Louder Than War Albums of the Year 2012 : the best albums of 2012 : Part 4: 49-1
Has 2012 been a good year for music?
Itâs time for the final part of the LTW Albums of the Year 2012 countdown with numbers 49 to 1 ( If you missed the earlier ones check out Pt 1 (200-150), Pt 2 (149-100), and Pt 3 Full reviews are available as links.
The list has been lovingly compiled by your LTW editorial team (John Robb, Phil Newall, Guy Manchester and Sarah Lay) and we couldnât bring ourselves to cut it shorter than 200 great albums from this year. However, we do want to hear your thoughts as we know there will be loads more 2012 releases that we wonât have heard â so leave a comment, join us on Facebook or tweet us using the hashtag #LTW2012.
49. Bo Ningen – Line The Wall (Stolen Recordings)
Japanese 21st century psych brilliance that blurs the line and deranges the senses…
48. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar (Wichita Recordings)
47. Sierra Leone’ Refugee All-Stars – Radio Salone (Cumbancha)
Sierra Leoneâs Refugee All Stars teamed up with crack producer Victor Axelrod on this, their third release & boy did he bring the best out of their idiosyncratic blend of soukous & reggae. Happy music & music impossible not to dance too.
Warm autumnal melodies draw you into this album before opening your eyes to the sinister but sweetly-sung lyrics they swirl around.
45. Mark Lanagan Band – Blues Funeral (4AD)
On this, his first solo outing in eight years, after many collaborations- Soul Survivors, Gutter Twins, Queens of the Stone Age and, most notably, ex Belle and Sebastian chanteuse Isabel Campbell- Mark Lanegan borrows a little from each of the different sonic terrains he has encountered on his travails and mined them to fashion a work very much his own.
The album that was named album of the year in HMV’s poll of polls this is a rap album of towering brilliance & studied, careful consideration, touching on topics ranging from love songs to political statements to name but two. If you think you don’t like rap check out the 10 minute long track Pyramids & prepare to be dazzled.
43. Paranoid Visions ‘Escape From The Austerity Complex’ (Roadrunner)
Formed three decades ago Dublinâs Paranoid Visions have been pulling off some remarkable neo situationist pranks like charting their last three singles into the Irish top ten.
Inspired by âthe Crass modelâ they have retained that influential bandâs sense of adventure and DIY spirit and have remarkably just recorded their best album yet, âEscape From Austerity Complexâ an ambitious and huge, thought provoking work.
Released near the start of the year this album from our first listen was always going to be an end of year contender & deserves to be the first Footwork album to feature in a Louder Than War end of year rundown. As “contemporary Chicago” as it’s possible to get, musically it blends the hallmarks of Footwork into a work of brilliance as it blends hip hop with house & a good dose of soul.
41. Baltic Fleet ‘Towers’ (Blow Up)
Instrumental album that draws upon its Teutonic influences whilst at the same time creating a lush cinematic feel.
40. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas (Columbia)
With each new release we wonder if this will be the final recordings of Mr Cohen. If this is to be his last word then it is as much enjoyable as his first, those 40 years ago. He may still be asking the same questions and musing on women and God but I canât think of any artist who has used the form of music to ask the questions so beautifully.
39. Dexys – One Day I’m Going To Soar (BMG Right’s Management)
Dexys are the perfect example of learning from life, letting the years add to your muse and at 58 Kevin Rowland comes out of the other side, from the drugs and depression and the madness to make one of the yearâs great albums and to prove that music can still have a beating heart.
A genius work.
38.Â Micachu – Never (Rough Trade)
Finally this year the follow-up proper to Mica Leviâs 2009 debut âJewelleryâ arrived. A true original in a world full of copycats Micachu’s ‘Never’ may border on absurd bonkersness at times and at others woozy skittishness but at heart all the tracks on Never are founded on the basis of “pop” & if you give it a go I can almost guarantee this album will worm it’s way into your heart.
Cool collaboration of roots-reggae vocal group legends the Congos with experimental musicians M. Geddes Gengras and Cameron Stallones, aka Sun Araw and it’s a real trip.
36. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball (Columbia)
2012 needs someone to stand up and be counted, there is dissatisfaction and danger on the horizon, and America needs the boss right now. Why its only the old timers and the millionaire rock stars that seem prepared to stick their necks on the line to make records this ambitious and this contemplative may have something to do with the wisdom of age- there are plenty of engaged younger artists out there as well and we need to hear their voices. Springsteen has thrown down the gauntletâ
35. NÃ¼ Sensae – Sundowning (Suicide Squeeze)
Vancouver based punk band make brilliant racket with a twist of Sonic Youth and grrl power in ferocious and inventive album.
34. Cribs – In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull (Wichita Recordings)
Few bands have as consistent an output as the Cribs, and the anticipation of each album brings a brief moment of suspense that this could be the card that collapses down the pack. This moment is very brief, and be under no illusions that one need fear this about fifth record âIn the Belly of the Brazen Bullâ. Gary, Ryan and Ross Jarman have returned to their impenetrably tight sibling unit, though not through easy times.
33. Japandroids – Celebration Rock (PolyVinyl)
Japandroids return with a rock-fuelled album supercharged with noisy fun.
Gunfire, explosions, fireworks? What is the sound at the start of this album? âËThe Night of Wine and Rosesâ means that itâs fireworks. âËWe Yell Like Hell to the Heavens!â Ã kids getting out of their faces and screaming at the moon, dancing to punk rock and feeling glorious rebellion.
32. MX LX – Black Meta!(Self Released)
The irrepressible Matt Loveridge was involved in some of our favourite albums of the year (see releases by BEAK?, Fairhorns & Knife Liibrary) however for my money this album is by far & away his magnum opus. It’s a masterful display of how a grand orchestral work of twisted genius can be made to sound like it was created by a cast of 100’s when it fact it’s made by single one. It’s classic example of a good cop bad cop record, spending 80% of it’s time smacking you round the head with hurty noises only to then pull a volte face & softly stroke you up with beateaus calming tranquility. Time to get rad for the bliss rush, kids.
31. Peaking Lights – Lucifer In Dub (Weird World)
Lucifer In Dub is a stunning dub remix of Peaking Lights 3rd album, Lucifer, which was released earlier in the year. Itâs a hypnotic re-imagining and not just a rehash.
30. Dragged Into Sunlight ‘Widowmaker’ (Prosthetic)
This is brutal; the aural equivalent of staring into a blackened void; sounds from the depths of whatever hell your fetid imagination dares to conjure upâ¦
29. My Jerusalem – Preachers (The End)
With former members of The Polyphonic Spree and The Twilight Singers this 2012 release by My Jerusalem is dark and strange but full of passion and conviction.
The fourth album by EL-P offers a dystopian album of hip hop beats and sci-fi samples which give you a darkly introspective listen while managing to also take a sly poke at the excesses of the music industry.
27. Toy – Toy (Heavenly Recordings)
Neu Goth or hipster tripsters? whatever it is Toy have delivered a great album of hypnotic tripped out post Horrors new soundscapes that work in almost pop context but also ess with your mind. Great stuff.
Released right at the start of the year Darren J. Cunningham’s album was always going to be a contender. We’ve long been a fan of Actress but this release of his brought him to the attention of many more people by dint of it’s languid beats, soulful blips and hooks that slowly reveal themselves. A release more to chill out to rather than to do your nut to at the club but undoubtedly a release you should hear.
25. Ceremony – Zoo (Matador)
There is no doubt about it that in terms of energy, ideas, atmosphere, intelligence and great guitar music that this is one of the albums of the year.
Ceremony have been around since the middle of the last decade, starting off with speed core, fast punk- as the years have rolled by they have tweaked this ballistic rush and created an inventive and powerful music that loses none of its initial impact.
24. Turbonegro – Sexual Harassment (Volcom)
So, how do you replace a chubby singer with a penchant for Alice Cooper-esque eye makeup? Easy, with another chubby singer, but this time with a penchant for Little Alex Clockwork Orange-esque eye make up in the form of Tony âThe Duke of Nothingâ Sylvester. It was a tall order replacing Hank, would he be up to the job? For me, the answer is a resounding âYesâ.
