So, yeah, this is pretty self-explanatory. It’s end of year list time and every website, blog and magazine are busy compiling them. So not to be left out, here are my favourite 25 albums from 2012. Feel free to leave your few cents worth in the comments section, if you feel the need that is.
25. Dark Horses – ‘Black Music’
24. The Egg – Something To Do’
23. Attaque – ‘When Light Falls’
22. Stealing Sheep – ‘Into The Diamond Sun’
21. Gaz Coombes Presents – ‘Here Come The Bombs’
20. Session Victim – ‘The Haunted House of House’
19. Ghost Estates – ‘Ghost Estates’
18. Cian Ciaran – ‘Outside In’
17. Graham Coxon – ‘A+E’
16. The Futureheads – ‘Rant’
Radlands saw Mystery Jets rediscover their sparkle following the mediocre Serotonin. Decamping to Texas to record the album, it sees them embrace a whole series of sweet Americana sounds. They haven’t lost sight of what made them such a great band in the first place; a blitz of wonderful indie, quirky eccentricity and a supreme ability to produce perfect pop songs. A thoroughly enjoyable and likeable record.
Eugene McGuinness‘ second album Invitation To The Voyage was one of the more enjoyable of 2012. Nothing startling or groundbreaking but an enjoyable blend of quirky, left-of-centre indie with a glossy pop sheen. With bursts of brass, surf/’60s pop guitar, clever lyrical wordplay and a confident swagger; McGuinness found a perfect balance between catchy pop and exhilarating indie.
Attack On Memory is a heavyweight and rather muscular record. A short, sharp shock to the system, a proverbial kick in the bollocks if you like, taking in post-rock, indie, post-punk and pure unadulterated noise. Interspersed with bursts of scuzzy powerful indie we are exposed to a barreling barrage of loud, pounding drums, raw guitars and a Dylan Baldi sounding like a young Jake Burns. It is in no way subtle, a terrific album nonetheless.
Nathan Conway & The River Valley Band certainly borrow from the past to create a timeless soulful country sound, and have found their niche. The tone is soulful country, set to overarching themes of demise and redemption, draped in Conway’s intuitive storytelling which paints vivid pictures with his words. Mostly you feel they are working together, from the swinging uptempo tracks to the less blustery, slower numbers. They have a rapport with one another; brass, percussion strings and Conway’s deep bellowed croon, all work in perfect tandem. Sonny Boy requires a degree of patience, but it is worth it. A beautiful, timeless and assured album.
11. Tennis – ‘Young and Old’
Young & Old is Denver-based husband-and-wife duo, Tennis’, second LP. The album is swathed in soothing ’60s sounds, syrupy melodies and smart, soulful pop songs with captivating, richly melodic purr of singer Alaina Moore’s stunning voice at the fore. There is a very real retro vibe, yet not at one time does it feel old, stale or tired. It is bright, breezy, charming and uncomplicated, most importantly, it is damn fine record.
The banks of the Mersey has given rise to many great bands over the years, the latest to emerge from the production line are By The Sea. Their self-titled debut album, produced by Bill Ryder Jones, hints at this Scouse heritage but this six-piece are very much their own band, with their own sound. The song titles like ‘Dream Waters’, ‘A Sail Floats and ‘Waltz Away’ set the tone, the album offers an elegant blend of dreamy, psychedelic and pastoral jams, this is music to get lost in. Liam Power’s voice, which has an uncanny resemblance to Shack’s Mick Head proves soothing and stirring as they waft across a hazy canvas of breezy, washed-out sounds.
09.The Heavy – ‘The Glorious Dead’
Wandering a retro path in the modern world can be tricky, there is little room for error. ‘Soul Rock’ is a minefield in itself. The Heavy have proven with two previous albums, while they do wear their influences on their sleeves, they make damn fine records. The Glorious Dead continues this trend. Meshing a clutch of hip hop breakbeats, slices of ’60s R&B, horns, riffs, zombie movie snippets, and soulful vocals into quality soulful, funk rock, of the highest order. What makes it so good? The wonderful execution, and it is oh so much fun, sometimes that really is quite enough.
