealerHyperdub, 2013

I very first heard his music when I was doing a show called Dubstep Warz and Kode9 played a Burial track on it as the last tune in his set, I remember saying to Steve, “oh my god, what was that last song you played?” and he said, “oh this is this kid I found called Burial”

AmebixSonic MassAmebix Records, 2011

What truly emerges from this exultant and exhilarating album is that this reunion has not been for any other reason other than a creative resurgence, and for all that the palette is more nuanced and the arrangements that much more articulate, Sonic Mass comprehensively re-establishes Amebix’s innate ability to rip your head from your shoulders.

Durutti ColumnA Paen To WilsonDurutti, 2010

With A Paean to Wilson, Reilly returns the endless favours Tony Wilson did for him, simultaneously sharing his grief and providing Wilson with the kind of eulogy he would have loved more than any: a vocal-free Durutti Column record that justifies every word he uttered about the man he called “his guitarist”.

The IndelicatesSongs For Swingin’ LoversCorporate, 2010

Invigorated and full of vitriol after breaking free from the company that put out their debut, The Indelicates set up their own anyone-can-sign label and released a pop masterpiece. This venom with hooks is seen best on ‘Your Money’, but the spirited catchiness continues strong throughout. Highlights: ‘Ill’’s manic pop thrill, the feminist critique ‘Flesh’, and the stunning ‘Savages’.

Peter BruntnellRingo Woz EreDomestico, 2012

Peter Bruntnell may well be Britain’s most unassuming singer-songwriter. This is both blessing and curse, and Ringo Woz Ere encapsulates the dilemma. It’s named after his cat, and comes in a promo-style cardboard sleeve. Perhaps because it contains a clutch of well-chosen covers (‘Think For Yourself’; ‘Five Years’; and a lazily intense meander through Goffin & King’s ‘Going Back’ that is the better of any of the earlier versions) and reworkings of two earlier Bruntnell tracks, it doesn’t even merit mention on the discography published on his own website. Yet this wonderful record – plainly produced, the feel almost live – is the only place to find ‘London Clay’, a drizzle of hopes and fears; the seemingly effortlessly perfect pop of ‘Fool Too Long’; and ‘Stamps Of The World’, two tight, taut, tremendous verses that sketch a relationship pushed beyond breaking point, viewed from the window of a jet as one half of the couple aims to end up “somewhere no-one has heard of”.

Jessy LanzaPull My Hair BackHyperdub, 2013

Managing to be both precise and impressionistic, it layers citrussy sour notes over a haze of delicious synths and samples, arpeggiated bass and beats derived directly from the hip hop Lanza clearly loves. The vocals are treated for distance, crisp enunciation and measured tone dissolving into swoops and sweeps of texture.

Pet Shop BoysElectricBMG, 2013

This is feeling expressed with meaning in music that makes me fill notebooks with scrawl, that makes me ponce about like a tit, that makes me move and smile and think and speak and be… as it tells me how sublime, and simple, the Pet Shop Boys music can be.

Pinch & ShackletonPinch & ShackletonHonest Jon’s, 2011

Never let it be said that dance music has to be simple. Pinch & Shackleton is a love letter to club music’s many possibilities, and to the brooding power still locked tight within dubstep’s framework. And it’s magical, from start to finish.

Black BananasElectric Brick WallDrag City, 2014

It’s full of nonsense lyrics like all the best pop music is, and every song ends in a blaze of neon glory. It’s a messy moreish morass and yet simultaneously as tight as a pair of sprayed on jeans. The bubble writing had been on the brick wall that finally we’d get here to this righteous soundtrack to a psychedelic summer, not so much a block party as a rock party on Electric Avenue.

Fuck ButtonsTarot SportATP, 2009

Derren Brown can fuck off. He reckons he can control the nation by playing some shit noise with funny swirls? He needs to talk to Fuck Buttons: using some noise and melodies and other stuff that sounds like God cracking his knuckles, they’ve come up with a staggering piece of art that exerts a curious power over all who listen. It directly makes their life better.

rabrotThe GospelFysisk Format, 2016

It deserves to be heard on a far wider scale than anything they’ve previously released. Before, their appeal was limited by their approach, however excellent it might have been. Now, the sludgy guitars and snarled lyrics are a minor component, not the driving force. There’s tinkled ivories, rock-club air guitar moments, a genuine pop sensibility, camp theatre and high drama. Plus a backstory with an ending that’s happy not just for Årabrot, but for all of us.

Laurel HaloQuarantineHyberdub, 2012

A set of tracks whose fizzing surfaces are always disturbed by some new action just beneath, where ridges of static ruffle and tumble over one another, and where harsh regions of higher density sluice violently into the foreground.

