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The Top 10 Albums of 2012


So turns out I’m probably the only person to put a list like this out after 2012. I’m gonna pretend this is a really good thing and totally not just the sinking in of Christmas/New Year laziness. That said, if I hadn’t waited until now, there is one album on here that I only got on Christmas Day, so if I hadn’t waited there’d be a very different number 7.

What is particularly interesting about this list, compared to last year’s, is that I actually had the stats for which albums I had played the most, which means for this list I can be honest to myself. When I compiled this list, I found the top 5 remarkably easy, and when having written the 5, I then checked my stats, I was very pleased to discover I had listened to each in exactly the order you find them in here, which I hope proves that the music that is the best is the music that you want to listen to most. The other interesting thing is that the latter 5, from 10-6 were incredibly hard to pick, and albums like Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Tramp’, The Shins’ ‘Port of Morrow’, and Best Coast’s ‘The Only Place’ came incredibly close to making this list.

Either way, here are Anywhere In Albion’s top 10 albums of 2012.

10 – The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten

Gaslight can claim 2012 as the year that they truly broke worldwide. While earlier albums ‘The ’59 Sound’ and ‘American Slang’ earnt the band many fans, among them some of the band’s own heroes in Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam, it was with Handwritten that they had major success, charting at number 2 in the UK and getting number 1 on the US Billboard Rock and Alternative Charts and an overall number 3. However all of this is secondary to what is a fantastic album, with Gaslight pushing their sound to it’s peak, openers “45” and ‘Handwritten’ are some of the best songs they’ve ever written, and seeing them live in 2012 showed how well the album tracks work at gigs. The Gaslight Anthem play a type of retro Springsteen rock that aims straight for the heart, it is honest, emotive and open music, and with Handwritten they perfected this style.

9 – Soundgarden – King Animal

soundgarden - king animal

Hopefully I don’t need to tell you who Soundgarden are. If you’re unfortunate enough not to know of them and have liked any sort of hard rock from Nirvana to Black Sabbath then close this tab and go out and buy their seminal album ‘Superunknown’. The problem faced by Soundgarden is how do you recover from going from being one of the most iconic bands of the 90s, then having your lead singer flitter around in mediocre post-RATM Audioslave, A solo career that went from Bond Soundtrack highs to the facepalming of making an album with Timbaland. Well it seems like the rest of the band were in cryogenic storage as they come out kicking. The riffs are just as epic, the time signature work just as ingenious, the characteristic Soundgarden sound just as omnipresent, and yet evolved into something modern and relevant. Tracks like ‘Bones of Birds’, ‘Taree’ and ‘Attrition’ actually trump most of their pre-breakup album ‘Down on the Upside’. Before I heard this album I was assured that they were going to fail and ruin their legacy, there was no conceivable way that they could make a decent album. But I was so wrong, this isn’t just a good album, it’s a good Soundgarden album, and as such, it deserves a spot in this top 10.

8 – Lucy Rose – Like I Used To (full review here)

Lucy Rose - Like I Used To

This is one where I just have to face up to how much I have listened to this album. I have played this a lot. I suspect the ‘cool’ opinion of Lucy Rose is a fairly dismissive one, an attempt to lump her into the bland-folk of artists like The Mumfords, Ben Howard etc.. But I strongly feel that the songs on this album are genuinly great songs. Singles ‘Middle of the Bed’, ‘Bikes’, ‘Night Bus’ and ‘Lines’ are all brilliantly written songs, merging personal lyrics with her fantastic singing, and on the latter using time signatures in a way that would make Soundgarden proud. Show me Mumford’s song in 7/4 thank you very much. But it is on the iconic ‘Shiver’ that Rose earns her stripes, much like Daughter’s ‘Youth’, it’s one of those adolescent guitary ballads that is just immensely powerful. I have to thank Chris ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins of BBC 6music for hearing her session which opened my ears to her talent. I’ll leave you with the thought that only a few months ago I would have opened something like this talking about her role as Bombay Bicycle Club backing singer, but considering her success this just seems irrelevant now.

7 – Portico Quartet – Portico Quartet

Portico Quartet

I received this album on Christmas day, and it’s one of two albums on this list that you can say is sort-of Jazz, although this one probably gets away with claiming it. This is the third album from this quartet so it may seem as an odd one to give their own name to, but this is an assured and coherent musical statement from a group recovering from one member being replaced. The group make music that hovers between the lines of Four Tet style ambient electronica with interlocking rhythms and the modern Sax-Jazz of this year’s Mercury nominated Roller Trio. The success of this album comes from the way the group fuse these to make something that feels very new and innovative. ‘Ruins’ goes from great ambience to epic jazz as a huge reverb-y drop launches a saxophone solo, while ‘Spinner’ balances 7/8 modern jazz with the clicks of electronica. As the album goes on we get Art Blakey drum cluster-bombs rubbing shoulders with hang loops and delicate piano. By holding back the only track with vocals, ‘Steepless’ (courtesy of guest Cornelia), until track 7, the quartet mixes things up just when the album could start to feel stale and turn great tracks into a fantastic album. It’s pioneering ideas, and breaking genres, paving the way for other artists to harness this merging of the tightness and improvisational freedom of jazz quartets with the experimental parts of electronic music that could become too rigid and pre-ordained on their own.