Melody’s Echo Chamber is Parisian mullti-instrumentalist Melody Prochet. Teaming up with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker on production, her self-titled debut pushes her flair for dreamy pop into more experimental, spaced-out zones of hazy psych-pop. The album has Parker’s stamp all over it. Prochet’s light, inviting vocals are cast into a shifting series of settings, with beguiling results. At times everything is covered with a heavy blanket of reverb and fuzz, while others are a gentle whirlpool of shimmering psychedelic dream-pop. It is the combination of Parker’s inspired production and Prochet’s evocative voice which strike a perfect balance between pop and the psychedelic. A rather inspired and stunning debut.
Standstill continues where 2009’s When It’s Over left off, flowing gently by, amid a sea of soft lilting vocals, whispering lyrical poeticisms and subtle instrumentation. It is permeated by an air of richness, comforting tranquillity and shrouded in melancholy. Standstill is a slow burner and requires patience, understanding and repeated listens to be fully appreciated. Standstill is a beautiful, simplistic and assured album and sometimes that is quite enough.
06. Richard Hawley – ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’
The seventh studio album from Richard Hawley saw an interesting change of direction toward hazy psychedelia, something Hawley proves masterful at it. With only one track clocking in under five minutes, the songs are suffused with snarling, meandering guitars solos and Hawley’s distinctive vocals. The title track is a masterpiece telling tales of a man who kills his wife and kids, a hard-up prostitute who ends up in jail and a young man involved in inner city violence respectively. It’s the rockier material here that really stands out, like the excellent ‘Before’ and ‘Down in the Woods’. The latter is a real rocker with a venomous Hawley sounding not unlike Mark Lanegan. There are moments of real beauty here too, one wonders where Hawley will go next but it will certainly be interesting to find out. (Words edited from Johnny Feeney | Because I’m lazy)
05. Miaoux Miaoux – ‘Light of the North’
Light of the North is the debut record proper from 26-year-old Glasgow based producer, Miaoux Miaoux. Fluid and uplifting, these sounds evoke moods a million miles from dreary rain soaked city of its birth as he hops from genre to genre. It is a stunning record which delicately pieces together beats, electronics, synths and acoustic guitars, with his pristine vocals gliding through a heavenly mist of lush harmonies, melodies, beats and electronics. One for fans of Caribou, Hot Chip and Jape. An irresistible debut record, a bright future lies ahead.
The 2 Bears debut LP, Be Strong is a scatter shot across the entire scope of electronic music which feels like foraging through a fine record collection. It is a cheery, cheeky and joyous amalgam of sounds and a massive injection of positivity amidst a time of dreariness and uncertainty. It is a worthy ode to the past two decades of dance music, a fine soundtrack to any weekend and most importantly, a bloody excellent dance record.
Winterval is the debut solo album from Sam Willis, one half of London-based Walls. Taking a host of house, techno, minimal and Balearic influences, Willis assimilates these familiar traits into otherworldly electronic music that gracefully hovers in an ambiguous hinterland, between subtly euphoric and vaguely ambient. Chiming notes resonate through every track and the beats are delivered with pin point accuracy. Willis has mixed the warm sounds with a crisp frosty elegance, creating a hypnotic, comforting sound collage. It is no way an exaggeration to say Winterval is one of the most aesthetically complete electronic albums for quite some time.
Where to begin with this one? Lonerism is a simply brilliant album. Their 2010 debut Innerspeaker set the standard for warped retro, yet futurist psychedelia. The follow-up is leaner, more confident as it sprawls into further exploratory psychedelic territories. It kind of goes everywhere while remaining fluid and cohesive throughout. From the rocking stomp of ‘Elephant’, to dazzling epics of ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ or Lennon/McCartney-esque ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, Lonerism remains cohesive. It is an album which increasingly fascinates with every listen. Give it the time it deserves, it’s guaranteed not to disappoint. Truly stunning!
While Django Django’s debut album contains undeniable similarities with The Beta Band, they have far from copied or imitated. Part of the appeal is an ability to seamlessly blend genres and sounds from a melting pot of influences into a striking blend of understated indie, with an electro groove at its heart. Anchored by alluring harmonies and an undeniable groove which permeates the very core of this record, this is indie music to dance to. An inspired and wholly irresistible debut, and my album of 2012. Thank you!