It’s fair to say that 2012 was a bit of a weird one for me in terms of actually listening to full length albums – which is to say, I didn’t listen to anywhere near as many new records as I probably should have. To be honest, the album I’ve listened to the most is probably Boxer by The National, but of course that came out five years ago and thus can’t really be my album of the year. As such, there are some records that probably ought to be here that aren’t, simply because I just haven’t listened to them. Bat For Lashes is the most obvious example I can think of – there’s not even a good reason I haven’t listened to The Haunted Man, I just… haven’t. Maybe I’ll do a list of records I should have listened to in the last year? Anyway, enough rambling, a list. Of sorts.
Patrick Wolf – Sundark And Riverlight
This probably would have made my top 10, except it somehow feels like cheating to include a record that doesn’t actually contain any new songs. That said, it’s far from a by-the-numbers greatest hits compilation, with Patrick Wolf going so far as to re-record 16 tracks for this career-spanning compilation. The impact of these songs is undiminished by these acoustic re-workings, and in some cases they’re even better for it – ‘Vulture’ being the prime example. For that reason, this album is more than deserving of an honourable mention – it’d be nice to see more artists take as much care with their own ‘greatest hits’ records.
10. Rozi Plain – Joined Sometimes Unjoined
This record deserves to be in the list just because Rozi Plain seems like a lovely human being, but happily there’s some great music on here too. Sparsely beautiful acoustic songs are the main order of the day here, but it’s the more propulsive moments that really stick out – ‘Humans’ and ‘See My Boat’ are both giddy highlights, while the soothing atmosphere and tender honesty of ‘Catch Up’ also brought a smile to my face.
9. Lone Wolf – The Lovers
Included here because I had enough faith in Lone Wolf to join the Pledgemusic campaign for his new record, and sure enough he delivered. It’s very a compact record, and very different to previous album The Devil And I, but it’s no less rewarding a listen. The queasy, nervous atmosphere of ‘Spies In My Heart’, the lush soundscapes present on ‘The Swan Of Meander’ and ‘Good Life’, and the quiet desolation of ‘Two Good Lives’ are among the record’s finest moments, but it’s excellent throughout.
8. The Hundred In The Hands – Red Night
The second album from NY electro-indie duo The Hundred In The Hands is mainly here because ‘Faded’ is, to me, a jaw-dropping heartbreaker of a song, but to be fair there’s more to this record than just that one song. The sun-kissed melancholy of ‘Recognise’, the darkly danceable ‘Keep It Low’ and the throbbing, widescreen shimmer of ‘Tunnels’ should provide you with plenty of reasons to keep coming back for more.
7. Purity Ring – Shrines
Forget brostep, Purity Ring have probably created the best record featuring 2-step beats that’s been released all year (disclaimer: I know nothing about dubstep). Seriously though, wonderfully atmospheric synths and skittering beats combine with mesmerisingly ethereal vocals make Shrines one of the year’s most compelling records, with ‘Fineshrine’ and ‘Obedear’ being particular standouts.
6. Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
What is there to say about this record that hasn’t already been said?It’s the album that single-handedly made ‘folk-step’ a thing, and by now you surely know where you stand on the Mercury-winning band – personally, I thought Alt-J were deserving victors thanks to their inventive debut. And yes, it’s better than the Django Django album, in case you were wondering.
5. 2:54 – 2:54
The debut record from the Thurlow sisters may have stuck firmly to a singular aesthetic, but can you blame them when it’s as well realised as this? Rarely do debut records sound this self-assured, but 2:54 make it look easy. Flawlessly executed throughout, from the passionate whirlwind of ‘Revolving’ all the way through to the razor-edged tension of ‘Creeping’, 2:54 is a record to lose yourself in.
4. Team Me – To The Treetops!
In the absence of a new Los Campesinos! record, Norwegian sextet Team Me did an admirable job of filling my need for twee, yet full-blooded indie pop. Bittersweet lyrics, ridiculously long song titles, chaotically beautiful soundscapes and euphoric gang vocals mean that all the right ingredients are here for a record that’s as likely to break your heart as it is to leave you with a big, silly grin on your face. Besides, any band who namedrop Patrick Wolf are alright in my book.
3. The XX – Coexist
Having proved themselves to be masters of late-night, atmospheric intimacy on their debut, it probably shouldn’t have surprised me that The XX reduced me to an emotional wreck within about three listens of Coexist. At first I feared that it lacked the magic of their first album, but then the emotional one-two punch of ‘Sunset’ and ‘Missing’ hit me with full force and left me like putty in their hands. A record for anyone who’s ever loved, lost, or hoped for a second chance.
2. FOE – Bad Dream Hotline
In a world of dull, identikit popstars, FOE represents a swift and vicious punch to the face , in much the same way that album-opener ‘Ballad For The Brainkeepers’ doesn’t take long to hit you like a battering ram. Unafraid to get the knives out for money-grabbing, fame hungry artists (‘Tyrant Song’, ‘Get Money’, ‘Genie In A Coke Can’) while simultaneously presenting Hannah Clark’s own impeccable pop-rock vision (‘Jailhouse’, ‘The Black Lodge’, ‘Cold Hard Rock’), Bad Dream Hotline is exactly the kind of record that should be celebrated as ‘pop’ in my own skewed version of the world.
1. Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory
Despite my limited listening this year, I’m actually pretty confident that Attack On Memory would be my number one record regardless. The change of style took me aback when I first heard it, but I quickly grew to love the angrier, more agressive new Cloud Nothings. ‘No Future/No Past’ and ‘No Sentiment’ are vicious highlights, but it’s ‘Wasted Days’ that’s really indicative of this record’s ambition – a nine-minute downward spiral of furious self-loathing, built around the repeated mantra of “I thought I could be more than this,” it should well and truly obliterate any preconceptions you had about this band.
Listen to all the albums on this list on Spotify here.