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Monday, 10 December 2012

The Top 50 Albums of 2012 (according to me)


The Top 50 Albums of 2012 (according to me)
It’s that special time of year again when I pretend my musical opinion is of more value than everyone else’s, in hope that some less secure person will believe me. But before we get to it, I want to say that, without a doubt, the best release of the year would have to be my own debut EP with Coming Down Happy (which you can experience here). However, I decided against placing it at #1 for two reasons: (1) That would be far too narcissistic, even for me; and (2) it actually sucks.

As the third time I am writing one of these lists, 2012 was the first time I did it right, and I want to quickly elaborate on those comparisons right now. Because, while I was an idiot and only attempted to listen to all the music of 2010 starting in September of said year (managing to get through only 159 releases - which isn’t bad), in 2011 I went overboard by listening to anything and everything that came out right from the start (managing to get through a colossal 580 releases). In fact, I went so overboard, I not only selected my top 50 of that year, but I actually wrote one long intricate fictional story based on the music - which is utterly pointless and didn’t help anyone.

In 2012, I did things differently. Whilst I still started from the beginning of January, I would only listen to albums which were recommended to me (either by the RateYourMusic community; Metacritic; The Guardian; Pitchfork; NME etc, as well as my good friends). As a result, the process was relatively painless and generally consisted of great material. By the end of it, I listened to 234 decent releases multiple times, and so selecting my top 50 and writing about them in a gimmick free manner was a goddamn relief, let me tell you. In fact, the only “rule” I enforced upon myself was that each review had to be more or less 200 words long, which was pretty fucking hard for me to do when you take into account how much I usually ramble. But I guess what helped most of all in making this article one to be proud of, was that 2012 has probably been my favourite year of music since 1991.

As per usual, there had to be a cut off date for my own sanity, which means that anything released after 04/12/12 was regrettably not considered. Furthermore, while some fantastic releases didn’t make the cut and probably deserved to, the ones eventually chosen were the albums that stuck out in my memory, rather than the ones that may have been “technically” better. But for the sake of argument (and for my love of open source shit) all my rough notes on each of the 234 albums I listened to are entirely available to be read on this Google Document.

Alright, enough of that. Ready? Let’s do this.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 50. Loma Prieta - I.V.

50. Loma Prieta - I.V.

Screamo/Post-Hardcore
17 January
Spotify


If Loma Prieta’s fourth offering isn’t the heaviest album on this list, then it is definitely the most distorted. Loud, fast and incredibly intense, this no-nonsense and to-the-point release bursts with so much noisy aggression that it must have been a mastering nightmare, tearing speakers to a mess all across the globe. And yet it is far from a one sound gimmick, as the very occasional melodic moments do grant the listener a well needed moment to breathe, and repeated listens do seem to sift away the madness a little bit, revealing quite a beautiful (albeit angry as all hell) center. Insane riffs with a large dose of feedback; short songs which go beyond any average hardcore; and just being fuck-off crazy in general, makes this sharp chaos the perfect way to start off this list: by destroying you before it even begins.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 49. Soap&Skin - Narrow

49. Soap&Skin - Narrow

Art Pop
13 February
Spotify


As such a painfully sad release, Narrow freaks me out rather than allowing me to enjoy any part of it. Somewhere between a piano driven pop record and Fever Ray-like electronics, she reminds me of Nico most of all. Perhaps this is only because her monotone words fade effortlessly from German to English whilst keeping the lyrics deep within darkness; or perhaps this is because you know without a doubt, this girl would punch your nose off if you met her on the wrong day. She doesn’t seem well. These songs build up with such strong emotions, and are so hard-hitting (as well as sometimes so hard-to-listen-to), that it is easy to tell this chick would be a handful. Something as fearful and epic as this could not have possibly come from someone who is low maintenance whatsoever. Still, within all its beautiful misery, destructive emptiness and unsettling insanity, it provokes this weird memory I have when I was in some decorated cathedral, and a cold Priest told me Santa wasn’t real for the first time. I cried for days. You don’t forget that kind of thing. You don’t forget this kind of thing.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 48. billy woods - History Will Absolve Me

48. billy woods - History Will Absolve Me

Hardcore/Conscious Hip Hop
10 April
Spotify


A filthy journey like this is anything but easy, but it’s definitely up to something. The most refreshing aspect being that, unlike his Hip Hop peers, the elusive billy woods (lower case) is not in this for the money nor the fame, but rather about showing the dirty unapologetic underside of the genre, which is all too often over-cocky with frilled presentation. Simply put, this album scares me, by either using fantastically abstract production/beats, or lyrics which intimidate while they educate. However, to be so tough and critical of everything will never be enough to carry an entire LP on its shoulders, and this isn’t without flaws. Certain moments feel less gripping than others; there isn’t a crazy amount of variation in his voice; and the experience can be exhaustively long and dark - which is a dangerous combination. But I had to include it here - I just had to. It’s simply so gangster in the best political commentary kind of way, with so much black humour that it sticks into one’s stomach like a knife, so deep and twisted that you will come out scarred - and you have to give respect to that. Out of fear, if nothing else.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 47. Killing Joke - MMXII

47. Killing Joke - MMXII

Industrial Rock/Post-Punk
02 April
Spotify


Biting into flesh with all its teeth and spittle, and then hanging on for dear life, MMXII is like some desperate apocalyptic survival, going to war against everything and then fighting it violently, not for the reasons of ignorance, but with purpose, completely aware of the consequences. And as their 15th album in a near-perfect catalogue, how this band are so old yet still so relevant is beyond me, but their experience shows by oozing rough power with so much heart that most other bands look pathetic in comparison. Their riffs don’t take shit and the hooks are memorable, but it truly is Coleman’s unique vocals which make this band so special to me. He sounds like he is sickly and dying yet still full of strength, and because of this, is one of my favourite singers of all time. Put all of this together, and you’ve got one solid journey with no fucking around, where each song is its own entity and the overall sound is just so... them. It doesn’t even seem like they tried to make a great record - they just did it. And as a result have cemented themselves as post-punk legends, once again.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 46. Jessie Ware - Devotion

46. Jessie Ware - Devotion

Contemporary R&B
20 August
Spotify


Unlike most entries on this list, I completely wrote off Devotion upon first listen. I was underwhelmed by this commercial release which had received such overwhelming praise from almost every publication in 2012. But even with my judgmental initial impressions, I could never quite forget about it, which tore my mind in two, forcing me to listen to it over and over again until the magic began to slither through. And slither through, it did. Eventually it was as if I was having a conversation with some sophisticated stranger, sitting by a fire during a white British winter, the romantic interaction becoming sensual rather than sexual, developing into a deeply honest exchange between two down-to-earth people who had nothing to hide. With a glass of wine, I enjoyed the company so much, that as the night went on, I fell more and more in love with this stranger’s beautiful voice until her company grew all over me like a fur coat. We no longer felt like strangers. On the contrary, it felt like I may have known this lady for a while now, and I had no intention of ever going home again.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 45. Sleigh Bells - Reign Of Terror

