Thursday, 17 January 2013

JUICED top 20 of 2012

JUICED Top 20 Albums of 2012

2012 was a great year for music. We had some top debuts from new artists, some brilliant comebacks from established performers and acts. There was also an upsurge in female artists this year which was something a little different from the norm. The best thing about them is quite a few of them were British showing the Americans a thing or two!

With so many fantastic albums released last year it was difficult to whittle them down to 20 of the best, but after much thought this was done. 

So without further are my best releases of 2012 omitting the inclusions of One Direction and Justin Bieber, 2012 was a top year for new albums.. Roll on 2013!!

20 - Django Django - S/T

When Scottish art-rock band Beta Band split, many felt they left a hole for forward thinking catchy art rock. Django Django have restored the faith for those who yearn for that particular type of outfit with an album full to the brim of arty rock but accompanied by melodies. The brilliant ‘Default’ and ‘Landforms’ perfectly showcases their way with a song.Django Django managed ‘outside the box’ creative band but could still remain accessible whilst doing so.

19 - Purity Ring - Shrines

There have been some great bands from Canada - for instance Arcade Fire, Metric  and to name but a few but there’s always room for few more. If like me you like a bit of synth pop with a bit of edge though then surely you would've seen this release from the Canadian duo this year. With cutesy female vocals backed by a synth backdrop which veers into sinister directions. With their obtuse lyrics Purity Ring were totally irresistible and another reason to Blame Canada for.

18 - Tame Impala - Lonerism

I’m not actually sure of which direction the Australian collective are taking but their new release is no less thrilling. Whilst their last album had a 60s psychadelic feel to it. They have replaced this with a glam sound along with space rock atmospherics. Its not too original and does bring to mind T-Rex but what marks them out as another copyist band is how their music is unpredictable and heads off into various .Elephant is a case starting off with a Glam intro morphing into another beast entirely. Its not know what the band will turn to next maybe R&B and Krautrock whatever they do with their obvious musical talent it sure aint going to be boring.

17 - Emilie Sande - Our Version of Events

OK so she might have studied medicine but it was really that phenomenal vocal that captured peoples hearts in 2012. Sande was inescapable winning the critics award at the Brits and dominating the airwaves and TV with her Olympic stint which actually was quite magnificent.She was the hot property who everyone wanted to collaborate with. Heaven was a dancefloor anthem whilst next to me showed her pop nous but it was the lesser known songs on her debut such as the stripped down clowns that showcased her versatility. The best thing was that she was a credible new British talent.

16 - Kyla La Grange - Ashes

Kyla sounded out a warning to Florence in 2012 with her goth rock. She was dramatic and assured with big anthemic numbers ‘Walk Through Walls’ (one of the my songs of the year) but she also knew when to rein in her vocals on the gospel influenced ‘Heavy stone’ and the sultry ‘Vampire Smile’, not one of Flo's best traits.Her performance at the Deaf Institute was close to perfection at the annual Dot to Dot Fest in May.There's quite a bit of style to what the young lady does but there's also a fair bit of substance to go with her melodramatic tunes.
A vibrant and exciting new talent.

15 - Josephine - Portrait

Josephine the girl from Cheetham Hill,Manchester had everybody falling for her charms last year with her distinct vocal and intricate songwriting.Her debut combined a mix of acoustic folk and soul to wondrous effect with her key tracks ‘think it was love’title track and her quirky 'A Freak A' It was just a shame that the brilliantly named ‘Princess from Cheetham hill’ was not included. Who said Cheetham Hill don’t have talent.

14 - The Shins - Port of Morrow

If there is one band that has constantly retained that special something through each album it has to be the shins.throughout the bands lifetime they have retained their melodic sensibility and heavenly harmonies combining probably one of the best vocalists around james mercer.With their 4th album port of morrow they are more polished but still retain their indie pop sound with the down tempo blissful 'its only life' and the pop perfection of lead single 'simple song' the shins might not change your life as Natalie Portman says but listen them and you might just have found a new favourite. A great comeback from one of the best indie bands around.

