Trimming down the list has been harder than ever this year, which is one reason I did a separate post about my favourite metal releases meaning I can fit more into my regular 50!
I am not doing any ranking this year because I honestly can’t put any of these albums slap bang at the top, a lot of them are so different yet so excellent that at certain times probably five or ten of them could each stake a claim as my favourite of the year. So this time you will see that they are just laid out in alphabetical order and position in the list does not rank it either higher or lower than the others around it.
The only reason I do these lists is in the hope that I can introduce an artist/album to someone that they would not have otherwise heard, and ideally, fall in love with it/them! So, as ever, please let me know your thoughts about the list in the comments section, or contact me on twitter so I know that these aren’t just a big waste of my time! 🙂
As usual, Spotify links are in the album title where available. Also, here is a Spotify playlist of tracks from each album (where available)
The Besnard Lakes – Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO
Fourth album of beautiful harmonies by the Canadian husband & wife fronted band.
Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
One of the top albums of the year. The eight year wait has been long but very worth it!
Chelsea Wolfe – Pain is Beauty
Singer/songwriter who has been categorised as Goth-folk, like a darker, gloomier Feist or Cat Power.
CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe
Quite addictive debut album of electronic synth pop from Glasgow.
Clutch – Earth Rocker
Tenth album of scuzzy blues rock, dropping some of the blues touches to return some of their earlier fury. Possibly their best album since 2004’s Blast Tyrant.
Crocodiles – Crimes of Passion
Fourth album of Californian shoegaze/indie rock.
Daughter – If You Leave
Debut album of sad wistful indie pop from this London trio.
Fat Goth – Stud
Dundee’s finest purveyors of satirical post hardcore/noise rock, think a Scottish Future of the Left!
Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
Third album of menacing, hypnotic electronic anthems, the eleven minute Stalker sounds like a John Carpenter horror soundtrack yet to be made! Featuring in the opening ceremony of last year’s Olympics clearly hasn’t mellowed the duo!
Future of the Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident
Falco and his gang return for album number four, witty satire and biting lyrics are there in spades as ever. Possibly their best since 2009’s much lauded Travels With Myself And Another.
God is an Astronaut – Origins
One of my favourite post rock acts return with album number seven. Nothing particularly new and some rather audacious Mogwai “homages” but still glorious!
Grails – Black Tar Prophecies 4, 5 & 6
This release from the uniquely unusual post rock band from Portland combines 2010’s vinyl only EP (4) plus their half of 2012’s split 12” with Pharoah Overlord (5). Volume six is new however, warranting its inclusion here. It also came as the most gorgeous coloured, etched vinyl set I’ve ever seen!
Haiku Salut – Tricolore
Describing themselves, with tongue firmly in cheek, as Baroque-Pop-Folktronic-Neo-Classical, this debut from the Derbyshire trio is a delicate, instrumental, glitchy little beauty! Could fit beautifully soundtracking the next Jean Pierre Jeunet movie!
The Icarus Line – Slave Vows
Fantastic noise rock with the balls-out swagger of The Rolling Stones mixed with the squealing, tortured guitar fury of The Stooges, incendiary stuff!
Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister
Sounding absolutely nothing like Joanna Newsome, this Cardiff five piece’s debut segues between riot grrrl, dreampop, grunge, twee, punk and shoegazing throughout its sub half hour run time. Great fun.
John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
Grant’s second album is a more electronically tinged, beat driven affair than his glorious solo debut Queen of Denmark but still retains his humour and dour reflections. Seeing him perform songs from this at a big church in Halifax was one of the live highlights of the year!
The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law
Released back at the start of the year, the second album from the Welsh indie rockers is full of big anthemic numbers. A tad overly glossy at times but if you like your indie rock in the Biffy/Muse vein then you’ll enjoy this.
Low – The Invisible Way
Tenth album from Minnesota’s Low. It’s Low, what more is there to say, it’s wonderful.
Lubomyr Melnyk – Corollaries
“Pianist/composer who pioneered “continuous music” which requires a totally new technique of piano playing, based on extremely rapid notes and note-series that create a “tapestry of sound” usually with the sustain pedal held down to generate overtones and sympathetic resonances.” In other words, it’s a lovely meandering album that washes over you in waves.
Man Or Astro-man? – Defcon 5…4…3…2…1
The surf rock spacemen return with their first album in twelve years!
Maps – Vicissitude
Third album is a return to form for the shoegaze, dream pop persona of James Chapman.
Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood – Black Pudding
After having him playing on last year’s Blues Funeral, Lanegan teamed up with the multi instrumentalist Garwood for this dark, sombre but rather lovely album.
Mark Lanegan – Imitations
Second outing this year for my favourite gravelly voiced bundle of joy! This time an album of cover versions, a couple of eclectic choices (a Chelsea Wolfe number, the Bad Seeds’ Brompton Oratory) alongside some easy listening standards (Mack The Knife, Solitaire, You Only Live Twice) make a very chilled, enjoyable listen.
Melt Yourself Down – Melt Yourself Down
Kind of occupying the place in the list held by Goat’s World Music last year, this debut of chaotic jazz-tinged skronk and global influences from members of Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear, Transglobal Underground and Zun Zun Egui is just so much fun. Also another one of the best live experiences I’ve had this year!
