Top Albums of 2012: Editor’s Picks

By on Tuesday, 18th December 2012 at 11:00 am
 

Wowsers, has this year flown by or what? I can scarcely believe we’re ready to celebrate Christmas in a week’s time, but you know what that means, boys and girls. It’s time for the editor’s top picks of 2012. Unlike most lists that have already published either in print or online, there will be no mentions of Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar or DIIV. Sorry. No, and this year, I tried to get away from dance as I could, which seems really odd considering where I found myself 2 years ago; this is probably good commentary on the music scene at large, where beats – either urban or poppy – have invaded nearly every facet of radio and except for the odd album or two, I found these to be completely devoid of heart. Or character. (But there were 3 in my top 10 that were arguably dance albums, so maybe there’s still hope…) Without further delay, here are my picks for 2012.

The-Crookes-Hold-Fast-cover1. The Crookes – ‘Hold Fast’ (Fierce Panda) – In the shadow of love – in its electric (2010’s #1, Delphic’s ‘Acolyte’) and nostalgic, life affirming (2011’s #1, Noah and the Whale’s ‘Last Night on Earth’) forms – my #1 this year goes as far back to basics with the good ol’ pop-tinged rock ‘n’ roll of Sheffield’s Crookes. I’ve always thought that the smartest songwriters are those that can write catchy tunes while also offering up thought-provoking, intelligent lyric; guitarist Daniel Hopewell fits this description to a T.

This album would feel equally at home in the 1960s as it does in 2012. There is no studio trickery or fancy production here, just heartfelt (and heartbroken in ‘Maybe in the Dark’) feelings being sung to memorable melodies that can help to remind you of simpler times. Or simply remind you of the important people who have coloured your life. Do yourself a favour and get this album. If you’re not sold yet, read my review of ‘Hold Fast’ here.

Keston-Cobblers-Club-cover2. Keston Cobblers’ Club – ‘One, for Words’ (Beatnik Geek) – It has been shown to us time and time again that family members who sing together make some incredible music. (For one, the Beach Boys.) In Julia and Matthew Lowe, we have familial alchemy at work again, this time on some incredible folk pop. When one album can make you laugh, make you cry, make you wistful for a former lover, make you remember through happy tears your life experiences, that is truly special indeed, and that’s what I’ve gotten out of ‘One, for Words’. I expect to be playing this album again and again until my final days. You can read my review of their debut album here.

Grimes-Visions-cover3. Grimes – ‘Visions’ (4AD) – Claire Boucher is now one of the hottest commodities in the music business these days, and surely the biggest game changer from Canada since Arcade Fire. Every time I tried to catch the baby-voiced master of synths and sequencers in 2012, I never actually managed to get in. Thankfully though, I have this album to keep me company whenever things have gone boring in my life. Variety is the key word of this album, with ambient, industrial, pop and minimalist genres all touched on for one eclectic group of songs. Every time you pick up this album, you’ll hear something exciting you missed the last time around, and I don’t think it’s possible for ‘Visions’ to get old. Read my review here.

Casiokids-Aabenbaringen-over-aaskammen-cover4. Casiokids – ‘Aabenbaringen over aaskammen’ (Moshi Moshi) – There’s no way I could have forgotten the craziness of Casiokids’ third album. Even in the middle of winter, thoughts of a pineapple-shaped maraca, the sheer wonkiness of ‘Det Haster!’ and ‘Dresinen’, and disco and jungle beats working in harmony on the same album easily warmed my heart. This is controlled chaos, in a way that only Nordics manage to do it. And even if you go into this album thinking, “no way is this album going to lift my mood”, trust me, it will. You’ll even leave it with a knowing yet silly grin on your face.Read more here.

Husky cover5. Husky – ‘Forever So’ (Sub Pop) – The Husky debut album was an example of when you keep hearing the name of a band so many times, you’re wondering what the fuss is all about. Well, wonder no more. If you’re the first-ever signing to a indie label as storied as Sub Pop, then you better bring the goods, and Husky Gawenda and co. do just that in a Fleet Foxes meets the sadness of Nick Drake vehicle. If you’ve ever been slayed by gorgeous harmonies, this album’s for you. Read my review of it here.

