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Albums Of The Year.... 2012

  • By MisterCharlie Author Avatar
  • 11 December 2012

Here they are then. This is the deeply personal list of what we were getting down to through 2012. There's sparkly pop, wonky indie introspection, splintered electro and disturbed hip hop. There are some obvious choices that would have been bizarre to leave off, and a few cheeky wildcards. Special mention should go to the following who were all voted for by staff members, but just couldn't be fit in- Plan B, Liars, Jack White, Frank Ocean, The Killers, First Aid Kit, Edward Sharpe + Magnetic Zeroes, Ty Segall, Moonface, M Ward, and Jens Leckman... so with those runners up out of the way, heeeeeeeeere are the BIG TEN:


10. Marina and the Diamonds - Electra Heart

Marina came back in 2012 with a synth-pop sensibility, and a good proportion of the hipsters cried her off as a sell out and turned away. But what we heard was a mixture of fierce dark wit, banging songs and, beneath the artificial gloss, a sense of sadness. Then Marina changed the game by ditching the synths and releasing four of the tracks as basically acoustic versions. They were also excellent, and are on YouTube.

9. Crystal Castles - (III)

Crystal Castles first album sounded like a pissed off Nintendo declaring war on the world. Crystal Castles’ second album sounded like a pissed off angel declaring war on the world. Their third is where some humanity seeks back in, and while they still sound as angry and as likely to punch you as ever, there is at least some warmth here.


8. Soulsavers - The Light The Dead See

Dave Gahan was only supposed to work with Soulsavers for one or two songs, but in the end they produced a whole album. Gahan sings of hope, loss and redemption while the strings swell and the gospel hums along, and the result is one of the most emotionally effective albums of the year, and certainly in the careers of both sides. Yes, it’s been accused of recycling Soulsavers earlier material, but we’d prefer perfecting.

7. Brasstronaut – Mean Sun

Slipping under the radar somewhat, Brasstronaut’s second album – made on a crowd sourced budget of $15,000 - was a gorgeous, occasionally bleak blend of swelling horns and introspective lyrics. Fey, meandering and dreamlike, it had a couple of moments of utterly sublime pop in the opening track Bounce, and the lead single Mean Sun, but there was plenty more for the curious. Commercially, the album suffered from a lack of major label promotion, but we feel fairly sure that it’ll sound great for years to come.

6.The Magnetic Fields - Love At The Bottom Of The Sea

Sparse sounding music? Check. Off kilter humour? Check. Droll delivery that wouldn’t be out of place in Downton Abbey? Check. The ability to capture your heart with a tiny vignette and a turn of phrase? Oh yes, check. The Magnetic Fields didn’t disappoint with an album whose sound will turn many off, but whose warmth is waiting for you once you settle in and listen.

5. Death Grips – The Money Store

Seemingly, the hardest thing for a band to do in 2012 was make something that sounded new. In a year that’s seen every conceivable musical corpse dusted off and jerkily reaminated, from 80s crust punk to 90s trance rave to 20s dinner jazz, genuine innovation was thin on the ground. This doesn’t mean shit to Death Grips, who live in a stinking hell bunker, spitting internet invective from beneath tin foil hats. Their first major label album of the year saw them stapling together samples in grotesque Frankenstein forms, drums overdriven, melodies filthy, and vocals - when audible – a patchwork of paranoia and disgust. We’ve never heard anything like it. At first we hated The Money Store, then as it refused to be erased from our hard drives, it gradually worked it’s dark magic, until it now seems completely indispensable. As far from instant gratification as you can get in todays quick fix culture, this record was hard going and, eventually, extremely rewarding.

4. Django Django – Django Django

Django Django did the magic thing we all want bands to do. They sounded like themselves and themselves only. Their debut album was a cheeky and bizarre world that sounded like a neon savannah populated by peyote chewing cowboys and rave aliens. It also throw out the summer’s biggest festival hit in Default. Is this just the start? We hope so…

3. Tame Impala – Lonerism

Picking up plaudits from everywhere, Lonerism really is a fine work. An exploration of psychedelia viewed through a haze of nostalgia and memory, it bought a strange new tint to an old sound, the band filling the album with the smell of dust heating on valve amps, and the crackling crap wedged between the grooves of old vinyl. Lead song writer Kevin Parker allowed his vision to stagger, woozily, from the wilful to the poppy, and somehow hit the motherlode along the way. Intelligent, danceable, introspective, and even, occasionally, fun Lonerism made a bold claim on the revitalised art of album writing.

2. The Maccabees – Given To The Wild

The Maccabees could have so easily remained stuck as indie also-rans, consigned to the heap marked ‘nearly’. Instead third album Given To The Wild was a shimmering jewel, an oasis mirage in the indie rock desert, full of mysterious melodies and pulsating rhythm. Producer Tim Goldsworthy’s dance background showed through in the albums dynamics, the bands guitars infused with a throbbing cosmic undertone that made the end result reach to the stars. Ultimately Given to the Wild will be remembered as a classic rock album, a throwing together of those leaden old ingredients of guitar bass, song and drum, that somehow still manages to transmute into pure gold.

1. Alt – J – An Awesome Wave

Quietly, methodically, Alt-J stole indie. With a minimum of press fanfare, the 4 piece constructed a heartfelt, intricate opus. They wove folk melodies into twinkling electronica, cerebral lyrics into sudden swooning moments of pop beauty, and an album that left listeners enriched. Radiohead comparisons were thrown at them like an insult- since when has sounding like Radiohead been a bad thing? It’s not as if it’s easy… But the band were way more than lazy comparisons could encapsulate, offering a new direction for intelligent music, and something to be cherished.  The Mercury was justified, and we feel sure they're just getting started...