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Old 12-27-2012, 09:53 PM   #76
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Ugh all my 8 pointers turned into sunglasses. Stupid smilies.
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Old 12-27-2012, 10:02 PM   #77
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That Fiscal Cliff is more real than I thought.

Well done, sir.
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Old 12-27-2012, 11:14 PM   #78
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I suppose I am as ready now as I am going to be.

1. Beach House: Bloom. (15 points)

Heavenly. Hypnotic. Ethereal. Billowing. Reviewers have employed the entire dream-pop lexicon in describing Beach House’s ability to transport the listener to a new sonic world. Where the self-titled debut and Devotion submerged you in their lo-fi soundscapes, Teen Dream sacrificed some of the atmosphere in favor of a barrage of hooks and sublime melodies, enticing rather than demanding you to return. Harmonizing the two approaches was a logical next step, but by no means a simple one. In Bloom, however, the duo has accomplished the task with grace and vision.

The atmospherics that have always enveloped the band’s songs are intact, but with an important shift in technique: rather than looking to hazy production to set the mood, vocalist/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally are now conjuring it from their own voices and instruments. At the forefront is Victoria, who here continues to solidify her position among the finest and most expressive voices in the indie world. Take “Troublemaker” as an example: the gentle delivery of the verses gives way to a rousing chorus, demonstrating her ability to use the voice both as an instrumental accompaniment and a guiding melody. Scally is in top form as well, showing an Edge-like ability to apply a signature tone in seemingly endless ways and laying down some of the most memorable riffs of the year in “Wild” and “Wishes.”

Impressive as the strides are from Legrand and Scally as individual musicians, the foundation of Bloom is the cohesion and certainty of the songcraft. Whereas a song like “Norway,” infectious as it is, shifts rather jarringly from chorus to bridge, the chorus of “New Year” transitions effortlessly into a chilling refrain in which the vocals float delicately over a lone synth. “Lazuli” similarly moves from buoyant to foreboding with an immaculately-placed guitar riff. Such delicate shifts in mood also serve to cast Victoria’s lyrics in different instrumental shades, bolstering the emotional complexity of the album and the level of reward in repeated listening.

Let’s also not forget that Beach House can rock when they feel so inclined. The barn-burning closer and live juggernaut “Irene” weaves a finely-layered but fraught tapestry around a simple vocal line. Like my favorite songs of the last two years – 2010’s “Terrible Love” and last year’s “Surgeon” – it climbs to a thrilling crescendo, building and sustaining tension before dispersing it abruptly. It’s tempting to take the song as some kind of existential statement on how fantasies can crumble without notice, but I would prefer to look at it as the epitome of what makes the album great: painting in a wide spectrum of colors within the compass of a unified vision.


2. Bat for Lashes: The Haunted Man.
(13 points)

One of the most reliable barometers of songwriting talent is what an artist can do with just a voice and a lone instrument. By that measurement – or really any other – it’s time to start ranking Natasha Khan among the foremost talents in the indie world. The sparse but stunning centerpiece of The Haunted Man, “Laura,” rightfully landed on many lists of the finest songs of 2012, yet the piano and voice-driven track is but one expression of Khan’s maturation as an artist. Opener “Lilies” throws a grandiose string arrangement over a pulsing synth line; “All Your Gold” juxtaposes her operatic vocals with an off-kilter guitar lead; “Horses of the Sun” plays with tribal drumming and a soaring, Kate Bush-esque chorus. And while Khan wears her influences on her sleeve – the aforementioned Kate Bush especially – the ultimate product is a voice and vision uniquely her own: unapologetically arty but anchored in pop sensibilities. The combination is a potent one that promises to yield increasingly grand results for the future.


3. Wild Nothing: Nocturne.
(12 points)

I thought long and hard about placing Nocturne this high on my list. Other albums were more ambitious, more experimental, more skillful in musicianship, more careful in sequencing and production. Yet very few are comprised of stronger songs from front to back than Nocturne. As excellent as debut LP Gemini was, project leader Jack Tatum has enhanced his game in just about every way on the sophomore album. For starters, the songs have more direction and focus. Whereas a track like “Drifter” from Gemini was the epitome of “dreampop” in the sense that it was content simply to float over a hazy groove for its duration, Nocturne comes right out of the gate with “Shadow,” a multi-hued track anchored by insistent drums, an infectious lead guitar riff, and a sublime string arrangement over the bridge and coda. Then there is closer “Rheya,” a track so moody and awash in guitar effects that it might have come straight out of Robert Smith’s songbook circa-Head on the Door. And like mid-to-late 80s Cure, the cumulative effect is an album both sugary and atmospheric: a rare combination that is here pulled off with aplomb.


