Having spent the entire year slagging off Britpop, maybe it's time I offered some alternatives. So, here's a pick of some of the records that have made 1996 the best year for music since, erm, 1995...
Insides - All Life Long/Blue Nimbus (demo tape)
The only band in Brighton worth crossing the street for return with their most life-affirming, heart-breaking material yet. They're only demo tapes and they're still in a class of their own...
Jeru The Damaja - Wrath Of The Math (Payday LP)
Returning hip hop to its philosophical origins, Mr Damaja speaks his ample mind over Premier's minimalist beats to produce a record of stunning depth and clarity.
Bardots - V-Neck (Che LP)
Briefly music press darlings, now completely ignored, Norwich's finest refused to jump on the Britpop bandwagon and instead emerged from a lengthy absence with a stylish and wildly melodramatic second album that fulfilled all their earlier potential.
Mobb Deep - Hell On Earth (Loud LP)
Marginally disappointing after the savage masterpiece that was 'The Infamous' but still a ghostly, chilling vision of New York life. While the 'alternative' scene messes harmlessly about with ideas of subversion, Mobb Deep can get in the US Top Ten with a record as extreme, as unapproachable, as this. Just don't expect any love songs, that's all...
Hyenas In The Desert - Concubinez (Slam Jamz LP track)
The first release on Chuck D's new label was a mixed bag but 'Concubinez' is hip hop at its most staggering, an unruly collage of mangled tapes and buried vocals.
Manic Street Preachers - Everything Must Go (Epic LP)
Their most consistent and accessible record (although not necessarily their best) and an unexpectedly stunning set of half-triumphant, half-shellshocked songs. Even with so much missing (the clothes, the attitude and, above all, Richey), they're still an extraordinary band.
Trace - Liberty One (Emotif compilation LP track)
Industrial drum and bass for death metal fans. 'Ray!
DJ Shadow - Endtroducing (Mo Wax LP)
Not as good as everyone says it is (organ solos, fer Christ's sake!) and not as important as Shadow wants it to be. Still a damn fine record, though, particularly when it forgets about being clever and lets everything flow a little.
The Brotherhood - Elementalz (Virgin LP)
The sound of British hip hop coming of age - fifteen tracks about London, complete with the right accents, atmospheric beats and references to everything from Roger Mellie to Adam Ant. Multi-cultural British society translated onto a CD.
DJ Zinc - Super Sharp Shooter (Parousa compilation LP track)
A drum and bass record featuring a Tasmanian Devil-type Method Man sample, a bass-line that sounds like an out-of-control Space Invaders machine and frantic breakbeats. And every bit as ace as it sounds (or not, suit yourselves...).