Midlake – Antiphon
Despite the loss of their main vocalist, the new album is, to these ears, a more cohesive, upbeat and more interesting listen than 2010’s The Courage of Others.
Moderat – II
Second album (you don’t say!) from the collaboration between Berlin’s Apparat and Modeselektor, combining dreamy electronica with more beat driven techno. Suits listening on headphones as much as being belted out on a sweaty dancefloor!
Mogwai – Les Revenants (The Returned)
Soundtrack to the supernatural French TV series. Most soundtrack albums tend to be rather piece meal, bitty affairs but this plays cohesively like a normal, if more subdued, Mogwai album. Even before hearing it in the context of the show this album easily stands alone.
Monster Magnet – The Last Patrol
Returning to their earlier more psychedelic offerings like Superjudge and Dopes To Infinity makes the new, ninth album one of the best they’ve produced in a good many years. The Bullgod is back baby!
My Bloody Valentine – m.b.v.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this? Kevin Shields returned in February with the band’s first album since 1991’s Loveless, managing to satisfy slavering fans and critics alike.
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The band’s sixth album seems slightly more accessible than 2010’s High Violet, and it may be that that has meant, although this is still an album of gorgeous melodies accompanied by Matt Beringer’s beautiful baritone, it has not reached quite the heights of its predecessor in my ears.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
Having directed his anger and scuzziness towards side project Grinderman, the 15th Bad Seeds album is a moody and heartfelt affair that leads itself to ideal late night listening.
The Night Marchers – Allez! Allez!
Second album from John “Speedo” Reis’s current incarnation. Sounding a lot like two of his previous bands, Hot Snakes and Rocket From The Crypt mashed together. Yes, it is as good as that sounds!
Nils Frahm – Spaces
If I was doing a ranked list this year it’s likely this would be near the top. Here the German composer/pianist has selected his favourite live performances of some of his best compositions/improvisations leading to 76 minutes of pure gorgeousness!
Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
Trent Reznor called time on NIN in 2009 but after a couple of award winning movie soundtracks, and an album with his wife (How To Destroy Angels) they’re back! Although the cover may resemble The Downward Spiral this is nowhere near as dark or threatening (unfortunately!), still great though!
Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
Although technically released in 2012 this cracking album of smart, witty punk/garage rock only got a UK release at the start of this year allowing its inclusion here.
Pissed Jeans – Honeys
Fourth album of filthy noise rock filled with sneering, snarling bad attitude, I don’t think a more “in your face” album has been released this year! Another live highlight of the year also.
Public Service Broadcasting – Inform – Educate – Entertain
Debut album of post rock mixed with samples from old public information films from this tweed wearing duo. It exudes a distinct British charm with the samples of clipped received pronunciation in Night Mail as well as rocking out on tracks like personal favourite Signal 30.
Retribution Gospel Choir – 3
Consisting of just two circa twenty minute jams, the third album by the slightly noisier side project of Low’s Alan Sparhawk is a distinct change in style from the previous two releases, they never really stood out for me but this one’s a blast!
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels
Excellent hip-hop collaboration between El-P and Killer Mike who both appeared on each other’s critically acclaimed albums last year. Released as a free download (here)
Savages – Silence Yourself
Debut album of angular post punk from this all-female London band. Jehnny Beth’s vocals sounding not a million miles from Siouxsie Sioux.
Superchunk – I Hate Music
Tenth album from the evergreen North Carolina indie rock band. I’ve not really paid much attention to them since the mid nineties (tbh I didn’t know they were still going!) but checked this out after hearing good things. It’s a joyful album full of insanely catchy hooks and melodies.
65daysofstatic – Wild Light
Three years after the rather disappointing (to these ears) We Were Exploding Anyway, Sheffield’s 65dos returned this year with Wild Light and in my opinion it is the best thing they’ve done since their debut The Fall of Math.
Solar Bears – Supermigration
Second album of dance tinged electronica from the Irish duo. Imagine Boards of Canada mixed with Air, some John Carpenter other worldliness and the synth pop of M83 or Giorgio Moroder!
Steve Mason – Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time
Second solo album from the man also known as King Biscuit Time or “once vocalist of The Beta Band”, political but in no way preachy, it is an hour long delight of lo-fi, catchy indie rock and, on one occasion, hip-hop. All segued together to make a marvellously cohesive listen.
Still Corners – Strange Pleasures
Second album of lush dream pop from this London duo. As we actually had a summer in the UK this year, this was a lovely sunny accompaniment!
Teeth of the Sea – Master
I really don’t know how to categorise this band, The Quietus called them post-everything-and-anything. Electronic soundscapes, post-rock, ambient, dance, all mixed with heavy metal guitar solos. Suffice to say, this album is one of the most different yet intriguing albums I’ve heard this year.
TRAAMS – Grin
Scuzzy krautrock grooves and fuzz-filled post punk are the mainstay of this rather excellent debut from this UK three piece. Sub 3 minute rock songs sit surprisingly well alongside several longer motorik jams.
The Veils – Time Stays, We Go
Utterly fantastic fourth album from London’s answer to The National! Why this lot aren’t as massive as them I really cannot fathom. Finn Andrew’s voice may be at the other end of the scale of Matt Beringer’s but their musical style is not a million miles away. In my opinion, this and its predecessor Sun Gangs, easily stand up against (and possibly better) any of The National’s output, come on folks help spread the word!