So here we are, the culmination of the list, the ten albums that have kept me coming back for further listens, appreciation of them growing every time. 2012 was, yet again, another fantastic year for music of all kinds and genres and I just hope that you end up loving some of them as much as I have!
Here we go then, drumroll please, brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr………..
10. I Like Trains – The Shallows
Third full length album from Leeds’ own I Like Trains, The Shallows, has become without doubt my favourite album of theirs since their debut mini album/EP Progress:Reform. Based around a Pulitzer nominated tome (The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains) regarding the increasing intellectual complacency in the internet age, it sounds as if it could be a ponderous, preachy album, but it is just the opposite. With glorious guitar work plus more electronic aspects than on previous releases, it’s another album this year that seen a band’s third album moving into new territories (The Twilight Sad’s No One Can Ever Know being the other).
9. The Invisible – Rispah
Rispah gradually wormed its way into my psyche and on every listen I fell for it a little bit more! Although the second album from London’s The Invisible is an album borne out of grief and loss (Rispah was the name of vocalist Dave Okumu’s mother who died while the album was being written) its breathy vocals, ethereal beats and glitches alongside heavily effected guitars make it an involving, very pleasant listen. Bookended by recordings of African chanting the album gets under your skin and really rewards repeated listens. If you want comparisons, the only one that immediately jumps to mind is Radiohead, the guitar fill on track Wings is very evocative of something circa In Rainbows which I can’t quite place. But ignore comparisons, enjoy this for what it is, a rather special 49 minutes of music.
8. Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral
Owner of one of my favourite singing voices in music, Mark Lanegan has not been idle in the years since 2004′s Bubblegum, The Twilight Singers, Soulsavers, The Gutter Twins, Isobel Campbell and others have all benefitted from his gravel laced rumble and has made it feel less than eight years since we had a Mark Lanegan album proper, but Blues Funeral is a fantastic welcome back!
7. O. Children – Apnea
Can’t for the life of me remember how I stumbled across this album, but I’m bloody glad I did. Named after a Nick Cave song and sounding like a cross between The National and Interpol, the baritone of vocalist Tobi O’Kandi’s sounding not a million miles away from Matt Berninger’s, I initially thought this was a pretty nice album but nothing to blow me away, but over the subsequent weeks and months I kept gravitating to it whenever I was looking for stuff to listen to in the car and I just kept putting this album on again and again.
6. Deftones – Koi No Yokan
Deftones’ seventh album arrives with a bang, no gentle opener, Swerve City crashes into your ears like a wake up call, an aural slap ensuring you are well and truly awake for the next 52 blistering minutes! Koi No Yokan is Japanese for the feeling of love at first sight and as such this album is very well named, it is an album showing a band at their absolute peak in my opinion, every track is perfectly realised, mixing their familiar heavy riffs alongside more delicate patches and gorgeous melodies. Just brilliant.
5. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Lost Songs
I have said before on here that Trail of Dead are one of those bands that I have a long held soft spot for, from first hearing “Prince with a Thousand Enemies” on the John Peel show in 1997, I have followed the Texan art-rockers ever since. Even their widely derided fifth album So Divided holds a place on my CD shelves (admittedly it doesn’t get the same amount of replay as the other 7). So whenever a new album appears I’m all over it like a cheap suit! The last couple of albums have been tinged with a fair amount of prog but newie Lost Songs harks back to their early few albums in that it eschews the more fantastical elements and has been stripped back to an album full of downright bangers! In fact you’ve got to go back to their peak around albums like Madonna or Source Tags & Codes to see a similar album structure to Lost Songs, and all the better for it! Regardless of how good recent albums have been, those two albums are up there as the best in their ouvre.
4. Crippled Black Phoenix – (Mankind) The Crafty Ape
In 2010 I, Vigilante the third album from post-rock/prog collective Crippled Black Phoenix made it to number 5 in my end of year favourite 50. With their latest (Mankind) The Crafty Ape they have moved up a place to number 4! This 85 minute double album was one of those rare albums that I needed to listen to every day for a week so after I first got it, not something that happens very often these days. One thing I didn’t discover until I listened on headphones was, what I thought was five minutes of silence at the end of the last track is in fact the quiet sounds of a thunderstorm, rain pattering on a roof, gradually fading out. Giving, in headphones, a marvellous feeling of closure to what is their finest album to date. Also, while writing this I have just discovered they have just released a new 50 minute EP called No Sadness or Farewell! Like I didn’t have enough new stuff still to listen to! 🙂
3. Goat – World Music
Off the wall, joyous chaos from Sweden’s Goat. I wrote about it more here.
2. El-P – Cancer 4 Cure
Five years after I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, Brooklyn hip-hop artist El-P (aka Jaime Meline) returns with the spectacular Cancer 4 Cure. I am not a massive hip-hop fan, my tastes are usually more rock/guitar oriented, but now and again certain hip-hop artists really light my fire so to speak. Roots Manuva, The Roots, Cypress Hill (many years ago!), Jurassic 5, Buck 65 and more recently Death Grips and Doc Waffles are pretty much the only other hip-hop acts that grace the shelves of my CD collection. But since its release back in May this CD has been (and still is) consistently blowing me away each time I listen to it’s dark but downright groovy beats and sharp as a razor, spat out rhymes! Seriously, listen to this album, you can thank me later!
1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
It probably won’t be a surprise anyone who comes here regularly to find this album at the hallowed number one spot. Following their reunion last year I was not expecting to see any new material released, yet in October we were treated to the news that a new album was imminent and two weeks later this appeared, fully formed and fearsome! The furious building guitars of the first epic track Mladic convinced me immediately I had my potential favourite of the year right here, and numerous enraptured listens later, nothing has given me cause to argue with my initial reaction. This is, for me, the album of the year.
So there we have it for another year, I know there are more albums that would have made the list had I heard them in time, listening to The Quietus’ huge Spotify playlist has already highlighted two or three. Speaking of playlists, here’s one containing a track from each of the fifty on the list (where available), enjoy and have a good Christmas and New Year, unless the world ends on 21st December, in which case, goodbye forever! 🙂
The rest of the fifty can be found here (50-31) and here (30-11)