Top 10 Albums of 2012

2012 has been another great year for new music across many genres, but much of that great music has not necessarily come from great albums. I’ve listened to more new music in 2012 than I have since I left Xfm in 2008. I’ve experienced various levels of disappointment with most of them.

But among the disappointments have been some revelations. Interestingly, only three of these albums are debuts. And one of those is by a band made up of veterans of their respective genres.

10) The Walkmen Heaven

The Walkmen

It’s not always good news when a band matures, but The Walkmen have been pulling it off with aplomb for a few years now.

This their sixth album finds them 10 years on from their debut and 8 years since the heady rush of ‘The Rat’. What was their most iconic song now has a rival in its polar opposite ‘We Can’t Be Beat’, a vocal led number with a great wordless sing along refrain. When Hamilton Leithauser sings “It’s been so long at the 2:37, you don’t doubt for a second that he really means it.

Elsewhere, the even more minimal ‘Southern Heart’ provides another highlight while their more familiar scratchy drunken guitar lines and little circular motifs pop up on the likes of ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘Heaven’. An album that delivers more with each listen.
[Listen on Spotify]

9) The Mountain Goats Transcendental Youth

The Mountain Goats

There’s currently a petition to the White House to have Mountain Goats’ mainman John Darnielle made US Poet Laureate. They could do worse than send this, his 14th album, as supporting evidence. It opens with a song for Amy WInehouse (‘Spent Gladiator’) and peaks with one for another less celebrated dead-too-young pop star Frankie Lymon (‘Harlem Roulette’)

The rest of the album finds the guitar-bass-drums set up of his last few albums augmented by a horn section on songs about agoraphobics, fictional gangsters, junkies and Judas all told with what one review called “radical empathy” and another called “deceptively plainspoken poetry”.
[Listen on Spotify]

8) Django Django Django Django

Django DjangoCame to this one late despite several glowing recommendations. These guys share some DNA with The Beta Band (literally in the case of drummer David Maclean, brother of TBB’s John).

A maximalist melting pot of poppy psychedelia, electronica, the twang and rumble of early rock and roll, Krautrock, eastern motifs and delicious harmonizing. This is an  endlessly engrossing debut.
[Listen On Spotify]

7) Beach House Bloom

Beach HouseHow do you follow an album as near perfect as Teen Dream? Beach House’s answer is clearly “with more of the same”.

While Bloom may not have quite as many peaks as its predecessor, it is still a masterclass in electronic dreampop, with the likes of ‘Lazuli’, ‘Myth’, ‘Other People’ and ‘Wishes’ among their very best.
[Listen on Spotify]

6) Bowerbirds The Clearing

Bowerbirds_-_The_Clearing_-_300x300

Boy and girl record two albums of rough-edged folk music, one falls seriously ill and nearly dies, she recovers and they build a house / recording studio / art space in the woods of rural North Carolina. Somewhere in there they also split up and reconcile while also spending time recording their more polished but no less charming third album at Bon Iver’s studio in Wisconsin.

It’s understandable why issues including a preoccupation with mortality, belonging, and balancing the domestic rural idyll with the life of a touring band permeate these songs, but these themes are tackled with some of the most straight-up beautiful music of 2012.
[Listen on Spotify]

5) Hospitality Hospitality

Hospitality

Released back in January, the gentle charms of this near flawless album seem to have been forgotten by many despite a bunch of glowing reviews at the time. For shame.

This collection of glowing indie pop songs may not be breaking new ground but there’s a timelessness to Amber Papini’s songwriting that will find you coming back to this collection for many years.
[Listen on Spotify]

4) Dirty Projectors Swing Lo Magellan

Dirty ProjectorsDespite owning a couple of their previous records, I’ve often found Dirty Projectors’ music something to be admired rather than embraced. They’ve often had the odd moment of brilliance, but the idea of listening to one of their albums the whole way through rarely appeals. This made Swing Lo Magellan one of this year’s greatest revelations.

David Longstreth channels everyone from Led Zep to the Beatles to The Beach Boys to The Velvet Underground to Talking Heads, weds it to his taste for West African guitar styles, polyrhythms and layered vocals, throws in some judiciously placed strings and raises the quality of the songwriting exponentially. In ‘Gun Has No Trigger’ he has crafted a production the equal of any of John Barry’s classic Bond themes.
[Listen on Spotify]

3)   Tame Impala Lonerism

Tame_Impala_-_Lonerism_300x300

Whereas their debut Innerspeaker was a stone cold retro-rock classic packed with 11 great late-60s indebted songs that sounded like it could only have been made in a valve-tastic analogue studio, Lonerism is a slightly different beast.

Although the overall psychedelic feel and Kevin Parker’s Lennon-indebted vocals remain, the production techniques reveas itself to be much more modernist in its approach. It’s the striving for the warmth and breadth of those analogue recordings the late 60s by combining instrumental chops with the modern production tehcniques of electronic music, coupled with the excellent songwriting that make Lonerism work.
[Listen on Spotify]

2) Grizzly Bear Shields

Grizzly_Bear_-_Shields_-_300x300

Brilliant though Veckatimest was, it’s a shame that this wasn’t the record that introduced most people to Grizzly Bear. Those that have written them off for being difficult or wilfully eccentric may have found much more to love within the grooves of this their fourth and most accessible album.

Lush and multifaceted,Sheilds moves seamlessly from the crunching Led Zep riff of ‘Sleeping Ute’ to the piano and snare-led ‘A Simple Answer’ to the warm and enveloping ‘Yet Again’ to the fretless bass and electronic effects of ‘Gun-Shy’, this album worms its way into your heart not just your brain.
[Listen on Spotify]

1) Divine Fits A Thing Called Divine Fits

Divine FitsSpoon’s Brit Daniel, Wolf Parade / Handsome Furs’ Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks’ Dan Brown team up for the album that had me returning to it the most this year. Scratchy guitars, supple bass lines, new wave keyboards and some of Boeckner and Daniel’s best ever tunes.

Not only is this my favourite album of the year, in ‘Baby Gets Worse’, ‘Flaggin’ A Ride’, ‘My Love Is Real’, and ‘Like Ice Cream’ it also includes some of the greatest individual tracks, while their take on Boys Next Door’s ‘Shivers’ ranks amongst 2012’s best cover versions. And how iconic is the album artwork? The whole package.
[Listen on Spotify]

One thought on “Top 10 Albums of 2012

  1. Pingback: Pitchfork: 2012 best year for new albums since 2011! | Twitching In The Pharmacy

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