Live4ever’s Essential Listening 2012: The Albums

By Live4ever - Posted on 19 Dec 2012 at 6:03am

Our Essential Listening 2012 series concludes today with The Albums.

From the ‘cohesion through experimentation’ of Tame Impala’s ‘Lonerism, through the ‘muscular power ballads, stirring, keyboard-led harmonies and call-and-response choruses’ that inform The Killers’ return with ‘Battle Born’, to the ‘sheer magnetism and unwavering belief’ which made ‘Blunderbuss’ such a successful solo debut for Jack White, we feel this rundown highlights some of the year’s truly outstanding releases that everyone should make an effort to check out.

And don’t forget, there’s only room for one place each on our Essential Listening Series, so if your favourite artist of the year isn’t included in this particular rundown, make sure you check through our previous lists to see if they’ve made an appearance elsewhere. And after that, if they’re still nowhere to be seen, maybe you should leave a comment below to let us know about it.

25: Spiritualized Sweet Heart Sweet Light

“For fans of Pierce’s expansive catalogue of gospel-infused space rock this latest installment will come as a welcomed, even refreshing addition to the canon. He may not have reached the panoramic glory of ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’, but in the process he has crafted something nearly as dense, and equally as compelling.”

Full Review

24: Little CometsLife Is Elsewhere

“Their story is rather zany. But the reason they’re successful is obvious. The band themselves and the music they create is the polar opposite: it’s serious. There is substance to their sound and at one point they’re joyous, the next taking on the most troubling of issues to man. They have something to say.”

Full Review

23: The Big PinkFuture This

“Not a grand progression on the group’s superb debut, but more a polished reinforcement of their qualities and skills as pop songwriters for a modern generation with ever-depleting attention spans and life-or-death reliance on electric gadgets. ‘Future This’ is made to be blasted out of car stereos and party speakers.”

Full Review

22: The xxCoexist

“When Smith’s clubbing influences do finally raise their head, such as on ‘Tides‘, we find the band in full swagger. A drumbeat locks into the bass whilst staccato guitars jab between icy synth-strings.This isn’t the faux-machismo swagger of say, a Kasabian or anyone of that ilk, and nor should that be expected – or accepted.”

Full Review

21: Hot ChipIn Our Heads

“‘In Our Heads’ is Hot Chip matured. Pushing boundaries with an astute subtlety; mining the art of deception to perfection. Progressive and revolutionary. Unlike many of their contemporaries this never feels forced. Now that’s clever. And exceptionally modest too. This album will undoubtedly be a soundtrack to 2012.”

Full Review

20: Graham CoxonA + E

“Casting the acoustic guitars to one side for the time being, ‘A+E’ is an amalgamation of ideas that is in essence the result of an irrefutably creative musician being cut loose in a studio with a bass guitar, a drum machine, and assorted other technological delights that facilitate a wonderfully abrasive racket.”

Full Review

19: Band Of SkullsSweet Sour

“The old notion of a ‘radio rock record’ is a steadily disintegrating concept today, and it’s unfortunate because that is exactly what Band Of Skulls have created here: a polished and accessible second offering from a group that made a point to rise to an occasion they could have just as easily shrank away from.”

Full Review

18: The WalkmenHeaven

“Its strongest moments are when they slow it down a gear, cut back on the exuberance and fizz of angular, distorted guitars and take up the vintage warmth of acoustics. Kicking off in this vein is ‘We Can’t Be Beat‘, a delicate track with raw, naked lead vocals stretching out across a bed of ramshackle harmonies.”

Full Review

17: The Jim Jones RevueThe Savage Heart

“While there is still plenty of vintage rock, it is the moments of experimentation – the sudden acapella breakdown on ‘Never Let You Go‘, the ghostly doo-wop eulogy of closer ‘Midnight Oceans…‘ – that provide an intriguing distance. Not only from many of their contemporaries, but from their own catalogue as well.”

Full Review

16: Cat PowerSun

“The crowning jewel of the record is undoubtedly ‘Nothin But Time’. If ever there’s been a song where Power has poured her heart out, it’s this one. While musically the tune is very simple, Power’s spiritual vocals carry the day and the lyrics take on perhaps the deepest subject of all: how to live life.”

Full Review

15: The Killers Battle Born

“Like that ode to Las Vegas, it is replete with muscular power ballads, stirring, keyboard-led harmonies and call-and-response choruses. In fact, the band have never sounded so, well, alive. Lead single ‘Runaways’ recalls ‘A Dustland Fairytale’, a pulsing, dramatic saga of a song about a restless lover itching to cut loose.”

Full Review

14: The MaccabeesGiven To The Wild

“In striving for perfection it comes across as a wholesome and pleasant listening experience. You get the sense the band clearly enjoy what they are doing, something that is no surprise when you consider their success in instrumental experimentation; truly a wonder to behold. It is their most accomplished work of art yet.”

