2012 is rapidly drawing to a close, and that can only mean one thing - the obligatory end of year list!
It’s not been a vintage year, but as these records show quality has hardly been in short supply...
1. The Walkmen - Heaven
This New York quintet have spent the last decade threatening a masterpiece, yet for one reason or another have always fallen tantalisingly short. With Heaven, though, they finally smashed it, crafting a classy and passionate indie rock album complete with songs to match the style. Stunning. Stream Song For Leigh here.
2. Future Of The Left - The Plot Against Common Sense
On this third LP, noise merchants FOTL toned back some of their extreme tendencies in favour of a more song-based approach. The results were epic, thrilling and chronically hilarious, with Geordie singer Andy Falkous’s scathing social commentary worthy of comedy gong alongside the rightfully received Welsh Music Prize. Stream Sorry Dad, I Was Late For The Riots here.
3. Beach House - Bloom
Smooth, serene and utterly hypnotic, Bloom was the sound of this Baltimore duo building on the success of previous outing Teen Dream and delivering a new benchmark in the dream-pop genre. It’s completely one-dimensional, but it’d be wrong to complain when that single trick has been polished to perfection. Stream Lazuli here.
4. Graph Rabbit - Snowblind
Combining Beach House’s dreaminess with the ambience of Sigur Ros and the mystique of early ‘00s Radiohead, this Brooklyn duo’s debut set was a truly superlative hub of minimalist beauty. A precious gem from an unknown group who deserve both your attention and your money. Stream Only Fields here.
5. Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE
If I had to bet on one album from this year being remembered as a classic, my money would be firmly on channel ORANGE. It has a classic backstory, a classic cover, and a bunch of classic songs (Thinkin Bout You, Pyramids, Bad Religion) to boot, and having already topped most end-of-year polls I think I’d be in safe hands. Stream Pyramids here.
6. Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
The fact Bruce Springsteen is still a relevant artist and appearing in lists like this at the ripe old age of 63 is ridiculous in itself. That he’s doing so with arguably his best record since that late ‘70s/early ‘80s heyday, however, is nothing short of miraculous, and proves beyond doubt what an irrepressible force of nature he is. Stream the title track here.
7. First Aid Kit - The Lion’s Roar
A huge step up from their pleasant but rudimentary debut, The Lion’s Roar was a record which found Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg joining contemporary folk’s elite. Beautiful, forlorn and occasionally uplifting, it’s easy to see how their harmonies have made fans of Conor Oberst and Jack White, among others. Stream Emmylou here.
8. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
Every year needs a great heartbreak album. Inspired by the trauma of an abusive relationship and the subsequent fallout, Tramp is unquestionably 2012’s instalment; a frank, withdrawn and biting assessment whose credits read like a roll call of modern indie royalty. An essential for lovelorn miserablists everywhere. Stream Give Out here.
9. The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten
Having charted at No2 in the UK and No3 in the US, New Jersey’s Gaslight Anthem can no longer be considered a cult concern. It’s difficult, though, to think of a band more deserving of their new-found success, as well as one that’s handled the transition to radio rock with such grace and apparent ease. Stream Keepsake here.
10. John Talabot - Fin
A house album of rare and stirring sophistication, Fin was a debut which reeked of the humid, sweaty Barcelona clubs from which it was spawned. Although released back in February, it arguably proved the soundtrack of the summer, with the likes of Destiny, Last Land and So Will Be Now - all sun-kissed hits which should resonate in years to come. Stream Destiny here.
Andy Stott - Luxury Problems
Andrew Bird - Break It Yourself
Swans - The Seer
Meursault - Something For The Weakened
Richard Hawley - Standing At The Sky’s Edge
Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man
Death Grips - The Money Store
Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city
Sigur Ros - Valtari
High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis