05. Pye Corner Audio – Sleep Games (Ghost Box)
After a series of Bandcamp releases and mixes, it seemed inevitable that Pye Corner Audio would end up on Ghost Box, but in many ways his music is a complete departure. There are no public information film samples, no explicitly referenced nostalgias, the music is more fully formed and less fragmented – the tunes here are paramount whereas you get the feeling with most of the Ghost Box roster that the music is merely a vehicle for ideas. Sleep Games does share some common ground with the rest of the roster – a presumed fondness for Boards Of Canada particularly – but this album also hints at Coil, the Blade Runner soundtrack, and more contemporary electronic tropes (nods at chillwave, even). You can actually dance to this stuff. While its sonic palette might be largely that of an analogue fetishist, this is new and exciting and only a bit haunting.
Filed under: 2012 Albums Of The Year | Tags: Chain & The Gang, El-P, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Jessica Bailiff, Raime
10. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (Kranky)
Godspeed get on my tits. Massively. Pompous po-faced sulky teenager cunts. I saw them once, they pissed me off. They’ve taken that whole “we reject the star system and the media” so far they’ve become more inaccessible than Howard Hughes. They’ve nicked their moves off Swans, mostly, and couch their fairly formulaic music in the kind of shallow anti-corporate schtick that even the most naive anarkid would find gauche. They reject ‘entertainment’ while writing entertaining songs called Mladic, which depend on a faux-Balkan sound palette to even vaguely reference the piece’s namesake.
Unfortunately, they’re fucking great at big soaring postrock noises. Even while I’m gritting my teeth at their nonsense, my heart races as the tunes explode. This is a fucking incredible album, which has pissed me off even more.
09. Raime – Quarter Turns Over A Living Line (Blackest Ever Black)
Claustrophobic, oppressive, Stygian, like a musical black hole sucking in light. And absolutely beautiful for all that. The disconnect between the essentially danceable DJ sets (ragga jungle, Cabaret Voltaire, bashment, that sort of caper) and their almost-danceable 12″s was one thing, this is a whole other ballgame. Barely any beats, live instruments, more than a hint of goth.
08. El-P – Cancer 4 Cure (Turnstile)
I don’t keep up so much with hip hop these days and largely depend on a man like Adam for tip offs. He wised me up to a number of great hip hop albums this year – Killer Mike and Typical Three especially – but the El-P album would have got to me anyway, cos I love a lot of his old stuff. But even compared with some of his excellent past form, Cancer 4 Cure is way better than all that. Might be my favourite hip hop album of the last decade or more. Crunchy, abrasive, layered, in your face, funny, paranoid and angry and all the other things that make great hip hop great.
07. Chain & The Gang – In Cool Blood (K)
On which the coolest man in rock’n’roll (since Lux passed, anyway) gets his own Poison Ivy (the Nancy to his Lee, the Kylie to his Nick) with the arrival of Katie Alice Greer, a new partner in crime to help him put the world to rights – socialism, freedom, sharp suits and the gospel yeh yeh sound! Greer’s voice (a kinda hipper Kathleen Hanna) gives Svenonius a perfect foil and adds a brilliant new dimension to the songs – and this album has SO many great songs. When I saw Svenonius front The Make Up at this year’s Ally Pally ATP, and pretty much win the weekend, I had an no idea that within weeks he’d release the flat out coolest album of the year.
06. Jessica Bailiff – At The Down-Turned Jagged Rim Of The Sky (Kranky)
Only got this album late in the year, which prompted some last minute list reshuffling (Dr John got dropped, I think). Once I’ve lived with this even longer, I’ll probably wish I’d made it top 5, it’s that wonderful. It’s the old dream pop noise MBV thing, but Bailiff does amazing things with the formula. Alongside the more indie pop moments, there are songs that nod at a kind of Wicker Man wyrdfolk, others that are unsettling, scary even. All wrapped in some of the best realised fuzzy warmth I’ve heard in years.
