Saturday, 5 January 2013

Top 50 albums of 2012: 20 - 1

20. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Trouble

While the naming and the identity may provide a few raising of the eyebrow here and there, Orlando Higginbottom's debut LP rose anything, but. 'Trouble' was a well-crafted batch of multi-coloured multi-flavoured dance tunes that were as much exciting as they were invigorating to the electronic sound. And helped on by Higginbottom's softened vocals and the album's branching knowledge of the genre, Dinosaur's debut was adventurous yes, but further more, a succession of rhythm and sound.
~Jordan



19. R.I.P - Actress

Actress’ third album is extremely spacious and each track has been placed perfectly. It’s a magnificent piece of music that has been presented like no other album this year. The dark instrumentation is memorable and the offbeat rhythms make a mark that cannot be undone. It's an album of contrasting genres and cannot be simply classified as electronic music because Actress includes a broad range of material in his instrumentals.  
~Eddie 



18. Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

Four-piece twenty-something bands from the UK have garnered something of a negative connotation as of late. The present age of British rock has had one of the roughest rides as of late, and on the face of things, the last thing it needed was a band branded by some as art rock conjuring up something so left field it risked becoming the new fatuous sound to the genre. But if anything, it was liberating. Alt-J's 'An Awesome Wave' proved youth still had its place amid the saturated market of rock, be it rock of such simplistic, wondrous lacing of instrumentation and the collective nature of vocals and the band's harmonisation as an outfit.
~Jordan 



17. The Best Pessimist - Love Is...

All the way East in the far reaches of Ukraine, composer Sergey Lunev's third album under the alias, was his most accomplishing and fulfilling record to date. Compiling the best that post-rock could offer, 'Love Is...' was a reminder as to the hope, dreams and dismay as to what modern instrumentation could muster. The combination of ravish guitar melodies, piano orchestration and spacious layering, conjured up a new-found sense of discovery about the genre, and reminded us fondly of a sense of projection this sound has often fallen short of in recent years.
~Jordan 



16. Swans - The Seer

2010 saw Michael Gira's Swans return: new line-up; new ideals...and surprisingly, a new direction in sound. While 'My Father...' still held some credible merit as a come-back record, many still held their doubts as to whether Swans could still maintain their previous grand ferocity as one of the most experimental rock outfits of the past 25 years. 2012's 'The Seer' could equally be argued then as the band's true come-back album; an album so menacingly dark, so ideally fixated, so visually and incredibly compelling in both ambition and scale, it's an experience as much it is among many a release in 2012. And above all, by the end of its two hour run - which sees us, among others, experience the title track's momentous thirty minute highlight - it marks itself as the culmination to Swan's identity, both in sound and perplexed direction alike.
~Jordan



15. Spiritualized - Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
  
Spiritualized's seventh studio album was robbed of a Mercury Prize nomination, or even the award all together. Jason Pierce is no stranger to popular music and Sweet heart, Sweet Light is extraordinary in that it combines Pierce's passionate religious themes with pop melodies. Icelandic act Amiina are the sixth gear in Spiritualized highly ambitious and repetitive ride, adding strings to the vast instrumentation.
~Eddie



14. Wild Nothing - Nocturne

Wild Nothing returned with a lighter and calmer second album following Jack Tatum's lo-fi and electronic based debut album Gemini. The dream pop instrumentation came in handy as Tatum enlisted help from real strings and percussion instead of a drum machine. It's not often a dream pop album with such clear indie pop tendencies excites me, well Nocturne was one of only a few. 
~Eddie



13. Grimes - Visions
 
If there was an album this year to truly give credibility to the saying 'don't judge a book by its cover', Montreal's Claire Goucher and her Grimes identity would certainly fit that bill. 'Visions' may have painted itself as something completely without humanity or reason, but beneath the expressive illustrations and Goucher's hard-hitting pumping electronica, 'Visions' own beat was of something completely emotive and humane in its context. With the direct attitude of electronic music, but holding all the relevance and recognisability of contemporary pop at the same time, Grimes is a sound that matches the two together and delivers an on cue and catchy concoction of melody and beats - a sound that avid fans of either genre will be coming to and going away with an increased taste for more.
~Jordan



