Here we are then with the final part of our albums of the year countdown. We’ve already taken a look at the records we ranked from 15 – 6 and today we reveal who made it into the Top 5 and more importantly who it is who has taken the coveted number one spot.
Before we get to that, here are a few artists and albums who were just outside the Top 15 but still worthy of a mention.
Citizens! – Here We Are
Chairlift – Something
Chad Valley – Young Hunger
Tame Impala – Lonerism
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
And a reminder of who has featured on the list so far.
Numbers 15 – 11
15. Professor Penguin – Planes
14. Save The Clocktower – Through The Glass
13. Jack Robert Hardman – Jack Robert Hardman
12. The Penelopes – Never Live Another Yesterday
11. Adrian Younge – Something About April
Numbers 10 – 6
10. Conveyor – Conveyor
9. She Makes War – Little Battles
8. 2:54 – 2:54
7. Toy – Toy
6. Roman Ruins – Homebuilding
On to the Top 5 but before we move on, a quick confession. We have got a joint number one at the top of the list. The two albums we have chosen have affected us in extremely disparate ways over the months and try as we might, we couldn’t say we loved one more than the other. One is a sing-along indie gem, the other a heartbreaking piece of ambiance and emotion. You’ll see what we mean when you get there.
5. Sameblod – Braided Memos
Asked to describe their sound, Frederick Rundqvist and Mikael Mattisson classified it as ”hopeful-electronic-mellow-pop with a lot of different influences”, they pretty much nailed it. The album is full of confidence, of sanguinity, even in its darker moments there is an underlying sense of hope. Like the pea beneath the mattress of synthesiser sounds upon mattress after mattress of synthesiser sounds, try as you like, you will still be able to feel it there. “UR Road”, for example, is carefree, joyously whistling away, happy and content with life. It’s flamboyant, animated and uplifting with a smile that is infectious. Similarly, “Always”, which follows it, is the bright sun shining on young, happy-go-lucky people laughing and joking as they travel and jape together across European fields, mountain paths, beaches. All those places beautiful people go in music videos. Not all the tracks are as overtly uplifting but there is a wistful tenderness to almost all, “The Hardest Choice”, which features fellow Swede and purveyor of delightfully warm dream-pop in his own right, Summer Heart, begins and ends with birdsong. Rather than sounding twee, it completely fits the summery feel and transports you to the countryside.
Buy it from: Amazon
4. Niki & the Dove – Instinct
It was a long time coming and almost all of the songs had been given away for free in one form or another before it even came out, but Instinct was an absolutely amazing piece of pop music. On their debut, Malin Dahlstrom and Gustaf Karlof and showed that pop can be dark and light, pop can exist and flourish in the corner of your mind, probing and stimulating, and pop can still quicken your heart without the need to mainline sugar first. Tune follows big tune as they take the best elements of pop’s history and explode them across the dancefloor. The whole thing is undeniably infectious and in places utterly discolicious. “DJ, Ease My Mind” may start slowly but is soon a mass of compulsive percussion and hands in the air euphoria while “Somebody” makes you wonder what might have been if Prince still wrote like he did in his pomp. Instinct is just an utter pop joy.
Buy it from: Amazon
3. Jessie Ware – Devotion
Blessed with a velvet soft voice that just melts your heart, Jessie Ware broke out big style in 2012 with people falling over themselves to praise her, including a Mercury nomination, and with good reason. We were buying whatever she was selling which was exquisitely executed, soft and emotional pop music laced with R’n’B, electronics and soulful vocals. Devotion is a classy affair reminiscent of the sultry elegance of Sadé or the emotion of Whitney. “Running” is a glorious account of falling in love again while “Night Light” offers moments of simmering, dramatic intensity. Gentle melodies drip over subtle beats; down-tempo in style it may be but it still excites and moves the listener.
Buy it from: iTunes
=1. Of Monsters And Men – My Head Is An Animal
From the moment we first heard “Little Talks” we knew there was something special about Of Monsters And Men. A spectacular show at London’s Lexington confirmed it and when we finally got hold of an import copy of My Head Is An Animal it didn’t leave the car stereo for months. It’s an album of rich indie-folk sounds overflowing with charm and whimsy. Largely fantastical in content, the listener is drawn in by its storybook feel. The songs evoke childhood memories, of fairytales, extraordinary adventures across Tolkien-esque landscapes and mythical beasts. All of which is presented by big, full sounds enriched by brass and accordion.
They don’t only do imagination and wonder though; emotion and human nature also play their part. In “Love Love Love” for example which adds fragility and a sense of susceptibility by eschewing percussion. Once you realise the drums are missing, the effect is disarming and the song immediately feels exposed and vulnerable. It is a lovely contrast to the strong and confident early sounds of the album, “Dirt Paws”, “Mountain Sound” and “Little Talks” are bold tales, laden with hey’s and la la la’s. Ready made for an audience to latch on to and sing along with, even if they have never heard the songs before.
Buy it from: Amazon
=1. Arrange – New Memory
It’s hard to believe that Malcolm Lacey is only 19, such is the maturity and emotional depth of New Memory. He’s prolific as well; this was his seventh release as Arrange in two years. Such rapid productivity has not diminished the quality of his output and New Memory is an evocative and heart wrenching piece of haunting ambient sounds and whisper light vocals. Unlike so many artists who use music to convey tales of love won, lost and won again, Lacey’s lyrics recount an abusive childhood. Musically it plays like smoke on the wind, swirling gently it is poignant and ethereal. Lyrically there is such depth of emotion; it is hard not to shed a tear. Listening to “Where I Go At Night” in particular is like having your heart shattered into tiny pieces as he sings to his mother “I’ve been searching for years, and all I’ve got to hear you say is how you hurt so much, and that you blame yourself, but I hurt some too, and I know that you need help. If I could take it all, if I could lift your burden off of you, I would, if I could”. Everything about this record is achingly beautiful; ignore the lyrics and you have some of the most wondrous floating sounds to enjoy, listen to the very real pain in Lacey’s words and you have the most emotionally charged and moving piece of music you will hear in a long long time.
Buy it from: Arrange
So there you have it, our albums of the year list for 2012. It was another great year for music and choosing which albums we wanted to include was surprisingly difficult. Now it’s your turn, which albums did you love this year and what did you think of our list? Over to you.