Kurt VileSmoke Ring For My HaloMatador, 2011

Smoke Ring…flows from track to track with elegance and grace, and it fast becomes obvious that this is Vile’s first real attempt to compile an album of songs, as opposed to whittling down his unlimited fecundity into the requisite 11 or 12 bite-sized chunks.

St. VincentStrange Mercy4AD, 2011

Ouch. The thwack of John Congleton’s trademark slap-in-the-chops production seems, for once, not so excessive, as Annie Clark’s third outing as St Vincent kicks off with an account of a cathartic S&M session, voiced with tremulous yearning but powered by whopping great jagged riffs and blocky beats.

James HoldenThe InheritorsBorder Community, 2013

Clocking in at over 75 minutes, The Inheritors is an exhausting, complex and disorientating listen, but one that will stay with you. Once upon a time, Holden used to bridge the gap between bedroom and club, but now the most suitable location to take in his music would be in the middle of the woods, a windswept moor or a stone circle. It’s the boldest of sonic statements.

Nick Cave & the Bad SeedsSkeleton TreeBad Seed Ltd., 2016

In One More Time With Feeling Nick Cave speaks about his fear of being exposed by words, but at times Skeleton Tree has him naked and trembling for all to see. In many ways it’s all quite simple. Something terrible happened to a man and his family. He soldiered on, kept going to work – and this is the result.

Janelle MonaeDirty ComputerWondaland, 2018

It’s here to make you think, and it’s here to make you dance. It is the most clearly delivered result of Monáe’s vision so far – the android rebirthed from the fire as a queer phoenix.

New Young Pony ClubThe OptimistThe Numbers, 2010

The straight lines have been replaced by a glorious wooziness, such as the eerily discordant vocals and thumping drum beat of the title-track. The playful instant gratification of ‘Ice Cream’, for example, is eschewed for tastier morsels, such as the irresistible allure of ‘We Want To’ or the bewitching adrenaline of ‘Dolls’. Both are every bit as detectable, but with a darker, more persistent flavour.

StromaeRacine CarréeVertigo, 2013

He seems to have appeared fully-formed from a stylishly madcap dream, as somnambulantly surreal as any René Magritte painting, and in a modern age when eccentricity is usually frowned upon by major labels, he is the very antithesis of popstar by focus group. A committee could not create somebody this sharp, this realised, so full of flair and so unlike anything else around.

SkeptaMicrophone ChampionBoy Better Know, 2009

Microphone Champion is appropriately named, as it marks a period where Skepta was in his prime both as an MC and producer. Two years previously, he released his debut album Greatest Hits and although grimey to the core, it was unpolished and raw. Two years after Microphone Champion, meanwhile, Skepta dropped Doin’ It Again to the dismay of his grime fan base with a pop-leaning album that saw many questioning whether he’d lost his way. But Microphone strikes that beautiful balance of industrial self-produced sounds, fused with astute song writing. The tape also served as one of the last authentically grime albums, before many of its artists fled to the greener pastures of the mainstream.

Faith No MoreSol InvictusReclamation!, 2015

It was surprising to go back to something all those years later. We hadn’t really spoken for a while – we’d been kind of in touch, but to all get back together and work on something that we all felt connected to was surprising. Yeah, on so many levels it was such a great thing to be able to do, to recreate with those people and reconnect with that band and make art in a powerful new way. It was really intense, and one of the luckiest things to happen in my life.

Grumbling FurGlynnaestraThrill Jockey, 2013

Beneath every wonderfully infectious chorus – and there are plenty of them here, from the colossally silly ‘The Ballad Of Roy Batty’ and the anthemic synth-pop of ‘Dancing Light’ to ‘Clear Path’s meditative, acidic folk – rhythms are allowed to tumble and slip in and out of phase with one another, while synthetic sounds whip like wind or hang low and foglike in the atmosphere.

Eugene McGuinnessAn Invitation To The VoyageDomino, 2012

Eugene McGuinness has been dismissed as a mere revivalist by many, and throughout his career the East Londoner has cherry-picked his fair share of aesthetics from his forebears. However on An Invitation To The Voyage McGuinness proves himself a peacocking, genre-hopping star in his own right with songwriting strong enough to throw off the copycat-calling naysayers and then some.

Joanna NewsomHave One On MeDrag City, 2010

It’s the scope, not the size, of this record that’s really the rub. The architecture of Ys, though intricate and arcane, was uniform, and the otherworld it implied, for all it bristled with life, seemed consistent and contained. By contrast, Have One On Me sprawls out, somehow both larger and stiller, less inhabited than haunted. For all the loving feel of the arrangements, this is often macabre terrain.