After the cut: some albums that just missed the top 5 cut, and others that disappointed.

Honourable mentions:

Divine Fits – ‘A Thing Called Divine Fits’ (Epitaph/review here) – What usually happens when we indulge supergroups: we have overinflated anticipation and the results never live up to our high standards. To be fair, I’m not a fan of either Spoon or Wolf Parade, which I think helped in my liking of this outing of Dan Boeckner and Britt Daniel doing some really groovy stuff. Even in these winter months, I still ‘Like Ice Cream’. Full stop.

General Fiasco – ‘Unfaithfully Yours’ (Dirty Hit/review here) – I’m still very confused on how General Fiasco is not already hugely popular across the entire world. In the post-Two Door world, there are a lot of bands coming out of Northern Ireland that are shamelessly ripping off the ‘I Can Talk’ boys’ sound, but this band isn’t one of them. They just had the unfortunate timing to come out just as the Two Door wave broke. Have a listen and tell me what you think.

Memoryhouse – The Slideshow Effect (Sub Pop/review here) – this duo of friends from the wilds of Canada made one of the most haunting records ever. The unusual – and classical – origin on of this project make the whole end product even more likely. So hats off to them.

Orbital – ‘Wonky’ (ACP Recordings/review here) – The Hartnoll Brothers’ first album in 8 years showed up the dance newbies by effortlessly showing how it’s done. Leaving the Chems’ 2011 ‘Further’ in the dust, Orbital cemented their place in current dance royalty and proved their validity in this decade.

Savoir Adore – ‘Our Nature’ (Popular/review here)– If you want to get away from it all, take this album with you, as it will bring you to the land of fairytale, fantasy pop. ‘Empire of Light’ alone is one of my top tracks of 2012, and you won’t be able to get it out of your head. Not that you want it to. It’s also a loving and post-relationship type album too.

Disappointments:

First Aid Kit – ‘The Lion’s Roar’ (Wichita/review here) – This album explains why so much is wrong with music these days. The title track was a huge, huge single, and the rest of the album never quite lived up to the first taster we all loved. Maybe the American folk influences disturbed the Soderberg sisters’ usual way of writing?

Ladyhawke – ‘Anxiety’ (Island reviw here) – I give Pip Brown credit for attacking her mental demons head on and even naming her album after the one thing that has given her trouble all her life. But this album that claimed was a return to rock (it sort of was, but it also sort of wasn’t) didn’t deliver, especially with strange throwaway lyrics without a saving melody. A bit embarrassing.

Mystery Jets – ‘Radlands’ (Rough Trade/review here) – Okay, with the strength of ‘Someone Purer’ and the sheer pop of ‘Greatest Hits’, I was really expecting something huge. Unfortunately, most of this album is an indulgence of the band’s time in the countrified version of America, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t think “cowboy hats” and “Mystery Jets” should go in the same sentence. On the other hand, it would have been hard to upstage ‘Serotonin’, so…

The Script – ‘#3’ (Epic/review here) – Oh dear. You know it’s bad when you have to skip tracks on an album by one of your favourite bands. See First Aid Kit above; ‘Hall of Fame’ is huge, as is ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ and ‘If You Could See Me Now’. Rest of the album? Not so much.

Two Door Cinema Club – ‘Beacon’ (Kitsune/review here) – You all know that I am a massive Two Door fan, so it pains me to say that while it has its superbly fab moments (particularly in ‘Sleep Alone’ and ‘Next Year’) and the three from Bangor really tried to expand their horizons, the latest from Two Door in album format runs the risk of only being heard by all those #basementpeople. Sadface.

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3 Responses

11:02 am
18th December 2012

RT @tgtf: New post: Top Albums of 2012: Editor’s Picks: http://t.co/1pIQP1Nd

[…] The Belfast band released their latest album, ‘Unfaithfully Yours’, in summer 2012; the album made my top 10 albums of 2012. Read more about that here. […]

[…] the Crookes since ‘Hold Fast’, their second album and the one I’d anointed with my Best Album of 2012 honour at the end of last year, had been released, and I was raring to see them perform the songs that had become so important in […]

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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