4. Chromatics: Kill for Love.
(10 points)

A nearly eighty-minute run-time. A tempo that never exceeds languid. A hushed cover of a roaring Neil Young song as the opening track. Kill for Love might have been a soporific mess, yet what Chromatics have produced instead is a consistently engaging and finely-crafted album that stands as one of the finest accomplishments of 2012. The secret is in the way that the band allows the delicate instrumental underpinnings of the songs to unravel for the listener; the simple guitar riff that anchors “These Streets Will Never Look the Same,” for example, accumulates subtle flourishes in such a way that, even at almost nine minutes in length, the song never feels plodding or uninspired. Kill for Love may reveal its charms in increments, but the patience is well worth it.


5. Tame Impala: Lonerism.
(10 points)

No album this year was as lovingly-crafted as Lonerism. The brilliance of the record, though, is that the meticulous production never overshadows the personality of the songs themselves. From the enveloping psychedelia of “Apocalypse Dreams” to the chugging riff-rock of “Elephant,” the band rips through each stylistic turn with conviction and a plethora of nods to Sgt. Peppers-era Beatles. Speaking of The Beatles, the nostalgia factor on Lonerism is unavoidable: frontman Kevin Parker’s voice is almost unnervingly reminiscent of John Lennon, and tracks like “Sun’s Coming Up” do feel like lost sessions for Abbey Road. That said, the nostalgia never becomes pastiche; preserving that distinction now across two excellent albums is doubtless the mark of a band with skill and inspiration to spare.


6. Grizzly Bear: Shields.
(8 points)

Veckatimest
might have set the bar impossibly high. It is one of the most universally acclaimed albums of the last decade, both on this site and across the internet. Credit Grizzly Bear, though, for staying restless. Shields is an entirely different beast than its predecessor, yet ultimately the more sophisticated and rewarding listen. The critical element is in the pacing, both across the album and within the songs themselves. “Sleeping Ute,” for example, might be the finest track Grizzly Bear has yet crafted, opening with a slashing guitar riff before dissolving into a delicate yet foreboding acoustic coda. Similarly, “Speak in Rounds” morphs into a haunting ambient interlude before “Yet Again” storms in with another indelible lead riff. In short, the musicianship on display throughout Shields is nothing short of stunning, and I expect the meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship will make it one of the most enduring albums of 2012.


7. Jessie Ware: Devotion.
(7 points)

Devotion
plays like a perfect amalgam of the R&B styles of the last twenty years: smoothly produced and full of seductive grooves, yet also held together with electro flourishes and a bit of abstraction in the lyrics. The songs find the perfect vehicle in Ms. Ware, a superbly talented vocalist who knows when to set the vocal gymnastics flying and when to tone things down. Album highlight “Running” is the quintessence of the album’s many charms: a sultry vocal is accompanied by an infectious groove and some subtle nostalgia in the Motown-esque horns. One can only hope that Ware’s accomplishment here will serve as a template for future R&B-styled albums, as we should all be treated to a few records this sexy every year.


8. Purity Ring: Shrines.
(5 points)

I get the feeling that Shrines was in many ways the critical equivalent of Washed Out’s Within & Without: reviewers were generally impressed but also quick to dismiss the band as confined to a short-lived subgenre: “witchhouse” to Washed Out’s “chillwave.” And so I am going to say much the same thing about Purity Ring as I did about Washed Out: don’t be surprised if this group makes strong albums for a long time to come. Although you can certainly hear the stylistic influences on Shrines – something like “Lofticries” could easily have been a Depeche Mode song – the album also forges a unique aesthetic across its eleven tracks, whether through the stuttering beat of “Belispeak” or the haunting intro to “Obedear.” Wherever the instrumentation might be going, frontwoman Megan James preserves the neo-gothic mood with her faintly-treated, wide-eyed vocals. Such consistency of vision makes for arguably the best debut album of the year.