13 - Grizzly Bear - Shields

Another one of these clever bands from Brooklyn who are making challenging forward thinking music yet still remain on the fringes of the mainstream. Throughout each of their releases the band have consistently delivered something intelligent but also accessible. Shields finds them using that variety of sounds and textures but also retaining a sense of melody as well as a new found intricacy and a sense of longing as showcased by key track 'Yet Again' within their complex song structures.

12 - Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls

One of the sleeper hit albums of 2012 was propelled into the public consciousness to the soul quaking vocals of lead singer Brittany Howard Hold on was a perfect bluesy soul number whilst Hang loose was a quaking number. Along with Black Keys they were giving integrity back to the blues.

11 - Beach House - Bloom

Whilst not being as sublime as their critical release ‘Teen Dream’ there were still some stunning tracks on ‘Bloom’ the winding ‘Myth’ and the sonic textures of ‘Lazuli’. The record was a little bit samey in parts keeping to the same formula thorough but Bloom marked the Baltimore duo’s first foray into the mainstream and easily showed why they are a band so adored by critics - maybe it is now time for them to have the limelight.

10 - Sigur Ros - Valtari

After the misdirection of their last full length release which was mostly in English. Iceland’s greatest musical export were back to their best this year with the bewitching ‘Valtari’. Whilst not as immediate as 2003’s ‘Takk’ it was a slowburner as its gentle orchestration lured the listener in to experience something magnificent.Unlike other former releases which could be taken on a track by track basis this was an album to be adorned in one serving. It took a few listens before it revealed its treasures but with perseverance it became something of wondrous of beauty and one their best yet.

9 - Bobby Womack - The Bravest Man in the Universe

How could one of the quintessential voices of the 80s behind hits like ‘Teardrops’ become cool again - hook up with Damon Albarn and Richard X of course. After several years in the wilderness including a cancer scare Bobby Womack stepped back into the limelight again. Womack's comeback album was an absolute joy from start to finish showcasing that powerful soul vocal backed by minimal production. Rather than this being a claim to becoming a fashionista the record retained a sense of authenticity and contained real moments of beauty. You just had to listen to the gorgeous title track to realise that this was something special and despite having guest vocalists such as Lana Del Rey featuring unmistakable vocal of Womack that rose above the rest and confirmed the American of one the best soul performers of all time.

8 - Lana Del Rey - Born to Die

When 'video games' appeared online the wheels were set in motion as questions were asked who was this mysterious artist with this retro style but hauntingly beautiful sound.Turns out she was an American female singer songwriter who had a penchant for dark atmospheric pop.Born to die could have been a mixed bag as Lana attempted to recreate the magic of her debut single but it was anything but that as it showcased an assured classy artist who had found a winning formula making the old contemporary.
A special debut from a unique artist.

7 - Jessie Ware - Devotion

It could have all been so different, Jessie could have teamed up with a big producer to accompany her big belting soul vocal and possibly be lost within. Wisely she decided to go for a more lo-fi feel and this decision let her vocals shine through. She may have been compared to Katy B with her Dubstep beginnings but Jessie was a class act herself and ‘Devotion’ was quite a statement from the lady. There were understated gems aplenty including the beautifully restrained ‘100%’ as well as the gorgeous ‘Wildest Moments’. She was referred to as Sade of UK Bass but she was much more as she was puting her own stamp on the music scene and her debut signalled that a new relevant artist had arrived.This was one Jessie that Britain could be proud of.

6 - Lianne La Havas - Is Your Love Big Enough?

Sometimes you don’t need to have a big voice to make yourself heard. That certainly was the case with the 21 year old songwriter from London Lianne La Havas and her fantastic debut album. With her sultry smooth vocals and lyrics she was a breath of fresh air and needed no big production to make her stand out.Her album was a mix of sophisticated soul jazz and folk ‘Forget’ was prime example of her talent with her no holds barred lyrics to possibly a former lover over a folky-soul backing.’Lost and Found’ showcases her versatile vocals to great effect and is an absorbing listen. It seems like everyone was talking her up with Itunes making her their album of the year in recognition of her efforts

5 - Richard Hawley - Standing At the Sky's Edge

Do you recall when Bob Dylan played his eponymous gig at Manchester's Free Trade Hall in 66' and somebody from the crowd shouted out "Judas"? Well when it was revealed that Richard Hawley was going electric leaving the lush orchestral textures behind there were some puzzled looks why change a much loved music palette? The answer because Hawley wanted to progress musically and one listen to Standing on the Sky’s Edge reverb-laden sound it was clear that although this may have been a change to his usual it was no less fantastic in fact in some cases it bettered what had gone before the epic majesty of ‘Leave your Troubles behind me’ and there was still the odd ballad thrown in for good measure. Now all he needs is that elusive Mercury which would be the cherry on top.