Filed under: 2012 Albums Of The Year | Tags: Bridie Jackson, Cheek Mountain Thief, First Aid Kit, The Cherry Thing, UFOMammut
15. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar (Wichita)
If this First Aid Kit album consisted of the single Emmylou and 10 more tracks of farting noises, it would STILL have made my end of year chart because Emmylou is just impossibly lovely. Twee, certainly, mawkish even, but lovely nonetheless. So what if the video is the two sisters twatting around with scarves and incense at Gram’s grave? It’s the kind of pitch perfect love song that comes along all too rarely. As it is, The Lion’s Roar has lots of other great tracks too. A gorgeous warm bath of an album.
14. Neneh Cherry & The Thing – The Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound)
Those waiting for a Neneh Cherry comeback probably weren’t expecting this – a proper jazz album, albeit jazz twisted and bent and applied to all manner of cover versions (and a brace of original tunes) – the lush, passionate Dream Baby Dream, the bonkers, stomping Loose, the hypnotic Accordion. Of course, Cherry is steeped in this stuff (her dad was Don Cherry, The Thing take their name from a Don Cherry track and they cover his Golden Heart here. This is a fantastic album, which isn’t too say I wouldn’t be keen on a Cherry pop album sometime soon too…
13. Cheek Mountain Thief – Cheek Mountain Thief (Full Time Hobby)
Same old story – boy moves to Iceland, boy meets girl, boy has heart broken and writes an album, boy and girl sort it out, local musicians lend a hand and you end up with a stunning wyrd folk pop confection that’s a bit Tunng (the boy’s other band), a bit Wicker Man, a bit Kate Bush circa Hounds Of Love. Ambitious and rambling and unusual and odd in all the right ways.
12. Bridie Jackson & The Arbour – Bitter Lullabies (http://bridiejackson.bandcamp.com/)
Bridie won’t mind me admitting that the first time I saw her with the Arbour I loathed it – something just irked, it seemed precious and forced and I was VERY drunk. The second time was a fucking revelation, and she definitely won’t mind me admitting that. And the album is unique. Bridie is a proper musician who can play in lots of styles – all loosely folk, I guess, but with elements of mariachi and classical guitar and blues and jazz. Her voice is a thing of wonder too – ‘rich and clear and powerful’, as I said in Narc after the gig. Her band (in whatever configuration) do wonderful things too. Buy their album so they can buy their own bell plates.
11. UFOMammut – Oro – Opus Primum / Alter (Neurot)
While we threw some claws at Supersonic watching the two-thirds hairy Italian doom monsters UFOMammut, I realised that, on a spectrum that has Monster Magnet at one end and Metallica at the other, UFOMammut were probably nearer the latter than the former. Their mythology and imagery isn’t after all a grand bombastic giggle: they mean it, man. But fuck it, the music still rules: across these two themed albums (see?) the band hit you again and again with unbelievable riffs (doubtless hewn from the rocks of Atlantis or somesuch) and build up to those riffs in such hypnotic, tense ways that they become the metal band I always wanted. Grandiose and huge and flat out daft.
Filed under: 2012 Albums Of The Year, Bands | Tags: Carter Tutti Void, Eccentronic Research Council, Hype Williams, Iris Dement, Shackleton
20. Eccentronic Research Council – 1612 Underture (Finders Keepers)
A stunning blend of analogue fetishism, feminist hauntology, class war, Lancastrian wit and history that veers from French pop to an echo of Big Hard Excellent Fish. Maxine Peake is tremendous, the whole project is inspired and it’s just mint.
19. Carter Tutti Void – Transverse (Mute)
Here’s what I said in Narc:
Factory Floor ‘get’ what Throbbing Gristle were about so much more so than any number of faux-shocking industrial fuckwits. So it’s natural -and brilliant – that Factory Floor’s Nik Void and Throbbing Gristle’s Chris & Cosey have worked together.
Transverse was recorded at last year’s Mute Short Circuit festival, using studio tracks as a starting point for a series of improvisations of quite amazing intensity. Each is driven by a brooding, insistent rhythm pattern, the trio adding shards of guitar, wordless vocals, stabs of synths and effects, layering these more heavily on each subsequent track until V4 is a maelstrom of bewildering noise and stuttering rhythm. At times it sounds like an early 90s ‘ardcore rave track dissected and reassembled and I wish to hell I’d been there.