6 – Death Grips – The Money Store

death grips the money store

Every now and then a piece of music comes along that properly blows your mind, the same way that Kid A could. this year’s mind-exploder was Death Grips, an art-punk-rap-industrial-techno-funk-whatever group from Sacremento, consisting of MC Ride, the tattoo laden rapper and frontman, ex-Hella fantastic drummer Zach Hill, and the mysterious producer Flatliner. Death Grips’ music is genreless and alienating, dividing music fans across the board. The one thing everyone can agree on though, is that this is the most innovative group this year, putting out two albums, one of them laden with a penis on the front cover, and making music no one could ever have imagined. This album is a perfect example of this with tracks like ‘Get Got’, ‘The Fever (Aye Aye)’ and ‘I’ve Seen Footage’ fusing this techno-industrial sound with some insane (in the sense of not entirely sane) rapping and some insane (in the sens of amazing) drums. It’s incredibly refreshing to hear something that has never been done before and changes everything, especially in an age where everything can seem so bland. If you think 2012 was a boring year for music, get this album as soon as you can.

5 – Purity Ring – Shrines

Purity Ring - Shrines

Boy-Girl duos were on the rise in 2012, and aside from the UK’s own AlunaGeorge, this group was pick of the bunch for their debut LP, Shrines. Singer Megan James weaves eery worlds full of ghosts and guts while producer Corin Roddick morphs these vocal lines into odd sounds and layers them over brillaint snappy beats that pulse about. It’s a perfect formula and it spawned 3 songs that made it into my Top 50 of the year, but as an album it still manages to be a coherent experience, allowing for more experimentation with ‘Cartographist’ and an unnerving ending with ‘Shuck’. Each one of the songs this duo put out has it’s own odd hybrid name, which works well to make the record seem consistent and self-contained. While criticisms can be made that the melodies can sound suspiciously similar, or that the album tracks are simply less-good versions of the main singles, these seem unduly harsh when considering how good these songs are, and how well they work as a complete album.

4 – Poliça – Give You The Ghost (full review here)

Give You The Ghost

Poliça sound like no one at all. The synths are hard and heavy, the basslines pounding and funky, the vocals distorted beyond comprehension and dancing over the top, the drums are… doubled. This was the biggest grower on the list, an album that at first seemed impenetrable, but with time and the lyrics sheet provided with the CD that I never really intended to buy, it eventually revealed its secrets. And what secrets they are. Give You The Ghost is an album bursting with brilliant moments, from the opening of ‘Amongster with lyric of the year ‘Everyone’s asking where’s your child in this plan / Why you gonna ask me if I’d cut off my own hand’, to the most dance-esque track ‘Lay Your Cards Out’ that oozes class and coolness. The album ends with yet more stunning lyrics ‘In the days, in the nights, in the hours, leading up to your death, I won’t weep, I won’t weep / I dream of you, I dream of you / Oh my strangler.’ This fourpiece find a completely new sonic space and imbue it with all the emotion and songwriting that you could hope for, to produce a worthy challenger for the top spot. Unfortunately it was held off, by three records of outstanding quality, and as it happens, the exact three albums I have listened to most this year…

3 – Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes

Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes

Flying Lotus, aka Stephen Ellison, the great-nephew of John and Alice Coltrane, produced an album that just blew my mind completely in two. From opener ‘All In’, FlyLo takes us on a journey, through rhythms and melodies that are never settled, or even seem to be in time. This album can’t and shouldn’t produce singles becuase that’s the exact opposite of how it works, this is an experience, and each moment lingers only long enough for it to be embedded in your brain and then moves on. It’s the closest electronic music has ever come to capturing the mastery of a jazz musician like Ornette Coleman. And Jazz is what it is, as the blood of improvisation and spontaneity run through this album from start to finish. Even a star studded list of guest vocalists seems irrelevant, Thom Yorke and Erkah Badu brushed aside in a wave of melody and rhythm. This description has been incredibly pretentious, which I can only excuse on the lines that I inhabit the same Indie/Alt universe as Pitchfork, but I truly find that I can either talk forever about this record or fail completely to find the right words to say how incredible putting on this album and sitting through it is. All I can do is recommend it if you’re willing to hear the most fascinating music of the year. I do admit though, that if you aren’t a fan of Jazz, or the more weird side of electronic music, then this will probably leave you very cold.

