Finally onto the top ten…
10. XXYYXX – XXYYXX
I discovered XXYYXX via a recommended youtube video that I clicked out of impulse. The video and song are brilliant and it has gone pretty viral with over 5 millon views. Anyway his album is great. Most of the sounds created by the 17 year old are drugged out electronic beats that feature popular samples from the likes of, TLC (No Scrubs) and Alt-j (Breezeblocks).
9. Death Grips – The Money Store
Oh Death Grips, you so crazy. The Sacramento punk-rap-electronic-whatever-you-want-to-call-it band, have had a mental year. After signing with Sony (the contract was printed out on Simon Cowell’s printer) they released the brilliant Money Store, then released ‘NO LOVE DEEP WEB’ (their second LP of 2012) for free download without Sony’s permission. Thus they were released from their record deal. Oh and NO LOVE DEEP WEB’s cover is a picture of an erect penis.
‘The Money Store’ builds on the anger and rawness of ‘Exmilitary’ (Death Grips debut mixtape) with more electronic sounds and complex song structure. The result is something unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. The only problem with Death Grips is finding a suitable time to listen to it.
8. Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
Andy Stott’s 3rd LP ‘Luxury Problems’ is stunning effort, mixing the deep, dark, dubby sounds from his earlier work with more vocals. The result is something almost unsettling yet incredibly listenable.
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7. Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
Alt-J are the UK’s biggest indie success of 2012; rising from obscurity this year with their self coined ‘folk-step’ they have achieved both commercial and critical success, winning the Mercury Music Prize and selling out UK and international tours.
‘An Awesome Wave’ is brilliant trip, that combines folk, electronic music and indie pop. I managed to see the band this year at Reading Festival, and they killed it, managing to replicate the sound of the LP with surprising competency .
6. Ab-soul – Control System
On track two of ‘Control System’ Ab-soul (aka Soulo) describes himself as an ‘abstract asshole’, this is a precursor for what is to follow. Soulo has a hell of lot of things to say from life, to politics, to drugs, to conspiracy theories, to girls. ‘Control System’ centers on Soulo’s obsession that the American public is controlled and almost brainwashed by the political powers and MNC’s.
Soulo’s flow and lyrical content is spot-on; his words weave stories, create images and verses that are both as memorable as they are complex. And then the beats, damn they are good. The more I listen to the album the more you can hear strong Kanye influences, Soulo even twists Kanye’s “Yeezy Taught me”.
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5. Chromatics – Kill For Love
Mentioned earlier for his work on 29th placed, ‘Themes for an Imaginary Film’, Johnny Jewel has been a busy boy this year. For Chromatics he teams up with a full band, including female vocalist Ruth Radelet, who creates the yearning voice over most of the tracks on the stunning LP. The album is joy to listen to; the production and song structure is stunning. From catchy Eightiesesc pop ballads like ‘Back to the Grave’ to stirring instrumentals like ‘Broken Mirrors’, ‘Kill for Love’ has one of the most seductive and consistent sounds of 2012.
4. Grimes – Visions
I downloaded Claire Bucher’s aka Grimes’ first album back in 2010, it was a lo-fi eerie effort that lacked proper production and direction, however it was a start and a spark of talent. I remember watching a video (which has now been taken down) of Claire as a shy, quirky Canadian student talking about her fascination with astronomy and space. She had no charisma or image conscience.
After moving to 4AD and having her image and sound cultivating and refined Claire has evolved into an indie pop star. ‘Visions’ matches Grimes style; it is catchy, etherial and has an almost harmless childlike feel. It is an albums you can dance, chill or work to. And with some of the best tracks of 2012 it is a must for all lovers of music.
3. Mac DeMarco – 2
Easily the surprise of the year. I didn’t know who Mac DeMarco was until I read the review of ‘2’ on Pitchfork, yes it was favourable but not #3 of the year good. I wasn’t too impressed after one listen, but as the album was reasonably short I found myself putting it back on, and back on, and back on. Before I knew it I was hooked. The sleezy yet honest sound with catchy guitar licks combined with Mac’s down to earth lyricism, that make him seem so accessible, almost to the point where you could imagine hanging out and necking a few beers with him.
Mac comes across as pretty funny guy, whether it is singing about his favourite cigs (Ode to Viceroy) or his ‘Kind of Women’, his delivery can at times sound like a joke as you hear his voice crack and struggle as he reaches for those silly high notes. Mac maybe be the star of the show, but the album wouldn’t be anywhere near as listenable if it didn’t feature such catchy and fitting instrumentation. My girlfriend doesn’t understand why I like this album so much, maybe I don’t either, but since I read that review in November I haven’t really stopped listening to it. It’s hard verbalize why you keep going back to an album, yes “this lyric and that sound” are good, but sometimes one just clicks and you find yourself inexplicably hooked.
2. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
Kendrick Lamar must be fed up with Kindjacket. First he has to wait a whole extra year to find to find he only came 2nd in our top albums of 2011, then he has to wait until the new year to find out he’s coming 2nd for the 2nd year in a row.
‘Section. 80’ was Kendrick’s breakthrough LP. It was a stunning album that combined sterling production with stirring lyrics. Recently driving home, I found myself tearing up at the brutality and rawness of ‘Keisha’s Song’.
‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ is more of a concept album than ‘Section. 80’, recalling Kendrick’s younger years. It is a stunning, heart wrenching story filled countless songs of the finest quality.
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1. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Frank Ocean coming out has to be the publicity stunt of 2013. And the timing… oh it was perfect. A week before the release of the eagerly anticipated debut LP frank uploaded a letter stating his feelings and that he’d had and desired a relationship with a man. All of sudden the whole world was talking. How could a man from the notoriously homophobic (according to the press) Odd Future be gay!?
Regardless to this stunt Channel Orange is a stunning R&B record. Frank’s smooth voice brilliantly guides the listener through a journey of love, loss and self discovery. It is one of those albums where you find your favourite song changing all the time. One minute it will the scintillating 10 minute epic ‘Pyramids’, or it will be the catchy ‘Forest Gump’ and some days it will be the touching ‘Bad Religion’.
Features from Earl Sweatshirt, John Mayer and Andre 3000 are tastefully chosen. Neither of these steal the show from Frank, they lift him up into greatness.
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Thanks for reading!
A special mention goes to the Dirty Projectors’ Album ‘Swing lo Magellan’ and Soko’s Album ‘I Thought I Was An Alien’. Both albums would have made in into the list, but only really started listening to them when I was on the last ten, so I thought it would be unfair to include them.
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