Sunday, 9 December 2012

My Best Albums of 2012

I'll be the first to admit, I can't write music reviews. I've tried; and most of the time I end up using clichés more suitable to a sports report by Alan G. Partridge. However, similarly to the aforementioned Partridge; I've not let a lack of any discernible ability stop me from writing about my personal five favourite albums of 2012. So, enjoy reading through a couple of hundred words of pretentiousness, awkward phrasing and (possibly) poor taste in music. To compensate, I've created a playlist of my favourite tracks from all the albums, and put them into a Spotify thing that should work.

5. Beacon - Two Door Cinema Club

The follow-up to the band's 2010 début album Tourist History, is no dramatic departure from the busy, guitar-driven style that made Two Door an indie disco favourite. Whilst some may comment that this shows that the band have played it safe, the whole album is a more polished affair, and is more subtle in its execution; however, this does mean that album lacks some of the raw energy of Tourist History. The first track, Next Year manages to set a fairly brisk pace which the album continues, whilst Someday is perhaps the track that sounds most like it could have been lifted from their first album. My personal favourite track on Beacon is Pyramid, which starts quietly enough, before building to a frantic and chorus. Whilst, overall, the album possibly doesn't quite match the high bar the band set themselves in their first album, it's still a very good listen from start to finish.

4. Have Some Faith in Magic - Errors

I must admit I was only introduced to Errors in the first few months of this year; but I'm unsure how I managed to miss them for all these years (well, being behind the pulse of new music may be the biggest reason). The Glaswegian electro group's third album is crammed full of multi-layered synth and powerful guitar riffs. The album's opener, Tusk, is a melting pot of soaring electronica and a more gritty, distorted rock sound. The album, like Errors' others, is hardly what you'd describe as 'radio friendly', with most of the tracks coming in at over 4 minutes long, with the bass-driven Pleasure Palaces lasting for over 6 minutes; and the lack of any vocals (bar for the odd burst of digitised chanting or harmonising with the melodies). This has to be one of the best electronic albums I've heard for while (not that I'm an expert, mind you), and it's already been followed up by a mini album (New Relics), so hopefully Errors can continue their good work.

3. Coexist - The xx

Another band who had to follow up a fantastic début album were the XX. It was never going to be easy, but in Coexist, the band have certainly not disappointed. I would say they've built on their unique sound of stripped down vocals and guitars, with rhythms masterminded by Jamie xx; but for Coexist, the sound was less built on and more reduced to the bare bones. The album is perhaps at its best when enjoyed when listened to as a whole; as tracks flow into each other; leaving the listener hanging on to every note. If you do break the album down, my personal favourite tracks are the single Angels (not related in anyway to the Robbie Williams' track of the same name) and Tides. Following a Mercury award-winning album would always be tricky, but Coexist has proved it could be done.

2. In Our Heads - Hot Chip

Hot Chip can always be relied on to provide an excellent (if always slightly nerdy) album, and they didn't disappoint with 2012's In Our Heads. The album really demonstrates the band's range; from the up-tempo dance tracks of How Do You Do and Night And Day; to the slower and more vocal-led melodies of Let Me Be Him. My personal highlights of the album are the opening track Motion Sickness, and the hypnotic, 7-minute Flutes (which provided 2012's "Unwatchable Music Video"). As the band's fifth studio album, In Our Heads seems to suggest that Hot Chip are capable of producing a mature, yet still immensely fun record.

1. An Awesome Wave - Alt-J

This may seem a tad predictable seeing as the album has been lauded by everyone (except Pitchfork, who inevitably managed to wriggle a reference to Radiohead into their review), but this first album from the Cambridge-based quartet is worthy of all the praise (and the Mercury Music Prize) that it received. Alt-J (not to be confused by X-Factor filler 'Union J') have created a fantastic record that blends folk, dubstep, electro and more traditional indie rock seamlessly, from the heavy sound and awkward rhythms of Intro, it leaps to the haunting a cappella that is Ripe And Ruin, before again switching to the syncopated drumbeat and powerful piano chords of Tessellate. Matilda offers a slower and more hushed tone to the piece, before the band let loose on my favourite track, Fitzpleasure. The lyrics can be baffling, and the vocals strained; but it all adds to the unique sound of the record. Like The xx and Two Door Cinema Club, who have had to follow up fantastic débuts; I can't wait to see what else Alt-J have to offer.

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