Saturday, 22 December 2012

Records Of The Year 2012


2012 saw what felt like an ever-encroaching onslaught of pop, r&b, hip-hop and tedious dance records dominating the airwaves and musical media. Tiresome scenesters and fashionistas with a trend-setting agenda fell over themselves to lavish praise on the likes of Frank Ocean (who sounds uncannily like The Lighthouse Family to me) and Kendrick Lamar (who I remarked on Twitter reminded me of a speak & spell machine with flat batteries). Defiantly unswayed by such vapid trends, I continued to plough my usual contrary musical furrow, actually spending the year listening to music I liked.....not music I was supposed to like! Here are my personal picks of the best of 2012:

THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2012:   


1) BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – WRECKING BALL
I confess to being a fully paid-up Springsteen fan-boy, but that is not the reason this is my album of the year. In fact no other contemporary record by The Boss has troubled my end of year Top 10 lists since 'The Rising' a decade ago. Yet like that classic post-9/11 inspired collection, here was a record that saw Springsteen re-invigorated, a fire in his belly fuelled by the injustices and hardships of the economic crisis and the greed and venality of the bankers whom he held accountable. Ferocious in his confrontational condemnation of fat-cat profiteering, corporate corruption and moral decay, this is a rebel-rousing Springsteen at his angriest, energised, and most unapologetically political in years. It is no coincidence Rage Against The Machine's chief activist Tom Morello was firmly on board for the making of this vital, vitriolic album, and subsequently for some of the most epic live shows of Bruce's lengthy career which followed in its wake.
 
2) RICHARD HAWLEY – STANDING AT THE SKY’S EDGE
Sheffield troubadour and sometime Pulp alumni Richard Hawley forgoes his trademark soothing, sumptuous acoustic balladry in favour of rocking out and shredding his six-string with a compelling collection of soaring, searing, psychedelic rock. A wailing wall of amplified, electric guitar heavy songs, distorted drones and feverish feedback giving way to propulsive cosmic riffage that echoed timeless rock staples such as Hendrix, Floyd and The Stooges.

3) TITUS ANDRONICUS – LOCAL BUSINESS
New Jersey noiseniks Titus Andronicus were always going to have a tough job on their hands following up their epic Civil War themed masterpiece 'The Monitor', but with this, the third album from one of rock's best kept secrets, they have a damn good go. Much more chaotic, raw and unruly than their previous record, this is a far more visceral punk-tinged collection, yet no less ambitious, pulsating or agreeably esoteric (there's an 8 minute song about eating disorders, whilst the album climaxes with wonderfully warped curve-ball 'Tried To Quit Smoking', which falls just short of the 10 minute mark). 

4) BAND OF HORSES – MIRAGE ROCK
With Rolling Stones producer Glyn Johns on board, you can just feel the infusion of classic rock n' roll permeate this record, as strut and swagger nestles alongside BOH's customary countrified harmonies and evocative Americana. Perfect plaintive pop melodies and starry-eyed Neil Young influenced rockers cement this band's steady progression to greatness. 

5) BARONESS – YELLOW AND GREEN 
The sheer scope and ambition of releasing an 18 song double album is one thing, but when the results are this consistently impressive throughout its 76 minute duration, then a prime album of the year contender was always on the cards. A stunning collection that encapsulates a seemingly endless variety of styles from sludgy, fuzzy, thunderously heavy post-rock, to angular psychedelic prog, before drifting off into a surreal dreamlike ambient soundscape, all of which makes this masterful album both challenging and impossible to pigeon-hole. 

 

6) THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM – HANDWRITTEN
The Gaslight Anthem's fourth long player and first major label release, was the record that finally saw them claw their way from revered cult-dom to bona-fide mainstream players. As a string of typically anthemic singles sprang from daytime radio like shining beacons of rousing rock perfection in a sea of manufactured plastic pop effluence, I couldn't help but feel proud of a band I've championed since the inauspicious punk roots of their Sink Or Swim debut. Handwritten is a typical masterclass in melody and passionate heart-on-sleeve lyricism, encapsulating influences that now branch out from Springsteen's sprawling cinematic storytelling and Strummer's emotive sloganeering to incorporate Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, The Replacements and yes, the introspective contemplation of Brian Fallon's Horrible Crowes side-project. World domination is theirs for the taking.
 
7) MATT SKIBA & THE SEKRETS – BABYLON
Whilst Green Day released no less than three albums of filler this year, Alkaline Trio main-man Matt Skiba, heading up another of his numerous side-projects, delivered this sublime set of pop punk nuggets whilst simply waiting for his primary employers to reconvene. Proving yet again his deft ability to seemingly effortlessly churn out catchy, caustic, and frequently creepy tunes at will, Skiba (here accompanied by members of AFI and My Chemical Romance) underlines his reputation as one of the finest songwriters in punk today (or any other musical sub-genre for that matter). 

8) MARK LANEGAN BAND – BLUES FUNERAL
Former Screaming Tree and sometime Queen Of The Stone Age, Mark Lanegan's latest solo opus is a characteristically brooding, bruising and melancholic collection of poetic, slow-burning, primal grunge-blues out-pourings. Indeed a collection of tunes as grizzled, gruff and swarthy as the great man himself.  

