Soooo much great new hip hop this year, a lot of it UK! Not much shouty metal, more pop punkness. But, as ever, if an album appears anywhere on here, no matter what position, it’s a winner as I had to cut out at least 25 albums I loved this year.
Every artist name is also a linky to Last.fm AND my friend Robbie Snug has done a Spotify playlist here. And now…
Ladies and gentlemen: THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2012!
40. Field Music – Plumb
FM’s trademark skewed popness really marks them out as the modern-day XTC. Catchy but you don’t quite know how because it’s never easy listening.
39. With The Punches – Seams & Stitches
Frenetic, urgent pop punk. Some of the lyrical themes remind me of The Wonder Years but WTP are a bit more raw, a bit more angry.
38. Ka – Grief Pedigree
I love the eclecticism of this. Just awesome hip hop, check it out.
37. Metric – Synthetica
Metric kind of converge on Ladytron territory here which is no bad thing. I also like the concepty long tracks near the end, nice change-up!
36. NZCA/Lines – NZCA/Lines
Kind of reminds me of the first Pacific album, shiny synthpop but with floaty, neosoul song structures.
35. Photek – KU:PALM
Photek creates a space and then drops many wild things into it, often apparently at random. I like this.
34. Vitalic – Rave Age
As ever, Monsieur Vitalic kicks the crap out of his sound sources and delivers violently happy dancey fun. Mmmm!
33. DJ Format – Statement of Intent
Dancey, funbulous beats, lovely guesting on the vocals, awesome!
32. Homeboy Sandman – First Of A Living Breed
There’s a lightness of touch both in the beats and the imagery of this album. HS crams in so many twists and turns per line, you really have to listen a few times. Good!
31. Motion City Soundtrack – Go
As MCS mature, I wish they’d break through more, away from their initial pop punk fanbase. Songs like ‘Son Of A Gun’ just need to be on one film soundtrack and that’d do it. Just one!
30. Zombie Nation – RGB
Who doesn’t love ‘Kernkraft 400?’ Lovely to hear ZN is still delivering dance anthems on his new album but not just churning out cookie-cutter clones.
29. Débruit – From The Horizon
In places, utterly ramshackle and lopsided but perfectly so. Skittering electronic percussion plays against moogalicious bass riffing and snatched vocal chants and invocations. As modern as it is (and it is), a very spiritual record. Neovoudoun could be the coming thing.
28. The Presets – Pacifica
Not as catchy as their last album, which is why it isn’t higher. But still good, knobular fun!
27. School of Seven Bells – Ghostory
A ghost tory? URGH! But no, no hymns to deceased right-wingers here, more SOSB trying to drive themselves forward. They’re more spacious but also more aggressive. I’m interested to see where they go next!
26. Slagmalsklubben – The Garage
Imagine if Sid’s Frankentoys from ‘Toy Story’ had made an album. Wonderful.
25. Forever Came Calling – Contender
Ferocious pop punk as toothy as their cover star, the drums blam away stupidly fast, the guitars form a wedding arch of majesty and it’s all topped-off by catchy lyrics and melodies. Pop punk that’s both poppy and punky – good work!
24. Big Cakes – CCC
UK hip hop, BC’s flow which is alternately jazzy and raw, lays over wonderfully interlocking beats. Sometimes reminding me of old Nas and maybe old Camp Lo, this is yet another grounded, true UK hip hop album.
23. Handguns – Angst
More than a touch of Promise Ring here in the angsty (ho ho) anthems Handguns deliver. But, boy, do they have a way with a rousing chorus!
22. Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon
I bought this album purely because I fell in love with ‘Sun’ and found myself singing it. It is the best track but the other tracks are well worth your time and money. Spookily like a Death Cab album in places though, Gibbard needs to sue.
21. Chilly Gonzales – Solo Piano II
More simple, flowing beauty from Maestro Gonzales. I really don’t want to overegg this review but if you’ve ever loved Debussy, Satie or Chopin, you’ll probably love this. And even if you don’t think you’re a classical head, give it a listen… plenty of earworms here.
20. Jam Baxter – Gruesome Features
This is a treasure-trove of hip hop, the ornate, fluttering beats are coupled with a pantheon of rappers. My fave joint is the one featuring Verb T because I do love Four Owls and V doesn’t disappoint. Another essential hip hop album, been a good fucking year for them!
19. Allo Darlin’ – Europe
AD’s second album is warm, sunny and definite progression from their first. Again, I’m biased as I’ve gigged alongside AD a few times and Elizabeth has sung with me live and been in one of my pop vids. Phew! So, yeah, probably not going to get objectivity here. But if you like lyrics chocker with beautiful imagery, proper choruses and music with real, real, real heart, check out this album.
18. Huoratron – Cryptocracy
Wherein Mr. H lubes up a load of mad old synths and fingers them till their diodes shatter quite deliciously. This is pure dancefloor, if this doesn’t make you want to act out a dodgy nightclub scene from a movie (possibly with a vampire fight, definitely with chains), I don’t know what will make your dead arse move. Buy this album if you have ever danced to any electronic music ever.
17. Kindness – World You Need A Change Of Mind
I played ‘Gee Up’ when I DJed HDIF and it went down a fucking storm, even though loose-limbed electrofunk isn’t the usual province of indiepop London. This album is alternately smooth and crystal and then swings onto weird rails that lead off to fuck knows where. All of which is why you must buy it. Oh yes.