45. Sleigh Bells - Reign Of Terror

Noise Pop
21 February
Spotify


On first listen, this album may seem weaker than the outfit’s debut - perhaps a little less hyper and even more pop formulated. It gave off the sense that we’ve heard it all before, and in that way, lacks the unique sucker punch that we got from Treats. However, if you give it a bit of time, you will realise that this round, Sleigh Bells have put more thought into the actual songwriting, instead of focusing energy on that explosive speaker destruction we got before - and that deserves some respect. I mean, make no mistake, the hair metalesque riffs still get very loud; the beats still kick very hard; and by the end of the journey, I find myself very convinced indeed. Because what Sleigh Bells are, is one of those rare bands who achieve so much with so little, and in that way are a loud relief within a world of copycats, proving these guys are still in a league of their own. Personally, I can’t wait to hear what they do next.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 44. Lee Fields & The Expressions - Faithful Man

44. Lee Fields & The Expressions - Faithful Man

Soul
13 March
Spotify


My whole life I was never really a “soul man” per say, but by listening to this underrated record, I could feel my spirit finally shifting, thank God. As a 61 year old man, it is quite moving as to how hurt and tender Lee can come across, whilst never losing the core of being one hard headed and emotionally strong man, who simply got lost in a world of passion. Because of this (and in some weird way) these love songs bring me an overwhelming feeling of joy within their old man sadness, which drips with so much soul that I can taste my own death. A bit of an exaggeration, maybe, but the concept works for me.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 43. MeWithoutYou - Ten Stories

43. MeWithoutYou - Ten Stories

Indie Rock
15 May
Spotify


First and foremost, special mention has to go to Aaron Weiss’ unique vocals on this album, as they work perfectly in unity with the flawless music and clean production, effortlessly sliding from desperate screams to barely audible whispers in one sweep, while his smart lyrics tell an interesting story of some terrible traveling circus accident. With such an engaging concept (each song explaining the tale from a different perspective - hence the title) you’d expect every track to at least have a distinctive style. And it does. In fact, Ten Stories is one of the most shapeshifting albums of the year, without ever losing sight of its concise vibe throughout. As a result, this consistent and solid record is a force as a whole, which choses to give equal attention to every piece of the puzzle instead of focusing any energy on some radio-single approach. Basically put, no track rises above or falls behind another, and they are all equally as important, which It’s a strategy most bands could learn from.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 42. Bob Dylan - Tempest

42. Bob Dylan - Tempest

Electric Blues/Folk Rock
11 September
Spotify


Inevitable gushing and adoration aside, this album isn’t perfect. Tempest suffers from its indulgent length with very little variation, and can take some effort to get through, at times even becoming (gasp) a little bit boring. But in these moments, I find by simply shifting your focus from the composition to the lyrics, you will be more than entertained, even the most faulty of tracks not far from that hypnotic bedtime story feel. Because, here on his 35th album, this is the pure straightforward Dylan we have come to love, the poet not losing anything in his old age. Quite the contrary, in fact. As a storyteller, his lyrics are as good as ever, still the cynic having fun within his misery. And, in my opinion, his voice has got even better; the sandpaper now embedded by a certain sweetness and comfort which we never really got before. That said, Bob has been on top form for a while now, but Tempest feels like everything which was great about his recent records gently rolled into one dark blanket. How he achieved this at age 71 is incomprehensible, and for these reasons, I pray: “Dear God, may Dylan never die, Amen.”


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 41. THEESatisfaction - awE naturalE

41. THEESatisfaction - awE naturalE

Neo-Soul/Contemporary R&B
27 March
Spotify


Do not approach this album with the notion that it will be a fun party or an easy walk in the park, because it most definitely is not. Instead, take it for what it is: a sometimes awkward, often challenging and always unique experience, which is not here to be your friend. In fact, it is so unfriendly that I find myself intimidated in a way that I’ve never felt intimidated before. And while the original urban beats use the singers’ vocals as samples to fuck within the music, creating a hypnotic groove as it does so; the record is truly dominated by the duo themselves. As one proud African American lesbian couple, they spit raw intelligence which is so dense that every word seems laced by some unspoken political stance, feeling much more hardcore than it is letting you in on.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 40. Die Antwoord - Ten$ion

40. Die Antwoord - Ten$ion

Rap Rave
7 February
Spotify


Critics have been quick to dismiss this album as not only being sub par in comparison to the outfit’s debut, but also with the accusations that it is simply “silly”. And I agree with both those statements. No, it isn’t as good as $O$. And, yes, it is silly. Ridiculously stupid even. But it always has been - on purpose. Make no mistake, Die Antwoord is a carefully calculated project relying heavily on cartoonesque concepts, which confuse the line between performance art and reality. They are still packing out shows for a reason, and to write them off so early in their career is to underestimate the cult power of something so extremely whack. And more than anything, this is crack music: filling you with such high energy and dirty cravings that you always go back for more, squirming with guilt as you do so. Just watch the videos and you will understand that there is nothing like this on our planet. But is it real? How could it be? And who the fuck cares? It did not disappoint me, and I expected a lot.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 39. Lana Del Rey - Born To Die

39. Lana Del Rey - Born To Die

Chamber Pop
31 January
Spotify


As the most over-hyped album of 2012, opinion was torn to shit all over this one. On the one hand, her sultry melodies and production seduced the best of us: a chilled vibe romanticizing the idea of who this Lana girl may be, by using some evil tactics that most the pop world would be too afraid to dip into. On the other hand, there is some filler here, and critics were quick to criticize how she spoke about some hard life that she never lived, pouting and whining like the spoilt little rich girl she is. They’d talk about how self obsessed she is; how this album is all about HER; how she relies on erotic undertones to get points across; and how she focuses almost exclusively on fame and the shallow party existence this provides. Whatever. None of this sways my opinion, because I always find I have time for this record. And yes, this is because of HER. She is fascinating, and I find myself falling more in love with her the bigger my erection gets. Over analyse it all you want - everyone has. But there's no denying that she is the freshest pop star of the year.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 38. Caravan Palace - Panic

38. Caravan Palace - Panic

Electro Swing
05 March
Spotify


A criminally underrated release from one generally unfamiliar genre, Panic is an album for every occasion. Whether you’re coming up on drugs, coming down off them, trying to get laid or have a heavy deadline at work, these pieces slide effortlessly into your schedule and become the padded seat to ensure maximum comfort. A delicious electro retro vibe with hints of Jazz, Trip-Hop and some Disney cartoon, this is a new school joy with a delicious old school center, which both you and your granny could end up dancing to all afternoon. Fun, gentle, and soothing, such a unique style is infectiously enjoyable, and this applies to every single song on offer here, guaranteeing that you listen to it time and time and time again and again and again.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 37. Metz - Metz

37. Metz - Metz

Noise Rock
9 October
Spotify


Metz are like someone has taken The Pixies or Nirvana, removed all the quiet bits, and then got it aggressively drunk just before shoving it on stage. That’s because none of this album gives a fuck. The production doesn’t give a fuck and the riffs don’t give a fuck. It’s nothing but a high speed freight train with a one-way ticket to NOISYSHOUTINGDEAFENING town, and needs nothing more than a blistering 30 minutes to get you there. You will be ferociously reminded of your anarchic youth and how much you used to hate everyone in your angsty teenagehood, those days now left behind as you grew up oh-so fast. These could be fond memories, sure, if you weren’t just so fucking pissed off right now.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 36. Jack White - Blunderbuss