2 – Tom Williams & The Boat – Teenage Blood (full review here & interview here)

Tom Williams & The Boat - teenage bloodAnd look who it is, the winners of my previous best of 2011 list for their debut LP Too Slow. Well, Tom and his boat continued into 2012, very early on the year dropping follow up Teenage Blood, which was funded by the band’s own fans via Kickstarter. Now I make no pretense at hiding my fanboyism for this group, they’ve put out two of my favourite songs ever in ‘Concentrate’ and the title track for this record (see video below), and so it is no surprise they ended up here, especially not when the record was so good, earning them high profile fans with the likes of ex-XFM and now 6Music DJ Mary Anne Hobbs. Tom’s lyrics, as usual are front and centre the main draw of the band, and with this record he hit fantastic peaks, with every song now being well embedded in my head, and I definitely felt the melodies in this album trumped Too Slow’s, aided by harmonies from guitarist Ant and guest Fiona Keeler. It’s an album that scores The Boat some of their best ‘pop’ songs with the title track again, ‘Too Young’, ‘My Bones’ and ‘Neckbrace (Big Wave)’, but also manages to turn up some incredible atmospheric songs with the pent-up explosion of ‘Trouble With The Truth’ and the cinematic ‘Summer Drive’. It was a sequel that improved in every way possible upon their already outstanding debut, throwing echoes back to Tom Petty, Teenage Fanclub and The Band. Not content with just that, they also put out a bonus collection of b-sides, album session leftovers, music videos and a half hour documentary about the making of the record. Oh and a stunning Christmas single as well. So if it was such a better record than last year’s winner, how come Tom Williams and his Boat don’t take the top spot again…

1 – Alt-J – An Awesome Wave (full review here)

Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

…because you knew what was coming. How could I not have awarded the album of the year to the one that for the whole year I have been saying was going to win. Alt-J’s continued rise makes me want to yell “I told you so!” to everyone, bringing out my day after release day receipt. But all that’s irrelevant hipster posing. I’m not going to bother telling you why this album is the best, you can read the review for that, or what it sounds like, because by now, you should know, and if you don’t know you can just go to spotify, or press play in the stream below, and hear a record that completely deserves the award it now wins. Congratulations to a band that dominated 2012. Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave is Anywhere In Albion’s Album of 2012. That’s a fucklot of A’s.

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The Top 50 Songs of the Year


EDIT: Hear this list as a playlist in spotify by clicking here or starting the playlist below. Some songs it’s been pointed out to me I’ve missed are Arctic Monkeys’ ‘R U Mine’, Howler’s ‘Back Of Your Neck’, Anything off the new Bloc Party album, and Tribes’ ‘We Were Children’.

It’s the time of year music fans everywhere start making lists, usually the holy ‘album of the year’ compilation. Rest assured I’ll be doing mine, but I think it’s only fair to celebrate the opposite of the perfect flowing album: the perfectly formed song. This is a list I hope you can drop in and out of if you just want to hear a fantastic song, or you can use to see what great music you may have missed out on in this year, across the board. (As a rule, if it was on a non-compilation album, or came out as a single then I’m counting it as 2012, so no pedantic points). Also I’m picking songs that I like most, ones that have importance for me. There’s no point in even trying to be objective here as that list would be both boring and wrong. What it does mean is that some artists feature more than once, and some won’t feature because I haven’t heard of them. There will be some that you don’t like, and I don’t care, but I am interested in whatever songs you, reader, think should be up there, if there are any I could’ve overlooked or perhaps not given the proper time to.

Purity Ring by Landon Speers

Before we start I should give a nod to the songs that didn’t quite make it, or can’t make it. There’s the really great Atoms For Peace song ‘Default’, Foals’ ‘Inhaler’ is sounding immense, half a dozen Death Grips songs, especially ‘Get Got’, assorted jazz from Roller Trio, Troyka and TrioVD, and anything off the new Cat Power album. Also there are some songs that won’t be out by the time I publish this, so it makes sense to pay respect to the new Crystal Castles LP and the Soundgarden album King Animal.

With that over and done with, here goes, enjoy!

50 – Sharon Van Etten – Serpents

The spiritual successor to one of my favourite songs ever, Sparklehorse and PJ Harvey’s ‘Piano Fire’, this song is a great fusion of folky harmonies and passionate rock. This was one of the two highlights of her phenomenally good third album, Tramp. Lyrically it’s a shockingly brutal reflection on a past relationship and nice drum rolls at odd places keep the song going along nicely.