9. Andy Stott: Luxury Problems.
(5 points)

2012 was a great year for electronica. My most anticipated acts did not disappoint: Burial, Four Tet, Flying Lotus, Matthew Dear, and a collaborated Vince Clarke and Martin Gore all delivered stellar albums. Yet the finest album of the year in this far-flung genre came from an unexpected place. Andy Stott has been producing and composing albums for over five years now, but his craft has found its maturation in Luxury Problems. Over the course of its eight tracks, it explores seemingly ever corner of the electronica universe: hushed soundscapes, industrial rhythms, layered vocal samples, propulsive basslines, textured chanting…the list goes on. Opener and album highlight “Numb” appeared on several lists of the year’s finest songs, and for good reason: it encapsulates several of the characteristics listed above without feeling cluttered or manufactured. And really that is the essence of what puts this album above others in its category: it makes the synthetic feel organic.


10. The Flaming Lips: Heady Fwends.
(3 points)

I am at a loss to describe why Heady Fwends works as well it does, especially given the track-record of collaboration albums being missteps at best and abject disasters at worst. Suffice it to say that Wayne Coyne and company have gotten the best out of every person that worked with them on the project, running the gamut from Kesha to Nick Cave. And, as you might expect from a Flaming Lips project, the entire thing is an absolute trip, awash with off-kilter experimentation and lysergic left-turns. Cave’s guest spot on “You, Man? Human???” for example, summons a manic energy reminiscent of “The Carney” or the best Grinderman moments, while Erykah Badu turns in an atypically restrained though lovely vocal on the extended dirge “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face.” Let’s summarize by calling Heady Fwends “Syd Barrett for the twenty-first century”: not for everyone, to be sure, but certainly entertaining and never short on surprises.


11. Four Tet: Pink. (3 points)
12. Frank Ocean: Channel Orange. (3 points)
13. Badbadnotgood: BBNG2. (2 points)
14. Cat Power: Sun. (2 points)
15. Godspeed You! Black Emperor: ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (2 points)


Honorable Mentions

Jack White: Blunderbuss.
Japandroids: Celebration Rock.
John Talabot: ƒin.
Julia Holter: Ekstasis.
Liars: Wixiw.


A Few Other Distinctions…

Best EP: Burial, Kindred
Worst Album: The Shins, Port of Morrow
Most Average Album: Tennis, Young & Old
Most Baffling Album: Swans, The Seer
Most Overhyped Album: Lana Del Rey, Born to Die
Most Unfairly Neglected Album: Tim Hecker & Daniel Lopatin, Instrumental Tourist
Most Pleasant Surprise: Dave Matthews Band, Away from the World
Album People Loved at First and Then Completely Forgot About: Twin Shadow, Confess
Best Thing from Last Year that I Only Heard This Year: The Weeknd, House of Balloons
Best Album Title: The Mountain Goats, Transcendental Youth
Worst Album Title: Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel etc etc etc
Best Album Cover: Bat for Lashes, The Haunted Man
Worst Album Cover: Animal Collective, Centipede Hz
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Old 12-27-2012, 11:22 PM   #79
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Also, here are the 2012 albums I heard:

 

Actress: R.I.P.
Alabama Shakes: Boys & Girls
Ami Saraiya & The Outcome: Soundproof Box
Andrew Bird: Break It Yourself
Andrew Bird: Hands of Glory

Andy Stott: Luxury Problems
Animal Collective: Centipede Hz
The Antlers: Undersea EP
Antony & The Johnsons: Cut the World
Badbadnotgood: BBNG2
Bat for Lashes: The Haunted Man
Beach House: Bloom
Beachwood Sparks: The Tarnished Gold
Bear in Heaven: I Love You, It's Cool
Bloc Party: Four
Blood Red Shoes: In Time to Voices
Brian Eno: Lux
Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking Ball
Burial: Kindred EP
Burial: Truant EP
Cat Power: Sun
Chairlift: Something
Chromatics: Kill for Love
Cloud Nothings: Attack on Memory
Crystal Castles: Crystal Castles III
Dan Deacon: America