23. Reverend And The Makers – @ Reverend_Makers (Cooking Vinyl)
Great pop music can be many things, it can be escapist, it can be euphoric, it can be about love and loss, it can also be about the everyday, the magic in the mundane, the soundtrack to real life, a modern urban folk music.
22. Big Joan – The Long, Slow Death Of Big Joan (Blood Red Sounds).
Just about as perfect an example of a ‘post punk’ record as you’ll be able to find. Expect splintery shrapnel guitar playing, a big thumping bass, bombastic drumming & fierce vocals from the German member of the band (& sometime solo artist) Annette Berlin. Oh, and on which other albums released this year are you going to be able to hear not only someone battering crap out of dustbin but also someone singing through a miked up telephone?
21. Stranglers – Giants (Coursegood)
Finally free from record company pressure, free from having to bother with the pointless world of the charts, free from expectation, free from any constraints the rat pack in black of the Stranglers have cut their finest album for years. An album that will put this big cult band with its fascinating and strange history back into the increasingly fractured mainstream.
20. Shrag – Canines (Fortuna POP!)
Straining hard at the leash of indiepop, knuckles bloody from the playing and teeth bared for some up front tunes Shragâs third album, Canines, has them hit their stride. Their sound is knocked about on this record, black and blue from the blows of scuzzy growling guitar then soothed with crescendos of keys.
19. Divorce – Divorce (Night School Records)
If this isn’t the most blistering, bewildering & brilliant release you’ll hear all year I’d seriously like to know what is. Disturbing & crushing noise-rock. Listening to this would probably remind me of what it’s like to be caught up in the centre of an electric storm (without rubber footwear on) if I ever had been caught up in an electric storm without rubber footwear on. The magnificence is all the more when it borders on free jazz stylings with the introduction of a saxophone. If you can get through a couple of listenings you’ll end up hooked on it’s brilliance, guaranteed.
A strong album from Deftones; crashing and crunching walls of sound with the trademark weeping vocals and juxtaposition of loud/quiet/loud. It’s what they do best but is by no means resting on laurels, this long player is packed with creativeness and melodic intricacies to entrall and delight.
17. Evans the Death – Evans the Death (Fortuna POP!)
There are many influences at play on the debut from Evans the Death – from grunge, to indie, to post punk, to Britpop – all combining to make it witty, vitriolic, gentle and macabre. Itâs a heady mix that is remains tight. Itâs got a clear line of ancestry but a characteristic of its very own.
The announcement earlier this year that 90’s hardcore legends Strife were about to record another album was greeted round these parts with sheer unmitigated excitement. And boy did they not disappoint. The album comes flying out of the starting blocks on track 1 with “Torn Apart” and doesn’t take it’s foot off the accelerator till the run out groove. Expect yourself to be stage diving off the nearest work surface & mike grabbing the nearest, um, thing that you could pretend is a mike.
A slicker take on their angular advents sees the former Mclusky noiseniks move their sharp intelligence closer to the mainstream without losing their edge.
14. The Shook-Ups! ‘Bad Reception’ (Sound Flat)
Psych infused garage mayhem…from Wigan!! Farfisa driven masterpiece that has you questioning if this album is a new reording or an old re-issue.
13. Graham Coxon – & E (Parlophone / EMI)
Another busy year for Graham Coxon with dates with Blur and the release of his eighth studio album. A&E brings back the scuzz of his earlier solo work although this time it has a heavier Krautrock or psych inspired twist, a heart of metal beating beneath the electro skin. Another blinding collection of melodic yet discordant punk-pop that shows a man whose creative fire is really only just starting to burn.
12. LV – Sebenza (Hyperdub)
Sebenza was London trio LV’s first release on Hyperdub and it’s as clever and original a release as they come. An irreverent & vivacious album, full of banging riddims guaranteed to fill the dancefloor. The album is inspired by South African-music and as such it inevitable begs comparisons with one of our favourite remix album of the year the jittery Shangaan Shake, comparisons it easily stands up to.
11. Richard Hawley – Standing at the Sky’s Edge (EMI Music)
A change in direction on the seventh album from Richard Hawley as he builds a fuller sound that shows a progression of his craft and should bring him to the attention of a wider audience. The lyrical prowess and crooning voice are both present but this is an album brimming over with gems for old and new fans alike.