4 - Frank Ocean - Channel ORANGE

I don’t really see why Odd Future are getting all the plaudits with their homophobic lyrics and gawd awful music and outlandish behaviour. If there was any denial of how talented they could be if they ventured out on their own then this is it. Frank Ocean who is the openly bi member of the collective produced one of the most brilliantly soulful releases of the year. Combining a syrupy vocal flow with futuristic funky beats like Drake channelling Prince.The epic 'pyramids' starts off mellow takes in some funk and gradually becomes a gorgeous wall of sound showing off  his versatility.Channel Orange was reason to appreciate Odd Future's existence well,one of the members anyway. A top talent and a great album.

3 - Maccabees - Given To The Wild

This was the moment when the London Indie band shed off their also-ran status and became a great British band proper. Combining their earlier experimentation and their widescreen pop they produced a tapestry of work that was thrilling and wondrous in equal still managing to retain some of their personality. Their comeback track ‘Pelican’ with its dueling guitar and drums and soaring chorus was a perfect reintroduction to the band. However there was more with the yearning ‘Feel to Follow’ and the sonic loveliness of ‘Glimmer’. This was the Maccabees showing the rest of them how to do it. There may have been some Coldplay comparisons made by the naysayers but they obviously don’t know the difference between musical brilliance and tiresome formulaic pop in my opinion. Given To The Wild confirmed the Maccabees as a National treasure.

2 - The Black Keys - El Camino

Ok so this may have been released at the end of 2011 but most of the output came about in 2012 so that's ok in my book. Building on their former releases this was the blues duo’s time to reach out the mainstream. This was a band who always did things their way, perfecting their rough and ready bluesy sound with every release and in the last two including 'producer du jour' Dangermouse to give them a more soul orientated spacial sound. ‘Brothers’ should have made them famous but it was this release that got them the plaudits and they embraced this new found fame with open arms as El Camino was full of rousing sing alongs but still managed to retain the duo’s signature sound. The barnstormer of ‘Gold on the Ceiling’ was blisteringly good. Whilst ‘lonely boy’ showcased their talent of combining two disparate styles to make an anthem and ‘Dead and Gone’ was like a long lost Motown track with its chiming melody . It was surprising when having played small venues they announced an arena tour but this was a band who had been slowly building themselves up for mainstream appreciation and no band deserved it more than one of the most hardworking bands in music - Kudos to you Black Keys.

1 - Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

Probably not a surprise inclusion for the Mercury music prize winners and now Brit award nominees but it could have been so different. Unlike most music folk who gushed over the Cambridge folk-step band at the start, I felt largely indifferent when I heard their first track on the radio ‘Breezeblocks’ to me it sounded like some kid of weird folk track with a frontman singing in an American accent who wasn’t even American - one of those qualms I have with Elton John (sorry Elton John fans). 

Fortunately I decided to persevere and when I did I found out that the music the band were making was so brilliant and exhilirating with the cross-generic music they were creating. Yes the band had obtuse lyrics ‘fitzpleasure’ what? and ‘Let’s tesselate’ something relating to maths GCSE and those vocals weren’t exactly what you would call easy on the ear but there was something ace about the music they were creating with their shifting rhythms,close harmonies and knack for melodies that drew you in until you were powerless to resist their charms.

I urge you to check out their excellent debut. A brilliant release and a worthy number one - I can’t believe I ever doubted them in the first place.

So these are my highlights from last year but what was your favourite release of 2012?

1 comment:

  1. Well-considered and a great read to provoke a bit of thought - we all have out top albums and it's great to hear other people's thoughts on it!