16. Masta Ace – Ma Doom: Son of Yvonne
Not an actual collab, from what I know, Ace used pre-existing Doom beats for this beautiful album about the passing of his mother. ‘Nineteen Seventy Something’ is perfect, Ace recalling his kid days and the sound of EWF and The Emotions through his house. I love hip hop that takes chances like this. “Mom’s on the rampage, looking for her Parliament.”
15. Melanin 9 – Magna Carta
Love the beats, love the rhymes, love the imagery. Again, like my other fave hip hop albums of 2012, M9 takes chances, this is not a straight-forward listen, there are levels on levels here. That’s what makes it rock.
14. The Men – Open Your Heart
Garagey, psychey and at times wandering to shoegaze, a beautiful noise. If I filmed a video for it, it would have to rip off Brakhage shamelessly as this record is colours in sound.
13. Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend
Very, very School Of Seven Bells but perhaps more minimal and intense than SOSB’s cinematic epicness. Tiny and lovely shoegazey electronica.
12. Stick To Your Guns – Diamond
This has been my go-to SHOUTY album this year, so many great riffs. And it helps that, unlike a lot of hc bands, STYG are actually singing about real shit. Standout track for me is ‘Life In A Box,’ all one minute, twenty-nine seconds of it.
11. Such Gold – Misadventures
If you like your pop punk ridiculously twiddly and with Wedding Present-speed strumming, this album is for you. They have their popness, obviously but it’s mostly wrapped in layers of ATDI arsing about. Which is just fine by me.
10. Title Fight – Floral Green
I know this album has polarised people but I love it. It’s been called shoegaze or ‘90s alt or whatever. If I had to say what it reminded me of, it’d probably be late Fugazi but via Dinosaur Jr. ‘Secret Society’ is a massive fucking track. Soooo good.
Vee Kay – Fade Out
9. Mystro – Mystrogen
It’s weird to think I’ve been listening to Mystro for at least ten years now so it feels wrong to call this his debut LP but it appears to be true! What? From guesting on Low Life tracks through all his subsequent work, Mystro has maintained a quality control and playfulness that has sadly evaded other UK rappers. Fucking lovely.
8. Deerhoof – Breakup Song
Yes, I know. Every year, Deerhoof do a new bloody album and every bloody year, it’s in my top albums list. But I can’t help it: they’re so poppy! ‘Fete Adieu’ of this year’s killer is prime ‘Hoof, offbeat, wtf, I can’t dance to this coupled with a supersingalong chorus. I found myself singing this on the escalator in the Westfield the other day. But this album.
7. DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles – Kolexxxion
I’ll miss Guru forever but it’s sooo good to hear Premo firing on every available cylinder with BK’s rhymes fleshing out the scenarios. An essential album.
6. Holograms – Holograms
I could easily dismiss Holograms for their obvious fetishisation of 1980 post-punk aesthetics apart from the awkward fact that they write really fucking catchy pop songs. DAMN YOUU!
5. Vee Kay – Fade Out
VK’s swansong and what a great way to bow out. There’s a knowledge evidently at work here that makes the album stand out way above its peers. Couple that with great guests and it’s a lovely thing to behear. And it’s a FREE DOWNLOAD. What are you waiting for, dude?
4. Clark – Iradelphic
This is such a journey of an album: there are solo piano tracks like ‘Black Stone’ where Clark gets a bit Gonzales on our asses and then that’s followed by ‘The Pining pt. 1’ which is a sublimey jazzy, beaty mess of percussion, acoustica and electronica. There are even tracks which are definitely a bit trip-hoppy, so wide is Clark’s gamut. A beautiful, brave piece of work.
3. Verb T – Morning Process
If you love Four Owls like I do, you’ll love this album featuring feathered brethren Verb. I put this album on and it’s everything I love about UK hip hop: spare, confident, itself and no other, masterful. You have to buy this.
2. Akira Kiteshi – Industrial Avenue
Declaration of bias: I interviewed Tommy for Sound On Sound magazine and I’m a huge fan of AK since I first heard ‘Pinball.’ His debut album doesn’t disappoint, it’s got all the grunty, vomitty basslines dubstep heads would want but it also varies into different tempos, different atmospheres. ‘Snaggletooth’ is just pure electro heaven, all stuttering bass slaps, hubcap snares and solid kicks. Lovely stuff!
1. Diamond Rings – Free Dimensional
If there was any justice, DR would be bigger than Lady Gaga and Maroon 5 put together. He’s got fabulous synthpop songs, a voice like a charming, adolescent bear and he’s cute too. ‘All The Time’ is pure, pure, purest pop: intelligent verses matched with seductive, let’s-take-our-clothes-off-now-please choruses. ‘Runaway Love’ was obviously a massive ‘80s anthem in some parallel universe. Why can’t we make it come true in this one? But this album if you love pop music, choruses and shaking your ass in an outrageous fashion.
Gojira‘s ‘L’enfant Sauvage’ should be in there somewhere but for some reason my iTunes 2012 smartlist excluded it. DAMN YOU, APPLE! Well, I’m a long-time fan of Gojira and their newie is deft, powerful, passionate metal. It’s certainly a worthy successor to 2008’s ‘Way Of All Flesh,’ which is one of my fave metal albums ever. Buy it!