49 – Jack White – Sixteen Saltines

Two seconds in and that riff anounces Jack White’s return. The man of many collabs, from The White Stripes to The Raconteurs, he finally struck out under his own name earlier this year and was widely acclaimed. Few musicians aound have the songwriting chops of Mr White and it’s easy to see why as every part in the song is perfectly balanced and matched without losing any of the blues rock energy that he’s come to fine. Plus it’s gt a properly batshit insane music video.

48 – Lianne La Havas – Age

One of two songs that blew Bon Iver out of the water on her out of nowhere Jools performance. Stunningly witty lyrics and brilliant jazzy guitar combine with one of the best voices to emerge this year in a perfectly formed song. It’s a shame that the hotly anticipated album was such a flop, with terrible flow and lots of fluff songs. Needless to say, this still stands out.

47 – FOE – Genie In A Coke Can

Grungey and badass, FOE was one of the most overlooked artists to emerge this year with debut album Bad Dream Hotline. FOE, aka Hannah Clark, fuses pop hooks and a knack for melody with twisted samples and heavy riffs, nowhere better than on this track, a savage attack on media, pop and glamour with a brilliantly used sample of Paris Hilton.

46 – The Shins – The Rifle’s Spiral

The Shins returned after a long hiatus, but in reality James Mercer returned with an all new backing band and used his old band name. Nevertheless the trademark half poetry half nonsense lyrics and indie-pop music genius was still present. Especially in this, the album opener, the best of the more bouncy tracks released under The Shins’ name.

45 – Mark Lanegan Band – The Gravedigger’s Song

One of a number of incredible voices to emerge from the Grunge scene in the early nineties, Mark Lanegan is universally critically acclaimed be it in partnership with Isobel Campbell or in The Twilight Singers with Afghan Whigs singer Greg Dulli. This year’s Blues Funeral was equally brilliant, although at times it did seem to drag, where it worked best it worked brilliantly, particularly on songs like this where Lanegan’s gravelly tones can soothe over heavy drums and dense guitars.

44 – AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It

This was the song that made me break my rule of never buying singles. It’s just so good. Fans of late 90s r’n’b will lap this up but its fusion with the more modern end of dubstep firms up this band as one absolutely destined for 2013 success. If you hadn’t heard this before, there’s a track coming up later in this list that is even better.

43 – Alt-J – Matilda

OK, you knew they were gonna turn up here sooner or late, and no, this isn’t the last time they’ll feature in this list. I don’t need to reiterate my love of this band, nor do I need to rub it in that they won the Mercury Prize. Let’s just say this is a great folky song.

42 – Grimes – Genesis

2012 will definitelty be remembered as the year that Grimes ‘broke’ the mainstream. That is pretty much all the result of this one song, complete with the second batshit insane video of this list. Grimes’ voice loops in and out of the waves of electronica flowing across this song, and no, you can’t make out a single word she is saying. ever.

41 – Alabama Shakes – Hold On

From futuristic electronica to classic rock’n’roll. Alabama Shakes were another brand new band to emerge this year, with debut Boys & Girls, although the initial rush of enthusiasm hasn’t really led anywhere they do deserve their spot on this list thanks to – yet another – fantatsic album opening track. Oozing with groovy soul power, it’s impossible not to feel this track.

40 – Lucy Rose – Middle Of The Bed

Lucy Rose deserves credit for stepping out of the shadows of Bombay Bicycle Club and emerging on her own with a shockingly good debut album. This was one of the songs that grew on me, seemingly out of nowhere, before I found myself hitting replay again and again. (I’ll try not to dwell on the fact that I had this tagged as ‘Middle Of The Road’ for an awkward amount of time.) It’s an endearing reflection on small-town romance with lyrics that do stand out, ‘They say I love you / they say I always will / they say I love you / but these wounds won’t heal’ and the quirky ‘If you knew me at all / you would all know my hand-size’.

39 – The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

After two superb albums, The 59 Sound, and American Slang, Gaslight finally found the mainstream success they deserved with the album that this is the title track two. Earnest Springsteen-esque rock at its best, there is a passion in their songs missing from a lot of rock and indie, and seeing them last month at the O2 Brixton was something special.

38 – Jake Bugg – Country Song

Bugg may not be the ‘tru-music champion’ that bullshit-peddlers the NME keep trying to make him out as, but he has got a damn fine knack for somgwriting. This was the stand-out ‘slow song’ off his debut album and interestingly it’s one of only four songs with no extra songwriting credit on.

37 – Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again

Remember him? The UK music world went a little crazy after he won the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll, when we thought we had a homegrown Marvin Gaye on our hands, and then forgot about him for ages. I have my own little conspiracy theory about what happened here, which is that Kiwanuka is a folk singer and was writing folk songs, until someone realised that if he called himself soul, and took on a retro theme he could sell a lot better. As a result – high sales, and a poor album. This song however is Kiwanuk at his folk natural best, and was definitely a standout in the year.

