Song, by Toad’s Top Albums of 2012: 6-10

Basic-Chicken-Loser-TrophyWell, after illness has kept me away from the internet for a few days, I am finally back to finish off this particular list.

I had my first ever bad oyster, would you believe.  Given the long and happy relationship I’ve had with oysters over the years, I feel personally offended – how dare you do this to me after I have so lovingly scarfed down hundreds and hundreds of your slippery, salty brethren? Have you no sense of gratitude?
Apparently not.

Anyhow, back to the list of the twenty albums I enjoyed the most over 2012.  There are some pretty obscure selections in there, but I promise I am not trying to be one of those ‘oh, I doubt you’d have heard of them’ hipsters, it’s just that, well I spend so much time exploring the smaller releases I genuinely haven’t spent anything like as much time with the more well-known stuff.  So it’s not a deliberate sneer, simply a result of there being a finite number of hours in the day.

Again, to stop the embeds slowing down the whole site, I have put the list after the jump.

RM Hubbert - Thirteen Lost and Found 6. R.M. Hubbert – Thirteen Lost and Found

Most artists who play largely instrumental music, but then decide to pepper an album with a pile of guest appearances by all sorts of different vocalists, end up with a sort of odd hodge-podge of a record which sacrifices in coherence what it adds in individual moments.

No such issue here, however, as Hubbert’s flamenco-style guitar playing is sufficiently distinctive that the collaborative tracks retain a strong element of his own personal style, and there are still enough of his own solo contributions that the record as a whole remains very much his, despite the leeway he has given his co-conspirators to stamp their own personality on the songs to which they contribute.

Onions - Pleasure Blast 7. Onions – Pleasure Blast

An album of ebullient indie-pop made by people who clearly have little interest in what the mainstream or the tight-jeaned clans are up to.  This album is sufficiently sure about what it wants to be, and sufficiently disinterested in pretending to be anything else, that you end up with no choice but to take it entirely on its own terms.

And those terms are short, sharp melodies, cracking harmonies, and sweet, hummable tunes which belie the the occasionally rather bitter, cynical lyrics underneath.  For an album which has been ‘due’ since about 2008 as far as I can tell, it was worth the wait.

Niilo Smeds - Helicopter Circles 8. Niilo Smeds – Helicopter Circles

Helicopter Circles (as well as being a 2011 release, technically, rather than a 2012 one) comes across as a relatively bare bones album of acoustic pop, interspersed with moments of slack disintegration.

This album sounds lo-fi enough, but the tape of demos which preceded is both brilliant and even more basic, and when you go from one to the other it lends Helicopter Circles a new aura of polish. In many ways it is just basic acoustic pop, but after repeated listens its hooks take hold, and the odd lyrics fascinating and unsettling nature give this whole, deceptively simple album a sense of the genuinely compelling.

D Gwalia - In Puget Sound 9. D. Gwalia – In Puget Sound

One of the benefits of your Best of 2012 list being written in early 2013 is that albums like this, which I was barely aware of until late December, can be included, whereas if I had done my list at the conventional time that might not have happened.

I called this album ‘gloriously morose’ when I first reviewed it a couple of weeks ago, and I don’t think I can do better now. It’s an epic downer of a record which seems to indulge in its own sense of doom to such an extent I actually find it kind of uplifting.

CCI00003 10. Hut – Hut

A bit like Niilo Smeds, this isn’t technically a 2012 release I don’t think, but seeing as it’s close enough and this year was the first time I seriously listened to it, I think it counts.

As you’ll see in my Top 5, a couple of albums this year benefited greatly from being released on tape, as there are a few things I have played absolutely to death whilst driving around in the van, and this is one of them.

It’s a lo-fi record of garagey guitar pop with plenty of nice, nasty synth burbling away in the background, and deserves to be far more than simply a Hooded Fang side project – not that they’re bad either!

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