36. Jack White - Blunderbuss

Blues Rock
24 April
Spotify


Jack White is our modern day rock God. I will put money on the prediction that he will always be remembered as the Zeppelin or Dylan of our generation. I have said this for a while now, but nothing could have prepared me for Blunderbuss. Because while this divorce inspired album is still the same White, it’s just a little more complex and inventive whilst still remaining effortless in his signature casual approach. As a result, this is his best work yet, more solid than anything he has done before, with absolutely no filler and each song featuring at least one “hey!” moment. It all sounds so complete and works perfectly in context, that this record (even upon first listen) feels like you’ve known it your whole life. Simply put, it rocks. Fucking hard.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 35. Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud

35. Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud

Progressive Metal
18 September
Spotify


For Devin’s so-called “pop” record, this album is fucking massive. With larger than life production and Metal-Queenesque compositions, it’s a rock opera with a helluva lot going on, and is probably the biggest sounding album on this list. Even if it slips into occasional moments of cheese in that "School-Of-Rock" kinda way, that is the stuff that Gods are made of, if you think about it. Not to mention, every melody is well thought out and every moment pumps the air full of so much powerful talent that these songs must have originated from Townsend’s testicals. That said, it’s not exclusively male genitalia which make this album so huge, as the ultimate cherry on top comes in the form of female singer Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering) whose backing vocals are so predominant, you couldn’t really call them “backing” at all, if you were honest. People go on about The 2nd Law, but for me, this is the album Muse tried to make but failed, not only because Devin can write a fucking tune, but because he can overload it with more fun than anyone could handle on an empty stomach, transcending my expectations and catching me completely off guard as it did so. EPIC-LOUD, yessir.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 34. Swans - The Seer

34. Swans - The Seer

Experimental Post-Rock/Drone
28 August
Spotify


You’d expect any artist who taunts you with a double album to at least make the experience somewhat versatile, working to grasp your focus and help the journey seem less daunting. But not The Seer. It relentlessly repeats itself so much that it exhausts and scares whilst hypnotizing the best of us, and all very much on purpose. It’s a nightmare where the creature on the artwork infects you with rabies, irritating and discomforting you as much as it astonishes, bringing pain and pushing you over the edge. Which is exactly what The Swans always stood for: Beauty Meets Torture. A severe beating which rewards. The only relief to be found when it does anything at all. Instruments die like animals around you. It puts you to sleep, then wakes you up again. You get lost, and then it shows you the way. You don’t listen to this album - you take it on. You could never prepare yourself for it, and if you survive it - you’ll never forget it. You couldn’t if you tried, because it will haunt you forever. And in that way, its length is justified, because I’ve never been quite so upset in my life.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 33. Max Richter - Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons

33. Max Richter - Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons

Modern Classical
31 August
Spotify


Vivaldi’s 1725 The Four Seasons is one of the most popular sets of concertos in music history. Even if you think you’ve never heard it, you have. It’s been overused in so many adverts and films that it’s permanently engraved into the entire population’s consciousness, whether we wanted it there or not. It’s estimated that over 1,000 recordings exist of these tunes, so what makes Richter’s version so special? Well, it’s because he cut out the bullshit. 75% of the bullshit, to be exact. Max opted to rather select specific sections from these pieces, then elaborate on them, keeping the sounds simple and the seasons intact. This leaves us with a shimmering stringed experience, which is so pretty and moving that the first time I heard it, I felt goosebumps in my balls. I nearly broke into tears. Spring sounded like spring; summer like summer; winter; autumn - it was all there. So joyous yet so sad, there were moments where I swore this was the greatest music I’d ever heard in my whole existence. I have since come down a bit, but the point still stands - I honestly thought that.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 32. Alcest - Les Voyages de L'âme

32. Alcest - Les Voyages de L'âme

Post-Rock/Blackgaze
6 January
Spotify


By reading almost any review of this album, the word “beautiful” is thrown around over and over again. And this is justified. For Les Voyages de L'âme is surely the most beautifully crafted soundscape of 2012, building romantic atmospheres of clouds rolling over monstrous mountains, or lush forests blurred by a misty cold. Such a gorgeous backdrop is painted with huge instrumentation and soothing melodic vocals that only very occasionally slip into the more traditional doomy screams, which as a result, feel more potent and are a rare treat in these moments. Sure, fans of Alcest’s previous work complain that this is nothing new from the band who pretty much invented the Black Metal/Shoegaze hybrid, but I consider this a ridiculous accusation. It’s only their third album for fucksakes! And while modern shoegazers are still shamelessly ripping off (and failing) at everything My Bloody Valentine taught us, we must appreciate this refreshing take on the practice, and allow this emotionally stunning piece of work to blow our minds as it was intended to do. It is, as it has been said, very very beautiful.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 31. Japandroids - Celebration Rock

31. Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Indie Rock
5 June
Spotify


On paper, Japandroids encompass a style I hate: a pop punk vibe circling high energy riffs and shouty anthemic choruses - the kind of soundtrack you may find on some buddy high school teen movie. But if this was the scene, then this band would surely be the smart kids in the cafeteria, enjoying the fun of youth but still able to see the bigger picture of life, feeling their childhood passing them with feelings of nostalgia about the years gone by. And running at 35 minutes, this loud and catchy release does not waste a second of your time, showing off its simple yet confident compositions which always bounce my head even if I’m not in the mood. In a genre that usually hides behind humour, it’s refreshingly mature; focused and on a mission; and you’ll never forget the party, fireworks and all. Celebration rock indeed.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 30. Gojira - L'enfant Sauvage

30. Gojira - L'enfant Sauvage

Progressive Death Metal
26 June
Spotify


This album pummeled me into a wet mess. It knocked me to the floor and then kicked the shit out of me. The riffs were like they came from God (or Satan or some otherworldly being), and were so huge, they entirely annihilated me. The whole thing felt like some ancient monster made of stone, just standing there... watching me... blocking my path and not allowing me to pass. It wasn’t scary, per say, just fucking intimidating. And every time I thought it sounded a little bit too 90’s and dated, it got BIGGER. And every time I thought it was too long, it rewarded my persistance. And every time I thought it was a one-trick pony, it tricked me. And every time I thought I was getting bored, it punched me in the face. And I could never sit still. Not for one goddamn second.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 29. Aesop Rock - Skelethon

29. Aesop Rock - Skelethon

Abstract Hip Hop
10 July
Spotify


Anyone can write an album which maintains a personal yet humourous approach to its content, but how many can cover the everyday topics of getting your hair cut, loathing your vegetables, or making your very own mummy at home? Many rappers can race syllables at high speed past your ears, but how many can keep their words audible and coherent? There are many examples of where an old school flavour sits comfortably with modern trends, but how many can balance the hard-hitting darkness with an uplifting positivity? And most importantly, can these artists find the perfectly produced beats to back all of this up? Aesop Rock can. Aesop Rock does. In fact, he does absolutely everything we have just mentioned himself, and that means a lot. Perhaps it's a bit lengthy, and perhaps no song really stands out, but none of it ever pisses me off (which is saying a lot because I'm easily annoyed), all working together as one powerful unit which never gives anyone a chance breathe. And these are the reasons why everyone in the world is sucking this album’s dick. Because it’s a very tasty dick mmmm.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 28. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

28. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

Post-Rock/Drone
16 October
Spotify


My God, Godspeed, how I have missed you. As the epitome of genius, this is one of the only bands in the world whose message speaks at such high volumes without uttering a single word. Instead, they paint their picture with repetitive build-ups and aggressive-to-calm instrumentals, towering above you, wide open and fearful, like being surrounded and overwhelmed by some lonely war. It explodes your nerves and swallows you in an apocalyptic wall of noise, which is so purposeful and politically driven that you feel like you may be blown into meaty chunks at any moment. It knows you’re there, but it doesn’t care. It has ulterior motives, and you have no idea what role you are supposed to play in all of it. Which may not be anything particularly new for the band’s first album in 10 years, but it will remind you how unsubstantial the majority of music sounds these days. And even if it’s not the kind of record you listen to for a good time, you will always come out of it speechless, and may never be the same again. If this happens, don’t stress too much about it. It’s meant to do that.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 27. David Byrne & St. Vincent - Love This Giant

27. David Byrne & St. Vincent - Love This Giant

Art Pop
11 September
Spotify


As the unity of two of my favourite artists, I knew that (at very least) I’d give this album my best shot and appreciate the concept regardless. Luckily, it didn’t come to that, as not only did it live up to my expectations, but also lived to the left of them. As eccentric and curiously peculiar as the poppy-arty duo themselves, this brass-heavy release is full of the quirky lyrics and signature moves we have come to expect, yet is still a brand new sound for both of them. And more than anything, while both stars shine brightly, they never outshine each other, which is a HUGE compliment to Vincent, cementing her as a real force to be reckoned with in the music world. Not to mention this may be my favourite Byrne album since Talking Heads - and it often sounds like one too. Sure, it takes a bit of devotion to fully “get” it, but how they kept something so creepy and mystical whilst still cheerful and brilliantly composed, is the definition of extraordinary to me. Because nothing about this is ordinary. And I would be just as happy if it was double as long.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 26. Purity Ring - Shrines

26. Purity Ring - Shrines

Synth Pop
24 July
Spotify


Like a Grimms' Fairy Tale, Shrines is so pleasantly sweet and adorably cute that one could easily mistake it for a children’s product. But within all the swimming magic and sugar-coated prettiness, there is a very creepy chill to be found in this album’s center. For one example, the music’s druggy warps are so light and digestible that one could easily find themselves lost in the forest, chased by the witch and the wolf, trying desperately to find grandma's house. But if this happens to you, you must remember to listen to the poetic words that are here to guide you, and it will be unbelievable what this euphoric female voice has to say to you just before you drown underneath a sea of sound. Some critics argue that every song is too similar; that the album is too repetitive; and that it loses steam halfway... but I would argue that this is a part of the appeal and the charm. For even if every song tells you the same story, they do so from a different angle, and each one of them always have some major hook embedded deep within them, somewhere. It is probably the most addictive listen of the year, and I am still falling more in love with it to this day.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 25. Between the Buried and Me -  The Parallax II: Future Sequence

25. Between the Buried and Me - The Parallax II: Future Sequence

Progressive Metalcore
9 October


At 72 minutes long, you may think this exhausting and problematic journey would wear you down into a powder. And it does. But it uses its time so well - overloading more ideas into this one record than most bands achieve in their entire careers - that it totally earns the right to do so. Insanely heavy with an unhealthy dose of carnival shenanigans, it’s as hilarious as it is vicious, like some sort of space-demon child of Mr Bungle, with vocals so versatile that Patton himself would struggle to keep up. The punchy-as-fuck arrangements run all over the place, and are so complex that it is impossible to even comprehend how the band’s instruments don’t trip each other up, let alone how they even remember what they are supposed to play. Add this with some melodic moments and a touch of surf rock, and you get an album that not only does pretty much everything, but also does pretty much everything right. You don’t even have to be a metalhead to enjoy this, just being a mentalhead would suffice, and then you will know that this is as good as everyone said it was. And everyone said a lot.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 24. Santigold - Masters of My Make-Believe

24. Santigold - Masters of My Make-Believe

Electropop
23 April
Spotify


For some reason, this is a fight album to me. Its determined momentum mows through the general Indie/Pop surrounding it, throwing so many streetwise hooks that only a trail of blood is left behind. Even the mellow songs feel like the inevitable regret one might feel after beating the shit out of everything, allowing oneself a sit down to reflect on what you have just done. We could talk about the excess of 2012 anthems on here; or how she uses her limited vocals in such an inventive way; or how it’s over so quickly you might listen to it twice in a row... but I think the real testament comes in the form of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O. Not because Santigold managed to get Karen to feature, but because the feature itself is forgettable in context to everything else. And to outshine Karen O is a feat not many have done before (or ever). Besides this, it’s gimmick free, perfectly crafted, and whether listening to this album or her (only slightly superior) debut, you’ll have to agree that Santigold is one of the most innovative pop artists of modern times, and this is surely just a taste of things to come.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 23. Crystal Castles - (III)

23. Crystal Castles - (III)

Synth Pop/Witch House
13 November
Spotify


While opinion seems to be divided on this one, personally I couldn’t be happier with the direction this Canadian duo have embarked on. As so-called modern pioneers of the Synth-Punk/Chiptune genre, it would have been far too easy and predictable for Crystal Castles to do another (I) or (II), instead opting to shed their hyper sugar coats, and replace them with something much darker and evil. Make no mistake, the vocal manipulation and electro beauty is still available here, because this is always what made their sound, their sound. Except they have developed it, evolving into something as sad as it is witchy, slowly becoming one chilling, doomy and very serious experience, rewarding the listener the deeper they allow themselves to go. And that’s all that is important to me. It's that the fun and games are over, because we all have to grow up sometime. And this realization stirs all sorts of feelings inside of me like a satanic lullaby, provoking me to join a cult. And that is why this is my favourite Crystal Castles record yet. Because I'm fucking different now.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 22. Bat for Lashes - The Haunted Man

22. Bat for Lashes - The Haunted Man

Art Pop
15 October
Spotify


Just by looking at the fantastic artwork, you will know that this round we have a very different Natasha Khan all together. Gone are the pretty frills and Indian makeup; left is a stripped down and naked version of the real human underneath. Reminding me of something between the smart pop of Kate Bush and a less weird version of St Vincent, the moody emotion and low tempo of this solid album may take a few listens to fully grasp. But once you do, it feels like you have just been intimate with Khan herself, as she overpowers and seduces you with bold operatic hooks and little sneaky tricks. And that goes for every single one of these songs, which are almost always dark and sullen without ever being sad, all very sturdy and necessary. That is why I consistently find myself crawling back for more of these creepy hauntings. Because I can’t get her out of my mind. And that is literally the only thing I look for in my music.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 21. Andy Stott - Luxury Problems

21. Andy Stott - Luxury Problems

Dub/Minimal Techno
29 October


Like a washing machine on drugs, this layered entity loops its internal system over and over and over so many times, that it must be some sort of a ploy. Sounds of hollow cogs and pipes churn within your brain until you find yourself counting down from 10, slowly falling deeper and deeper into a trance like state. Crafted perfectly for a headphones experience, there is no 2012 album quite as hypnotic as this one, which lulls you into a false sense of comfort and security, for no other reason than its own creepy and sinister motives. But while it relies heavily on the unity of repetitive droning, ambient beauty and human voices to simultaneously relax and blow your mind, it will still throw you off course now and again by jolting your innards with something peculiarly out of place - just to remind you who is really in control here. Deep, dark, dense, and something else entirely, we can only ask ourselves the question: is this thing dangerous? Or is it chill? We simply cannot say.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 20. Dead Can Dance - Anastasis

