Top Ten Albums of 2012
The year 2012 was supposed to bring about ‘the end of the world’. But here we are compiling ‘best of’ lists as if it were 2011 or 2010 or any other year from when blogging started.
For me it was a big year with my new job travelling to remote Australia, and some pretty crazy stuff happened out there. On Christmas Island the craziness was the wild chickens and many nervous crabs, along with the locals who choose to live somewhere both remote and expensive. There was Darwin, a beautiful developing city, with an odd aggressiveness to it which put me in hospital, and Curtin (two + hours from Broome and teeming with bugs and not much else). Outback Australia is pretty boring.
Between these trips I always had new music; my little place to slip into where I could take my mind off work and remind myself that there is a world bigger than anyone, and where I could worry less about the isolation and the fact that the colleague I’d confided in just caused me some trouble.
Fortunately I have some time off and a Europe trip to look forward to in under a month (not bragging).
Sadly this year I had to retire from BMA Mag as I was travelling too much and had no time for it anymore. But I will always make time for A Has Been, which has fewer deadlines and urgency to write (a blessing and a curse). So this Top Ten is mind to blog, unedited.
10 – Bertie Blackman – Pope Innocent X
Just to get this out of the way, I was a bit annoyed at how physically inaccessible this album was. I liked ‘Mercy Killer’ and loved ‘Boy’ but had to wait until the compact disc (remember them?) was released to listen to them outside triple J. Humph!
But when I FINALLY got my hands on the full album I was delighted to see the direction Bertie Blackman had gone in since I interviewed her. Back in 2009 Blackman had suggested she wanted her music to become more orchestral.
This album, instead, has brought in an uplifting vibe with a deranged cartoon-like church sound. It is as if Blackman was tormented by nightmares and then one night her nightmares turned into cupcakes and she ate them.
A very unusual and satisfying album which I am sure I will listen to beyond its 2012 time.
9 – Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Trouble
Well we saw this album coming, each single creeping out month by month. I remember seeing a clip of this guy, Orlando Higginbottom, playing a beautiful song on piano called ‘Stronger’ and what it became once recorded was more beatsy and pretty fun.
He borrows heavily from Hot Chip and this album is mainly singles from two years but there is a diversity to the songs from this album which I can only imagine will be used for many a soundtrack and mixed tape.
8 – Big Boi – Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumours
Yes, it’s a new release and maybe it’s too fresh to determine as a ‘favourite’ for the year BUT I had been craving some nineties influence r’n’b pop and Macklemore only served as an appetiser. This is Big Boi at his best, along with the fitting accompaniment of Phantogram, Kid Cudi, Little Dragon and Kelly Rowland.
7 – Jessie Ware – Devotion
At first with these songs I thought ‘they’re not bad, but nothing special.’ The songs are memorable of nineties sultry pop but the structure of each song is what makes it such a rewarding listen. You can tell how textured each song has is by the number of remixes purging from Soundcloud. Which means you can expect to hear this shit on the dance floors of many a gay bar (one hopes).
6 – Flume – Flume
This will already be flooding the blogosphere top tens and perhaps this is a result of good media and marketing online. But it is perhaps this very young man’s choice in what to sample that makes the album so deliciously addictive. It shouldn’t matter so much if every arsehole DJ plays this because it’s unique and playful.
5 – Zedd – Clarity
Although there is an element of Daft Punk in this album, it is perhaps more pop princess dance anthem, which might have Calvin Harris and Example sweating nervously at the competition.
Clarity singularly draws emotion, dance beats and focused song writing into a uniform but unpredictable piece. It was a wise move bringing in Foxes in for the album’s title centerpiece. She’s a little darlin’ and deserves the spotlight.
4 – Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man
I’m not surprised this album made it into my top ten. Bat for Lashes delivered a beautiful debut, the second album was inconsistent in terms of quality but still had some lasting singles like ‘Daniel’. The point is, Natasha Khan had proven her worth. And her third foray is quite emotionally distinct, personal, powerful and heartfelt.
3 – Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
This album has already topped a lot of lists so far, but for good reason. From the storyboard ‘Pyramid’, the catchy ‘Lost’ and the Stevie Wonder-esque ‘Sweet Life’ Frank Ocean continues to illustrate his natural affinity for good song writing, evoking a sense of sentimentality across a range of genres.
2 – Twin Shadow – Confess
Maybe it’s cheating to borrow so heavily from the Bowie era and target the major group Gen Y, but Twin Shadow pull it off without sounding like they’re ripping off the iconic eighties figure. What a spectacular array of songs; I love them all in different ways. The slow groove rock really hits me when the mood strikes.
1 – Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
And an awesome album! A lot of hard work has gone into this album. Upon first listen I thought each song was pretty nice. But over time I’ve realised how special this band really is. The grinding smash of ‘Fitzpleasure’ is addictive, the oriental finesse of ‘Taro’ is beautiful, the summery surf sound of ‘Something Good’ lulls without becoming boring, piano always stepping in to sure up the song. Timeless.