The Top 50 Albums Of 2012
TRAILER TRASH TRACYS
(Double Six Records)
Click here to read about Trailer Trash Tracys.
‘Like I Used To’
Wriggling out from the boyish grip of Bombay Bicycle Club’s touring schedule, Lucy Rose won hearts with her debut album. A beautiful representation of young love and the crippling heartache that often coincides, ‘Like I Used To’ is a delicate but assured debut.
‘Spooky Action At A Distance’
Guitarist Lockett Pundt snuck off from his Deerhunter duties to record ‘Spooky Action…’, an album that coaxed the guitarist, somewhat reluctantly, out as a frontman. With Kurt Vile-like smokescapes, filtered melodies and dreamily opaque fret work, this was an utterly absorbing solo venture.
Released in spring, ‘2:54’’s heaving cloud of seductive gloom has loomed over the latter half of 2012 ominously. The reverberations of Colette and Hannah Thurlow’s intimately-conceived suite of juddering guitars still resound six months later; testament to their intoxicating power.
EGYPTIAN HIP HOP
‘Good Don’t Sleep’
Three years after the Mancunian school friends first emerged in a burst of wobbly melodies and surreal pop, they eventually came good on their early promise with a debut album that’s adventurous, daring and definitely worth the wait.
‘Have Some Faith In Magic’
(ROCK ACTION RECORDS)
After two albums of engaging post-rock kosmische, Errors opened themselves up to something a little more widescreen. It may have sounded like Toto’s ‘Dune’ soundtrack remixed by ADULT., but these bold, glittering textures amounted to their best album thus far.
‘Into The Diamond Sun’
On the evidence of the first two singles ‘Shut Eye’ and ‘Genevieve’, Stealing Sheep’s debut was always going to be a promising contender. Drenched in Scando spirit, triple harmonies and loads of handclaps, their debut was a twee yet terrific highlight.
PULLED APART BY HORSES
Building on the success of their self-titled debut, PABH returned with an album so thunderously brilliant it made Britain sit up, wipe the blood from its ears and thrust a devil horn skywards. ‘Tough Love’ made bone-shattering riffs cool again.
(Odd Future Records/Trash Talk Collective)
You can almost taste the skunk, blood and sweat when you press play. Made in their LA base, ‘119’ provides visceral reportage on Trash Talk’s lifestyle choices. Just like its authors, their fourth is thrilling, horrible, dangerous and vital.
TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB
Two Door’s second album had a mountain of expectation resting on its shoulders. Thankfully it delivered; with surging synths, killer hooks and stadium-filling choruses, ‘Beacon’ put them on the right road to a stratospheric 2013.
Click here to read about Allah-Las.
Send four squat party superstars to the Texan desert and what do you get? A desert disco full of campfire celebrations and tasselled leather jackets, that’s what. Whilst bidding farewell to founding member Kai Fish, ‘Radlands’ marked an adventurous new beginning for the Jets.
‘The Only Place’
With album two, Best Coast’s Bethany told The Fly she wanted to lose “that stoner cat girl label”. Her vocals are bolder, the production is glossier, and her songs sound both sweet and emo. It works so well, even Snacks approves.
A near-fatal electrocution for Dave Okumu wasn’t the most notable event for The Invisible this year. No, it was ‘Rispah’, a desperately emotional album that balanced the rigour of grief with an immense and shining sense of hope. Monumental.
Another volte-face from Liars signified the New York trio’s most accessible release to date, as far removed from witchfest ‘They Were Wrong…’ as possible, for good or ill. ‘WIXIW’ unfurls at its own stubborn pace, venturing into new, exhilarating electronic pastures.
‘America Give Up’
Breathing new life into garage rock, Howler burst into 2012 as the most boisterous new band to emerge from the US. On ‘America Give Up’ they proved why – mixing bratty charm, lyrical sarcasm and searing guitars with thrillingly scrappy results.
DAVID BYRNE & ST. VINCENT
‘Love This Giant’
Take the godfather of art-rock, add an avant-scene queen, and give them a brass band to play with. Whaddya get? An album that’s clever, vibrant and surprisingly playful – there’s even a song called ‘I Am An Ape’.
(Domino Recording Co.)
