Another year, another list. I know, yawn. I’ve tried to avoid doing it, but whatever genetic trait that makes one like music more than is healthy also give you the irresistible urge to make lists, ordering and categorizing your preferences in an attempt to put some grand meaning into the simple business of liking something. It also reeks of the status games that music snobs are prey to — behold my impeccable taste! But I’m not saying these are the best albums of the year, just my favourite ones. Which, I guess, does make them the best as far as I’m concerned, and if you don’t think so, well, then your taste isn’t as good as mine. Loser.
While 2012 wasn’t quite 1971 good it was still a bloody good year, the best I can remember in a while. To get this list down to five I had to leave some good records on the cutting room floor which, while not exactly Sophie’s Choice, was tough.
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
I know what I said above, but this was the best album of the year, at least if it’s position at the top of nearly every other best-of-2012 list offers any empirical proof of that status. The best by several furlongs too. It had it’s ordinary moments but at times (like the astonishing “Pyramids”) it was as good as Stevie and Marvin at their peak — and I say that without for a minute worrying that I’m indulging in hyperbole.
Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man
With it’s orchestras and choirs Natasha Khan’s third album was her most widescreen and expansive yet. But it was also her most intimate as she often sounded as naked as she was on the cover. This time there was no make-up, wigs, or feathers — just her soaring, expressive voice shining through on a set of gorgeous electronic chamber-pop.
Father John Misty – Fear Fun
A concept album about moving from the rainy Northeast to sunny, crazy California, in the process having an identity crisis, doing drugs, writing a novel, and having dodgy sex with dangerous women. Josh Tillman made his personal trials and tribulations sound like the funnest, wackiest trip in the world, dropping the earnest and precious harmonies of his previous band Fleet Foxes for a looser Californian country-folk-rock swagger and a bunch of brilliantly funny, sardonic, and sexy songs. Best sleeve of the year too.
First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
Johanna and Klara Söderberg have the voices of Appalachian angels, their stunning harmonies and haunting folk songs sounding steeped in the dirt and smells of the American landscape and as lived-in as an old cowboy boot — which is quite something as they’re a pair of Swedish girls barely out of their teens.
Metric – Synthetica
If you’re my age you probably bought a lot of angular, punchy New Wave records made by bands with skinny ties when you were a teenager. Synthetica was like those records made by a band that was older and wiser, full of Blondie-size pop hooks driven by the icy synth propulsion of Magazine. And when I was a teenager I would have had a poster of lead singer Emily Haines on my wall too.
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Melody’s Echo Chamber
Saint Etienne — Words and Music
Cate Le Bon — Cryk
Chromatics — Kill For Love
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