9) THE MENZINGERS – ON THE IMPOSSIBLE PAST
The Menzingers' third studio album sees them grasping the template fashioned by The Gaslight Anthem, and embracing their passionate, thoughtful, melodic punk rock aesthetic to the max. A massive step forward in creativity, musicianship and ambition, this fine album often transcends genres, confident in the strength of the vivid and vibrant song-writing showcased within.   

10) JAPANDROIDS – CELEBRATION ROCK 
Vancouver duo Japandroids deliver an album that not only lives up to its title by offering up a collection of tunes that are gloriously boisterous, raucous, exuberant, fist-pumping buzz-bombs of alt-rock genius, but by doing so also openly embrace the inevitable heritage of artists like Nirvana, Sugar and The Gun Club whose inspiration this album positively bristles with, and yes......celebrates.

 

THE BEST OF THE REST: 

  



11) PROPAGANDHI – FAILED STATES 
12) THE BOUNCING SOULS - COMET
13) THE KING BLUES - LONG LIVE THE STRUGGLE
14) HOT WATER MUSIC - EXISTER
15) THE RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS – THE WOLF YOU FEED
16) ALABAMA SHAKES – BOYS AND GIRLS
17) SPECTOR – ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS
18) THE SHINS – PORT OF MORROW
19) THE XX – CO-EXIST
20) ANTI-FLAG – THE GENERAL STRIKE
21) TIM BARRY – 40 MILER
22) JAKE BUGG – JAKE BUGG
23) GRIZZLY BEAR – SHIELDS
24) TAME IMPALA – LONERISM
25) PENNYWISE – ALL OR NOTHING
26) TONY SLY & JOEY CAPE – ACOUSTIC VOLUME.2
27) DEFTONES – KOI NO YOKAN
28) JACK WHITE – BLUNDERBUSS
29) TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET – FREAK OUT
30) THE ENEMY – STREETS IN THE SKY
31) PULLED APART BY HORSES – TOUGH LOVE
32) THE KILLERS – BATTLE BORN
33) HOT CHIP – IN OUR HEADS
34) SOUNDGARDEN – KING ANIMAL
35) SPIRITUALIZED – SWEET HEART SWEET LIGHT
36) EVERCLEAR – INVISIBLE STARS
37) GALLOWS – GALLOWS
38) RIVAL SONS – HEAD DOWN
39) HOWLER – AMERICA GIVE UP
40) SHARKS – NO GOD
41) CONVERGE – ALL WE LOVE WE LEAVE BEHIND
42) SOUL ASYLUM – DELAYED REACTION
43) TORCHE – HARMONICRAFT
44) TOY – TOY
45) BEACH HOUSE – BLOOM 
46) WILLY MASON – CARRY ON
47) MUSE – THE 2ND LAW 
48) DINOSAUR JR – I BET ON SKY
49) SOUND OF GUNS – ANGELS AND ENEMIES
50) BAND OF SKULLS – SWEET SOUR

THE BEST TRACKS OF 2012:

 

1) PLAN B - ILL MANORS
In the wake of civil unrest, drastic youth unemployment and social despair, Ben Drew launched this incendiary "Broken Britain" polemic, the most scathing, corrosive, belligerent onslaught on an unsympathetic political regime since The Specials forcibly stuck their Doc Martens into Thatcher's doomed and divided nation on Ghost Town. The times may have changed, but the sentiment and the anger clearly have not. Here was an in your face call to arms for a disenfranchised, desperate, alienated underclass, and a wake-up call to a callous Government hellbent on sidelining them still further.

2) THE KILLERS - RUNAWAYS
3) SPECTOR – CELESTINE 
4) BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN 
5) THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM – ‘45 
6) HOT WATER MUSIC – DRAG MY BODY 
7) BEN HOWARD – OATS IN THE WATER
8) THE ROLLING STONES – DOOM AND GLOOM
9) ALABAMA SHAKES – HOLD ON
10) PULLED APART BY HORSES – V.E.N.O.M.
11) THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM – HERE COMES MY MAN
12) BAT FOR LASHES – LAURA
13) TIM BARRY – 40 MILER
14) BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – WRECKING BALL 
15) THE SHINS – SIMPLE SONG
16) CARLY RAE JEPSON – CALL ME MAYBE
17) OF MONSTERS AND MEN - LITTLE TALKS
18) PENNYWISE – LET US HEAR YOUR VOICE
19) PORTER ROBINSON – LANGUAGE
20) GALLOWS – OUTSIDER ART
21) PURE LOVE - BURY MY BONES  
22) SOUND OF GUNS - SOMETIMES
23) KING KRULE – ROCK BOTTOM
24) ERIC CHURCH – SPRINGSTEEN
25) SPECTOR – CHEVY THUNDER
26) RUDIMENTAL – FEEL THE LOVE 
27) JAKE BUGG – LIGHTNING BOLT
28) TEENAGE BOTTLEROCKET – MAVERICK
29) JACK WHITE – SIXTEEN SALTEENS 
30) THE VACCINES - TEENAGE ICON

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