LCD SoundsystemAmerican DreamDFA, 2017

American Dream is shot through with fear and uncertainty, yet in many ways it’s Murphy’s most full-blooded, vital statement to date. Strident, clever and brilliant is one thing, but it takes real, hard-won confidence to be this vulnerable.

FKA TwigsLP1Young Turks, 2014

FKA twigs has managed to explore this existential condition of the performer, succeeding in accepting, diverting, turning and owning the male gaze. At the same time, she explores the strangeness of the dom, sub and switch that exists in all relationships, as they sit on a sliding scale between old-time monogamy, the letters pages of Cosmo and the hardest BDSM. That she’s done this on such an uncompromising and weird album – and one which is now flying so far into the mainstream – is surely one of the most exciting things to happen in pop music for quite some time.

Death GripsEx-MilitaryThird Worlds, 2011

Every track operates in a hyperstitious state of mania without hope of reprieve; groaning under blue-note distress, and around every corner a sputtered percussion event: consolidation and the corollary of several cutting-edge regional dance scenes in currency right now. Meaning you get a largely kick-drum free convergence of near infrasonic bass and micro-detail – unsegmented tom rolls, pitched-up vocal chirps, snare clusters, and re-sequenced 808 brickbat.

With the DeadWith The DeadRise Above, 2015

A swaggering fifth column of monolithic audio, a crushing, sub-laden majesty capable of upending trees and pulling you into the vortex of infinite space, With The Dead, more than live up to the underground anticipation that accompanied initial announcements of the project. Formed by ex-Electric Wizard rhythm section Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening with Rise Above boss and former Cathedral and Napalm Death singer Lee Dorrian providing vocals, their self-titled debut LP is one of the most caustic slabs of malevolent, chaotic, fuzzed-up brutality of the past few years.

Hiatus KaiyoteTawk TomahawkFlying Buddha, 2012

Twice Grammy nominated future soul quartet Hiatus Kaiyote’s debut album Tawk Tomahawk was long enjoyed in their native Australia before the rest of the world got in on their secret. Erykah Badu, Questlove and Prince are among the big names that celebrate these thirty minutes of neo-soul. It’s a whirlwind experience in which frontwoman Naomi ‘Nai’ Palm hypnotises is with sultry vocals that float atop an organic merger of hip-hop canon and warm jazz

MitskiBe The CowboyDead Oceans, 2018

The arrangements are more accomplished, their intricacies clearer with each listen, and the inspirations are more elegant too. There’s still heartache and loneliness here but it’s softer – a lovelorn vulnerability that has a more lasting effect.

ChromaticsKill For LoveItalians Do It Better, 2012

Chromatics’ new album Kill For Love, their second for the Italians Do It Better label, at first listen surrenders its pleasures readily, all nocturnal, cigarettes-and-tears gothisms stretched over 92 minutes, like a worry that you can’t shake. When I first heard the record, it initially earned far more time in the ears than Liars’ at-first perplexing WIXIW. Since then, that record has mutated into a dark Janus, while Kill For Love‘s sweet pop echo is a lighter soundtrack to 2012, a reminder that much beauty can be found in the artfully, and prettily, maudlin.

Blood OrangeFreetown SoundDomino, 2016

Freetown is a cosmopolitan album: one could easily argue it’s just as fitting a soundtrack for the streets of Sierra Leone as it is for New York or London or just about anywhere else; the operative word is “free.” The sound of free music gives us the freedom to go wherever it is we want to go. Freedom is rhythm. Rhythm is movement. That we live in a climate where politicians are so obsessed with the movement of bodies from one place to another (dark bodies that often look like Hynes’s parents) makes Freetown’s interrogation of what it means to be black all the more poignant.

Thee Oh SeesMutilator Defeated At LastCastle Face, 2015

This is garage rock yes, but not teeth grindingly basic 4-4, it’s four to the forest floor, bouncing off the superfuzz pedal and rebounding into space, and from their multifarious albums, Mutilator Defeated At Last is undeniably a star.

Archie Bronson OutfitCoconutDomino, 2009

Even with everything that comes before it, it’s closer ‘Run Gospel Singer’ that leaves a lasting impression. A soul drenched slice of scuzzy Spector-pop, the song brilliantly doubles as a master class in songwriting for the current crop of cassette trading lo-fi acts.Is Coconut the sound of a band finally surpassing expectation, then? More like a powerful slap in the face by a group of men who have long deserved our lasting attention.

Holly HerndonPlatform4AD, 2015

What Herndon achieves is an album of ten disparate pieces that sound unified, knit together by the composer’s wholehearted embrace of contemporary culture. For one, it’s resulted in some of her finest tracks: opener ‘Interference’ is juddering and strobey, glancing partly at techno but eschewing hammering kicks in favour of Herndon’s voice skating across the speaker cones in myriad iterations, as if she’d been able to convert the silent information exchange of an internet connection into pure, vocalised sound.