12. Frank Ocean - Channel ORANGE

Frank Ocean made headlines in 2012 for many reasons. I'd like to think that his music will stay fresh in the mind of listeners rather than his sexual outing. Channel ORANGE is Ocean's debut album following his well accepted mix tape Nostalgia, Ultra. It dropped during summer, a season which I don't think suits Frank Ocean, or the genre he's topped, R&B. The fact of the matter is Channel ORANGE is a brilliant album and one of the best debut albums of 2012. Ocean's emotion can be clearly heard from start to finish. Some of the samples are a little bit gimmicky, but Ocean can be forgiven, for straight up nostalgia. This will be a nostalgic R&B album come 2032.
~Eddie



11. Tame Impala - Lonerism

Tame Impala’s Lonerism is a remarkable follow-up to 2010s Innerspeaker. The lyrical theme and progressive rock nature are the high points, whereas clustered instrumentation and excessive bass are the lows. On Apocalypse Dreams and Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, the Structural changes and progressions are absolutely beautiful. Other than Jay Watson who performs piano on Apocalypse Dreams, Kevin Parker is the sole contributor to Lonerism. Lonerism receives psychedelic points, because The Flaming Lips producer David Fridmann is the man behind this incredible sound. This is one of the most adventurous albums of the year; it’s also one of the most fulfilling albums. 
~Eddie



10. Japandroids - Celebration Rock

On Japandroids debut album Post-Nothing, they proved that garage rock was still alive and kicking. This year with Celebration Rock, they have proved that rock can still be fun. Japandroids are a band for intimate venues, small rooms and dark nights. They're not a keen festival band, as the audience that I was among at Summer Sundae would strongly agree to a negative reception when Japandroids raised the roof, well, they did to some, or one anyway. This album is heavier, louder and of course more bloody fun than their debut album. It's a reason to keep going as a band, something Japandroids will now know all about as they continue touring the small venues on our tiny planet.
~Eddie



9. How To Dress Well - Total Loss

When Tom Krell debuted his humbly-named - and slightly misleading - musical ident, the sounds coming out were one of a dazed and troublesome melding of emotion and state of mind. But nothing could prepare for 2012s 'Total Loss', which in basic terms, was Krell's complete and absolute spelling out (and spilling out in places) of the pyschological movements in any man's worried and struggled self. If it wasn't Krell's ethereal hushes of melancholy, concern and self-doubt, it was the music's cloudy mix of RnB, pop and electronic music that signaled things turning a shade darker and a vaster shade less hopeful, indeed its album title a perfectly-fitting metaphor of the music's geographic placement. But away from the subject matter - and the implications it held on the emotions - what made this work was its alignment and layering; amidst all the passing of melody and the hushed outpours of Krell's hunt for peace and reason, the finished product in all its ambience and its experimental wavering of beats and sound, it brought an uncanny physicality to the problem of depression and the struggle people have with progressing on.
~Jordan 



8. Beach House - Bloom

It's not a surprise seeing Beach House make another Music Review Database end of year list. We adore Beach House, and they have never let us down. Now with four strong albums, the power of Beach House is finally being recognised. The drum machine returns on Bloom with a quieter role than on Beach House's previous album Teen Dream. It's still a shock to the system listening to 2010s Teen Dream, and now with Bloom blossoming as Spring embarks on it's journey, I don't think I'll be able to cope in a world without the new age champions of modern dream pop.
~Eddie 



7. Passion Pit - Gossamer

Passion Pit's second album is full of delicious synth-pop hooks and vocal melodies. The opening track Take A Walk is one of the best songs of the year, without a doubt. Gossamer is a happy album with all the power from their debut album Manners. There's plenty more synths and layers and surprising to me, there's a variation between tracks on this album. I wasn't the biggest fan of Passion Pit's debut album, but Gossamer certainly catches my attention, and I'm sure it has caught the attention of many others too.
~Eddie



6. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

In a very real sense, Godspeed had never left us. True, their ten year gap between albums is quite visible, and needs little emphasis, yet their sound has always been one of a continuing and eternal reflection on the current decline and devolution of modern society. To say their first album in a decade was unexpected could be read as either an understatement, or one of complete falsehood by others. The fifty-minute recording - comprised of two experimental drone pieces and two more signature colossuses of movement, precision and atmosphere - while worked on in previous years and performed live in recent ones, held less of a sequential concept than previous albums. But beyond that, it showed Godspeed remain one of the most remarkable and talented group of musicians to spell out such broad emotion and unrivaled imagery in musical form.
~Jordan



5. Django Django - Django Django

If there was an album that highlighted how far pop music has come and how much electronic music has matured as of late, Edinburgh's Django Django on their self-titled debut certainly gave a reason to celebrate music's overall continuing urge to grow, yet still entertain in equal measure. On this thirteen-track, forty-minute meshing of Beach Boys-esque harmony, Animal Collective-like melodies, and 80s synth hooks, Django Django unveil an album that despite being three years in the making, has such an all-encompassing chronology of sound, the progression from simple synthesizers, audacious percussion and lush vocal deliverance provides as much a reason to dance as much as there is a sense of deep-rooted reason behind its hooks and its theme. Like its album cover, its a colourful and frivolous display of texture and tone amid a field of similarly brave and bold sounds, that much unlike this album, often become lost in the waste.
~Jordan



4. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...

Fiona Apple has always been an artist of integrity and sophistication. Her jazz influenced recordings make use of piano and upright bass on her fourth studio album. It's almost as if I want something serious to happen around Apple, considering she only puts out an album when she has a reason to put out an album. I'm thankful she's one of the few artists that actually care more about the quality of the output rather than the actual output. The Idler Wheel has been a long time coming, and Apple doesn't dissapoint with this acoustic, refrain happy album of some of Apple's best writing to date.
~Eddie



3. Death Grips - The Money Store


Plenty can be said about experimental hip-hop trio Death Grips. After their successful mix tape Exmilitary, they were picked up by a major label and out comes The Money Store one year later for Record Store Day. This album is very much a three man show rather than the prowess of vocalist MC Ride. The synths are beautifully architectured with fantastic production yet again. The Money Store finds itself high up on our list because the album is filled with these energetic, electronic, hip-hop and beat heavy tracks from the delirious System Blower to the finale Hacker. 
~Eddie



2. Jessie Ware - Devotion

With Frank Ocean already on our list, and The Weeknd missing out due to his compilation, it only makes sense that another R&B up comer features on our best albums of 2012 list. This year and the next few years will be dominated by R&B again, with hip-hop, electronic and soul being at the heart of the output rather than, R.Kelly. Jessie Ware's debut album is the best album by a female artist according to our list. And it's challenged the top 10 to hit number two on our list. The guitar solos are exquisite and Ware's vocal is as interesting on the 20th listen as it is on the first listen. Devotion has been produced by saints, with Ware the angel delivering these pop oriented R&B tracks. It's topped off with my personal favourite song of 2012, Wildest Moments, with it's incredible bass riff, simplistic drum pattern and well orchestrated chorus. 
~Eddie



1. Kendrick Lamar - Good kid, m.A.A.d City
  
Kendrick Lamar tops our list because Good kid, m.A.A.d City is by far the most magnificent album we've collectively heard in 2012. It goes without saying that Lamar has put the effort in with his follow-up to 2011s Section.80. The skits have been acted out to perfection and the storyline is among the best concepts I've heard in a very long time. Lamar champions not only the hip-hop spectrum, but the popular music crossover with this album. It's arguably the best revieved album by the broad range of critics, and those that unfortunately failed to merit Lamar, seem to have been fortunate to escape reader/listener criticism for not meriting such brilliance. Lamar's rhymes are all up to scratch with his conceptual lyricism. It's not often we're exposed to such a solid album, and it happens to be a hip-hop album with skits and structured lyricism fitting the exceptionally instrumentals. Good kid, m.A.A.d City has also spawned a good three/four singles that are among my favourite songs of 2012; including the dark and topical Swimming Pools (Drank) and Backseat Freestyle. Whatever Lamar does next will be followed and hyped to no end, but for good reason. There has to be one album each year that tops this list, and I'm glad I'm not the only person here at MRD that believes it belongs to Kendrick Lamar.
~Eddie 


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