More adventures from the bearded story teller whose blend of ragged violin driven instrumental gets better and better with each release…
9. Martin Rossiter – The Defenestration of St Martin (Drop Anchor Music)
Released at the start of December the solo album of Gene’s Martin Rossiter may miss out on a deserved place on many end of year lists. But this is a stunning album of strikingly sober and sparse musical arrangements paired with heartbreaking lyrics delivered with a due sense of humour and self-deprecation. An astoundingly fine body of work.
8. Title Fight – Floral Green (Sideonedummy Records)
Title Fight blasted into the Billboard 100 with Floral Green leading some of us to mull over the possibility that perhaps this album was going to ‘Nevermind’ for them. Sadly it wasn’t to be. The album lilts between tracks featuring a bombardment of savage riffs and shouted vocals & tracks more anthemic & emo in nature. The balance is more weighted in favour of the former which feels as it should. Cracking stuff.
7. Carter Tutti Void – Transverse (Mute)
Carter Tutti Voidâs âËTransverse,â is a unique and challenging collaboration from Chris Carter & Cosey Fanni Tutti (Throbbing Gristle) and Nik Void (Factory Floor) â the tracks were created especially for the Short Circuit presents Mute Festival at the Roundhouse, London in May 2011.
6. Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes (Warp)
Dance maverick moving into deep space jazz- a work of boundless imagination from the electronic music guru.
5. Tim Burgess – Oh No, I Love You (O Genesis)
The second solo album from Charlatans’ frontman Tim Burgess has him team up with Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner to create a collection of delightful experimental pop. It effortlessly mixes beats and kitsch to get your feet tapping and songwriting to make your heart soar with Burgess exploring the boundaries of his voice and the whole album being as much about the space between as the sounds themselves. Beautiful, fun, brave and enduring.
4. Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It (Organs)
The Seattle falsetto troubadour Mark Hadreas is here seemingly at his most vulnerable with a record which is as fragile as they come. It’s the fact that these tracks seem so unevolved that’s their beauty, they touch parts of your soul that more faffed about music can never do. Gentle, restrained & full of emotion – beautiful stuff.
3. Godspeed You Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (Constellation)
The swirl of sound incorporates drones, classical instruments, feedback and even what sounds like some Hare Krishna chanting in one part of one song creating a real sense of tension and menace.
Godspeed really know how to slow burn a song, building with an amazing tension as the room fill with their dread before it explodes into moments of powerful beauty.
2. Killing Joke – MMX11 (Spinefarm)
As i write this it’s only a couple of days until the end of times predicted in the mayan calendar- whether this actually happens or not Killing Joke have already written the soundtrack for the end of times. MMX11 is an astonishing and powerful record that is as dark and feral as anything they have ever conjured up in their strange and brilliant history. A dense swirl of sound, the stink of heavy city creativity fills the room and the album hooks itself into you because it is beyond being just anise piece but a cleverly thought out avalanche of sound.
1. Swans – The Seer (Young God Records)
Weâre all going to die! Everybody knows this. Itâs what might happen next that does our heads in.
Is there a heaven? A hell? Do we go anywhere? Do we come back? Does it hurt? Will we be saved? Are we in a whole lot of trouble? What â the fuck â will happen?
Lots of people (with a range of frequently-sordid motives) claim to have all the answers you could wish for. But, deep down, thereâs always the doubt. The big, big question always comes back to you and you alone.
This latest Swans album has no solution. But as a soundtrack to your own âbig thoughtsâ, itâs very effective. Michael Gira famously sang âGod Damn The Sunâ. Itâs a funny thing to say, but itâs also rather more pensive and honest than the Polyphonic Spree viewpoint (Hey! Itâs The Sun) or the Spiritualised one (Oh Happy Day!).
The Seer is not a happy album, but it is hugely mesmeric, densely textured and staggeringly intense. Over something like two hours, it dips its gothy toe into all things gnostic, Daniken-istic and scary. Teutonic, Wagner-like war cries are laid over cataclysmic explosions, screams, squeals, moans and promises of plenty of misery.