Full Review

13: The Cribs In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull

“There have been comparisons to the ending of ‘Abbey Road‘ but this is not just because they are four songs that segue into one another. Just as The Beatles did, The Cribs use recurring motifs within these final four songs; for instance ‘Butterflies’ ends with the guitar and glockenspiel figures first heard in ‘Stalagmites’.”

Full Review

12: Bellowhead Broadside

“They resuscitate obsolete songs with such charismatic beauty to create something startling and original. No one else is doing this on such a grand scale. Ignore any folk purist denouncing the significance of ‘Broadside’ and remind them how they also bellyached about Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson and The Pogues.”

Full Review

11: Hurray For The Riff Raff Look Out Mama

“Forget what you think you know about country music; the sickly string overdubs and oversize stetsons are for morons who don’t know country music is all about the depths of despair and the quiet triumphs of hard-won romance. This is music for a different pace of life; they seem marvellously well-adjusted to it.”

Full Review

10: Richard HawleyStanding At The Sky’s Edge

“To a lesser extent ‘The Wood Collier’s Grave’ sounds more like you would always have expected Hawley’s music to sound if he had opted to take a more, um, outlandish approach to his career. Diehards rejoice, he has struck again with a mesmerising composition of nine dwindling, ruminating pieces of eccentricity.”

Full Review

9: Bobby WomackThe Bravest Man…

“It is the commanding presence of Womack’s earthy, weather-beaten baritone that still lifts each arrangement into something special. It is that voice that has carried him through decades of uncertainty to this current point of deep reflection, and it that very same voice, now stark and unapologetic, that will continue to carry his legacy.”

Full Review

8: Off!Off!

“There’s an arguable lack of visceral attitude in the current musical climate, and it’s fitting, if not ironic, that Morris is once again bringing that to attention. To be as furious and enigmatic at age fifty-six as he was three decades earlier is evidence that the pulse of punk rock will never truly die, even if it does eventually grow old.”

Full Review

7: Beach HouseBloom

“Fearless, fey and masterfully original, ‘Bloom’ is exactly the music you’d play if Jennifer Connelly had stayed trapped in that freakish masquerade ball with David Bowie in Labyrinth, losing her grip on time and reality. Fine, it’s only 50 minutes long, so you won’t be completely lost to the world on your first listen through.”

Full Review

6: Jack White Blunderbuss

“It should come as no surprise that the bulk of ‘Blunderbuss’ relies on White’s sheer magnetism and his unwavering belief in himself. While the back half of the record often fails to catch up to the sprinting head start of the opening numbers, it is this belief that herds all the different directions together.”

Full Review

5: Bruce SpringsteenWrecking Ball

“Bruce Springsteen isn’t here to wallow in misery. He’s angry, so very very angry, but he channels that anger into something immense and beautiful; something to lift the heart and bring you out in goosepimples. He’s using the words that don’t come so easily to the depressed and the downtrodden.”

Full Review

4: Mark Lanegan BandBlues Funeral

“The last few tracks almost feel as though they were kissed by Ian Brown during the production process…with a mouth full of grit. They have a spacey sense, like listening in from the ceiling to harmonics ebbing from the room above. The final song, ‘Tiny Grain of Truth‘, is a collision of atmospheric effect on a beating seesaw.”

Full Review

3: Tallest Man On Earth There’s No Leaving Now

“The fact this album does not conform to his previous work may create a divide amongst devotees of Matsson’s singer-songwriter style. But surely it’s better for an artist to experiment than to allow their muse to become stagnant. We should all applaud those that strive for something else. The album is a triumph.”

Full Review

2: Tame ImpalaLonerism

“As has been done here, the album will inevitably be held up and scrutinised next to previous Tame Impala releases, but there is a different point to ‘Lonerism’ – a cohesion through experimentation that makes the album succeed as a whole, as greater than the sum of its parts. It is, quite simply, a fantastic album.”

Full Review

1: Grizzly BearShields

“Although ‘Shields’ boasts several key songs for ‘scavengers’ of standalone MP3s to devour, it is an album that reveals itself slowly and rewards the listener greatly if you allow it to speak of its own accord. Each song is an integral part of this exhilarating, intoxicating adventure and deserves to be heard in context.”

Full Review

Essential Listening 2012 Series:

…The Debut Albums
…The Best Of Radar
…The Music Videos
…The Gigs
…The Tracks
…The Albums

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Site & Facebook Comments:


  1. mimmi

    Nice to see Bloom by Beach House is No. 7 although it could have been higher. It’s a fantastic album. I’ve seen Mark Lanegan Band last month. I only knew Lanegan by his work with Isabelo Campbell (brilliant singer btw), so to see/listen to him with his band was completely different, but it was still great.

    PS: where is Sigur Ros’ Valtari?

  2. Live4ever

    Hi Mimmi, the list represents more of a rundown then an actual ranking countdown. Thanks for your feedback

  3. Sammy G

    Super list. I would put Lonerism at number one in front of Grizzly Bear, although those two are far and wide the two best albums of the year. Only qualm would be the inclusion of The Maccabees album… it is just all over the place.

  4. Sammy G

    Also, where’s Grimes?


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