Charli XCX has become a ubiquitous presence on other people’s hit songs – from Icona Pop’s I Love It (which she co-wrote) to Iggy Azalea’s ubiquitous Fancy.

What makes a band authentic? In the age of the crafted image, we've become professional ironists, practised at recognising artifice and ridiculing sentiment. Perhaps authenticity, then, lies in the ability to befuddle this urge - in short, to make us feel something.


In lieu of a Christmas album, M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel, in their bonny collaboration as She & Him, have released a collection of old standards titled Classics. Some songs, such as Stars Fell on Alabama and Time After Time, will be familiar to most listeners, and others, including Maxine Brown’s fantastic Oh No, Not My Baby and This Girl’s in Love With You, may be new.

It’s unorthodox to release another album a mere six months after your major-label debut, but that’s what Iggy Azalea has done.

Another year, another Hunger Games. But the real winner of this year's games is Lorde, who blows her competition out of the water with this expertly assembled soundtrack, featuring a diverse group of young musicians who represent the cutting edge of pop.  

TV on the Radio's fifth studio album has only a trickle of the haunting, stunning beauty that made their third work, Dear Science, among the best of the decade.

A confession: before the release of Four, I could not have named a single One Direction song. It’s one cultural phenomenon that simply passed me by (Simon Cowell created them? Harry Styles is one?). So I’m not in a great position to comment on One Direction’s emotional and musical maturation over the course of their career.

Half a century into their career, Pink Floyd are more interested in mythmaking than music-making. Their 15th and (self-professed) “final album”, The Endless River shot to No1on the UK charts, beating out the Foo Fighters and Taylor Swift.

Is Mykki Blanco the future? Like his Brooklyn counterpart Shamir, Blanco heralds a new era of gender play, along with a new generation of audiences comfortable with queer identity. The Village Voice just put him on its cover, above the caption "Gender Ninja".  

Deerhoof don't care what you think. The opening song ( Paradise Girls) of their wonky new album, La Isla Bonita, is a jangle of squiggly noises and melodies. "Girls!/Who play the bass guitar/Girls!/Who are smart," sings a cute little nonsensical voice (Satomi Matsuzaki, sounding ridiculously like BMO from the meta-cartoon Adventuretime).

Mark Kozelek's album Benji (in his guise as Sun Kil Moon) is one of the best of this year, if not the best. Benji combined gently original melodies with an astonishing ability to tell stories that felt both specific and socially pressing. Riding the wave of that big success, Kozelek has released an album of Christmas songs for the season.

Clockenflap gets bigger and better every year. Here’s our choice of the must-sees acts of the harbourfront festival.

Much has been made of Taylor Swift's decision to move from country music to pure pop. The transition may seem natural but she is divesting herself of a security blanket: in country, she's one of a kind; in pop she's one among many. Now she stands unshrouded and surrounded by potential rivals.

It’s not surprising the Flaming Lips would choose to tackle Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, given their own psychedelic aural history. This isn’t the first time they’ve covered albums in their entirety either: first Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, then King Crimson, then the Stone Roses. But Sgt Pepper’s is the most inventive of the bunch, and the most collaborative.

It's been a knockout year for women in pop music. What men are writing and singing with this kind of emotion, panache and sexiness? The James Blakes and Abel Tesfayes and Frank Oceans of yesteryear have been eclipsed. Now comes Jessie Ware, who kicks up the sound another notch with her gorgeous sophomore album, Tough Love.  

Scott Walker has journeyed to strange places. In the 1960s, he was a pop icon (albeit an unconventional one) noted for his deliciously baritone balladeering. In the 1980s, he successfully transitioned to an avant-garde noisemaker.

Ex Hex’s first full album, Rips, has the qualities we associate with a “summer album”: it’s full of fun and life. But don’t we also need those things as the weather turns, too?

In 2005, the Beijing-based duo FM3, comprising Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian, released their first Buddha Machine, a literal black box with a built-in speaker, a headphone jack, and nine ethereal (and yes, meditative) ambient electronic loops.

Every new musical form begins with a period of great fertility and innovation. Inevitably, it settles, petrifying into a distinctive but limited set of rules to be played with ad infinitum. Jazz is no exception, but perhaps more than other genres it has become the property and the playground of a small, interested elite, abdicating any claim it once had to the popular consciousness.

Caribou, one of the stage names of Canadian Dan Snaith, is best known for his 2010 eerie earworm Odessa, which combined wonky cowbells with smoky synth lines that felt like dry ice. It was a standout song in a smashingly good year for indie electronic music (Delorean, Emeralds, Four Tet, Hot Chip … the list goes on). The album it came on, Swim, felt otherworldly.  

Prince has been effectively absent from the music scene in the 21st century, relevant more as a relic of a past era than as a living, breathing artist. His new album is unexpected; released with little of the fanfare befitting a cultural icon (or an artist formerly known as one).

In case you aren't sure what Tove Lo's delectable debut is about, she provides tidy little subject headings: The Sex, The Love, The Pain. Each heading introduces a new chapter, which charts that timeless transition from lust to love to loss. As in life, The Pain is the longest chapter.

Seattle-based solo artist Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, unfurls his new album, Too Bright, with all the stately grace of a funeral procession.

Since the release of debut album An Awesome Wave in 2012. British alt-rockers Alt-J have been critically divisive and popularly loved. This disconnect is no wonder; detractors deride the band as incoherent and derivative - an ersatz Radiohead - but the focus on Alt-J's context and legacy misses their charm.

On their new album, Brill Bruisers, The New Pornographers waste no time in getting jubilant. The album opens with a bang and clash that throws us right into the action and immediately establishes an atmosphere, Shakespeare-style.