It's that time of year again to announce to the world what our Top 10 albums are for 2012. In reverse order...
Frank Ocean's free-flow barritone is as strong as any key soul vocalist from the past few decades. Throw in the production to match, from true 70's jazz-funk legends, to modern day neo R&B starlets, to the hip hop structure of beats and skits, this album expertly transcends musical eras, with conviction and without ever sounding contrived. Lyrically it pulls no punches around a variety of adult subjects, making the songwriting as broad as it is sonically. As respectfully retro as much as it is the sound of the future. Timeless.
The hype for Alabama Shakes was like no other in 2012 and this album more than lived up to it on it's release in April. A stunningly beautiful and intoxicating collection of throwback soul, southern rock and r&b grooves. However it's 22 year old singer and guitarist Brittany Howard's voice that makes this really special. part soft and sweet and part full of passion and soul - it recalls Janis, Aretha, and even Otis. She really is a true star and this is from someone who only quit her post office job last November.
Rough Trade exclusive with a bonus 12 track remix cd. Django Django are mining a seam of experimental art rock that hasn't been struck so well since the heady days of The Beta Band, their unique blend of guitar pop, electronica and melodic excellence has taken them to places that most bands wouldn't reach in twice the time. Glam rock oompa loompas at a rave.
Award winning debut album from this quartet, who have successfully managed to incorporate countless music genres, production techniques and sensibilities, whilst still sounding effortlessly at ease and fully in control of their self-made musical identities. From the epic indie-pop hooks, to the folktronic sentimentality, to the bottom end of the beats and the art rock synths, the albums references are immeasurable, both sonically and literary, without sounding too busy. These combined elements make this an album you'll instantly remember and one you'll want to revisit often.
Rough Trade version with an exclusive 6 track cd of vinyl only cuts and b-sides. Damien Jurado's recent work with Richard Swift has invigorated an already impressive body of work, fleshing out the song-writer's nuanced sketches with rich and original textures. This year's album is a real high water mark, a remarkable monument to the power of good, honest craft and artistic pursuit; an all too rare occurrence in this age of pop idols, reality stars and hype machine hipsters.
Rough Trade exclusive with bonus cd featuring 5 tracks recorded at Goat's first ever live show at The Lexington. Truly psychedelic - the debut album from Goat is a wonderous affair, it mixes psych rock freak out, funk and voodoo inspired rhythms but all the while managing absolutely huge killer pop hooks. Play it loud for maximum effect. Goat - the first sonic ritual .
Rough Trade exclusive with bonus cd featuring six cover versions of AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Ramones, Darren Hayman, Eux Autres and The Go Betweens. A heady mix of wide-eyed indie energy married to a superlative lyrical eye for detail, a bittersweet emotional spectrum featuring Elizabeth Morris' crystal clear, aching vocal performance transcend any notions of twee-pop stereotypes, to create a firmly grounded, acutely observed and very human work of art.
Rough Trade exclusive with a bonus 6 track cd 'Toy – Live at the BBC. A monumental slab of sonic experimentation anchored with some effortlessly huge hooks and swirling maelstroms of guitars, vintage synths and reverb drenched vocals Toy combine influences with an ease and maturity that belie their tender years. The rock band for the age may well have emerged.
Rough Trade exclusive with a bonus 9 track cd featuring new tracks, b-sides and mixes from Bullion, Kenton Slash, Bostro Pesopeo and Pachanga Boys plus updated artwork. John Talabot has triumphantly intertwined sunburnt balearic boogie with touches of filtered French funk, alongside the rain-sheltering bleakness of British bass after-dark, the shady warehouse depths of early German deep house, and cinematic synth-heavy soundcapes worthy of the Italians - landing itself as a finished piece on the very aptly-named permanent vacation label. The result is an album which is a relatively chirpy multi-Euro dance-in-the-dark at first glance, but undoubtedly harbours a much more heads-down sense of darkness under it's surface. Exceptional.
Rough Trade exclusive with bonus cd. A unique and thrilling sound world in which to lose yourself, hazy, reverb-drenched layers of synth, married to theatrical art-rock hooks and driving post-punk rhythms all buzzing with a direct, spontaneous energy, incredibly and expertly manufactured by one pair of hands and ears, with a brilliant, original and effervescent imagination. The five tracks that make up the bonus disc include three hard-to-find gems recorded in the same period as the album itself alongside two brand new remixes. 'Ambrosia' originally appeared on the Canadian LP pressing of the album, 'Christmas Song' was a digital-only bonus track and 'Song For Ric', a collaboration with Majical Cloudz, appeared on a compilation put together to help launch the music website Ad Hoc. The remixes include Skip's take on 'Genesis' and Baardsen's reworking of 'Be A Body.