20. Dead Can Dance - Anastasis

Neoclassical Darkwave
9 August


16 years in the making, followers of this legendary cult band were noticeably concerned. Could this release live up to the Dead Can Dance name? Or would it destroy everything as we knew it? And most importantly: how on earth could anything take so long? Luckily, these questions were answered by an album of balance; one which not only catered to the die-hard fans, but also granted an accessible opening for the more modern curious listeners. For this is like a scary journey into a dark gothic cathedral with a wise man holding your hand, guiding the way. He has traveled these hallways before, and knows much more about everything than you do. You can tell he is a troubled individual and has faced many a crisis in these parts, yet he is still willing to embrace you with love during the slow adventure - which is as creepy as it is imperative to your survival. But not him, nor the downtempo textures, soaring violins, or perfectly placed sounds could entirely save you from this experience. It may wear you down. You may find yourself having suicidal thoughts. And you may realise you were into that sort of thing all along.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 19. Dark Time Sunshine - ANX

19. Dark Time Sunshine - ANX

Abstract Hip Hop
24 July
Spotify


When you have developed your name so well that you can demand a guest list of who’s who from the Hip Hop Underground scene (Child Actor? P.O.S? Busdriver? Aesop Rock?), you know the result has gotta be fucking brilliant and sweet, right? Right. In what can only be described as heavenly, this release unifies polished production from outer space with intelligently relaxed flows, both working together to point out the light at the end of the tunnel without ignoring the tunnel itself. It may be positive, but it’s not naive. It’s on your side, but it’s not going to go easy on you. It’ll show you the door, but it won’t walk through it for you. It might not have all the answers, but it knows the next step. And even if the upbeat modern twists on some old tricks don’t present themselves extremely differently, they definitely do it a little bit differently, which is enough to inspire or even bring one to tears. It’s just as their name suggests. There will be some dark time. But there will be some sunshine.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 18. Meshuggah - Koloss

18. Meshuggah - Koloss

Djent/Progressive Metal
23 March
Spotify


This album is like two gigantic testosterone filled testicals perpetually punching me in the face. SMACK SMACK SMACK, they pummel me over and over, and are really starting to fuck me up. They smother my mouth so I can’t breathe, drowning me in their aggressive assault and hairy man sweat. They are dead set on killing me, and there is not a goddamn thing I can do about it. People have criticized that this album is nothing new from these juggernauts, and that this is simply just another Meshuggah record. I have no problem with that. The chugging riffs chug better than any other chugging riffs in the world, forcing you to bounce with their frantic structures coupled with desperate vocals - and this is their original trademark. Why would you want anything else? And say what you will, Koloss once again cements that Meshuggah are still the kings of the game they invented, and so I, for one, am not complaining.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 17. Plan B - ill Manors

17. Plan B - ill Manors

UK Hip Hop/Soundtrack
23 July
Spotify


This album proves a lot about Ben Drew (AKA Plan B). It proves that, despite his past successes, he still has a lot more to say, and provides us in 2012 with his best work yet. And even more than this, it proves that he is one of the hardest working dudes in the hip hop game right now, as this release couples as the soundtrack to the (very good) film of the same name, one that Drew himself wrote and directed. But with or without the visuals, this narrative collection of songs keeps you on the edge-of-your-seat just like a movie would. The songs eerily reflect the confrontational 2011 London riots, oozing the fed-up protests from the dark lower-class side of first world life, which feels more relevant and important now than anything else on this list. Granted, some tracks are not without their flaws, but this is by far the most hard-hitting and real album I’ve heard from this year, and once again proves a lot about Ben Drew, most notably that he does things his way. And he keeps doing them better.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 16. Deftones - Koi No Yokan

16. Deftones - Koi No Yokan

Alternative Metal
13 November
Spotify


As one of my favourite bands in the world, I always get nervous before a new Deftones release, fearing that this will be the album they finally stumble with. Luckily, it never happens. Because Deftones respect their listeners. They keep their efforts compact and experimental without ever alienating, and this goes in particular for Koi No Yokan, which feels like a love record somewhere in between all the meaty riffs and stop/start momentum. And, of course, Chino’s vocal deliveries stand as some of the most inventive in modern times. However, I can’t help but grow anxious still, as this is by all means a typical Defontes record - no more, no less. Their hardcore/melodic formula has become predictable and I’m not too convinced they could get away with it for too much longer. But I guess this is just who the Deftones are, and they still do it better than anyone else. They are one of the most consistent and confident bands of our generation, and while their late 90’s peers have faded into ludicrous obscurity, Deftones have not only kept their heads above water, but managed to walk on the fucking stuff. And for now, that will do just fine.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 15. The Caretaker - Patience (After Sebald)

15. The Caretaker - Patience (After Sebald)

Ambient, Turntable Music
12 January


People compare Patience to so many poetic scenes that it becomes daunting to try it yourself. Some have said it’s the sound of those traumatic dreams you forget the second you wake up; or that hypnotic moment just as you fall asleep, perpetually stuck on a loop; or even an anxious ghost eternally trapped inside some old dark manor, slowly disappearing. And I could never write anything better than that. For this desolate album may have some warped calming effect, but you’ll still find yourself upset and scared by all the static hissing and crackling over a broken piano, tirelessly repeating itself over and over. It’s not particularly stimulating nor is it an easy ride, but it was never supposed to be, instead offering you nothing at all - and as a result, offering you perfection. No one else is doing anything like this. I’m not sure anyone ever has. Hell, I’m not even sure how anyone makes this kind of music despite how simple it is, or why anyone would want to. But all I am sure of, is that every time I listen to The Caretaker, it sounds like the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 14. Deerhoof - Breakup Songs

14. Deerhoof - Breakup Songs

Noise Pop
04 September
Spotify


Like some adult Japanese cartoon drawn by a sadist on mushrooms, this release scrapes the fine line between infectiously catchy and intolerable intensity in the red, where the listener has to prepare themselves for being embraced or completely alienated at any second. The whole thing feels so overstuffed that it may fall apart at any second, but doesn't, thanks to some 6 year old kid sticking it all back together with colourful putty, the cracks now intertwining with patterns of rainbows puking out of the sides. Just be careful you don’t cut your hands whilst you’re playing with it, darling, or you might hurt yourself. What I am trying to say is that I’m so into this. At least I think I am, but I can’t really think at all. It effortlessly touches me in places that I haven’t been touched in ages (by my uncle) and makes me feel like a child again on christmas (that’s when my uncle touched me). It’s got a distorted commercial feel without ever compromising, and is over so quickly (which is probably a good thing) that you almost feel like you could do it again immediately afterwards. Except you probably couldn't.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 13. Tame Impala - Lonerism

13. Tame Impala - Lonerism

Psychedelic Pop/Rock
05 October
Spotify


Tame Impala swam onto the scene with their 2010 debut Innerspeaker, and while people complained about how much it sounded like a very Lennon/Beatles Revolveresque copy, it was still the best Beatles I’ve ever heard since The Beatles themselves - and there is no shame in ripping off The Beatles anyway. However, with Lonerism we have the perfect sophomore. While it doesn’t go wildly off-topic by remaining psychedelic and floaty, it has enough progression and differences to satisfy even us older listeners. Written and performed solely by 25 year old Kevin Parker, he has called Lonerism a more direct and in-your-face release in comparison to Innerspeaker’s washed over effect, and this is true. But there is still a definite feeling of sadness and isolation to be found here (the first clue in the title itself), kind of like falling lost in space or drowning in watercolour paint. All of this not only makes for another golden effort from these Australian boys, but is also a decidedly better product than the last one. And what a great thing that is.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 12. Daughn Gibson - All Hell

