1 Point Me Toward the Real – Ezra Furman
The story of a fragile character re-entering the world after being collected from a psychiatric hospital may seem an unlikely best-song choice, but this has a poetic, Dylanesque lyric, a vocal reminiscent of Neil Young, killer chorus and beautiful brass.
2 It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody – Weyes Blood
Natalie Mering, the best of a group of brilliant women singer-songwriters featured in this chart, muses on the human condition, loneliness and how well we know ourselves or others, all wrapped in slow-building strings and woodwind with a strong 70s feel.
3 It’s Over, If We Run Out Of Love – David Holmes featuring Raven Violet
An anthemic call to arms, or rather to compassion and optimism, this draws both on the Wall of Sound and girl-group vibe of decades past and the techno culture of more recent times with its buzzing rhythm track, topped off by an epic guitar riff.
4 Taboo: Gabriels
The Anglo-American soul trio, featuring the remarkable voice of Jacob Lusk, raised their profile with a stand-out Glastonbury set and keep delivering gems influenced by gospel, Curtis Mayfield and Nina Simone although this track highlights an approach instantly recognisable as their own.
5 Feast of Carrion – Midlake
It took the Texan band 16 years and the loss of their main writer to recreate the strange sense of unease that pervaded the folk-rock-meets-AOR classic The Trials Of Van Occupanther, but the ethereal harmonies and ghostly melody on this track mark a return to form.
6 A Lifetime To Find – Wilco
Frontman Jeff Tweedy called Wilco’s 12th album, Cruel Country, the alt-rock outfit’s first country record and this song, redolent of the Flying Burritos at their finest (minus the pedal steel guitar), proves that great songcraft can flourish in any genre.
7 Invisible Exit – Broken Bells
Of all the songs on Into The Blue, the latest collaboration between The Shins’ James Mercer and producer Danger Mouse, Mercer’s best vocal comes against a backdrop of acoustic guitar and sumptuous synths, making me pine for new Shins material.
8 Body Paint – Arctic Monkeys
A lush, soulful ballad with echoes of Bacharach & David, draped in orchestral flourishes and gritty guitars which frame an Alex Turner vocal showing that his prowess extends far beyond the indie-rock idiom and includes impressive falsetto.
9 Babylon Days – Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler
An Oscar-nominated Irish actress with a rich voice hooks up with an ex-Suede guitarist with deft production skills, the result here being a dreamy song that places them somewhere in the folk-jazz fusion world of John Martyn and Nick Drake.
10 Belinda Says – Alvvays
The Canadian band breathe new life into dear old jangle-pop, with Molly Rankin’s effervescent vocal referencing Belinda Carlisle’s hit Heaven Is a Place On Earth (‘Well, so is hell’, the lyric continues) allied to irresistible key changes.
11 Friday Night – Beth Orton
12 Broken Beauty – Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band
13 Gorilla – Little Simz
14 Harness The Wind – Calexico
15 Candle – Rosina Bullen
16 1974 (live) – David Crosby & Lighthouse Band
17 Bird I Do Not Know – Lady Maisery
18 Gunsmoke Blues – Buddy Guy featuring Jason Isbell
19 Out Of My Head – First Aid Kit
20 Mangrove – The Accidentals & Kaboom Collective
21 It’s A Brand New Morning – Morton Valence
22 Mistakes – Sharon Van Etten
23 Dried Roses – Big Thief
24 Viral – Matthew Barber
25 Goodbye Mr Blue – Father John Misty
26 All the Good Times – Angel Olsen
27 Jackie Down The Line – Fontaines DC
28 Neon Blue – Mariel Buckley
29 Soundings – Elanor Moss
30 Aftershook – Frankie Cosmos
My 10 favourite covers of the year
Bruce Springsteen (Original: The Commodores)
The Unthanks (Gordon Bok)
Cowboy Junkies (David Bowie)
Robyn featuring Mapei (Neneh Cherry)
Spencer Cullum’s Coin Collection (Duncan Browne)
Katherine Priddy & John Smith (Kate & Anna McGarrigle)
Buddy Guy (The Beatles)
Cat Power (The Pogues)
Weyes Blood (Dee Dee Warwick)
10 I’m A Mess
Phosphorescent (Nick Lowe)
’Tis The Season To Be Different: Phil Shaw’s alternative festive playlist