36 – FOE – A Handsome Stranger Called Death

It’s a second appearance in this list for FOE, who upped her game with this single, fusing the guitars with more synths and e-pianos. A different kind of clever lyrics but with even more pop-appeal than before. One of a number of songs on this list that get that perfect combination of creepy and sexy it also has a video that was alledgedly filmed for under £20.

35 – OFWGKTA – Oldie

Perhaps this’ll be a shock appearance for some people. 2012 was the year people looked at Odd Future again and decided actually, they weren’t that shocking at all, and decided that Frank Ocean was the only one with any real talent. However, out of a pretty mediocre album, closer ‘Oldie’ really showed why rap groups exist in this posse form. It’s old-school, it’s cool and actually quite endearing for the weirdo bunch that sing it.

34 – Poliça – Dark Star

Poliça encapsulated their innovative and unique sound best in this track from one of the top albums of 2012, Give You The Ghost. To be honest this song could be replaced with the equally stunning ‘Violent Games’, but I’m putting this one in instead for its beautiful fusion of r’n’b, funk, rock and electronica into a cohesive and powerful song.

33 – Friends – Friends Crush

What do you get if you take the indie creme from Brooklyn, replace the crates of Smiths vinyl and Cure T-Shirts with mp3s of Prince, OutKast and Madonna? Friends is what you get. Stupid name, brilliant band and without doubt the coolest of the cool. Cool is pretty much the dominant word for Friends, whether it’s in frontwoman Samantha Urbani with her yelps or the chilled modern half-silly half-powerful lyrics. This track is effectively their mission statement. It’s effortlessly groovy and catchy, and yes, cool as fuck.

32 – Lianna La Havas – No Room For Doubt

Yes, it’s the second second appearence of someone on this list, and as before it’s one of the ones from Lianne’s Jools performance. This one trumps the previous song by being that bit more mature, or more appropriately more emotionally affecting. Whether or not you want the version with the Willy Mason verse, this song is still mighty powerful.

31 – Jack White – Freedom At 21

This song is – OMFG THE DRUMMER – shut up, yeh the song is – LOOK AT THEM DRUMS – really good and all. DRUMMMMMMMMMMMSSSSS – ok, yeh this song has pretty incredible drums, enjoy.

30 – Angel Haze – New York

Definitely one of the more significant breakthroughs of 2012, Angel Haze put herself on track to the very top with her mixtape RESERVATION this year, and already is preparing her debut. This is pretty much the song that put her where she is now, although the mixtape is remarkably good with every other song too. It’s a bold statement, ‘I run New York’, but… she makes a damn fine case.

29 – Purity Ring – Fineshrine

Another album of the year contender from another debut album, this here is the track that first turned me on to Purity Ring. Much like the FOE tracks above, its got the creepy/sexy thing in full swing and the line of ‘Cut open my sternum and pull / My little ribs around you’ weedled its way into my head for weeks. It’s at the most modern end of electronica production, with all the weird-ass genre tags that this means: witch house, post-dubstep. Whatever it is, it’s an awesome sound.

28 – Best Coast – Up All Night

Best Coast returned this year with what was my summer album, The Only Place. And while the happier, pop tracks have faded with the end of the season, this track remained as a slice of perfection. It’s the perfect soundtrack to a long summer night, relaxing in the heat with a beer. It’s also extremely bittersweet, the luscious melody permeated with deeply longing lyrics.

27 – Gorillaz (feat. Andre 3000, James Murphy) – Do Ya Thing

What a dream collaberation, annoyingly thanks to corporate sponsors Converse, bringing together men from three of the very best bands of the last generation, Albarn of Blur/Gorillaz, 3000 of Outkast and Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. It’s better than anything off Plastic Beach, but even better is the 13 minute long version which goes into an all-out freakout to blow minds, with 3000 screaming “I’m the shit!” over the top. Even as a shorter song it’s still one of the coolest things released this year.

26 – Twigs – Ache

This track turned up from an unknown artist called Twigs, with no press, no nothing. It’s freaking amazing and nods from folks like Grimes have helped turn the world on to this act. It’s very very modern electronica, and with a video that looks like a black version of Batman’s Bane wearing a mask made out of a bunch of Nikes. A one to watch for 2013.

25 – 2:54 – Scarlet

If any of you (like me) missed out on the fix of female goth rock that Warpaint provided then you needed to turn to yet another debut album, from sisters Colette and Hannah Thurlow. Moody, reverb-laden and epic, ‘Scarlet’ was the song that put 2:54 on the map,and they still haven’t topped its brilliance.

24 – The Shins – September

The problem with the new Shins album is that once the glamour of the shiny happy songs had faded, there were no real emotional moments to drag you back under, unlike with previous record Wincing The Night Away. However, of the lot, one song definitely stood out after at first being a real candidate for skippage. September is the most Shins-esqie song  on the new album, and there is an earnestness to it that rewards repeat plays, as well as more trademark Mercer lyrics.