12. Daughn Gibson - All Hell

Indie Electronic
26 March
Spotify


As reflective and black n’ white as the artwork may suggest, this is something truly special. With baritone croonings over slow tempo trip hop like beats, coupled with a vinyl playing warm country vibes, All Hell is an album unlike anything I’ve ever really heard in my life, and yet is pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted in a release. Short. Originally smart. Emotionally mature. Lyrically powerful. And never really faltering from this path, as its beauty grows stronger after each track passes and every single listen swallows you further into darkness. Words could never express how I feel about something as deep and unique as this. I’m not even sure such words exist. So instead, I’ll drive a pickup truck into the dusty night with a shotgun and just see what happens.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 11. Polica - Give You The Ghost

11. Polica - Give You The Ghost

Art/Indie Pop
30 April
Spotify


These days we have been swamped with so many vocoders and autotunage, that it becomes easy to forget such an overused technique still has a purpose other than disguising bad voices and missed notes. Much like a distortion pedal may work for a guitar, or a reverb effect may work for a snare, we should be embracing this technology, not for any form of subtlety, but to warp the voice into a fucking instrument. And Polica is one of the best modern examples I can find of this, where one can lose concentration as to what vocalist Channy might be saying, and rather focus on how she is saying it, all while the frantic drumming shines through any gap of her dominating voice it can find. And in between all the chilled echoes and soothing sweetness, you have a release which is more upbeat than it lets on; more down to earth than most art pop these days; and exceptionally easy to swallow, tasting more yummy every time.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 10. Animal Collective - Centipede Hz

10. Animal Collective - Centipede Hz

Neo-Psychedelia
04 September
Spotify


Like a messy watercolour painting overloaded with far too many psychedelic ideas, Centipede Hz is a cluttered and swamped mess in a futuristic fairy tale-like journey, driven by that certain magic only Animal Collective know how to do properly. It pulls the listener in two fun directions: is it extremely hooky with beyond catchy melodies and joyful riffs? Or is it far too experimental to really dig past the complex surface? The answer is, of course, that it’s both these things. A challenging and aggressive experience with rewarding quirks in some commercial appeal buried deep inside of itself. It’s like some sort of a chaotic celebration, where a happy puppy gets overly excited and accidentally bites your hand, but you forgive it and love it still, allowing it to continue running in circles until it tires itself out. I mean, Animal Collective are pretty much one of the most hyped bands of recent years, and yet they still definitely live up to the name completely. But what everyone really wanted to know was: is it as good as Merriweather Post Pavilion? Well, probably not. But is anything?


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 09. iamamiwhoami - kin

09. iamamiwhoami - kin

Electropop/Indie Electronic
11 June
Spotify


In a world where anyone can make music in their bedroom, and whilst record labels are struggling to defeat piracy, only the most creative of artists will stand out. And the multimedia approach of kin is one of those, as if some testament as to how far we have come in modern day expression. This is because each of the 9 witchy yet cute songs which make up this album, are accompanied by a video. They directly link together and tell some unconventional story where Jonna dances sexually in her underwear with some big humanoid Komondor dog creatures, then runs on some adventure through forests, deserts, and oceans until her water breaks and she finds herself back in her apartment, where everything results in a cube. Erm, no idea what it all means, but such an original concept guaranteed interest, as the dreamy snowfall floated into critics’ ears, smothering their attention with the familiar yet fresh approach to the popular electro childsplay style, iced by those sultry female vocals on top. And even if they didn’t feel the music, the videos amazed all of us, and such a level of detail is why I simply could not justify it going any lower on this chart.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 08. alt-J - An Awesome Wave

08. alt-J - An Awesome Wave

Art/Indie Pop
28 May
Spotify


How many albums would it take to perfect the artsy smarts of a happier Radiohead, then molest it with the freak folk vibe of Devendra Banhart? Three? A lifetime? Never? Impossible? Try one. Unbelievably true, this is alt-J’s debut, which seems so natural and sure of itself, that it’s as if they didn’t find their unique sound - it found them. No jokes, on one occasion it literally stopped me on my walk home and forced me to sit down on a bench, asking “whaaaaat?” to no one in particular. I never gave it permission to do that. But it did it anyway by making me feel young again without losing any age of wisdom, and that takes far too much talent for a first album, in my opinion. It’s something like a rollercoaster - maybe not the most exhilarating rollercoaster you’ve ever been on, but a fun ride all the same. And just when you think you can predict the rest of your journey, a huge fucking dip comes out of nowhere, and in that second you realise you didn’t know shit all along. The rollercoaster was playing you. It’s that exact second I’m talking about here. That’s what this album is.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 07. Susanne Sundfør - The Silicone Veil

07. Susanne Sundfør - The Silicone Veil

Art Pop
26 March
Spotify


Comparisons are lazy, but they are there to be made, and one can’t help but point out that this is yet another release cementing the role of female solo artists as the forefront of recent musical years. Perhaps you will feel the piano driven emotion of Tori Amos here; or the Björk-inspired electro vein; or the touch of a warmer Fever Ray; or the gothic undertones of Anna Calvi; or the whimsy of iamamiwhoami; or even the fairy tale smarts of Fiona Apple - take your pick. Yet as high calibre as these comparisons are, it hardly seems fair, as The Silicone Veil is its own proud yet vulnerable creature, with impossibly good vocals working with the music to carefully hide depression within its crevices, creating an atmosphere which borderlines on miraculous. But unlike all the aforementioned artists, Susanne does not rely on peculiarities to get her message across, but rather uses the straightforward tried-and-tested technique of focusing on every single moment until they each become monumental. And monumental they become. So much so, that finding the concentration to write this review was my biggest challenge. I’d much rather listen.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 06. Death Grips - The Money Store

06. Death Grips - The Money Store

Experimental/Hardcore Hip Hop
24 April
Spotify


Much like a hyperactive child throwing a fit, something so bass-harsh and abrasively challenging is guaranteed to split muso’s faces right down the middle. But even with all the overwhelming punk ideals and excess of hip hop testosterone aside, this experience is so uniquely intense that it's simply unforgettable. You may not even enjoy it, but after one listen, you will definitely never forget it. I mean, get used to it? There's a small chance. But forget it? Impossible. Because even if The Money Store feels like it was just thrown together with hard lo-fi sound effects and onenote vocal deliveries, it is never far from dropping something so nasty and brutal that you have to appreciate Death Grips know exactly what they are doing. Your nerves may fray. You may feel ill. If you end up with a migraine, then you got off lightly. But you would not fuck with something which is so much more gangster than any other gangster rap out this year, because it would fucking destroy you without it even noticing. And that ain't normal.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 05. Pepe Deluxé - Queen Of The Wave

