Sunday, 30 December 2012

My Top Ten Albums Of 2012

OK, yesterday I did #20 - 11. Before we get to the Top Ten though, I'd like to take a moment to mention a record that would have made this chart, had my copy not arrived earlier this week, after my Top Twenty had been put to bed. (I ordered it ages ago, but the postman obviously nicked the first one as it never arrived... something that's happened quite a lot this Christmas.)

Anyway, The North Sea Scrolls is a collaboration between "The Legend That Is" Luke Haines, former Fatima Mansion Cathal Coughlan, and author / Blazing Zoo frontman Andrew Mueller. The Scrolls tell a secret, semi-hidden history of the British Isles in which Ian Ball (from Gomez) is replaced by Ian Ball (the attempted kidnapper of Princess Anne in 1974), Arthur Scargill becomes the Witchfinder General, the obscure bit-part actor Tony Allen is revealed to be "...the hidden hand behind the paintings of Sir Francis Bacon, the secret lover of Sid James, a patient of R.D. Laing, an assiduous curator of Northern Soul, and the probable catalyst for the least tedious stretches of the career of Fleetwood Mac", Enoch Powell is made Poet Laureate (as well as joining Steve Hillage in Gong), and the DJ Chris Evans is burnt at the stake, only to subsequently become a martyr.

"He said 'Cry no more for Jimmy Five-Bellies
Save your tears for Billie'.
Hospital radio to the breakfast show
The flames kissed my golden curls - and I kissed a thousand girls
Oh, I was a sinful man... when I was a kissogram."

Frankly, it's a work of genius (a horrifically over-used word, even on this blog, but rarely more accurately applied) and it might easily have slipped its way into my Top Three of 2012 had I not already unveiled #11 - 20. I'd recommend you purchase a copy of the limited edition 2 disc CD before they're all gone (I think there's a few still left on Amazon, after that it'll be available by download only).

"...however, as the album in question... is a suite of obtusely satirical songs linked by whimsical spoken word sequences... absolutely nobody pays any attention."

10. Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball

Because he's still The Boss and he's still got plenty to say. And because seeing him live again this summer was a highlight of my year.

Recommended tracks: Death To My Hometown, Wrecking Ball.

9. Ben Folds Five - The Sound of the Life of the Mind

Still not sure why Ben felt the need to get his old band back together, particularly as the resultant album sounds no different to the material he's been releasing solo since the Five split 12 years ago. While not quite as earth-shatteringly brilliant as his recent collaboration with Nick Hornby (though one track is a leftover Hornby co-composition from those sessions), the album does feature a song which advises, "If you can't draw a crowd, draw dicks on a wall" and a video featuring Fraggle Rock. What else do you need to know?
Sara already knows pretty soon she'll be leaving
Well, she's hoovered up whatever she can find
But she doesn't want to hear about
Pregnancies, foam fights, TV, take-outs, have sex, weddings
The sound of the life she'll leave behind
Recommended tracks: Do It Anyway, The Sound of the Life of the Mind.  

8. Dexys - One Day I'm Going To Soar

27 years after their last album (god, that makes me feel old), Kevin Rowland drags back a couple of his old collaborators, adds a couple of new ones, and unleashes a monster only he could have created. An autobiographical concept album that won't be for everyone... but if you get it, you'll love it.

Recommended tracks: I'm Always Going To Love You followed immediately by Incapable of Love. (You have to listen to them in that order.)
7. Jack White - Blunderbuss

Of course, Jack White's first solo album doesn't sound any different to The White Stripes - he even rips off his most famous guitar riff on one track. That said, in places this records sounds both ultra-contemporary and fabulously retro. There are very few artists who can straddle 60 years of rock 'n' roll so effortlessly. Plus, I'm a sucker for the Noo Yoik accent Jack adopts on I'm Shaking. "You got me noivous."

Recommended tracks: Freedom At 21, I'm Shakin'.

6. Fun. - Some Nights

See, the charts aren't all bad these days. Fun. do exactly what it says on the tin - huge indie-tinged pop anthems that owe as much to Queen as they do The Killers (in an ideal world, perhaps they should have called themselves Killer Queen). We Are Young succeeded because of its epic chorus, yet it's the unpredictable verse I found most interesting, in a curious, Franz Ferdinand fashion.

Recommended Tracks: We Are Young, Some Nights

5. Martin Rossiter - The Defenestration of St Martin

Someone else who's been away far too long. The last Gene album was released in 2001: Martin's been threatening a solo assault ever since. The Defenestration... wasn't entirely what we'd expected, a subdued affair made up largely of piano and vocals (cheekily, he throws in an electric guitar in the final fade out), yet it's as beautiful and devastating as the best of his Gene work and an intensely personal statement besides. A record everyone should hear, though I doubt they will.