Daniel Rossen: Silent Hour / Golden Mile EP
Dave Matthews Band: Away from the World
David Byrne & St. Vincent: Love This Giant
Dirty Projectors: Swing Lo Magellan
Father John Misty: Fear Fun
Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel...
The Flaming Lips: Heady Fwends
Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes
Four Tet: Pink
Frank Ocean: Channel Orange
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Grimes: Visions
Grizzly Bear: Shields
How to Dress Well: Total Loss
iamamiwhoami: Kin
Jack White: Blunderbuss
Japandroids: Celebration Rock
Jessie Ware: Devotion
John Talabot: ƒin
Julia Holter: Ekstasis
Karriem Riggins: Alone Together
Keane: Strangeland
Lana Del Rey: Born to Die
Liars: Wixiw
Lotus Plaza: Spooky Action at a Distance
The Lumineers: The Lumineers

Lust for Youth: Growing Seeds
The Maccabees: Given to the Wild

Matthew Dear: Beams
The Men: Open Your Heart
Mount Eerie: Clear Moon
Neil Young: Americana
Neil Young: Psychedelic Pill
Nite Jewel: One Second of Love
Passion Pit: Gossamer
Perfume Genius: Put Your Back N 2 It
Purity Ring: Shrines

Robert Glasper: Black Radio
School of Seven Bells: Ghostory
Sharon Van Etten: Tramp
Shearwater: Animal Joy
The Shins: Port of Morrow
Sigur Rós: Valtari
The Soft Moon: Zeros
Soulsavers: The Light the Dead See
Spiritualized: Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Swans: The Seer
The Tallest Man on Earth: There's No Leaving Now
Tame Impala: Lonerism
Tennis: Young & Old
Theesatisfaction: Awe Naturale
Tim Hecker & Daniel Lopatin: Instrumental Tourist
Twin Shadow: Confess
VCMG: Ssss
Wild Nothing: Nocturne
The xx: Coexist
Yeasayer: Fragrant World

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Old 12-27-2012, 11:23 PM   #80
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Nice list / comments.

 
Aside from The Shins opinion.
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Old 12-27-2012, 11:30 PM   #81
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Well done, iYup.
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Old 12-28-2012, 01:08 AM   #82
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DB, where is Menomena?
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Old 12-28-2012, 01:31 AM   #83
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DB, where is Menomena?
#29, ultimately. Lots of good albums this year.
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Old 12-28-2012, 01:47 AM   #84
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Ima punch you.
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Old 12-28-2012, 02:26 AM   #85
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Man, I wish I could write about music that well. Great list, iYup. Where would Kindred have landed had you included it? Guess I should also check out some Kate Bush.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Danny Boy View Post
Freegal, you mean?

It's a contract between Sony Music Group and a network of public libraries. A bunch of indie labels have jumped on board too. You can legally download 3 tracks per week, so it will take me 2 weeks to acquire the Wild Nothing EP. I just finished downloading Passion Pit's Chunk of Change EP so I can't download anything else until Sunday.
That sounds like a monumental pain in the arse.
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Old 12-28-2012, 02:46 AM   #86
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That sounds like a monumental pain in the arse.
I suppose there are easier ways to get free music, but I've downloaded several albums three tracks per week.
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Old 12-28-2012, 02:57 AM   #87
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Man, I wish I could write about music that well. Great list, iYup. Where would Kindred have landed had you included it? Guess I should also check out some Kate Bush.



That sounds like a monumental pain in the arse.
Hounds O' Love, bitch.

Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill - Official Music Video - YouTube
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Old 12-28-2012, 03:03 AM   #88
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Holy shit, that was one of the worst music videos I've ever seen....holy shit.
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Old 12-28-2012, 03:19 AM   #89
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I have heard that song, but yeah, wow, you can hear her influence all over The Haunted Man.
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Old 12-28-2012, 03:19 AM   #90
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Anyhoo, my list, including my yearly non-2012 albums list.

1. Tame Impala – Lonerism (15)
From start to finish, Lonerism is an (almost) hour of total aural bliss. The textures and soundscapes created in the songs by Kevin Parker make for an album that I am always shattered ends, despite its 55-minute length being 10 or 15 minutes longer than your average album. Lyrically it touches upon similar themes as its predecessor – loneliness, self-doubt, attempts at positive self-talk. Not that the album feels depressing in any way – it's the opposite in fact. The combination of warm synths, chugging guitars, a propulsive but gentle rhythm section makes Lonerism feel like a colourful, happy trip through a familiar neighbourhood. Such is the strength of the album I still find it impossible to pick a favourite track. “Music To Walk Home By” features a thrilling guitar riff as it comes to a life-affirming close, “Why Won't They Talk To Me” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” both feature glorious, wistful choruses, “Apocalypse Dreams” and “Elephant” were both obvious single choices. Hell even the 57-second “She Just Won't Believe Me” adds a great deal. An outstanding achievement from the Perth group, best experienced outdoors in the sunshine with good headphones and a few beers.

2. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (14)
I honestly expected this would be my number one for the year. I had huge expectations, particularly after hearing “Thinkin Bout You”, “Sweet Life” and especially “Pyramids” before the album was released. I'd been lacking really good 'urban' R&B in my life since the early 00s (probably through a bit of laziness) but Frank Ocean seemed the answer. And Channel Orange delivered in fucking spades. Took everything I loved about Nostalgia Ultra and improved upon it. The songs are brimming with personality and great production. “Monks” sounds like an N.E.R.D. song, and one of their best at that, “Sweet Life” is gorgeous and has one of the best hooks of the year, as does the more downtrodden “Lost”. “Bad Religion” is one of a number of songs that deals with Ocean's sexuality and is remarkably honest - “it's a bad religion / this unrequited love / to me it's nothing more than a one-man cult / and cyanide in a styrofoam cup / I can never make him love me” - and the performance of it he did on Fallon was breathtaking. He even managed to rope in Andre 3000, whose jaw-dropping performance on the introspective “Pink Matter” just simply added another element to a mighty impressive debut proper from the most talented member of Odd Future.

3. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city (13)
This was the surprise packet of 2012 for me. Not so much that I liked a Kendrick Lamar album – Section.80 fucking rules – more just how much I liked good kid, m.A.A.d city. On first listen I was left a little underwhelmed, but like most albums which aren't all that accessible it just takes a little while for the scope of the thing to reveal itself. good kid is an incredibly addictive album, one that I will definitely be listening to for years to come, and that's not something I can say about many albums. Kendrick has a killer flow, be he slowing it down like on “Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe” or (Beach House-sampling ) “Money Trees” or going hard and fast like on banger-of-the-year “Backseat Freestyle”. Lyrically it's head-spinning, way beyond pretty much every single one of his contemporaries (that I've heard, anyway). Take anti-alcoholism anthem “Swimming Pools (Drank)” - this coming from a 25-year-old in an industry where alcohol abuse has become marketable. Then there's the album's two-part centrepiece, “Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst”, which, even though it's far from my favourite on the album, clearly puts Kendrick above most other rappers. The album itself puts him into elite territory.

4. Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man (12)
I watched the film clip for “Laura” when it came out back on July or whenever it was and was absolutely captivated. I didn't hear a better song this year, and it remains the highlight of this album, for me anyway. It is something of a red herring though, its stripped-bare production being found nowhere else on The Haunted Man. The other 11 tracks make much use of synths and strings and even an all-male choir on the title track. That song, “Lilies”, “All Your Gold”, “Laura”, “Marilyn” and “A Wall” are all absolutely sensational songs driven by incredibly passionate vocals from Natasha Khan, who sings “thank god I'm alive” in opener “Lilies”, and sings it with such conviction that it feels like the motto for the album. It is dragged down slightly by a couple of average tracks, and ends with a whimper with the “Rest Your Head”/“Deep Sea Diver” one-two, but the quality of its best songs ensure The Haunted Man will be an album I return to frequently in the future.

5. Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action at a Distance (10)
The first album of the year that I truly loved. Many thanks to Mikal for continuously pimping it, for it probably would not have been on my radar otherwise. Kind of like Lonerism, Spooky Action is just total aural bliss from start to finish. The lyrics are decidedly simple but effective, and suit the music – laid-back, hazy, dream-like guitar – perfectly. The riff on “White Galactic One” has one of the best indie guitar riffs you'll hear, “Out of Touch” features a guitar that sounds like U2's “Mercy” in the chorus, “Jet Out of the Tundra” was one of my favourite songs of the year with its gorgeous guitar line and slightly melancholic piano. I love songs that sound like their titles, and that might sound ridiculous, but that's what this track and this album did for me – made me smile, took me away to a calm, happy place.

