I realise this isn’t a design-related post, but I didn’t really know where else to put it, so here it is! These are my top 10 albums released in 2012. It was actually a pretty tough list to do this year because there haven’t been as many new releases that I’ve loved, I’ve been mostly discovering music from a couple of years back, such as Toro Y Moi and Laura Veirs, but they’re technically not albums of 2012, so here goes:
Oh, and here’s a Spotify playlist of the 10 albums if you want to give them a listen! Also, just click on the album art to launch that album in Spotify. A couple of them aren’t available in the UK and so won’t show up, sorry!
This one is just stunning. It took me a while to get into Grizzly Bear, but I must admit I’ve developed a mild obsession with their music, which was only increased by seeing their incredible live show in Manchester a couple of months back. Their songwriting is far from standard and can take a while to wrap your head around, but they display some of the most creative arrangements and flat-out impressive rhythm work I’ve ever heard. In it’s entirety I wouldn’t rate Shields quite as highly as 2009′s Veckatimest, and it feels like there’s a slight dip in the middle, but certain tracks just blow me away. Namely ‘Sleeping Ute’, ‘Yet Again’ (which is just an immense single, stands out on first listen), ‘gun-shy’ and the epic finale ‘Sun In Your Eyes’.
Bowerbirds completely outdid themselves with this album, it feels like a real step up and hasn’t got the recognition it deserves. There really isn’t a bad track on the album and just hits that sweet spot of great melodies, harmonies, rhythms, arrangements and instrumentation that I can’t resist. Again, another band I loved even more after seeing their superb live show and has many songs that take so many interesting turns they leave me thinking ‘how do you even write a song like that?’.
Ah, Beach House. A solid band that just do what they do, and do it well. Their sound is relatively unchanged from 2010′s Teen Dream, an album which I loved so that’s no bad thing. Victoria Legrand has this uncanny ability to write killer melodies, and their suitably retro, dreamy sound sees them soaring and swelling while remaining somewhat cozy and fuzzy. There’s almost a nostalgic feel to the album, even though it’s new! I can imagine myself coming back to this a lot. Again, another display of superb songwriting that makes me constantly change my mind about which is my favourite track.
Speaking of superb songwriting, Judah of Freelance Whales knows how to write a great song! Freelance Whales are a band that know how to pull off joyful songs without sounding false. Their instrumentation can be a little twee, although it’s less so on this album than on Weathervanes. Diluvia delves into slightly deeper, murkier territory, particularly towards the end of the album which seems to just drift off slowly into nothingness. But whether the 80s synths, big drums and banjos are your thing or not, you can’t deny the superb songwriting. Particularly in songs like ‘Aeolus’ and ‘Follow Through’. This album is just what I’d hoped from Freelance Whales, more great melodies and songs that make me feel happy with a bigger, perhaps more mature sound.
After the success of “Merriweather Post Pavilion” and their sublime EP “Fall Be Kind” it seems Animal Collective felt the urge to return to their completely insane roots and get back to music that freaks people out. But buried beneath their squelches, weird noises and frantic yelling and bashing of instruments are some really quite beautiful songs and brilliantly catchy hooks. They seem to have a knack for writing songs that I should really hate, but actually rather enjoy. And while I still haven’t forgiven them for their horrendous album art, it does capture the vibe of the album pretty well.
This one took me by surprise. I’d checked out Tame Impala in the past and my initial was a big ‘meh’. But seeing a few people rave about this album piqued my interest again, so I stuck it on the big headphones while I was working and the first track ‘Be Above It’ grabbed me immediately. As track one faded out and the other songs started to play through it became a nice soundtrack to my working day, nothing really sticking out to me, but pleasantly enjoyable all the same. Their sound is very retro one, from an era I don’t really care much for but after a couple of listens I often found myself with some of the choruses in my head and the more I listened to it, the more I enjoyed it. When ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ kicked in for the third or fourth time it suddenly hit me what a great song it was, and in fact, so was the rest of the album.
This one was a recommendation from my friend Lee Ann Marcel on Twitter, and I’ve been really enjoying it! Lord Huron hits a nice mix between the world music vibes of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” with indie folk and a bit of pop. A similar vibe to bands like Vampire Weekend, but with less clean, peppy beats and more reverb-soaked, harmony-laden americana. There are some brilliant tracks on here, the obvious standouts such as ‘Time To Run’ and ‘She Lit A Fire’ but it was some of the later tracks such as ‘Brother’ and ‘In The Wind’ which really grew on me. I think some of his best songs are on display in his earlier EPs, such as the excellent ‘Mighty’ and ‘The Stranger’, and perhaps he doesn’t quite have the chops to fill an LP with killer tunes just yet, but it’s definitely a nice try, if a little samey in parts. I worried at one point that he might ‘do a Mumford & Sons’ on me and that I’d wear off the songs pretty quickly after finding them superficial and un-authentic. But thankfully not, I’m still enjoying the album and looking forward to hearing more.
This one is right good. I’ve never really given Efterklang much of a listen before, not sure why, but this is excellent! The whole album seems to flow from one track to another to the point where it took me a few listens to work out which parts of the album I really liked and what tracks they were on. Having this on while I worked made me realise how great it was and they just hit on some really great rhythms and textures which are creative, experimental and highly enjoyable! This album creates a nice little world to park in for a while.
I first listened to MeWithoutYou in 2005 when I was well into rock music. I’ll admit, I didn’t really like them, but mostly because I didn’t take to the spoken word / shouting style and so I never really payed much attention to them. But I stumbled across the website for their new album a couple of months ago and their trailer video really caught my eye, and ear. Their new album kicks butt, and I’ve really enjoyed listening to it. Great mix between melodic and their classic shouting style. Tracks like February, 1878 and All Circles, with it’s singing in rounds are a couple of my favourites but it really needs to be heard as a whole. Most of the tracks run into one-another and the album tells a rather interesting story too should you care to dig into the lyrics!
This one crept under the radar, I didn’t even know it was out for a few months and the only place I could seem to find it was on the label’s website. It wasn’t available on the UK iTunes, Spotify or anything. I love Isbells, he/they write some really great acoustic songs that are simple, but very well written and great melodies. The new album didn’t disappoint and even held a couple of surprises. It’s worth getting purely for songs like ‘Elation’ which is super nice and joyful.
Just in case you’re curious, I’ve made spotify playlists for my top 10 albums the last couple of years too. If you missed them, here they be!U December 3, 2012