So now we’re reaching the halfway point of 2012, and we're happy to note that the world still hasn't ended, the music industry hasn't collapsed and the English weather's still shit. All things present and correct, it's time for a MID-YEAR ALBUM ROUND UP. Yep, we thought we'd look back over the last 6 months and pick out exactly which albums have been tickling our cochlea’s and lurking, prowler like, at the back of our dreams.
In theory, all bands in 2012 should look like this.
In good news, it turns out that reports of the albums demise as a musical form seem to be very much exaggerated, or at the very least ignored by a number of acts who’ve pulled out some fine, cohesive sets. Whilst there’s been a huge trend for reunions, and increasingly long-of-tooth/ short-of-ideas veterans dominating the festival circuit, we’re glad to say that the majority of our favourite albums in 2012 have been from bands who formed in the last 5 or so years. This, more than anything, points to a music scene that, whilst lacking a central focus, is still evolving new and intriguing forms.
10. Death Grips - The Money Shop
Death Grips live in an alternate reality where Puff Daddy’s bling n’disco chart busters never existed, where, instead, the template laid down on Public Enemy’s classic first trio of albums remained the foundation stone for modern hip hop. Samples are used as explosives and lyrics are garbled rants of pain and poetry. Often listening to The Money Shop is like listening to 15 utterly random Youtube videos played simultaneously on a virus ridden laptop. It’s awkward, unpalatable, overdriven, distorted, and at times just plain horrible. Your Mum probably isn’t a fan. Neither, for that matter, is your Dad. And in the age of instant consumption that thoroughly informs the ADHD approach to songwriting that typifies a Death Grips track, their music demands a scarce commodity: patience. Stick with The Money Shop, and it reveals itself as an intricate work of art, molten with rage, paranoia and, on single I've Seen Footage, capable of producing a truly great schizo punk floorfiller.
9. Maccabees – Given to the Wild
Out go the jaunty riffs and the stadium baiting chorus’s on the Maccabees third offering, and in come introspection and (eeek!)... maturity.... It’s taken 3 albums for the band to deliver on their potential, but they’ve delivered in spades with Given to the Wild. With no tricks or gimmicks, other than the occasional hint of producer Tim Goldsworthy’s love of psychedelic textures, this is the sound of a band finding its voice. Evolved, emotional, and uplifting , this album proves emphatically that indie rock's still got a song or two in the locker, and has helped push the band further into the big league.
8. Tu Fawning – A Monument
Weird without being wacky, Tu Fawning have come up with the great equation: glamour x drums nicked from Game of Thrones = compellingly bonkers. A bit like a goblin orchestra catapulting mirrorballs at Mordor, Tu Fawning aren’t quite like anything else around, and are all the better for it. This second album plowed further into their dark, fantastical world, and helped distinguish them from the Portland scene they rose from.
7. Pulled Apart by Horses - Tough Love
"WHEN I WAS A KID, I WAS A DICK. BUT NOTHING CHANGES." And that, ladies and gentleman, is how to open a rock song. Listening to Tough Love is a bit like being kidneypunched by a screaming teenage mongrel, but don't let that put you off. Doubters wondered if P.A.B.H. could ever condense their maniac, brutal live show onto wax, but by jove, with Tough Love they went and bloody did it. Noisy, tight as a gnats snatch, and utterly vital.
6.Kindness - World You Need A Change of Mind
The brain child of Adam Bainbridge and French house maestro Phillipe Zdar, World You Need A Change of Mind was a good 3 years in the making, but well worth the wait. The multi instrumentalist Bainbridge made a collection of hazy, vaseline smeared tributes to 80s disco, all suffused with an unaffected warmth. His bass playing is amazing throughout, funky, languid and deep, and his ethereal vocals flutter on top of the tracks like sprinklings of gold dust. The 'Eastenders' cover is a divisive one (for the record: I hate it) but the rest of this organic, nostalgic album is a lovely affair.
5. Grimes - Visions
Grimes may well be the best pop star of 2012- forget the mega bucks chucked at Lana Del Rey's spoilt little heartache, Grimes is the real deal. A Canadian producer obsessed with making pure transendental pop, she touches on J-Pop, trance, RnB, electro and her own sparkling brand of 8 bit cheek. We get the feeling she's just getting started, and that there's a whole lot more on its way...
4. Graham Coxon – A&E
Looks like Blur have called it a day on the whole recording new music. Fact is, with Coxon recording a solo album as good as A&E he’s pretty much out Blurred his former bandmates anyway. This collection of effortless outsider rock n roll is the sound of Coxon having fun in the studio; there’s a palpable sense of enjoyment in the scuzzy grooves he’s wrung out of drum machines and the wails and howls of his garage rock guitar. The fans are happy, Graham's happy. Win!
3. Light Asylum - Light Asylum
Whlist the retromania exhibited by this New York duo may upset progressives out there, no one can deny there ability to knock out a tune. Light Asylum's debut album was a seance, summoning the spirit of 80s synth wave, then forcing it too dance a brand new jig. The fact that these songs weren't written in 1982 doesn't matter- they should have been.
2. Liars - WIXIW
The bands 6th album is both their most accessible album and possibly their best. Pagan ritual chants, unexpected song structures, throbbing rhythms and flotation tank waves of sound make this intelligent, and just a little bit spooky. In single No 1 Against the Rush Liars have created their first future indie disco anthem, Angus Andrew's vocals, finally given a break from screaming turn out to be rich as gold mollases. As we said in the review, Liars are swiftly turning into America's closest contemporaries to Radiohead- two very different bands who have managed to remain successful whilst constantly rushing forward.
1. Django Django - Django Django
An early contender for debut of the year, Django Django delivered their first album from out of nowhere- BAM! it came, a fully formed set of songs that took in a hundred genres without sounding like a joke. YIKES! A hundred critics wrote. This is really good! WTF! They mix techno with country and then stew it in spagetti western. Why doesn't it sound appalling? Why?? Because Django Django are made of magic, sunny bank holidays and sliced bread, that's why.