Blues ControlValley TangentsDrag City, 2012

Lea Cho and Russ Waterhouse are one step ahead of the rest of the sprawling(ly) American rock-not-rock underground in terms of which unloved dollar-bin sounds to revive. Or maybe they aren’t, and rickety fusion meandering and negative-budget kung fu movie soundtracks will remain aridly unmined. The important thing to impart is that Blues Control, by accident or design, sound like nothing you’re likely to hear this year.

The FallImperial Wax SolventCastle, 2008

Imperial Wax Solvent: pure surge and shudder, the heaviest, grimiest, most guttural Fall of all. Not just the best Fall record for three years, or five years, or eighteen years… IWS is powerful enough to pin you in the present, bellow in your face until all you understand is this, here, now – and what the hell are you doing with your life that it doesn’t match up to this? By the time you remember that it’s not the best record The Fall have ever made, it’s too late. It might as well be.

LOrange and Jeremiah JaeThe Night Took Us In Like FamilyMello Music Group, 2015

Over the course of several album-length collaborations with emcees established and new alike, L’Orange has been building rap’s version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: an imagined world where all the pieces interlock, but with each chapter digestible and relatable on its own. Arguably the best of an extravagantly wonderful bunch is this, a crime-themed team-up with Warp-affiliated rapper Jeremiah Jae, where the pair blend gangsta rap with film noir atmospherics to create something immediately accessible yet entirely unprecedented.

Babyfather”BBF” Hosted By DJ EscrowHyperdub, 2016

BBF is a rare example of an album that invites both arty introspection and head nodding. Much like Blunt himself, BBF is not always easy to love. But that makes the eventual rewards even more satisfying.

Electric WizardBlack MassesRise Above, 2010

What Black Masses represents is another slight and intelligent side-stepping of the group’s now tried-and-tested formula, with the overall feel of the record being that it’s the sort of thing that Toni Iommi might have recorded were he the protagonist in a H.P Lovecraft novel, and you were listening to the results whilst being experimented on in an air pump

The Icarus LineSlave VowsAgitated, 2013

Slave Vows is a masterpiece, its black-hearted explosions and sordid vibes coming from a darker place than most of those pantomiming their way through rock & roll. But while there’s bleakness here, there’s also that sulphurous sound of resistance, of high drama at very real stakes.

AlgiersThe Underside Of PowerMatador, 2017

Tinged with Suicide, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, sounds that hark back to their original meeting in Atlanta and which pay homage to their official formation in London, The Underside of Power is both the latest chapter in a long-running and universal story that seems to be nearing climax, and solid, sonic proof that Algiers are capable of not just acting with their hearts, but ripping them out and offering them up on record.

Stara RzekaCień chmury nad ukrytym polemInstant Classic, 2013

While the album opens with the chiming of a 12 string, it slowly morphs into elektronische musik before sliding blissfully under layers of super heated sludge guitar and noise. By the time the ecstatic synths are met by necrotic black metal vocals, nothing about this album will surprise you, which is good thing, given that it shifts through sparse BM moves that remind one of Norwegian second wavers Thorns and through the arboreal drones of early Growing, before ending on a celestial cover of Nico’s ‘My Only Child’ with speaker destroying drone metal.

John GrantQueen Of DenmarkBella Union, 2010

The album has its light and witty side, like on ‘Sigourney Weaver’ and ‘JC Hates Faggots’ where Grant uses a framework of popular culture reference points to act as a backdrop to the often-excruciating emotional upheaval. Otherwise, it feels like the whole 42 years of Grant’s life are crammed into just over fifty minutes, from his pain at his parents’ reaction to his sexuality through to moving paeans to the enigmatic lovers who have made up his romantic life, sung about most beautifully on ‘It’s Easier’ and ‘Where Dreams Go To Die’.

Travis ScottBirds In The Trap Sing McKnightEpic, 2016

Scott’s youthful nihilism may very well be a branded put-on, but with narcotized lifestyles now so very en vogue he speaks both to and for more people than his stubborn detractors realise. Tracks like ‘Beibs In The Trap’ and ‘Goosebumps’ immerse listeners into a virtual world populated by warped sonics and honeyed vocals. Simple yet effective, ‘SDP Interlude’ makes his ethos clear. On the referential and essential ‘Through The Late Night,’ fellow rap crooner Kid Cudi comes through with his blessing.

