Top 50 Albums of 2012

50. Big Boi - Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (Def Jam)
49. Crystal Castles - (III) (Fiction)
48. Jessie Ware - Devotion (PMR)
47. Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory (Carpark)
46. Burial - Kindred (Hyperdub)
45. Every Time I Die - Ex Lives (Epitaph)
44. Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine (Century Media)
43. G.O.O.D. Music - Cruel Summer (GOOD Music)
42. Between the Buried and Me - The Parallax II: Future Sequence (Metal Balde)
41. David Byrne & St. Vincent - Love This Giant (4AD)
40. The Shins - Port of Morrow (Columbia)
39. The Vaccines - Come of Age (Columbia)
38. Gojira - L'enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner)
37. Death Grips - No Love Deep Web (Self-released)
36. Kap Bambino - Devotion (Because Music)
35. Anaal Nathrakh - Vanitas (FETO)
34. Sigur Ros - Valtari (Parlophone)
33. Rolo Tomassi - Astraea (Destination Moon)
32. Scott Walker - Bisch Bosch (4AD)
31. XXYYXX - XXYYXX (Relief in Abstract)
30. Tame Impala - Lonerism (Modular Recordings)
29. Enter Shikari - A Flash Flood of Colour (Ambush Reality)
28. The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet (Warner Bros.)
27. Kishi Bashi - 151a (Joyful Noise)
26. Purity Ring - Shrines (4AD)
25. The Flaming Lips - The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends (Warner Bros.)
24. Meshuggah - Koloss (Nuclear Blast)
23. Alcest - Les Voyage De L'ame (Prophecy Productions)
22. Grimes - Visions (Arbutus)
21. Flying Lotus - Until the Quiet Comes (Warp)
20. Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It (Matador)
19. BBNG - BBNG2 (Self-released)
18. Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror (Mom+Pop)
17. Beach House - Bloom (Sub Pop)
16. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph)
15. Baroness - Yellow & Green (Relapse)
14. TNGHT - TNGHT (Warp)
13. Death Grips - The Money Store (Epic)
12. Gonjasufi - MU.ZZ.LE (Warp)
11. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange (Def Jam)

10. Neurosis - Honour Found in Decay (Neurot)
With Honour Found in Decay - the eleventh album in the illustrious career of Sludge Metal behemoths Neurosis - the evolution of the band isn't as clear as it has been in the past. The Eye of Every Storm (2004) and Given to the Rising (2007) had a much bigger gulf in terms of sound, yet Honour Found in Decay's seven tracks are still oozing with quality. Scott Kelly still sounds like no other Metal vocalist in the world and the instrumentals create an atmospheric soundscape with eerie piano and synthesizer work from Noah Landis.

9. Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light (Double Six)
Jason Pierce seems to be an atheist but Sweet Heart Sweet Light's clear gospel influence does itself wonders. The penultimate track Life is a Problem is a direct appeal to Jesus (Jesus won't you be my radio/Broadcast direction where I got to go/Send me your signal and I will receive/Jesus please be there to take care of me). The trademark Spiritualized psychedelic-garage-jam sound remains, though, with drawn out songs that rely heavily on the lead guitar - Hey Jane's centerpiece crescendo is an incredible way to open out the album.

8. Animal Collective - Centipede Hz (Domino)
If 2009's Merriweather Post Pavilion is analogous to being hugged by a huge monster made of clouds (which it is), then 2012's Centipede Hz is analogous to being punched repeatedly by that same cloud monster. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. Today's Supernatural's frantic vocals are as unsettling as the single's accompanying video, but that's part of the fun. Even the album art isn't easy to look at. Applesauce and Wide Eyed provide relief from the album's gritty and rough nature.