05. Pepe Deluxé - Queen Of The Wave

Baroque Pop
30 January


I’ll never forget the first time I heard this ambitious album. It was like somebody put together a Sci-Fi Disney movie about a bunch of vikings, telling tales and drinking ales in a pub before going to outer-space, then taking drugs and sleeping with taxidermy animals. Except even more what-the-fuck than that. What’s more, I’ll never forget the last time I heard this ambitious album either. Because while a lot of the poppy cuteness may stick immediately, even more of it takes its time, granting this album more whack staying power than one might initially credit it for. This is because Pepe Deluxé have gone out of their way to use all their combined smarts and excessive talents to create something that was detailed and deliberately overstuffed with fun, putting together a journey so entertaining and hysterical that you don’t even have permission to think. You couldn’t if you tried, anyway. And by the end of it, while you may need to puke from all the excess, to find anything as stimulating to listen to afterwards will prove a very difficult challenge indeed.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 04. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

04. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Art Pop
19 June
Spotify


After a seven year slumber, Fiona opens her sad eyes and rubs the dust from them. The music scene has changed. So many piano goddesses have half-heartedly claimed the throne in her absence, but this does not phase her nor does she even seem to notice. Instead, she casually opens her mouth and spreads her entire soul across the globe for everyone to take a poke at. She’s an adult now, with some new found intelligence, yet is still as lost as a child. She is heartbroken. She is confused. And this fascinates us just long enough to be engaged, then engulfed by it like some sort of an ambush. And once she’s that far inside of you, she won’t let go, and in that moment everyone who has tried to be Fiona suddenly becomes embarrassingly irrelevant indeed. They may have figured out her intricate melodies and sultry bounces, but they have never figured out her degree of unusual chord changes, offbeat time signatures and quirky sense of humour. And what they lack, Apple fills up like cold cement, using her eerie yet sincere pop style to trap us, yet give us an erection which stays up the whole way through.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 03. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

03. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

Contemporary R&B
17 July
Spotify


When Odd Future’s decidedly most unique member picked the convenient time of coming out the closet just before his major label debut dropped, it all seemed a little too well timed to me - a move guaranteed to open jaws with some strategic curiosity. But as surprising as it was that Frank enjoyed the occasional cock (especially as a piece of the often homophobic OFWGKTA), it was even more surprising as to where that curiosity lead us. With Prince like gospels speaking at the top of their lungs even with just whispers, all the love, sex, drugs, sadness and ugly side of life came only second to the music itself, which was full of flavour, cooked well-done and then left to cool down, becoming effortlessly one of the best representations of what the 2010’s had started to offer. Because of this, there isn’t any easy way to explain why Channel Orange has received such an overwhelming response, except that it’s a special and sobering look at Frank’s person, which is so human yet so goddamn sexy that I find myself having homosexual thoughts of my own. As brave as coming out may have seemed - this album was even braver. Frank Ocean saved R&B, Amen.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 02. Grimes - Visions

02. Grimes - Visions

Synth/Dream Pop
21 Feb
Spotify


Well, this changes everything. Whether you feel this sensual album is a quirky dream or a spooky nightmare, everyone would have to agree that it happened while you were sleeping. Like some Aphex Twin machinery lightly covered in delicious Enya icing, it’s a dessert which could be called strange or charming, but most definitely addictive. That said, it is flawed and is far from perfect, mostly because the first half hits the hardest with their arty textures and fascinating cuteness, but after that point, it does seem to wear itself down a little bit. However, and even in those moments, the whole experience floats down my throat and into a place within my stomach I didn’t know existed before, which makes me all introspective and shit, as well as a little nervous. And for this unique reason, it becomes obvious that Visions is at the pinnacle of what’s hot right now: a freshly distinct yet distant girly sound which is subtle rather than overly mental, yet still pretty mental. Did I mention she recorded the whole thing in her apartment? Yeah, she did. And I don’t think this is the last we'll hear of her by any stretch.


The Top 50 Albums of 2012: 01. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d. city

01. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d. city

Conscious Hip Hop
22 October
Spotify


The problem with this album is that Kendrick will surely never be able to top it. He’ll probably spend the rest of his career trying to do so. Because with such high speed raps and sexy deliveries from one very unique voice, telling us personal lyrics which are far from indulgent and easy to grasp.... how could he? Make another commercially satisfying LP which never loses its underground appeal? Take the same old hip hop tricks and then present them in a new and unpredictable manner? Like this? Ever again? I don't think so. Not to mention all of this is tightly tied together by a dead serious concept which maintains a sense of humour, filled with well acted skits working effortlessly with the music, neither of these aspects getting in the way of each other. Songs change into other songs right in the middle of tracks; the guest list is an a-list; and I could write an essay on the exact moments which completely knock my tits off, because they are genius and frequent. For these reasons, I’d put money on this being an instant classic as well as a defining album of what will make the 2010’s, the 2010’s. Because it’s almost embarrassingly unchallenged as the best album I’ve heard this year. Well played, Kendrick. Well played.


CONCLUSION
As the third year of the 2010’s, I think we should start predicting what will define this decade as its own entity, just for fun.

For me, I think we have started to see signs that the interest in the more folky side of music has begun to wane ever so slightly, which I'm ok with. While this is happening, the more arty side of pop music (especially the piano driven female singer/songwriter type) continue to march on as strong as ever.

Much like this, genres such as indie or any type of rock music, as well as your run-of-the-mill pop or electro, probably won’t be going anywhere anytime soon (because they never do). However, I do think we will be finding better and better hybrids of these genres in coming years, where the guitars fuck those electronic dabblings to create that great mix of old and new school ideas. I mean, a lot of this has already taken place over the last decade or so, but it’s hard to think of many examples where this has been perfected perfectly just yet.

As far as metal goes, I have been regrettably biased against that specific sound in recent years due to the excess of it in my youth. But 2012 was the first time I gave it proper attention in a long time, and I was quite surprised as to what I found. For this reason, I think it’s safe to say metal will never really die either, just so long as they continue progressing and keep it as heavy as they have been. But I’m no expert. But I will be. But.

I have also noticed a mass influx of the new genre “witch house”, which I believe should become even more popular in the next few years. There is also loads of releases coming out with that vinyl-crackling sample layered on top of them, so maybe that's some sort of a trend or something.

Special mention has to go to hip-hop, as I found the first 2 years of this decade to be somewhat weak on that front. But this year, it appears that the commercial side of this genre has lead to its ultimate demise, while the underground side has finally bubbled up and broken through. Much like metal or pop, hip hop will never cease to exist, but will keep going in circles. And it is in this circle that I think we have reached some sort of a peak in the last 12 months. For these reasons, I predict a bunch of new awesome rap stuff for at least the next few years to come, and if this year is anything to go by, this decade could very well be owned by hip hop alone.

Finally, it seems to me the most surprising genre has been Contemporary R&B. While Janelle Monae dominated 2010; we had the huge uprising of The Weeknd and Frank Ocean last year; and this year we have 3 releases on my list which fall into this category. As a genre I would have generally avoided in my youth, I have been completely blown away by this fresh take on the sound, and as it stands, it has been the most innovative and impressive field from this decade so far. I don’t think too much will change any time soon, and it should only get even more captivating from here.