Belbury PolyFrom An Ancient StarGhost Box, 2009

’’The Hidden Door’ marries the slick propulsion of 80s Tangerine Dream with the 60s bohemia of the Stones’ ‘Paint It Black’. This last track in particular chimes well with Jupp’s concept of ‘eternalism’, where time is superimposed on itself and every sound and reference holds equal weight.

British Sea PowerDo You Like Rock Music?Rough Trade, 2008

Dragging rock ‘n’ roll from the rural and out into the true folk heartland where it belongs, this was plugged-in rock music at its most literate. When future historians want to dig deep into British life at the dawn of a new age, the answers will be found here in songs like ‘A Trip Out’, ‘No Lucifer’, ‘Waving Flags’ and ‘Atom’, soaring anthems one and all – songs to leave you dizzy and ruddy-cheeked like a skinny dip in a moon-lit fresh water stream, songs that blow away the cobwebs of ennui and cynicism like a blast of fresh air at the summit of Helvellyn

Eddy Current Suppression RingPrimary ColoursAarght!, 2008

When I discovered them, we went to Australia shortly after and I said ‘can we get these guys to open for us?’ I was quickly told, ‘no, they’re way bigger than you in Australia. Don’t be silly’. We haven’t played together. I got to see them once at the Cake Shop in New York. I don’t know what it is but this record kind of reminds me of the sort of rawest parts of AC/DC or the most loose parts of Pink Flag.

Nils FrahmSpacesErased Tapes, 2013

Restless reinvention is to be admired, but reconsideration and striving for personal perfection is to be prized. While Frahm’s previous penchant for the former has given him a brilliant and varied book of songs from which to draw, it’s his intense performance and passionate adoption of the latter which makes Spaces a work of gentle genius.

Jah Wobble & Julie CampbellPsychic LifeCherry Red, 2011

This is a smart record whose textures become more powerful with each successive play. Most intriguing of all is the way in which two artists that have previously remained within the expectations of a certain stylised approach have drawn each other carefully out of their comfort zones. Surely, one senses, this is a triumph that exceeds their own hopes. Once you find yourself lost in these musical structures, it’s difficult to find a way out. That is fine by me.

Jam CityClassical CurvesNight Slugs, 2012

Crucially for a UK producer making inroads into a region already saturated with copyists, though, Classical Curves is inventive. Rhythms are mutable, Latham’s ear for a melodic motif is appreciably off-kilter and, though house (as current UK dancefloor vogue) is rarely far away, it’s never explicitly referred to. These well-balanced assemblages of fine-sanded glass, rubber, faux-leather and greased pistons always sound like Jam City tracks, rather than cobbled together facsimiles of existing styles. They make for one of the most interesting album-length listens to come from a UK club producer in a while, and serve as a reminder that many sub-heavy dancefloors post-dubstep ought often to be demanding more for their money.

GrimesVisions4AD, 2012

With so much going on, it could lose its way, but instead Visions has a sort of timelessness to it. The purest, most beautiful moment is ‘Skin’, a bareboned Prince-via-Burial-via Julee Cruise ballad where Boucher’s breathes in her ether-light falsetto “you touch me within / And so I thought I could be human once again”, showing off a Carey-esque melismatic trill, offset by a chanted, pulsing chorus. It’s a heart-stopping moment, and testimony to the power of what you can do when you just please yourself. Is that pop music, then? Honestly, who bloody cares.

Matana RobertsCOIN COIN Chapter Three: River Run TheeConstellation, 2015

Unlike the first two chapters, which dealt with more explicit stories delivered through more conventional musical structures, River Run Thee hones in on the tragedy and violence that lay at the core of the slave trade, coiled like murderous snakes. Matana Roberts’ music is similarly taut, bristling with angry textures and gasps of accusatory outbursts.

OxbowThin Black DukeHydra Head, 2017

By rights no group should be peaking after 30 years of making music together, yet that is the situation in which Oxbow find themselves. Will they ever transcend Thin Black Duke? Such are the ideas and attention to detail on this record, only a fool would bet against them.

Insecure MenInsecure MenFat Possum, 2018

This album is full of radical empathy – radical in the sense that it extends to everyone. In ‘Mekong Glitter’, it even extends to Gary Glitter, getting a blowjob from a child. “Why? Don’t you ever ask why?” chants the chorus, when it finally arrives two-thirds of the way through the song. By that point, we’ve already plunged into that forever-compelling motorik Glitter-Band beat along with sythesized gone-awry noodles, fuzz and feedback; it is glorious. It is glorious even as you hear the seedy and racist and clumsy innuendo, the boorish barking backing vocals. They are crossing a line here. But (to paraphrase EL Doctorow) if you’re not transgressing then what’s the point?

