La Sera / Sees The Light
I don’t usually try to put these lists in order, but this is far and away my favourite record of the year. I heart Katy Goodman. As bassist with the Vivian Girls she provides the Shirelles to Cassie Ramone’s L7, and with La Sera, proves she knows her way around a 50s girl group harmony without burying it under swathes of shoegazey feedback. This second album sounds more assured than last year’s debut, and I am GUTTED I didn’t get to see her live earlier this year.
Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra / Theatre is Evil
Amanda Palmer used to describe The Dresden Dolls as “Punk Cabaret”, I think partly to avoid getting pegged as “Goth”, but that label really works for this long-awaited, post-label-shenanigans, Kickstarter-funded follow-up to 2008′s ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer’. That last record was haunted a little by the ghost of the Dolls but here, AFP’s signature take-no-prisoners piano-battering is fleshed out with gorgeous string and horn arrangements, sat provocatively astride an appropriately snarly punk 4-piece. It’s by turns touching, soul-bearing, sarcastic and playful, but always joyful and sincere. Also gutted I missed her live show this year.
The Mark Lanegan Band / Blues Funeral
Predictable? Maybe - I think every album Lanegan has been involved with in the last 10 years has probably made it onto one of these lists - but this is remarkable for the unexpected turns it takes. I never really expected to hear Lanegan’s earth-shaking baritone on an electropop track but ‘Ode To Sad Disco’ makes more sense than it doesn’t. I missed seeing him play live too. I am getting old, I think.
Bat For Lashes / The Haunted Man
Took me a while to get into this one, and it only really clicked when I saw her live (yep, I did finally catch someone). Some of the production is obviously designed for the Big Speakers, and this album got a new lease of life once I realised it needed to be cranked a bit.
Lana del Ray / Born To Die
The bait and switch of 2012. ‘Video Games’ had many people expecting a sultry indie songstress, but the album revealed Lana del Ray to be ‘Confide In Me’ era Kylie instead. Cue much outrage; it’s not even her real name, if you can believe that. Anyway, I really like 70% of this record. It’s not a perfect album - she’s a major label pop act, after all, so you have to expect filler - but the good tracks are brilliantly crafted, and play to the carefully-conceived character perfectly. There are moments in ‘Born To Die’ and ‘Off To The Races’ which still goosebump me after a year of listening, and that’s all I ask of a record, really.
Cat Power / Sun
I hadn’t really remarked upon the absence of Chan Marshall over the last couple of years, if I’m honest, but apparently this is her ‘back from the wilderness’ record, all newly demon-free. Again, this is probably hugely predictable, but this is vying for my affections with ‘The Greatest’ for best Cat Power record, so it can’t not be in here.
Blacklisters / Blcklstrs
Much as I love being in the hardest-rehearsing funk band in the West Midlands, there is usually one record a year that makes me hanker after making truly noisy music, and this year it’s the Blacklisters. From the more metallic end of the post-hardcore spectrum, Blacklisters are possibly the most disturbingly noisy thing I’ve listened to since the Jesus Lizard.
The XX / Coexist
I came late to the first album, which I felt was a beautifully honest, understated record. If anything, the songs on ‘Coexist’ are sparser than last time around, the rhythm often being carried by the guitar and bass and the beats kept in reserve for longer. It’s masterfully restrained, and intimate.
Sharon van Etten / Tramp
This album has just been around all year, keeping itself to itself and quietly becoming my second-most-played album after La Sera. It didn’t blow me away on first listen, but just wriggled its way inside my head. ‘Give Out’, in particular, gets me every time. Sometimes you have to take a chance on someone.
Other people’s lists:
My top 10 albums:
Jacaszek - Glimmer* From the Mouth of the Sun - Woven Tide Moon Ate The Dark Lute - West1996** The XX - Coexist Zelienople - The World Is A House On Fire Learning Tapes - Sun Peeking Through Chilly Gonzalez - Solo Piano II Polica - Give You The Ghost Voices From The Lake
That Lute album/mixtape/whatever is great, best hip hop I’ve heard in years. A couple of those tracks really need to get pressed on vinyl..
The Polica album didn’t grab me somehow, perhaps it needs another listen.
Thought the Sharon van Etten album was great too, tho I had the opposite reaction to Tim - first time I heard it I was really taken by her voice, despite a couple of tracks that don’t quite do it for me. Hope to hear some more from her.
At the risk or repeating myself (http://tinyurl.com/bsj8bj3 ), my albums:
Quantic & Alice Russell with the Combo Barbaro, ”Look Around The Corner” Julia Holter, “Ekstasis” LHF, “Keepers Of The Light” Laurel Halo, “Quarantine” The XX, “Coexist” Menahan Street Band, “The Crossing” DROKK, S/T Lee Fields & the Expressions, “Faithful Man”) Nick Waterhouse, “Time’s All Gone” Zelienople, “The World Is A House On Fire”
Honourable mentions - Raime, “Quarter Turns Over A Living Line”; Boy Friend, “Egyptian Wrinkle”; Grimes, “Visions”; 1991, “High Tech High Life”; LV, “Sebrenza”
The Something Rain - Tindersticks Europe - Allo Darlin’ Born To Die - Lana Del Ray Tempest - Bob Dylan Visions - Grimes The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends A Creature I Don’t Know - Laura Marling
@drewhird I’m a bit behind - most of the records I bought this year were ones I hadn’t got around to buying last year…. but the new ones I really liked were White Hills - Frying On This Rock El P - Cancer 4 Cure Tame Impala - Lonerism
And The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends was interesting too.
I’ve managed to like a whopping ten albums this year:
My favourite album of the year by miles. Having got into this and never having heard his previous albums, I went back and listened to his earlier albums, which have much of the same appeal but without the focus. I love the euphoric hyperactive noisiness.
Bleepy stuff with some violins and things, with slight Mike Oldfield leanings (in a good way).
French lady singing nice shoegazy stuff. Ticks my boxes.
An inferior retread of Zebra, but still good.
Reminds me a little of The Knife while not really sounding anything like them.
Very similar to and some way short of their first. I struggled to get into it, but managed it eventually.
Ambienty dubsteppy. Good working music marred by some irritating squeaky repetitive vocals. Yes, I’m officially old.
I listened to this a fair bit when it was released out of a profound and pleasant sense of surprise that it wasn’t totally awful, but it hasn’t really made a lasting impact. Still, it’s an album that I like that was released this year.
Good but overrated in the published album-of-the-year lists I’ve seen.
Sun Kill Moon - Among the Leaves Mark Kozelek returns with a lovely set of acoustic laments at the end of his youth
Europe - Allo Darlin’ Not big nor clever just a great set of songs that could have been recorded anytime since the mid-eighties.
Dan Deacon - America Not Grandaddy gone electro as I originally thought but somewhere between the Fuck Buttons attempts at Mogwai’esque electro crescendos and Americana synthed if that makes any sense.
Ty Segall - Twins The best guitar noise on record this year. Possibly.
godspeed you! black emperor - ’ALLELUJAH! DON’T BEND ASCEND Maybe just included for their amazing live show but not many bands to apocalyptical noise like Godspeed.
Swans - The Seer Actually, Swans do. And, again, this is maybe more for their incredible live show but this is a really amazing album if not one I want to listen to that often.
Bunch of other albums that would have probably made it had I started listening to them before December: Goat - World Music Sharon van Etten - Tramp Zelienople - The World Is A House On Fire Liars - WIXIW