Sod the turkey, mince pies and unoriginal dramatic plotline on Eastenders - Christmas is all about top 10 lists, and this is the only one I bother doing. Enjoy.
10) FREEZEPOP - Future Future Future Perfect (Rykodisc)
When a band announce on their sleeve that "no real instruments were used in the making of this recording", you probably know what to expect. Synths clash with more synths clash with some very pleasant nonchalant vocals from Liz Enthusiasm(!). The likes of Erasure and Dubstar are obvious reference points as the more lively likes of Ninja of Love and Brainpower sit alongside the sublime likes of Swimming Pool. It's a bit too whimsical at times, but you won't ever get a headache.
Check out: Less Talk More Rokk
9) CULT OF LUNA - Eternal Kingdom (Earache)
Concept album warning! Still here? Well, as this album is based lyrically and sonically on a diary written by some murdering loon, then the tag applies. Although between you and me, this album is nothing new for CoL. Their enveloping and sprawling dischordant wall of noise is executed as finely as ever and is not for the faint of heart. Eternal Kingdom also seems them creeping back into ther darker territory they had moved away from on the last two albums, whilst retaining that sense of restraint they had began to take charge of. The result: something that may well create a loon out of the listener if caution is not ensued.
Check out: Eternal Kingdom
8) ALPHABEAT - This is Alphabeat (Copenhagen)
Proof positive that "Pop " is not a dirty word, Alphabeat offer up the kind of classic sunshine pop that seems to have been missing from our charts for some time. Quintessentially Scandinavian, the Danish sextet offer up one infectious harmony after another. If its not the disco-rock of Fantastic Six or Boyfriend, its the throbbing synths on Touch Me Touching You and Rubber Boots. Like all sugar-infected pop music, this is not to be overdone at any one time, but to be consumed regularly as part of a balanced music diet.
Check out: Boyfriend
7) HADOUKEN! - Music for an Accelerated Culture (Atlantic)
Whilst we should discourage any attempt to stick "nu" before an established genre tag in order to regard any new sound, "nu-rave" is pretty darn appropriate for these young Brits. Energy? Pah, these guys belch it out in their sleep. Rave beats clash with casio bleeps, grimy raps and buzzing guitars to concoct a record so utterly now that it should be first into any time capsule. What's most pleasing is not just the ability to throw everything and the kitchen sink in to good effect, it's that pretty much all tracks are classic pop songs with a defining hook and chorus. Which means we get the catchy likes of Declaration of War and Driving to Nowhere as well as the more pulsating likes of Liquid Lives. Ah yes, there's also THAT Atari siren that kicks off That Boy That Girl.
Check out: Game Over
6) BLEEDING THROUGH - Declaration (Trustkill)
Reigning in producer-supremo Devin Townsend was an inspired idea that the Orange County bruticians should have come to earlier. Previous album The Truth wasn't bad, but it was too raw most of the time. Declaration makes up some ground and serves to honour the wondrous marriage of gothic keyboards and straightforward hardcore metal.
It also proves that they're not one-trick ponies as the full-on likes of the title track and Seller's Market stand nicely alongside the romantic grandeur of There was a Flood and Sister Charlatan.
Check out: Seller's Market
5) METALLICA - Death Magentic (Vertigo)
Honestly, even if it had just one impressive solo, Death Magnetic would have been held in higher regard than the much-maligned St Anger. The more cynical may suggest that the abundance of "classic" 'tallica, solos and thrashy riffs on DM is both an attempt to regain lost fans and take advantage of metal's current resurgance. Whatever. The more devoted Metallifan knows classic 'tallica when they hear it, and this is it. They've done it before, so this won't make any "all-time" list, but this is the boys doing what they love because they can. You can bang that head again now.
4) OPETH - Watershed (Roadrunner)
Let's face it, it's highly unlikely that Opeth could ever put a foot wrong. They've made a steady career of melding prog and folk with the most extreme of metal, and it would be foolhardy to suggest that anyone else comes close to touching them. The Swedes pick up where last album Ghost Reveries finishes but decide to ramp up the heavyness when applicable. This is the heaviest they have sounded for a few albums, but in contrast, their acoustic and prog moments are moreso too. It's hard work, but like anything that requires effort, it reaps its required rewards.
Check out: Heir Apparent
3) CANCER BATS - Hail Destroyer (Hassle)
If debut effort Birthing The Giant was the unpredicted bomb dropped square in the middle of rock's conciousness, then Hail Destroyer is surely the delayed explosion. The Canadians' vicious blend of Black Flag-inspired harcore and the kind of southern sludge metal that Down are renowned for doesn't just slay on Hail..., it tears apart, mutilates and then fucks the corpse for good measure. If the title track and Harem of Scorpions are perfect examples of savage melody mixed with rock violence, then Sorceress and Pray for Darkness are examples of what the pit was made for. The bonus here is that The Bats know how to balance things out. Bastard's Waltz and Lucifer's Rocking Chair buck and groove in a tight spot and just reinforce the rage that surrounds it. Epic Hail.
Check out: Regret
2) LADYHAWKE - Ladyhawke (Modular)
Is great music a result of experiencing life to the full or can it be a result of being a complete fanboy/girl? Whilst we can't accuse her of forfeiting the former, Ladyhawke's Myspace page proves that she could well knock those numpties on "Eggheads" into touch in any pop music round and still have five minutes to write two great songs. The reference points from the last 30 years are frequently obvious but when the songs are this great, who cares? New Zealander Hawke, real name Pip, has conjured up forty-odd minutes of the best kind of Pop music - saccharine-free tracks that stick in your head that you have no desire to get rid of. No instrument sounds over-used or over-produced at any time and Pip's dreamy vocals are utterly heartmelting. This is proof that only great pop music, and not the lure of fame and fortune, can inspire more great pop music. Best debut of the year, no question.
Check out: Magic
1) LADYTRON - Velocifero (Nettwerk)
For those Mods who know that a Velocifero is a type of scooter and are wondering if Ladytron have ditched the Moogs and Korgs and gone all Quadraphenia on us, it should also be noted that it can mean "bringer of speed". Not a reference to the local dealer, but appropriate nonetheless as Velocifero is one enormous high. Ladytron have somehow created an album so astounding that you may think they've plugged in their synths to the astral plane itself. Velocifero sounds more massive than any synth-based album has any right to. Black Cat and Burning Up throb and thrust, Ghosts and The Lovers completely reanimate the corpse of Glam Rock, Kletva and Versus remind you that there are no limits to using any music from around the world while Deep Blue is, quite simply, perfection.
With Velocifero, Ladytron haven't so much raised the bar for themselves and their peers, they've shot it into the stratosphere and out of sight to pick up some offworld elements on the way. They may as welll invest in some scooters and naff off to Brighton for a while because it's unlikely to see them surpassing this any time soon.
Check out: Deep Blue