Manic Street PreachersJournal For Plague LoversColumbia, 2009

Of course, Journal For Plague Lovers will do nothing to convert the haters; for them, the Manics have always been a poor man’s Clash playing second-hand hair metal riffs. But that view does the band a disservice — their inner turmoil always elevated them above that status. For the majority of admirers who have been consistently disappointed by what followed Everything Must Go, this latest outing will be a cause for celebration: not only is Edwards providing his idiosyncratic words once again, but his bandmates have risen with grace to meet those lofty standards.

Fat White FamilySongs For Our MothersFat Possum, 2016

If they have a muse, it’s the point at which disgust and pleasure meet. Those videos filled with dead meat and live flesh, unusual faces shot from jarring angles, only make visible what the records are doing: your head in. Strong melodies with jagged contours, brain-wronging phrases chanted in lieu of choruses, forgotten garage rock licks mixed with artful post-punk aesthetics. They conjure the thrill of scrambled signals when you’re off your rocker on booze and drugs, project an uncensored phantasmagoria.

SolangeA Seat At The Table

“Taking a step back from the shimmering, groove-led sounds of 2012’s True EP, A Seat At The Table sees Solange produce an album that very much reflects the time in which it was made, setting its sights on the Black Lives Matter movement and analysing what it means to be a black woman in 2016. Making reference to past history and current happenings, Solange intersperses these musings with deeply personal interludes in the words of her mother and father, and above all, comes out triumphant amidst affecting, uncertain times.

Good ThrobFuck OffWhite Denim, 2014

Ellie Roberts is one of the best lyricists this island has coughed up in the last ten years and Good Throb are… I hesitate to say ‘important’ because assessing bands’ ‘importance’ is a mug’s game, but they mean more to me than 99% of other music from the same timeframe.

LiarsSisterworldMute, 2010

Liar’s fifth album is, in part, the band’s take on L.A. This being Liars, though, it’s a far cry from the (Faustian) allure of the Hollywood celebrity dream or the good vibrations of the city’s sun-kissed clichés. Instead, it’s a record informed by the city’s sprawling expanse. A decentralised metropolis filled with pockets of affluence, the poorer districts filling up the spaces between. Areas populated by those for whom the social promise of two cars, kids and a nice house of their own hasn’t materialised, the prema-grin optimism paraded around in the mainstream media bearing little resemblance to their day to day lives

Lana Del RayBorn To DieInterscope, 2012

There are more stylistic ideas here than in ten contemporary pop records put together. Think of any character archetype or scenario in America cinema, and Born To Die has it covered.

Sons of KemetYour Queen Is A ReptileImpulse!, 2018

The band are both vigil keepers for the doorway of no return and custodians for the door of the cosmos – which isn’t some far flung outer space place, it’s here, now, in a continuum where the past, present and future all coexist in the same rhythmic slipstream. In the same way that revolution becomes pedestrian, afrofuturism becomes mundane on this album. The future we’re reaching for rests outside of that space, while remaining fully aware of all that has come before.

Frank OceanChannel OrangeDef Jam, 2012

Although scaled-up by elegiac strings (a new addition to January’s Ocean-previewed version) Channel Orange‘s surprisingly low-key opener remains a gorgeously private affair. A slow-release torch song the colour of caramel and bathed in low voltage lighting, a buzzing but soothing synth cycle and muffled beats evoke touching and kissing in a velveteen womb. Poised, considered, classy and moving, this is uniquely Frank Ocean.


Kanye WestMy Beautiful Dark Twisted FantasyRoc-A-Fella, 2010

Whether or not he’ll ever find his place, what West has achieved right here and now with Fantasy is nothing short of remarkable: it’s an album which not only firmly cements his place in the rap pantheon, but one on which he has overcome his ego, his doubts, his loves and his losses to create a work which will live long in the memory and which, crucially, once again brims with life. It’s a record simmering with musical flair, the sound of man once more embracing the spotlight with open arms.

Carter TuttiTransverseMute, 2012

When you actually stop and think about it, it’s a miracle that this gig was allowed – by forces outside of the group’s control – to be as good as it was, and miraculous again that we have such a perfect document of it. Put simply, this is one of the most exciting live albums to be released in many, many years.

GravenhurstThe Ghost In DaylightWarp, 2012

This album calls to mind many different artists from Shack to The Dream Academy to Slowdive to Alexander Tucker. Like Tucker his songs initially appear to be gentle, rueful folk ballads on cursory listen but a decent pair of headphones reveals deep pools of shimmering reverb and a submarine world of echo. These are still audio waters containing complex depths worth diving into, revisiting, pondering over, dwelling over, dwelling in. And given repeated listens his lyrical concerns also reveal the more modern concerns of serial killing, urban architecture and isolation


Beyoncé continues to play with pop conventions as she chips away somewhat at the veneer of her carefully-controlled public image and unveils an album imbued with rage, dealing in the same collection of songs with apparent relationship complications as well as US police brutality.