6. Something for Kate – Leave Your Soul to Science (7)
I pimped this album to pretty much no avail all year, and I don't expect to see it get the three votes required to feature in our top 30, but that doesn't bother me, I'm just so glad that my favourite “alternative” Aussie rock group are back, and making more vital music than they ever have before. If there's a criticism I can make of the band it's often that their music sometimes feels like a bit of a slog to get through, but that is not the case with Leave Your Soul to Science. Opener “Star-Crossed Citizens” remains my favourite track with its slamming, cathartic guitar riff, but elsewhere there's plenty to like – the poppy, energetic single “Miracle Cure”, the acoustic “Deep Sea Divers” - a tale of interesting people in New York City written in typical Paul Dempsey style – the slow-burn “Fireball at the End of Everything”. A welcome return for a great band.

7. Hot Chip – In Our Heads (6)
I suffer from “The Warning” syndrome. Everything Hot Chip has released since I have compared to it, one of my favourite albums of last decade. So at first I was disappointed by In Our Heads, which I assumed was more of the easily accessible dance music without any of the quirkiness that made me fall in love with them in the first place. And that's true to an extent, but the new one features just too much goodness to ignore. “Flutes” is a great dirty dance tune, downtrodden “These Chains” puts crooner Joe Goddard on vocals to great effect, while “Ends of the Earth” is another terrific banger. They rarely put a step wrong.

8. Cat Power – Sun (5)
In typical Cobbler fashion this is the only Cat Power album I've heard, but unlike previous forays into the music of Okkervil River and PJ Harvey, listening to the latest first worked a treat. The album is all over the place – much like Chan Marshall herself it seems – but that's what I loved about it. There's the moody, glitchy opener “Cherokee”, catchy piano-led single “Ruin”, the gorgeous “Manhattan”, perhaps the album's best track, the rockin' “Silent Machine” and of course the 11-minute collab with Iggy Pop, “Nothin' But Time” the don't-give-up slow-burn epic, time-honoured in indie rock. A diverse blast that sounded refreshing in 2012.

9. Japandroids – Celebration Rock (5)
I had to be in the mood to listen to this album, and sadly, it appears I wasn't in the mood all that often, listening to it only five or six times since its release. But that doesn't detract from what a great rock album it is from start to finish, something I desperately needed amid all the dreamy indie and hip-hop I listened to this year. Popmatters summed it up best – it's an album about desperately trying to hang on to fun, wild old times, and there's nothing wrong with hedonism. It made me want to get my best mates around to my house, crack open a heap of beers and just blast loud, noisy rock music until the sun comes up. Can't wait to see them live.

10. G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer (4)
Far from perfect, but the six-song stretch from opener “To The World” to “Cold” was just about unbeatable this year. “Clique” and “Mercy” have become anthems, with most of the lines from both becoming catchphrases this year, while “Cold” goes extremely hard. “New God Flow” found Ghostface Killah in terrific form. The album falls down in the second half – though “Creepers” is one of Kid Cudi's better efforts.

11. Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes (3)
A completely different album to its predecessor, but this album just added several more strings to Steven Ellison's bow. His signature low, rumbling, wormy bass is still there but the hyper glitchy noises of Cosmogramma have been replaced by more contemplative, spacey beats. A fantastic record for the late night.

12. Father John Misty – Fear Fun (2)
When I interviewed Josh Tillman earlier this year he spoke to me about how most new music didn't resonate with him, and how Fear Fun was his attempt at making an album he'd like to hear. It delivered – one of the most refreshing albums of the year. Great bluesy guitar and drumming throughout and hilarious lyrics too.

13. Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends – Flaming Lips (2)
That the Flaming Lips were able to pull off an album with a range of different collaborators – several of whom they have not met – and have it still sound cohesive is a testament to the genius of this band. Ranging from almost unlistenable freak-out noise to slower tracks like the awesome Erykah Badu collab “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and the irresistible Tame Impala collab “Children of the Moon”, Heady Fwends was one of the year's most entertaining albums.

14. BADBADNOTGOOD – BBNG2 (1)
The kids behind BADBADNOTGOOD are not even 20 years old, but in BBNG2 they put together one of the year's coolest records – a skilful mish-mash of hip-hop, jazz and electronica that covered tracks like Earl Sweatshirt's “Earl”, James Blake's “Limit to Your Love”, Kanye West's “Flashing Lights” and even My Bloody Valentine's “You Made Me Realise”. The heavy bass, horns and breakdowns are a joy, especially through good headphones.

