Whilst 2012 has been a better year for good LPs than last year, I confess that I feel that are far fewer great LPs than in previous years. Maybe I was just looking in the wrong places. Anyhow without further ado here are my favourite 10 albums of the year:
10. The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know (review)
I really want to like the Twilight Sad more than I do because they are one of the more adventurous Scottish bands. But there’s something holds me back.
Having said that, ‘No One Can Ever Know’ saw them reinvent their sound to encompass glacial synth sounds to great effect. Perhaps doesn’t quite match the debut but certainly far better than the disappointing second. Still a record that intrigues 9 months on.
This one caught me slightly unawares simply because my initial feeling had been that the follow-up singles to the excellent debut ‘What’s It All About?’ (not included) weren’t as strong.
But, sometimes, first impressions are misleading and ‘The Cathode Ray’, drawing on many aspects of post-punk, turned out to be a corker of an LP.
8. Shearwater – Animal Joy (review)
It’s taken me a long time to catch up with Shearwater but I finally managed it at the, what, 8th? attempt. A fine record which betrays perhaps the influence of the National but pleasingly is just a bit more roughed up. My Americana record of the year (if there’s such a thing).
Another surprise, this one crept up on me a bit through a drip feed of tracks on Soundcloud. Yet when all was revealed it turned out to be an album of surprising depth. Each of the contributors put their own stamp on proceedings but Jan Burnett’s sparse electronica backings ensured that there was a cohesive thread running through the whole thing.
I’ve said before, in terms of comparing this with the gig at which I first heard many of these songs, SFTW didn’t quite live up to that promise. Yet it marked the continuing evolution of Neil Pennycook’s songwriting as he moved into lusher pastures on a record that features strings – and lots of them!
A posthumous release for a record I’ve been listening to for 18 months since getting a promo copy, ‘Shipwrecking’ is a brilliantly literate epic, soaring album which deserved a better fate than the almost apologetic digital release in the summer. Lady Luck thought otherwise but you can help spread the word.
4. Lee Ranaldo – Between the Times and the Tides (review)
Song by song this is as good as anything released this year and a full vindication of the many years spent waiting for a Lee Ranaldo song based LP.
But the album, sound-wise, ended up something of a compromise caught between the more Sonic Youth sounding tracks and the new areas that Lee was keen to explore. The fact that it sounds a bit like a compilation is all that stands between it and a higher placing.
3. Bob Mould – Silver Age (review)
I genuinely never thought I’d ever rate a Bob LP as highly as this again but ‘Silver Age’ was a spectacular return to form ditching the electo affectations for a beast of a rocking LP.
Perhaps SA didn’t have as many outstanding highlights as the Sugar reissues but ‘Silver Age’ was his most consistently strong LP in years … and years.
My favourite Scottish album of the year, and no real surprise to any regular readers of the blog after the wall to wall CTA coverage of the last couple of years.
But, believe me, ALM saw CTA deliver on the promise of their live shows and E.P.s with a really terrific LP. Stylistically it covered a lot of ground from the thunderous WWPJ opening of the title track through massive pop songs such as ‘Intervention’ and ‘While I Was Sleeping’ to the more intimate moments on the likes of ‘Shapes’.
Quite a hit too with some friends who don’t keep that up to date on the current scene which only emphasises to me the potential these guys have to reach a wider audience.
Ultimately the number one slot was never really in doubt from the first time I heard ‘Nature Experiments’. I’m not sure if the preponderance of instrumentals on the previous 2 (excellent) Big Sleep LPs left something of an unfinished air to them but the no instrumental NE is undoubtedly their finest to date.
An essential mix of monstrous guitars and, at times, fragile vocals, the Big Sleep aren’t terribly well known over here at the moment. Hopefully that will change.