Kendrick LamarTo Pimp A ButterflyTop Dawg, 2015

A worthy follow up to its platinum-selling predecessor, To Pimp A Butterfly stands as a fearless and uncompromising manifestation of Lamar’s desire to push the culture of rap forwards – a crusade that’s as much in his blood as the city of Compton.

Wild BeastsTwo DancersDomino, 2009

In this flawless peach of a record, Wild Beasts pay close attention to the fundamental rules of seduction: they offer something different and new, devilishly handsome but aware of their vulnerabilities, and possessed of an enticingly empty dancing card. Oh Wild Beasts, come clasp us close to your sturdy chests, and do your very, very worst.

These New PuritansField Of ReedsInfectious Music, 2013

The estuarine landscape of Field Of Reeds is best seen in two ways: in grand panorama from an aircraft banking over London, when sun glints off the water of the Thames widening toward the North Sea. Or, on the other hand, oozy intimacy along the rough shoreline, traditionally a site for dumping the waste of London. Here, alongside creeks where air bubbles rattle from the mud with the ebbing tide, a rutted horizon offers up gifts of ancient marmalade pots, broken clay pipes, fused and rusted metal. It’s a landscape that refuses, like memory or dreams, to be defined or contained, that forever shifts and opens itself up to new narratives and fresh explorations. These are the images foremost in my mind whenever I listen to Field Of Reeds, a rich, complex album that, similarly, rewards both the grand overview and close attention, and offers up fresh details, insights and emotions with each listen.

PJ HarveyLet England ShakeIsland, 2011

In 2007, Harvey lifted out of a mid-career plateau (as high as this was) with White Chalk and now with Let England Shake she has shown that not only is she is her generation’s pre-eminent songwriter but, amazingly, that she is also still in her ascendancy.

The BugLondon ZooNinja Tune, 2008

The sonics of London Zoo are surprisingly easy on the ear in fact, the bass frequencies slithering in the same foreboding depths as dubstep but with less of the over-riding emphasis on murk. Indeed where this album really wins is in how powerful the colours and textures of Martin’s sounds are. The mindflashes of clashing technicolor tones are great, because not only do they make the music hallucinatory and engaging, they make it fun. Listen to Tipper Irie on opener ‘Angry’. He uses a basic rant against US imperialism simply as fuel for a passionate flow, but with the music exploding into lurid psyche-dancehall behind him, you picture Tipper as some pipe-cleaner-limbed, pink-dreadlocked Fraggle, preaching with bulging eyes and a snarling mouth. Where cutting-edge urban music’s other favourite son, Burial, uses dread to paint a requiem for London, Martin just makes the town into a cartoon jungle.


David Bowie★ (Blackstar)ISO, 2016

The Next Day elicited the usual cries of best album since time immemorial on its release in 2013, but ★ reveals it to be a neoteric John the Baptist preparing the way for the all-singing, all-dancing Second Coming. Whether or not this is the best thing since Let’s Dance is too early to say, but by God is it a cohesive collection that contains the same inscrutable attention to detail that a latter Scott Walker album surely would. And rejoice, because David Bowie hasn’t sounded this relevant in an age.

Richard DawsonNothing ImportantWeird World, 2014

Nothing Important is a remarkable record – at times deeply, painfully intimate, but also witty, bawdy, surreal, disquieting, nostalgic, brash and fearlessly individual. While Dawson draws loosely on folk traditions, be it from the North East of England, the Appalachian Mountains or the Gulf of Arabia, his sound also brings to mind more modern sources – Beefheart, Earth, Loren Mazzacane Connors, Bill Orcutt, Sun City Girls, tiny glimpses of drone, minimalism, avant-metal, math-rock, psychedelia. It’s all of these things and yet none of them. As if aware of the difficulty of summing up his aesthetic, Dawson himself offers a perfect if oblique self-portrait towards the end of ‘The Vile Stuff’. Domestic mysticism. Football. Folk horror. Childhood. Looking back to move forward. A voice like a domestic heating appliance.