23 – Jake Bugg – Lightning Bolt

Whether you think it’s a rip-off or not, there’s no denying this song is ace. It’s got it all from the deceptively simple structure to the type of lyric writing not heard for a good while. I’m sure I need introduce this song no further.

22 – Poliça – Amongster

The sound of the future, the opening track on Poliça’s incredible album is a force to be reckoned with. It’s a song I had written off as rubbish at first but the more I came back to it, the more it unraveled, the layers of drums, the heavy, booding synths, the flashes of heavily treated vocals, and some of the best lyrics on the album, if no some of the best heard this year: ‘Everyone’s asking where’s your child in this plan / Why you gonna ask me if I’d cut off my hand?’

21 – Electric Guest – American Daydream

If you haven’t heard this track, be prepared to have a new favourite group. A perfect mix of pop hooks, hip-hop coolness and indie cred, the Dangermouse produced Electric Guest are yet another debut band from this year. Fans of Broken Bells should find this track the most obviously brilliant, on a solid album. This track stood out by a long way as the best thing they’d done, a subtle attack on western consumerism and with a pretty funny video too.

20 – Death Grips – Hacker

‘I’M IN YOUR AREA!’ Yells MC Ride, and he’s right. ‘WHEN YOU COME OUT YOUR SHIT IS GONE’. Death Grips followed up the revolutionary mixtape Exmilitary with the mind-blowing The Money Store album. Call it post-rap, industrial hip-hop, whatever you do, listen to it because you are witnessing a serious change in music. Amid all the chaos, the punk/publicity stunts, this track stands out as, well, almost a hit single. It fuses the anger and experimentalism that defines Death Grips with catchy hooks and incredible beats. ‘GAGA CAN’T HANDLE THIS SHIT!’

19 – The Gaslight Anthem – “45”

Back to proper rock now, its yet another opening track, a love song to either heroin or just music. Either way it may be one of the best things Gaslight ever wrote and an uplifting singalong chorus. It’s one of those lucky rock teacks that just works instantly, getting you right where it needs to. A proper hit.

18 – Tom Williams & The Boat – Neckbrace (Big Wave)

It’s tempting to try and squeeze in the TW&tB tracks ‘Summer Drive’ and ‘Trouble With The Truth’ both of which supersede ‘Neckbrace’ in terms of creating an atmosphere, and definitely do deserve a spot on this list (that has nothing to do with the fact that neither track is on youtube). However just for simple songwriting skill it earns its place. This song was the kickstarter of the second side of the boat’s second album, and became an obsession of mine for a while, its great lyrics and delicate melody are trademarks of a sound that the boat came to own with the album.

17 – Jack White – Love Interruption

Like Buggy’s effort a few numbers above, this song is deceptively simple. At first it sounds like a home demo, and then unravels with Jack’s impeccable songwriting emerging as well as his brutal lyrics.

16 – Purity Ring – Belispeak

Back to the sounds of the future, another track from the incredible Purity Ring. This track is laden with moments of absolute perfection, whether it’s in the ‘oh’ runs after the line ‘Grandma, I’ve been unruly’ or in the intense dampening on every pulse that keeps it as minimalist as it should be. Also, proper good creepy video.

15 – AlunaGeorge – Your Drums, Your Love

See, told you they’d reappear. This was the second single and arguably much much better. I’ll be yelling “I was there first” next year when they explode and become all famous and stuff. I still haven’t met anyone who doesn’t think this song is just brilliant. It’s modern, it’s dancy it’s poppy and it’s ever so slightly badass. Just a cracking tune. (for god’s sake watch in HD to enjoy the cracking art!)

14 – Alt-J – Dissolve Me

This was an Alt-J song they never released, but one that pretty much everyone who had the album for a month or so tended to agree was one of the best tracks on it. Something in the tiny parts of this song make it stad out so much. The little snare riff, the heavy heavy bass, or the fact that this is probably the closest Alt-J came to having a properly upbeat song on the album. While the album version is sonic perfection, I’m going to put an acoustic performance here, because I really think it’s a cool way to hear the tune. Also if you’re reading this and haven’t got An Awesome Wave, stop reading and get it now, it is that good.

13 – Friends – I’m His Girl

Yehhhh this one is cool. It’s a bit of an indie wet dream with its funky-as-hell bass line, semi-feminist lyrics (+ instagramtastic video), and all round postitive vibes. It’s fair to say this is the song Friends owe their career too, and it’ll be playing in Urban Outfitters everywhere for years to come.