18. Shackleton – Music For The Quiet Hour / The Drawbar Organ EPs (Woe To The Septic Heart)
Some ‘dubstep’ artists ended up taking dubstep in weird directions. Shackleton started weird and got weirder, and this 140-minute collection is genuinely bewildering and visionary and strange. Bits of dubstep, Throbbing Gristle soundscape, classical music, paranoia, claustrophobia, complex percussion, deep bass and much more and it still actually works as a an album. Good lad!
17. Iris Dement – Sings The Delta (Flariella)
Not much to say here. If you like gospel tinged, beautifully played country music that grapples with memory and sadness and God, you’ll love this. Dement doesn’t make much music, but it’s always wonderful.
16. Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland – Black Is Beautiful (Hyperdub)
Identity games and other such dicking about can be irritating. Dean & Inga (or Hype Williams, depending) get away with it. I saw them this year and came away none the wiser – blame it on the smoke, the strobes, the model on a motorbike, the cider. This album doesn’t help much, some of it seems to be just sketches, short teasing doodles. Hints of r&B, pop, dub, chillwave wooziness, studio twattery. It adds up to one of the most confusing, elusive but excellent albums of the year.
Filed under: 2012 Albums Of The Year, Bands | Tags: AOTY 2012, Dexys, Four Tet, Horse Loom, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Moon Duo
Here’s the first instalment of my albums of 2012. No download links this year, have a youtube link instead and then buy the albums.
25. Moon Duo – Circles (Souterrain Transmissions)
what I said in Narc:
“I’m not going to claim that Circles is Moo Duo going ‘pop’ – unless your idea of pop is eight minute acid guitar jams – but it does have a lighter, more concise feel than its predecessor. That said, it’s still a near perfect combination of Spacemen 3, Suicide, Clinic and Neu. I Can See is amazingly catchy, all stuttering vocals and handclap rhythms, opening track Sleepwalker a stone cold stoner classic, the title track rides a gorgeous, Stereolab-esque groove into a beautiful sunset, Free Action positively STOMPS into your brain, like the kind of glam rock freakout I thought only happened in Julian Cope’s scary brain. Moon Duo make me want to wear sunglasses indoors and watch Dark Star. THAT fucking good.”
24. Dexys – One Day I’m Going To Soar (BMG)
After the excitement had died down, and after one of the finest shows I’ve ever seen, it became obvious (to me , at least) that Now I’m Going To Soar was a very good album, but not a great one. It was the production mostly – a bit leaden, it lacked punch or something (some wag commented that it might be the only record that would actually have benefitted from the dread hand of Mark Ronson). But hopefully Kev / Dexys are back and that can only be a good thing.
23. Four Tet – Pink (Sony Japan)
These charts aren’t supposed to include compilations but since most of the tracks on Pink vanished from the shelves before we’d have got near them and because it’s excellent and because it’s my chart so fuck you, I’ve included it anyway. Not as lush and involving as his usual output because it’s aimed at the dancefloor, it’s still pretty damn lovely.
22. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Meat & Bone (Bronze Rat)
Raw power. After a lacklustre run, this is the good shit. From the amazing, filthy, Black M0ld onwards, they bring the ruckus and it’s immense. BLUES EXPLOSION!!!
21. The Horse Loom – The Horse Loom
I only discovered Horse Loom in the last couple of months (hot on the heels of discovering other local, brilliant artists like Cath & Phil Tyler, Hapsburg Braganza and Richard Dawson). I didn’t realise that not only was Steve Malley (who is Horse Loom) in The Unit AMA, who blew me away at Tusk, but back in the day he was also in Crane, who I absolutely loved. Neither of those bands would give you much of a clue to how this sounds, though: spare, essentially folk songs – some instrumental, some with some tender vocals – which are trad in places, more abstract in others, but always just wonderful. Amazing stuff. Buy the album, innit?
I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with baited badgers for the annual albums of the year run down. I’m afraid I don’t have the time or energy to do a daily rundown with downloads this year, and I’m not sure quite how I’ll present the top 25. But to whet your appetites, here’s the next 50 – albums that either didn’t quite make the top flight but were great anyway, or that I haven’t properly got into yet (can’t believe I’ve only just heard the Jessica Baliff album , for example). But even though they’re not in the top 25, all these albums are worth your time