1. Anna Calvi: Dramatic silences, soaringly weird lyrics and an album that’s both lovely and unnerving, Calvi’s distinctive alto and other-worldly styling make for an irresistible combination that was the peak of the year for many an alternative ear.
2. PJ Harvey: Polly Jean won the Mercury this year, but that doesn’t mean she’s become more mainstream. If anything, she proved she’s got an iron fist in her velvety-voiced glove when her folksy, bouncy, political album made England shake.
3. tUnE-YarDs: This is the alias of Merrill Garbus, who’s brightly, brilliantly bonkers. Not one to shy away from experimenting, on the rambunctious songs from her 2011 album w h o k I l l she uses drum and voice looping either insanely or innovatively, depending on your outlook. Whatever you think, it’s a sound that’s bold and pretty much unique.
4. Ane Brun: This prolific Norwegian had a pretty mellow sound ‘til this year; it’d be fair to say that some of her songs were downright depressing. ‘Freedom Song’ is a massive track and a massive change: Brun gets a chance to show off her more upbeat side as well as her incredible lung capacity.
5. Amanda Palmer: Amanda Palmer is the lead singer of the Dresden Dolls (there’s a reunion tour in Australia soon); moreover, she’s one of the coolest women on the planet. Whether she’s empowering women’s bodies or having a flashmob wedding, you’ve got to love anyone who’s released an album of Radiohead songs as played on the ukulele.
6. Lana Del Rey: There’s been quite the internet fuss about Lana Del Rey. Whether people are questioning her look or questioning her commerciality, no-one’s questioning that her songs are catchy in a rare and rather beautiful way.
7. Asteroids Galaxy Tour: This Danish band’s debut album didn’t chart in the UK or USA when it was released in 2009, but their song ‘Golden Age’ had a bit of a reconnaissance when it was featured in a TV advert this year. Funkier than you can possibly imagine, their cover of Marvin Gaye’s classic ‘Inner City Pressure’ is alone worth the album price. Look out for their second effort in January, 2012.
8. Feist: It’s been a big year for Leslie Feist: she released a hit album and appeared on The Muppet Show with Mickey Rooney. The songs of ‘Metals’ have jumpy, bittersweet and slightly poppy melodies; it’s great music to listen to in the bath.
9. Laura Marling: Best Solo Artist at NME, Best British Female at the Brits: ‘A Creature I Don’t Know ‘was Marling’s third album in four years, and the most personal to date. Her song ‘Sophia’ (inspired by the goddess of wisdom) is an absolute barnstormer.
10. Kate Bush: The woman best at indirectly making her listeners feel unimaginative, this weird and wonderful singer has released a new, aptly timed album: 50 Words for Snow. If you like all things sexy, snowy and Stephen Fry, you’ll love it.
Honourable mention has to go to Florence Welch and Bjork, both of whom had successful albums out this year – but what do you think? Have we missed anyone out?