Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Top 20 Albums of 2012: #20-#11

No pre-amble. Just albums. Bordeauxxx haven't been included because you'll think it biased. It's covered here anyway.

20) Jack White – Blunderbuss
This is the album we've all been waiting for Jack to make since Elephant. Reigning in White's esoteric tenancies it delivers a full album of cracking tunes that, whilst in line with all of the blues reference points that we expect, manages to feel at home in 2012. Stick a pin anywhere in the Blunderbuss tracklisting and there's a single waiting to happen. What's more, with the variety on offer we get to see more sides of Mr White in one place than on any previous release and have an album that's easy to stick on repeat without any danger of boring. 

19) Paintings of Ships - English Weather
It's entirely possible that I over-use the word 'gem' in relation to music. But in order that it not lose it's meaning here I'll only use it once in this list and it will be to describe Paintings of Ships. Following on from last year's cracking single 'Love Will Always Follow You Around' the London three piece released this under-appreciated gem in an otherwise pop-starved summer. Enjoyably fuzzy and tuneful pop it made no pretences and instead works its way into hearts through repeated listens and catchy songs.

18) The Lovely Eggs - Wildlife
The dust hasn't had chance to settle on last year's Cob Dominos yet (because I'm still listening to it), but that didn't stop The Lovely Eggs from closing 2012 with yet another collection of scrappy, brilliant pop songs. Wildlife is punkier than their previous efforts, yet no less eccentric with several tracks (including the memorable 'Scooter's Got Itchy') lasting under a minute. Several of the songs here have already been released as singles, with 'Allergies' featuring the production talents of Gruff Rhys. Bonkers.

17) Gaz Coombes - Here Come The Bombs
I must be getting old. Not only am I listening to more solo artists, but increasingly they're members of bands that were my favourites as a teenager. In fact until I discovered the extend of Pulp's brilliance Supergrass were my teenage favourite. Full stop. Still, Here Come The Bombs isn't in here on nostalgic value, the debut album from former 'grass singer/guitarist/sideburns Gaz makes it on its own merits. From the more tender moments such as 'White Noise', to the darker, modern pop of single 'Hot Fruit' there's a great depth to ...Bombs that people have often overlooked on Coombes previous work. This starts to set the record straight and points to a promising post-Supergrass future.

16) Tall Ships - Everything Touching
How to describe Tall Ships without making myself sounding incredibly wanky? That's the dilemma that I've spent the end of 2012 wrestling with. 'Epic' is an overused word, but fits them well. 'Grand' has multiple meanings, but again seems to work. 'Bloody incredible!' is a bit colloquial but possibly the best you'll get. 65daysofstatic's last album is a a touchstone, but there's much more going on on Everything Touching than electronically infused post-rock. It's affecting and energising, a record that just by listening in makes you feel a bit invincible. Recommended for anyone that likes any type of guitar based music.

15) Internet Forever - Internet Forever
Bubblegum indiepopppers Internet Forever seem to have drifted under most people's radars in the years since their early singles. Which is a shame as their debut album is a cracking pop smash that recalls Los Campesinos!, Bis, The Pipettes and The Go! Team. Often all at once. It's charming and fun, with each song being a potential earworm and potential favourite. Alongside This Many Boyfriends debut, IF are keeping pop loud in exactly the way that we'd hope. Oh, and did we mention it's fun? Because it is. Really really fun.

14) The Futureheads - Rant
To be bluntly honest, Rant suffers slightly on this list as it's a capella nature makes it damn hard to listen to on a noisy commuter train. Not a comment on the quality of the record of course, it ranks as one of The Futureheads best. Giving the same treatment to modern and classic pop songs and traditional rounds as well as selections from their own discography it's almost a comment on the nature of pop music as folk culture. By stripping the songs of their context and delivering them sans-instruments each of these catchy numbers is given right back to the people. Also, it's incredibly catchy and I didn't want to get caught singing along on the way to work.

13) Friends - Manifest!
Friends started the year under a wave of hype, and although their sales haven't lived up to this their music certainly has. A funkier, sexier record hasn't come this way in 2012, it's just baffling that it comes from a group of white Brooklyn hipsters. If The Long Blondes had listened to classic hip-hop rather than lots of Pulp, and were produced by The Go! Team they might have sounded like Friends. On the other hand they might not have. Who can say? That aside, in a world where Rhianna is so overexposed, this is a showcase for genuine empowered-pop.

12) Richard Hawley - Standing At The Sky's Edge
Despite being robbed of the Mercury prize by a useless aural graphic design team, Richard Hawley deservedly received many many accolades for his latest album and sold a more than respectable number of copies too. You've in all likelihood heard samples of this already and should need no more convincing, but in case that's not the case I'll take the chance to say that even at his most guitar-centric Hawley loses none of his romantic edge and still manages to connect at his most vitriolic. And also 'Leave Your Body Behind You' is among his best ever recordings.

11) Standard Fare - Out Of Sight, Out Of Town
One of two albums on this list that was due to be released last December, but ended up delayed until the start of 2012 instead, Out Of Sight, Out Of Town has had nowhere near the press that it deserved this year. Delays aside this could conceivably be down to the fact that they're 'just' three people playing their instruments very well and writing excellent songs in the process. It's just not dramatic enough in such a attention seeking market. The wider world's loss though is our gain, as OOS,OOT is crammed with the sort of pop goodness that we'll always need and love.

Keep Pop Loud 

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