Sunn O)))Monoliths & DimensionsSouthern Lord, 2009

Few would ever have expected Sunn O)))’s modus operandi to elevate their brand of avant-atavism to quite this lofty plateau, but credit is due to their accidental blurring of spurious notions of high and low culture in the process: Monoliths And Dimensions has all the sturm-und-drang one could wish from a metal record, yet genuinely takes the blissful noise of heavy amplification into thrilling uncharted territory. Indeed, with dark forces like this to contend with, those black clouds on the horizon suddenly seem more irrelevant than ever.

tQ Writers’ Albums Of Our Lifetime
  • 1: Sunn O))) – Monoliths & Dimensions
  • 2: Richard Dawson – Nothing Important
  • 3: David Bowie – Blackstar
  • 4: The Bug – London Zoo
  • 5: PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
  • 6: These New Puritans – Field Of Reeds
  • 7: Wild Beasts – Two Dancers
  • 8: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
  • 9: Beyoncé – Lemonade
  • 10: Gravenhurst – The Ghost In Daylight
  • 11: Carter Tutti Void – Transverse
  • 12: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
  • 13: Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
  • 14: Sons Of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile
  • 15: Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
  • 16: Liars – Sisterworld
  • 17: Good Throb – Fuck Off
  • 18: Solange – A Seat At The Table
  • 19: Fat White Family – Songs For Our Mothers
  • 20: Manic Street Preachers – Journal For Plague Lovers
  • 21: Insecure Men – Insecure Men
  • 22: Oxbow – Thin Black Duke
  • 23: Matana Roberts – COIN COIN Chapter Three: River Run Thee
  • 24: Grimes – Visions
  • 25: Jam City – Classical Curves
  • 26: Jah Wobble and Julie Campbell – Psychic Life
  • 27: Nils Frahm – Spaces
  • 28: Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Primary Colours
  • 29: British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
  • 30: Belbury Poly – From An Ancient Star
  • 31: Travis Scott – Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight
  • 32: John Grant – Queen Of Denmark
  • 33: Stara Rzeka – Cień chmury nad ukrytym polem
  • 34: Algiers – The Underside Of Power
  • 35: The Icarus Line – Slave Vows
  • 36: Electric Wizard – Black Masses
  • 37: Babyfather – ”BBF” Hosted By DJ Escrow
  • 38: L’Orange and Jeremiah Jae – The Night Took Us In Like Family
  • 39: The Fall – Imperial Wax Solvent
  • 40: Blues Control – Valley Tangents
  • 41: Holly Herndon – Platform
  • 42: Archie Bronson Outfit – Coconut
  • 43: Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last
  • 44: Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
  • 45: Chromatics – Kill For Love
  • 46: Mitski – Be The Cowboy
  • 47: Hiatus Kaiyote – Tawk Tomahawk
  • 48: With The Dead – With The Dead
  • 49: Death Grips – Ex-Military
  • 50: FKA twigs – LP1
  • 51: LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
  • 52: Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
  • 53: Eugene McGuinness – An Invitation To The Voyage
  • 54: Grumbling Fur – Glynnaestra
  • 55: Faith No More – Sol Invictus
  • 56: Skepta – Microphone Champion
  • 57: Stromae – Racine Carrée
  • 58: New Young Pony Club – The Optimist
  • 59: Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
  • 60: Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
  • 61: James Holden – The Inheritors
  • 62: St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
  • 63: Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
  • 64: Laurel Halo – Quarantine
  • 65: Årabrot – The Gospel
  • 66: Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
  • 67: Black Bananas – Electric Brick Wall
  • 68: Pinch & Shackleton – Pinch & Shackleton
  • 69: Pet Shop Boys – Electric
  • 70: Jessy Lanza – Pull My Hair Back
  • 71: Peter Bruntnell – Ringo Woz Ere
  • 72: The Indelicates – Songs For Swingin’ Lovers
  • 73: Durutti Column – A Paen To Wilson
  • 74: Amebix – Sonic Mass
  • 75: Burial – Rival Dealer
  • 76: East India Youth – Total Strife Forever
  • 77: Alasdair Roberts – Alasdair Roberts
  • 78: VNV Nation – Automatic
  • 79: Objekt – Flatland
  • 80: D’Angelo – Black Messiah
  • 81: Snapped Ankles – Come Play The Trees
  • 82: The Body – I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer
  • 83: Lou Reed And Metallica – Lulu
  • 84: Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness
  • 85: Chora(s)san Time Court Mirage – Live at the Grimm Museum Volume One
  • 86: Wolf Eyes – Undertow
  • 87: Kiasmos – Kiasmos
  • 88: Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum
  • 89: American Music Club – The Golden Age
  • 90: Dawn Of MIDI – Dysnomia
  • 91: Ameira Kheir – Alsahraa
  • 92: TV On The Radio – Dear Science
  • 93: Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto – Glass
  • 94: Oumou Sangaré – Seya
  • 95: Björk – Vulnicura
  • 96: Ursula K. Le Guin & Todd Barton – The Music Of The Kesh
  • 97: Factory Floor – Factory Floor
  • 98: Teeth Of The Sea – Your Mercury
  • 99: The Horrors – Primary Colours
  • 100: Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica

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