Now you’ve been through our extensive Essential Listening 2012 series, which includes all our top choices from a past twelve months of albums, gigs and tracks, here some of our frankly super talented band of writers pick out their own favourite album of 2012, each making a convincing argument for the selected records in the process.
Jamie Boyd: Lucy Rose – Like I Used To
Wide-eyed acoustic singer-songwriters ruminating over past romance and its trials and tribulations is nothing particularly new, but Lucy Rose manages to instil a renewed freshness into the genre, helped by astute and varied composition throughout. The subject matter found on the record may be intensely personal to Rose, but the unwavering honesty of the songs and the delicately soulful vocal delivery becomes immediately endearing to those who’ve experienced similar emotions. The disarming warmth emanating from this album makes this a perfect gift for the holiday season and the cold winter nights ahead, signifying a talent only likely to blossom well into 2013 and beyond.
Beau De Lang: Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
Previously known as more of a peripheral character in the OutKast/Dungeon Family axis of Southern rap, longtime Atlanta firebrand Killer Mike finally stepped out from the shadows of his more well-known cohorts with this year’s magnificent ‘R.A.P. Music’. From the neighborhood blowout of opener ‘Big Beast’ to the historical claim-stake of the self-titled closer, Mike covers a wide stylistic spectrum on an album packed with old-school storytelling, unsettling political assessment and reflective introspection. With production duties handled in full by veteran New York iconoclast El-P, the album is not only the crowning moment in Killer Mike’s lengthy career, but it also one of the most fully realized hip-hop releases of the past five years.
Luke Henriques-Gomes: The Cribs – In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull
‘In The Belly Of A Brazen Bull’ shows that, as a band of brothers, the Jarmans have a chemistry that even Marr couldn’t fully penetrate. The sparkly ‘Come On, Be A No-One’ and ‘Chi-Town’ are a melding of their two incarnations. There’s the simplistic low-fi pop of the early days but a fuller sound that could be indebted to Marr’s short stint in the band. The three track medley at the end of the record is easily the most ambitious thing they have done. It’s also one of the very best. The same goes for the album itself.
Duncan McEwan: Angel Olsen – Half Way Home
With a deluge of fantastic new albums released in 2012 it’s a near impossible task to pick just one as an absolute favourite. I’d be utterly useless on Desert Island Discs and my luxury item would probably be a ninth album (or the necessary record player to play them on – not that it would work). The album I have practically worn out in 2012 is Angel Olsen’s ‘Half Way Home’. Her association with Bonnie Prince Billy (aka Will Oldham) will provide the uninitiated with a signpost to her country-folk-pop sound. These are songs of heart wrenchingly unadorned beauty; intricate yet effortless. Olsen’s brazen sincerity is her steer and it yields stunning melodies and lyrics that burn bright with striking honesty.
Simon Moore: Ellen and The Escapades – All The Crooked Scenes
Plenty of better known artists made good records in 2012. The Escapades made theirs a thundering heartbreaker of a record, ranging from tender and pensive to wind-torn Wild West Yorkshire thrills and back again. Crisp, vivid production lends these songs a maturity deserving of their noble, lovelorn grace. This is seriously one of those rare perfect records that simply get better with every track; from the slow, simple beauty of ‘Run’ to ghost rider echoes in ‘All The Crooked Scenes’ and the galloping finale of ‘Cast’, this record arches and blossoms and rocks the roof off like nothing else in 2012 could quite muster.
It has to be ‘Bloom’ by Beach House. They’re a band still on a linear trajectory, and each passing album is an improvement on the one before that sticks to their formula of keeping it basic and doing the basics well. ‘Dreampop’ may be something of a nom du jour but inescapable when ghostly echoes of the Cocteau Twins permeate the fabric of tracks such as ‘Wild’. The basic template of droning organs, simple guitar arpeggio flutters and (of course) Victoria Legrand’s velvety-chocolate vocal is repeated but never tires over the ten-song collection, such is the strength of the writing. Top track? ‘The Hours’.
Dave Smith: Tame Impala – Lonerism
All sensible logic suggests music isn’t supposed to be like this anymore. ‘Lonerism’ is an old fashioned album in every conceivable concept. Whether it be the hypnotic, dream inducing Seventies psychedelia that runs throughout, or the pain-staking, hand-painted craftsmanship that makes every note and nuance feel like it’s fulfilling a specific purpose in a lovingly built masterpiece. Here is an album far more at home on a vintage, mock mahogany record player than on a cold iTunes playlist, offering up new nooks and crannies to investigate with every fresh spin. For that alone, it should be treasured forever as proof that sometimes nostalgia is all it’s cracked up to be.