12 – Poliça – Lay Your Cards Out

I can’t imagine there are few people out there who can dislike this song. The way it brings elements in from tonnes of genres and the deliate way it grabs and lures you into it. This is Poliça at their most perfect, all their elements of synth, bass, treated vox and twin drums working in tandem for the greater power of the song. It’s also got such a massive groove on it, the rhythm will get you, so just go with it. Epic track.

12 – Sharon Van Etten – Give Out

There’s some knack only folk singers seem to get for writing lyrics with characters and actions, but which can be incredibly emotive in so few words. This has never been more the case than with this song, as delicate melody and a motif repeats and repeats each time becoming more powerful and more emotive. It’s a masterclass in songwriting, and the best track on Etten’s album Tramp by a country mile.

10 – Purity Ring – Lofticries

An argument could be made that all of Purity Ring’s debut album is just repeated attempts at writing the same song. While that’s clearly bullshit, it is easy to imagine that Lofticries is what happened when they finally got it right. It is such a perfect tune. All the elements that feature in their songs, the glitchy electronica, the cut up vocals used as backing music, the layers of synth loops riding up and down, are present and combined as best is possible. It’s the pinnacle of what they’re doing, and as a bonus, it has a video directed by the same batshit insane guy that directed that Jack White mindfuck video.

9 – Alt-J – Fitzpleasure

Now we’re into single figures and approaching the best song of the year, how about the song that launched the best band to emerge this year. It’s no leap of the imagination to say that half of Alt-J’s success is based off the absolute immensity of this track. It’s as ferocious as any major dubstep tune, but complete with elements of plainchant and folk, because no fucks were given as to what they could do to the song. Lyrically it is proper mental, and yet still literary, based on Hubert Selby Jr’s ‘Last Exit To Brooklyn’. If you haven’t heard it yet… I am jealous of what you’re about to experience.

8 – Savages – Husbands

There’s an energy and a ferocity in this track that is out of the league of pretty much any other song this year. Savages return to the early 80s, plundering Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but rather than become a complete parody, they ascend to new heights. Be scared of Savages, their debut LP may be the most anticipated record in the world at the moment and they are definitely number 1 on my list of bands to go and see whever you can. I could make this perfectly obvious if SOMEONE HADN’T TAKEN DOWN THEIR SODDING JOOLS HOLLAND PERFORMANCE WHERE THEY BLOODY WELL STOLE THE SHOW AND WERE INCREDIBLE, so you’ll have to make do with some Dutch TV, which makes them sound kinda funny. Haha Dutch…

7 – Alt-J – Taro

Phwoooaaaar I love this song so much. As a closer on the best album all year, it’s absolutely perfect (HANDMADE IS A SECRET TRACK YOU ITUNES LOSERS). Lyrically what could I love more than a reflection on photographer Robert Capa and his lover Gerda Taro, who died in the Spanish Civil War, of which Capa took some of the most iconic photos of all time. Musically hows about the only succesful fusion of Indian music into western rock that hasn;t sounded stupid. It’s a phenomenally powerful song, and so so so so so perfect.

6 – Lucy Rose – Shiver

The absolute standout of the album Like I Used To (she even used its lyrics to name her album), this has to be one of the most instantly obviously great songs. It should be cliche, the delicate singer-songwriter ballad, but it’s just too good for that. Even after drowning it in plays, I still keep coming back to it and realising just how brilliant it is.

5 – Django Django – Default

Aha! Surprise turnout from a band not on the list yet. Django Django pretty much founded this sound, and are yet to do it better on the dancy ‘Default’. The layers of rhythm and jangly guitars is really effective and the video isn’t half bad either.

4 – Palma Violets – Best Of Friends

“Whatttt another new band at this late stage, Sachin, you’re fucking with us surely?” I hear you cry. Well screw you this song is absolutely bloody brilliant. It’s proper rock’n’roll, more than a dose of The Libertines and nods to The Doors and Joy Division. Live… just incredible, the entire joiners went absolutely nuts to this song, and it was in our heads for two days straight despite not knowing half the words. If there’s a song to get you excited about playing rock music in a band, or just listening to music, this is that song.

3 – California Daze – Peace

Gah, this song could’ve been number 1 had it not been about California. This year Peace put out an EP whose 4 tracks were better than most albums released in the UK. While ‘Ocean’s Eye’, ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘1998’ all came achingly close to entry on this list, this track is just so damn good. There’s something very nineties about it, and its a proper ballad in the way that Oasis or Blur could have written, but better than that sounds. I keep putting this on, and being amazed by just how good it really is. Peace4everever

2 – Tom Williams & The Boat – Teenage Blood

At this point in the list we’re talking songs that are trying for songs of the decade, and this track might be contender for song of my youth more than anything. As anyone knows I’m a massive fan of this band and this was the title track for their second album. Lyrically brilliant, whether you take it as a requiem for teenage fuckedupitude (technical term) or a celebration of retaining youth. It probably wins the best chorus of the decade, and I can tell you it took about a day before I set out learning the chords and playing along with the record for ages. Even as I put this I’m really having to fight the urge to change that 2 to a 1, and have this as the best song of the year, it really is that close…