As far as individual artists go, I would like to point out the following as the musicians who have had at least 2 albums on my charts over the last 3 years. For they have proven themselves (to me at least) as the forerunners of the decade, and far from just striking it lucky:

The Caretaker (2011’s An Empty Bliss Beyond This World #04; 2012’s Patience (after Sebald) #15)
Deftones (2010’s Diamond Eyes #10; 2012’s Koi No Yokan #16)
Frank Ocean (2011’s Nostalgia, Ultra #27; 2012’s Channel Orange #03)
St Vincent (2011’s Strange Mercy #10; 2012’s Love This Giant (with David Byrne) #27)
Crystal Castles (2010’s (II) #19; 2012’s (III) #23)
The Black Keys (2010’s Brothers #23; 2011’s El Camino #21)
Kanye West (2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy #25; 2011’s Watch The Throne (with Jay-Z) #19)
Die Antwoord (2010’s $O$ #04; 2012’s Ten$ion #40)
Sleigh Bells (2010’s Treats #03; 2012’s Reign Of Terror #45)
Tame Impala (2010’s InnerSpeaker #43; 2012’s Lonerism #13)
The Roots (2010’s How I Got Over #32; 2011’s undun #36)
Killing Joke (2010’s Absolute Dissent #28; 2012’s MMXII #47)
Jack White (2010’s Sea of Cowards (as part of Dead Weather) #46; 2012’s Blunderbuss #36)

That's great. Here are 37 more awesome albums from 2012 which didn’t quite make the list, sorry guys:

51. The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet
52. Birds in Row - You, Me & The Violence
53. El-P - Cancer For Cure
54. Toy - Toy
55. Grizzly Bear - Shields
56. BADBADNOTGOOD - BBNG2
57. Violens - True
58. Mac DeMarco - 2
59. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
60. Lorn - Ask The Dust
61. Father John Misty - Fear Fun
62. Rush - Clockwork Angels
63. Django Django - Django Django
64. Sigh - In Somniphobia
65. Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
66. Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
67. Here We Go Magic - A Different Ship
68. John Talabot - Fin
69. Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory
70. Nas - Life is Good
71. The Chariot - One Wing
72. Katatonia - Dead End Kings
73. Every Time I Die - Ex Lives
74. Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
75. Niechec - Śmierć w miękkim futerku
76. Anais Mitchell - Young Man In America
77. Lone - Galaxy Garden
78. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - The Heist
79. Menomena - Moms
80. Dr. John - Locked Down
81. Chairlift - Something
82. Torche - Harmonicraft
83. School of Seven Bells - Ghostory
84. Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn’t
85. Chromatics - Kill for Love
86. Sigur Rós - Valtari
87. The Bad Plus - Made Possible


20 comments :

  1. There is music outside US and UK too, you know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes there are. For example: Austria (Soap&Skin #49); South Africa (Die Antwoord #40); France (Caravan Palace #38, Alcest #32, Gojira #30); Canada (Devin Townsend Project #35, Godspeed You! Black Emperor #28, Purity Ring #26, Crystal Castles #23, Grimes #2); Germany (Max Richter #33); Australia (Dead Can Dance #20, Tame Impala #13); Sweden (Meshuggah #18, iamamiwhoami #9); Norway (Susanne Sundfør #7); and Finland (Pepe Deluxé #5).

      In fact, music outside of the US and UK constitutes for 34% of my list. Suck my dick, asshole.

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  2. Your reply just made my day, Jared. Tou-fucking-ché. Great list, by the way.

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  3. There is music outside Europe and North America too, you know.

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    1. Hahaha. Ok, Anonymous. Give me 10 albums which deserve to be in this list outside of Europe and North America, besides the 3 I've already mentioned.

      Make sure you double check my full 234 album list before you answer, because I'd hate to embarrass you: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1e2d1n_ZA7nRjx7QaT8jXKTLX1UMbTd8sNHm7PT-pqPg/edit

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  4. Very well, I've rated 1,703 albums from 2012 on rateyourmusic so here are some you have missed (intentionally or not... u racist!):

    Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Pamyu Pamyu Revolution.

    Nhato - Etude.

    Sambanzo - Etiópia

    Oren Ambarchi, Jim O'Rourke & Keiji Haino - Imikuzushi

    Chara - Cocoon

    잠비나이 - Differance

    Drowning Horse - Drowning Horse

    Las Malas Amistades - Maleza

    東京アクティブNEETs - 東方爆音ジャズ3

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    1. There is music outside Asia, you know :P

      I've heard Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, it was far too J-poppy and cheesy for me. But I did enjoy it.

      On Rateyourmusic:
      Nhato - Etude = 0 Reviews; 13 Ratings; 3.64 overall
      Sambanzo - Etiópia = 3 Reviews; 28 Ratings; 3.39 overall
      Chara - Cocoon = 0 Reviews; 2 Ratings; 4.26 overall
      잠비나이 - Differance = 1 Review; 54 Ratings; 3.43 overall
      Drowning Horse - Drowning Horse = 2 Reviews; 18 Ratings; 3.53 overall
      Las Malas Amistades - Maleza = 2 Reviews; 22 Ratings; 3.61 overall
      東京アクティブNEETs - 東方爆音ジャズ3 = 0 Reviews; 4 Ratings; 3.25 overall

      These are very unknown albums. Reread the third paragraph of my introduction, where I said "I would only listen to albums which were recommended to me (either by the RateYourMusic community; Metacritic; The Guardian; Pitchfork; NME etc, as well as my good friends)." There is a lot of music out there, I only give attention to the ones I hear about.

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    2. By the way, my favourite Japanese album of the year was without a doubt Sigh - In Somniphobia, which I mention in my conclusion at #64.

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    3. ..and the singer from Deerhoof (#14) is from Tokyo.

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  5. WOW! My list will be very similar. I'll do it in a week I think.

    Soap&Skin, very undervalued.

    Pepe Deluxé, Grimes, Kendrick, Alt-J, Fiona Apple, Tame Impala, Frank Ocean, Santigold, Animal Collective, iamamiwhoami... Good, very good!

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    1. You have good taste! Sopa&Skin is criminally undervalued, I agree! Please post your list to me when you're done! :)

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  6. Great list. I'm going to try out many of the albums I'm unfamiliar with, and I largely agree with the rest. Except I would put the Seer somewhere in the top 10 simply because of it's ambition alone. It really stands lonely in a genre, parent genre (or hell all of music ever) as something completely unique among cookie cutter regurgitated albums & ideas. I understand it's not so listenable to many people though. The album tackles sound itself rather than 'songs' as we know them. But at the same time its not like any traditional "ambient" album either.

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    1. Good comment Craig! And by all means, The Seer is a monster of an album, I truly do get what it's all about. The reason why I only put it at number 34 is because I never feel like listening to it, because it completely destroys and scares me. But I get your point, and I can tell you are passionate about it, which is rad :)

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  7. Our lists will be very different I imagine. For one thing I'll have death metal and black metal. That new Cannibal Corpse? Amazing.

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    1. Yeah, I like Death/Black Metal, I just don't LOVE it, you know? I never got round to listening to that album, but will definitely get on that :)

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  8. Incredible list. Tipped me off to a bunch of good music. A couple releases you may like that didn't appear on your list are "Sunshine & Technology" by The Smith Street Band, "Other Worlds" by Taken By Trees, "1999" by Joey Bada$$. Keep up the good work man, look forward to reading your rap up of the year to come.

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    1. Legend, thanks mate! Will definitely check those out!

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  9. That's a nice list. Especially for the vivaldi bit.
    Please please compile a list of your fav such Classical recordings..
    No the usual ones. Boring ones.

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    1. That's ... not going to happen, sorry.

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