…aaaand finally, the top five albums which I enjoyed the most in 2012. A couple of these suffered a bit from being released neither on tape nor vinyl – the two formats to which I listen the most – and one benefited immeasurably from being in the van constantly for months.
Nevertheless, these things are always subjective and in a way it doesn’t much matter about the details, for whatever reason I have enjoyed these albums the most, and that’s that. There are plenty more awesome records out there to which I have never even listened, I am sure, but that’s not how these things work, is it.
If you want a definitive list go to Metacritic or somewhere like that and get an average list of the average of everyone’s taste averaged out across the year. The result will be average, of course, but it’s hard to argue that it isn’t in some sort of way definitive in terms of what ‘best music’ might mean. Anyway, whatever, none of us really want that shit anyway, do we. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here in the first place.
1. Easter – Innocence Man
Typically, albums where you know half the songs well in advance of the actual record being released suffer from a sense of diminished thrill. It’s impossible to rekindle that excitement you feel the first time you hear something genuinely brilliant, and as much as you might like the songs, it’s hard for the album to excite you as much as you want it to.
Easter’s debut album of huge, American-facing guitar indie suffered from that in that this didn’t quite thrill me on release as I knew it all too well already, but consistently over the year I’ve gone back and listened to it again and again and loved it every time. It helps that the new songs like Pages and the epic downer Begin Again are just as brilliant as the ones I knew already, I suppose, but in the end it’s just a great album and no amount of advance over-exposure has managed to ruin the satisfaction of listening to it.
2. Paws – Cokefloat
This is another album which by rights should have suffered from over-exposure to the songs prior to the actual release date. Never mind having heard most of these songs a dozen times live, I actually recorded four of them for our Toad Session with the band.
As with Easter, however, despite this fact there is no way around how excellent this album is: a perfect combination of poignant heartbreak, vindictive bitterness and outstanding pop fun. They managed to break up the constant onslaught of sprightly guitar music to give the album some nuance, they didn’t polish their rough and ready approach too much, and in doing so basically just spat out a gleeful slap round the face of mischievous boisterousness.
3. Now Wakes the Sea – Fluoxetine Morning
For an album released to pretty much zero fanfare and only marginally more acclaim, this really has stuck with me over the course of the last twelve months. It’s a crackly, unpleasant downer of a record, sure enough, but there’s something gripping about it nonetheless.
Songs about depression and medication are hardly likely to make for a cheerful wee listen of course, but there’s still something raw and engaging about this album. There is guitar growl and there are drums, but it still has the feel of one of those records of glacial, mumbled miserablism which, ah well, might as well admit it, was always going to be right up my street, really, wasn’t it.
4. Water World – Water Bird
It didn’t grab me entirely on the first few listens, I have to confess, but it lived in the tape player in the van for so long that it only took a couple of weeks for it to become a huge favourite.
There are some lovely, sluggish dreamers which wouldn’t sound out of place emerging from Joe’s other band, the awesome Waiters, and then some full-on garage indie pop tunes, like the utterly brilliant Catch Yrself. There’s a gorgeous laziness to the sound, as if the band themselves aren’t trying too hard to impress you, particularly with moments like the gloriously out of tune guitar solo on Don’t Think, but the strength of the tunes will get through to you in the end.
5. Barna Howard – Barna Howard
For so simple a format – nothing more than a bloke with an acoustic guitar – I really am impressed that this album is as good as it is. Generally this kind of music takes an age to sink in, just because the ‘bloke with a guitar’ thing is so very, very familiar, but from the very first listen of brilliant opener Horizons Fade I was absolutely hooked.
This is one of those albums which takes a sad sounds and makes it glorious – just lie back and enjoy the melancholy, and enjoy the fact that great albums can still be made over a weekend by someone with no equipment whatsoever – if they can write songs and sing, they can make a great record.*
*Disclaimer – this album may have taken bloody years to make for all I know, I just mean that in theory it could have been really cheap and easy to make.