Recommended tracks: Drop Anchor, I Want To Choose When I Sleep Alone. (But I only chose them because they were the best quality tracks on youtube.)

4. Rumer - Boys Don't Cry

An album of covers written by the cream of 70s singer-songwriters (including Gilbert O'Sullivan, Clifford T. Ward and Neil Young), from the most angelic voice in contemporary music. Rumer, dear, you had me as soon as I heard your beautiful version of Jimmy Webb's PF Sloan. I don't think I'll ever tire of listening to this record. 

Recommended tracks: PF Sloan, Home Thoughts From Abroad, A Man Needs A Maid

3. Ultrasound - Play For Today

And finally in our "Where The Hell Have You Been?" category: Wakefield's own Ultrasound. Back in 1999, Tiny and co. released one epic rock album, Everything Picture, and a handful of classic singles (that Kurt Russell was only ever a b-side is a testament to the quality - and bizarre choices - that characterised their previous output) before splitting up and calling it a day. And then, perhaps because everybody had given up hope of ever hearing their like again, they returned late in 2011 with one of the best singles of last year, followed by one of the best albums of this. Stick around a bit longer this time, please.

Recommended tracks: Welfare State, Nonsense.

2. Lana Del Rey - Born To Die

I was tempted to drop this down a few places purely because of the enormous success Ms. Del Rey has enjoyed this year. Since when were my year end picks so populist? But I can't deny it: I've listened to this record more than just about any other this year. OK, in places, it does sound very similar to Like A Prayer era Madonna - but that was Madonna at her best. And yes, the hip hop Nancy Sinatra act will soon get tired. The record company's milking Born To Die for all it's got... which makes you wonder if Lana will ever match it. Whatever - no other record says 2012 for me like this. Whether I'll still be listening to it in 20 years is another question. When was the last time I listened to Like A Prayer?

Recommended tracks: Video Games, Radio.

1. Mystery Jets - Radlands

With their fourth album, the Mystery Jets stepped up from being just another fun little indie band to become serious contenders (just like Noah & The Whale did last year). Wearing their influences on their sleeves (blatantly on the excellent "dividing up our record collection" lead single Greatest Hits), they delivered a record steeped in 70s Americana, all the way from Twickenham.

Recommended tracks: The Hale Bop, You Had Me At Hello... or any of the other 9 songs on this unswitchoffable collection.

So, those were the albums that made my year. Go buy them all now and enrich your record collection. Then tell me yours...


  1. Beth Orton and Kate Bush would have made my list this year (if I'd bothered to compile one). Glad that Kate made the Queen's too.

    1. Did Kate have a new album out this year? I thought her last one was 2011.

      Just got the Beth Orton one... haven't listened to it yet.

    2. No, you're right about Kate Bush. My sense of chronology and time has all gone to pot. And it's only January 1st.

  2. I’d like to say that 'Bad As Me' by Tom Waits was my favourite album of 2012, as I am a Tom Waits fan, but to be honest, I haven't played it for months now. It's a perfectly good album, but apart from one stand out track - 'Hell Broke Luce' - perhaps too familiar (I didn’t notice it on any best of the year lists, and I’ve looked at lots of them). Instead, I am going to go for an album by a band I was completely unfamiliar with until a couple of weeks ago, and say that 'Koi No Yokan' by the Deftones is my favourite album of 2012. I may get bored with it, but so far I've been playing it several times a day since I bought it, and I've even downloaded some of their other albums. It kinda reminds me of the Pixies – heavy but melodic – which is probably why I like it. To be honest, most of the albums (and comics, and books, and DVDs) I bought in 2012 were old, so it hasn’t got that much competition.

    I did buy the Rumer album and the Lana Del Rey album but didn't listen to either of them that much. I probably only played the Lana Del Rey album once the whole way through, even though I played 'Video Games' a lot. I'll have to give both albums another go, and check out some more albums from your list. I am very tempted by the Jack White album.

    1. Thanks for reminding me that I haven't bought the new Tom Waits album yet - though it is still bloody expensive on Amazon. ;-(

      I've heard a few bits by the Deftones but never a full album. I should probably investigate further.

    2. I just worked out why the latest Tom Waits album wasn't on any 'best of 2012' lists and why I haven't played it for a few months: it came out in 2011. What the hell happened to 2012?

  3. Good to see the Rozza in there.

    1. He seemed favourited my tweet so maybe his next album will be a lot happier.

  4. Spot on about the Ben folds Five lp. i did enjoy it but did spend time wondering why he had made it a band lp and it did remind me i should be playing the NH collaboration more than I do

    1. Me too. I think it's one of my favourite records of the last ten years.

  5. managed to scrape enough pennies together for Lana Del Rey, but may save the rest having heard Dexy on Jools Holland on New Years eve.

    Happy New Year

    1. It's an acquired taste.

      HNY to you too!


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