How do you follow up an album as cerebrally celebrated as ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’? Baltimore’s best traded in the giddy carnival of sound for a dense, chaotic soup of industrial electronic blips and distortions. Perfect. Don’t look back.
There was a definite danger that these two Baltimore dreamers could’ve become the most insufferably mimsy of acts, but ‘Bloom’ is a treasure of a pop album, drenched with the sweetest and most pored over collection of homemade sounds.
HERE WE GO MAGIC
‘A Different Ship’
Following 2010’s ‘Pigeons’, Here We Go Magic enlisted the master of melodic misery Nigel Godrich for their third LP. Carefully twisting its way through frontman Luke Temple’s deepest demons, the astounding ‘A Different Ship’ recalls Radiohead at their most mellow.
When you’re lauded as the greatest guitarist of your generation, it takes a contrary fucker to then go and make an album that prioritises everything except straight-up guitars. Luckily, on ‘A&E’, Coxon thrives with electronic thrums and drones just as well as his usual fare.
‘Give You The Ghost’
Click here to read about Polica.
Distancing themselves from their former puppetmaster Joe Lean, TOY ditched sub-par indie and stepped into the spotlight with a killer first record of swirling psychedelia and dizzying kaleidoscopic hooks. Powerful enough to erase their less palatable past.
Chairlift didn’t just reinvent their sound for second album ‘Something’, they jumped in a time-machine back to the 1980s with a suitcase full of dusty synths to make a record The Thompson Twins would be proud of – a gloriously comforting modern-day trip down memory lane.
BAT FOR LASHES
‘The Haunted Man’
Natasha Khan’s third LP was her most impressive yet. She could still be mystical and cryptic, but when she tried a more direct approach, she was simply devastating. And the album’s cover shot, though over-discussed, was an instant classic.
MELODY’S ECHO CHAMBER
‘Melody’s Echo Chamber’
Click here to read about Melody’s Echo Chamber.
Mixing Americana with warped electronica shouldn’t work so it’s to Daughn Gibson credit that ‘All Hell’ stylishly avoids being a horrible mess. Instead, as on ‘Tiffany Lou’, we get the dark spirit of Johnny Cash done the modern way.
George Lewis Jr.’s second album is the hi-fi cousin of its predecessor, ‘Confess’, putting a straight-faced spin on being quite the bastard in relationships. Consequently, it’s entertaining and overwrought in the most delightful ways – next time he comes back, he’ll be global.
‘Swing Lo Magellan’
(DOMINO RECORDING CO.)
One from the countryside, this. Dodging the plush instrumentation of their last effort, ‘Bitte Orca’, Dave Longstreth opted to make his band resident in an abandoned house upstate. The result is a folk-flecked, occasionally bucolic, escape from New York.
‘In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull’
Post-Johnny Marr, the brothers Jarman rediscovered recklessness on this, their finest work since 2005’s ‘The New Fellas’. Crowned with a triumphant Reading performance, their fifth album firmly established The Cribs as one of the preeminent bands of their generation.
Click here to read about King Tuff.
With ‘(Druun)’’s opening drumbeat, DIIV’s first begins an assault of watery vocals, fluid repetition and metronomic melody that makes brain revolve inside skull. Romance, punk, art and a disorienting web of guitars collide on the New Yorkers’ essential debut.
‘Beard, Wives, Denim’
Pond’s fourth album was a deranged, fast, loose and unpredictable induction to the mainstream for the Tame Impala offshoot. Brilliantly, it sounds exactly like the environment in which it was conceived – a psychedelic, tumbledown shack that reeked of weed.
If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it say The xx on their second album ‘Coexist’. Opening with the beautiful ‘Angels’ sets up an album which wrongfooted fans expecting club friendly material, favouring heart and a dynamic soul instead.
‘The Vaccines Come Of Age’
More intricate, yet completely immediate; nuanced, yet chock full of riffs – for their secondLP, Justin and co. managed to spit out an album that simultaneously capitalised onand blew apart everything that already made them great. The O2 Arena beckons…
Click here to read about Purity Ring.
ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI
‘Mature Themes’ is the sound of Ariel Pink growing into the songs he has always aimed to make. His oddball ideas are direct, like on ‘Schnitzel Boogie’; the grinding repetition seems completely vital. This is the sound of Ariel Pink becoming, ahem, more mature.
Capturing listeners with its waltzing graze and delicate beauty, the New Yorker’s fourth was an exercise in art-pop dexterity. Trading in their intricate soundscapes for Talk Talk-like pop minimalism at times, ‘Shields’’ pristine melodies are Grizzly Bear’s most remarkable yet.
‘An Awesome Wave’
With geometry-based chat up lines and literary references, Alt-J used their bookish sensibilities to give pop a Mensa makeover. Drawing a glut of slightly over-zealous Radiohead comparisons, their polyrhythmic schtick may be complex but it struck a chord with many.
LANA DEL REY
‘Born To Die’
When Lizzy Grant arrived like a fully-formed Lynchian creation, bloggers seethed over the fact that she didn’t actually live in a trailer on Coney Island. For everyone else though, this was an excellent debut, littered with dangerous older men, faded glamour and heartbreakingly beautiful pop songs.
Kevin Parker’s tendency to hole himself up in his bedroom and allow his mind to gallop naked into territory marked ‘basically anything you like is fine’ has resulted in ‘Lonerism’ a visionary pop masterpiece. Be careful, though: winning single ‘Elephant’ gives no clues about the gorgeous innervisions within.
‘Given To The Wild’
‘Given To The Wild’ was the first great record of the year and, between the urgency of ‘Pelican’ and the sweeping beauty of ‘Forever I’ve Known’, it remains one of the greatest. We always knew they were good, but we didn’t quite expect them to get this immense.
‘World, You Need A Change Of Mind’
Adam Bainbridge’s debut skips so indelicately from funk (‘Gee Up’) to go-go (‘That’s Alright’), and back to house (err, ‘House’), that you wonder if he knows what he’s doing at all. But this record’s brilliance lies in its peacocking confidence in a range of disparate styles.
Crafted with warmth and soul, the tug of war between soft and strong is what makes ‘Plumb’ inspiring. Basslines noodle across lyrics spiked by political frustration and lovelorn confusion. Field Music have made an album that’s charming and challenging.
They may have sparked premature hype, but the Django Django songs that appeared online in 2009 were merely follies crafted by singer/guitarist Vince Neff and producer Dave Maclean. The resulting album is an immersive, psychedelic thrill that’s unmistakably unique.
‘Devotion’ broke the rule stating that lovelorn albums will eventually turn to mush. ‘Running’ and ‘Wildest Moments’ proved that pop can hit the G-spot without being bombastic. And best of all, it said, “Guys, why are you acting like numpties? Nice girls can be popstars too!”
‘Sun’ took an unexpected turn away from smoky delta blues into auto-tuned pop territory. Melancholy purists devoted to the Cat Power of old could’ve been sceptical of the change, but ‘Sun’ burns fiercely. Since recording, Marshall has suffered yet more romantic agony (splitting from boyfriend Giovanni Ribisi, who has since married Agyness Deyn), which paints ‘Sun’’s optimism in an altogether sadder hue. Regardless, ‘Manhattan’, ‘Ruin’ and 11-minute opus ‘Nothin’ But Time’ are career highlights.
The most important album of the year? ‘channel ORANGE’ could have been overcome by industry hype, idle conjecture and insults relating to Ocean’s revelation of a love affair with another man. But Ocean’s skill as an auteur and vocalist transcended all that. It’s filmic songs provide unrelenting musical reward, but it’s the provocative, uncertain cleverness, the guessing what it all means, that make ‘channel ORANGE’ 2012’s most luxuriant, ultramodern and, ultimately, important, record.
Claire Boucher doesn’t do dull. Consider the facts. There’s her colourful backstory, part of which was spent sailing down the Mississippi River on a homemade house-boat. Her endearingly clumsy live shows, where you’ll find genital jewellery on sale at the merch table. And then there’s her music. From the monolithic portrait of emotional detachment that is ‘Oblivion’ to ‘Skin’’s skeletal delicacy, Grimes’ 4AD debut richly deserved its year-long adoration.
SHARON VAN ETTEN
Click here to read about Sharon Van Etten and The Fly’s #1 album of 2012.