7. The Maccabees - Given to the Wild (Fiction)
If I had a dollar for every truly great Indie Rock record to come out of the UK this year, I'd have one dollar. Given to the Wild is a fantastic album featuring songs with catchy hooks, brilliant guitar playing, sensual vocals and a band behind it that puts on an incredible live show. Pelican is easily the catchiest song of the year while songs like Ayla and Glimmer showcase frontman Orlando's dazing vocals.

6. Liars - WIXIW (Mute)
WIXIW  (pronounced wish you) may just be the best Radiohead album that Radiohead never made. Angus Andrew's vocals are so ridiculously reminiscent of Thom Yorke's falsettos that it's honestly hard to tell them apart at times. Regardless, WIXIW is a short album, a very subtle album with no centerpiece, nothing immediately abrupt or striking. The chillingly brilliant moment at 1:56 of the title track is about the most intense that the album actually gets and Brats is easily the most schizophrenic, maniacal song of the year. Liars sound like a whole new band on WIXIW but when have they ever made the same album twice?

5. Soap&Skin - Narrow (Couch)
Another short and subtle album, this time in the form of young Austrian singer/songwriter Anja Plaschg under the guise of Soap&Skin. Narrow is a mini album featuring a number of absolutely gorgeous songs. Among them a cover of the 1986 Desireless single Voyage Voyage and the ballad of the year, Wonder. Narrow isn't just ballads though - Plaschg utilizes electronic, neoclassical and dark ambient techniques to create an album that transcends itself.

4. Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music (William Street)
R.A.P. Music is a political album, yet its politics is overshadowed by Killer Mike's passion and El-P's genius beats. Killer Mike constantly drops incredible track after incredible track on R.A.P. Music including the brilliant opener Big Beast and the closing title track in which Mike's homage to the African and its musical achievements is deeply amorous.

3. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! (Constellation)
It genuinely blows my mind that I am putting a brand new Godspeed album on this list. A couple more weeks and there will be a new My Bloody Valentine album here as well, but we'll save that for another time. 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! is a stunning return to form for Godspeed, ten years after the lackluster Yanqui U.X.O. Two relatively short drones separate the real meat of this album in Mladic and We Drift Like Worried Fire. The former is a rip-roaring, guitar-laden track while the latter is subdued in comparison, but still a loud track that progresses among dozens of layers of instrumentation to a hearty climax. The two drones are equally as brilliant.

2. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city (Top Dawg)
If people thought My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was the Hip Hop album of the century, they need to think again - good kid, m.A.A.d city is nothing short of genius songwriting accompanied by guest appearances of the highest order and a main man behind it who seems to be able to do no wrong. GKMC is the kind of album that only comes around once in a while - the kind of album in which not only every track is equally as brilliant as the last, but which the album as a whole is a work of a deep emotional stigma and is driven by a longing for closure. 

1. Swans - The Seer (Young God)
The Seer is an intimidating album at first - two hours long and full of drones, it isn't for the weak-willed. An attention span is needed to listen to The Seer - for those who are able and willing to listen to it back to front, over and over again, the rewards are beyond words. Lunacy opens the album out in typical Swans fashion - the album then descends into the greatest depths of Michael Gira's demented mind, and once you're in, it's almost impossible to get out. From the first disc, The Seer sends you on a journey of insanity, not even nearing its peak in the album's title track and centerpiece. A 32 minute, indecipherable and cacophonous piece with a middle of seemingly contradictory dynamics and repetition.The second disc of The Seer starts out in making you believe that Side A of the record is a psychotic accompaniment to the more deject and out-of-spirit Swans we've come to know and love. This, however, is not the case. Side B of The Seer  continues to spiral down into insanity, reaching its peak in the exuberance and euphoria of A Piece of the Sky and entering a whole other dimension of hysteria and delirium in The Apostate's tribal and raw chanting, but not before Michael Gira shouts "GET FUCKED!" over and over again. The Seer isn't for everyone, but for those who do appreciate it to its fullest extent, no other artistic achievement in at least the past five years can come close to its magnificence.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

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