15. New Build – Yesterday Was Lived and Lost (1)
The side project of Hot Chip members Al Doyle and Felix Martin, New Build put out one of the year's best poppy dance albums. Though a little more generic in sound than Hot Chip, New Build's debut featured a number of genuinely great tunes, from the melancholic one-two of “Schism of the Mind” and the darker house tune “Do You Not Feel Loved?” to the soaring pop of “Medication”.

Honourable Mentions
Nas – Life is Good
A great return to form with some of the year's best hip-hop tracks.

Passion Pit – Gossamer
Some great tunes but a step down from the eccentricity of Manners.

Alpine – A is for Alpine
Great indie pop album I simply didn't listen to enough.

Beach House – Bloom
Great when I have it on. Never stuck with me however.

The Tallest Man on Earth – There's No Leaving Now
Two standouts in the title track and “1904” but the rest is just pleasant.


Best Albums Not Released in 2012 I Heard For The First Time

Madvillain – Madvillainy
See my post in the sentimental thread.

The Avalanches – Since I Left You
A brilliant sample album that sounded fresh to my ears, some 12 years after its release. The sunny title track “Since I Left You” is absolute beautiful, and from start to finish the album flows impeccably, moving from one mood to the next. Along the way there's plenty of bangers to be found - “A Different Feeling”, “Electricity”, the Daft Punk-aping “Live at Dominoes” - before it comes full circle with “Extra Kings”. Perhaps the best tribute I can pay the album is that it grabs me emotionally – not an easy feat for an album with no lyrics built on samples.

Mos Def – Black on Both Sides
Truly a hip-hop masterpiece. Astounding production throughout and Mos Def is one hell of an MC – not just in style but also in his lyrics. You'll be hard-pushed to find a song in the genre as socially aware as “Mathematics”, perhaps the album's highlight, featuring a 1-10 counting gambit from Mos Def, lengthy verses about the divide between the rich and poor, all delivered flawlessly. Elsewhere “Hip Hop” has the dopest of beats, “Ms Fat Booty” takes a soul sample and creates a cheeky yet addictive tune, “Umi Says” gets all jazzy and Mos croons rather than raps and instrumental closer “May-December” ends things on an unexpected but most welcome note.

Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
The 40th anniversary vinyl box set I brought of this is definitely one of the coolest things I own, which is fitting, because the album itself is cool as fuck. I don't know enough about the genre to comment on what it's doing or what impact it had, but the more loose mix of guitars and drums and keys and horns all amalgamate to create one of the most awesomely unique listening experiences I've ever had.

Beck – Midnite Vultures
Lemel suggested this album to me, and what a clever recommendation it was. There's rock, soul-y slow jams, quasi-hip-hop, glitchy electronica, memorable lines, it's just an absolute fucking blast that goes in whichever direction it chooses.

Wilco – Being There
I chose to listen to this Wilco album first because it was around the time people seemed genuinely annoyed I didn't meticulously research artists' albums and figure out an order in which to listen to them, but it wasn't a mistake. In fact, if anything, it was the right move – the double album covers a lot of ground. The slower, melancholic tracks are just perfect, the kind that stick out in my mind and soundtrack moments big and small. “Misunderstood” remains my favourite Wilco song. Can't wait to see them live.

UNKLE – Psyence Fiction
Only heard it once, but loved it. Can see myself returning to it pretty frequently. Another album to put in my beloved late-night category.

Pete Rock and CL Smooth – The Main Ingredient
Didn't know about these guys – had heard of them both but they weren't on my radar at all. I'm glad Lemel and I think Earnie Shavers turned me onto them – the warm old-school hip-hop sound made me fall in love with it immediately. Pete Rock's production is minimalistic but always on point, while CL Smooth's vocals are befitting of his moniker. A great shame it's not held in higher regard.

Lupe Fiasco – Food and Liquor
A modern-day classic. “Kick, Push” is one of my favourite songs by anyone, ever. Great, lively production and extremely engaging vocals from Lupe, who I imagine must have been hugely refreshing in the mainstream when he broke out.

Prince – 1999
Overlong, but I'll be damned if “1999”, “Little Red Corvette”, “Delirious”, “D.M.S.R.” and the gloriously funky “Lady Cab Driver” aren't some of the best 80s dance tunes ever released.

Honourable Mentions
Sigur Ros – Takk...
Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night
Tycho – Dive
Beck – Sea Change
Prince – Sign O' The Times

And fuck In Aeroplane Over Sea.
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