1 – Alt-J – Tessellate

…But I just can’t deny the impact this single has had. 2012 is shaping up to be the year of Alt-J, capped off with that fantastic Mercury Prize win. The most iconic single, and the song that can be best said to represent the ‘Alt-J Sound’ is definitely this one. Give it the intro of ‘Interlude I’ and it brings all their elements together. Lyrically it’s genius, combining maths and sex with fantastic lines about sharks and references to The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. The song is full of moments of genius, whether its the way the bit after the first ‘Let’s Tessellate’ weedles in, or that sniff, and with the line ‘Triangles are my favourite shape’ they inadvertently gave something for Alt-J fanatics to spraypaint over their facebook walls. It’ just the best thing released this year, and congratulations should go where they deserve for making such a brilliant song.

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Poliça – Give You The Ghost – Review


Futuristic genre-defying music from the American outfit

Give You The Ghost, the debut record from Minneapolis band Poliça, has grown on me in a way unlike any other album I’ve heard. It is a complete revelation, a record so unbelievably unique that it stands, much like album of the year contenders Alt-J, genre-less.

Poliça emerged from GAYNGS, a musical collective that featured Bon Iver members Justin Vernon and Mike Noyce. Singer Channy Leaneagh and producer Ryan Olsen, both GAYNGS members, teamed up to exploit Leaneagh’s voice and experiment. This evolved into a fourpiece of vocals, bass and, one of the coolest things ever, TWO DRUMMERS. Sick.

The first thing that strikes about the music of Poliça, is how ethereal it sounds. Synths and bass murmur around, never settling, making the music constantly on edge. Leaneagh’s vocals soar above, only emerging through very heavy treating, with auto-tune and layers of delay and reverb. If the mention of auto-tune turns you off, then you wouldn’t be alone. If someone had told me that before I heard them, I’d have done the same. But Poliça need to get credit for making it the only use of auto-tune I have ever liked, it is very, very clear that it is an artistic move and not a compensation.

The sound that all these elements combine to produce the most futuristic album I have ever heard. It moves beyond any synth/electronic music but it’s far more than its acoustic elements. The two drummers merge beautifully at times rising to a cacophony in songs like opener ‘Amongster’ and at others, providing a studied, understated drive such as ‘Happy Be Fine’. The bass goes from punkish aggression, in ‘Violent Games’, to a cracking funk in ‘Dark Star’ and ‘Form’. Vocally, the album is spot on and the varied synths always complement the song and never override the pure soul of the songs.

While all of this is going on, they’ve managed to produce some of the best lyrics I’ve heard this year. You wouldn’t know on first listen, however, as all the effects combined with Leaneagh’s style make it near impossible to understand what she’s singing. luckily, buying the CD gets you a handy lyric book and the mastery can be revealed.

At its heart, Give You The Ghost is that classic tradition of music, the break-up album. But this break-up was a divorce, shadowed by the break-up of Leaneagh’s main band, Roma di Luna, and leaving a young child in the middle. The lyrics reflect on this from all angles, and in such a unique, and uniquely feminine, way. It ranges from calm and reflective ‘I need some time, to think about my life, without you’, passionate defence ‘Everyone’s asking where’s your child in this plan? / Why you gonna ask me if I’d cut off my own hand’, defiance ‘Ain’t a man in this world who can pull me down from my dark star / I will remain there it’s done me good so far’, repentence ‘It’s a brand new day and I’m sorry / I will never take her away… I wish you would kick me in my face / I’m the victim I did it’, and by closing track ‘Leading to Death’ Leaneagh merges righteous anger with the brutal honesty of the album: ‘In the days, In the nights, In the hours leading up to your death, I won’t weep… I dream of you oh my strangler, I dream of you.’

Give You The Ghost

With these lyrics, only ever half-heard among the phenomenal music its soars over, the album draws you in, its grip tightening on every next listen. When I bought this album, it was complete fluke, I went in to HMV looking for FOE’s ‘Bad Dream Hotline’, but settled for this album when I couldn’t find the FOE. After a few weeks I was stunned to see how much I’d listened to it, far more than I thought I had. On every listen the album holds something, it retains a mystery that prompts you to go back and listen again, see if the song affects you again. Whether it achieves this with its camouflaged lyrical genius, or with its futuristic musical experimenting or with both, I cannot say. All I can say is that this is an album that challenges and enthrals in equal measure, it’s the very definition of a grower, and the first true challenge to Alt-J’s position at the top of the album of 2012 charts.

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