Let me answer that question, as I’m sure you are wondering why, in January 2014, I’m writing about my favourite music of 2012, over a year after everybody else. For one thing, I find it impossible to judge a year’s music before the year has ended. “Best albums of the year” lists being published in November is just plain silly.
Secondly, when a year ends there is still a lot of its music that I haven’t heard. I’m never going to hear all a year’s music of course (I’m still finding my favourite albums of 1973) but waiting a year has meant several albums are in my 2012 list that I hadn’t heard a year ago.
The lists below are in purely alphabetical order.
My Favourite Albums of 2012
Actress – R.I.P.
The Cinematic Orchestra – In Motion #1
First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Road
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes
Daughn Gibson – All Hell
Goat – World Music
Grizzly Bear – Shields
Julia Holter – Ekstasis
Squarepusher – Ufabulum
Tame Impala – Lonerism
Sharon van Etten – Tramp
My Favourite EPs and singles of 2012
Burial + Four Tet – Nova
Clark – Fantasm Planes EP
Four Tet & Burial – Nova
King Creosote – I Learned From The Gaels EP
Magnetic Fields – Andrew in Drag
Those Darlins – Screws Get Loose
Why? – Sod In The Seed EP
My favourite gig of 2012
Midlake at the Brudenel Social Club
Spotify playlist of some of my favourites from 2012
The Knife – ‘Full Of Fire’ (LP – Shaking The Habitual) (Rabid) (video)
Jeffrey Lewis and The Rain – ‘WWPRD’ (WWPRD EP) (Rough Trade)
Machinedrum – ‘Eyesdontlie’ (LP – Vapor City) (Ninja Tune) (video)
Steve Mason – ‘Come To Me’ (LP – Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time) (Double Six)
Mogwai – ‘Special N’ (LP – Les Revenants) (Rock Action)
No Age – ‘C’mon Stimmung’ (LP – An Object) (Sub Pop) (SoundCloud)
Oneohtrix Point Never – ‘Zebra’ (LP – R Plus Seven) (Warp) (SoundCloud)
Phosphorescent – ‘Song For Zula’ (LP – Muchacho) (Dead Oceans) (SoundCloud)
Mark Pritchard – ‘Ghosts’ (EP – Ghosts) (Warp) http://youtu.be/IaUX1u1s4FQ
Raffertie – ‘One Track Mind’ (LP – Sleep Of Reason) (Ninja Tune)
These New Puritans – ‘V (Island Song)’ (LP – Field of Reeds) (infectious) (video)
Kurt Vile – ‘Never Run Away’ (LP – Wakin On A Pretty Daze) (Matador) (video)
There is one tune I forgot to include, one of my favourite singles of 2013, this by The Uncluded:
This week’s programme was going to be full of festive cheer, what with it being on 25th December. But then when I started to plan next week’s look back at 2013 and I realised I had far too much good music from the past 12 months for one showt. So no Christmas tunes this week. Anyway, if you really want festive tunes, you could do no better than listen to Phil Cope’s Christmas mix, recorded live during the WIN Christmas special a couple of weeks ago.
You can listen back to my programme in full courtesy of the wonders of Mixcloud:
Bleached – ‘Dreaming Without You’ (LP – Ride Your Heart) (Dead Oceans)
Boards of Canada – ‘New Seeds’ (LP – Tomorrow’s Harvest) (Warp)
Bill Callahan – ‘Javalin Unlanding’ (LP – Dream River) (Drag City)
The Cairo Gang – ‘Tiny Rebels’ (LP – Tiny Rebels) (Emtpy Cellar) (Soundcloud)
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – ‘Jubilee Street’ (LP – Push The Sky Away) (self-released) (video)
Deerhunter – ‘Neon Junkyard’ (LP – Monomania) (4AD)
Nils Frahm – ‘Says’ (LP – Spaces) (Erased Tapes) (Soundcloud)
Fuck Buttons – ‘The Red Wing’ (LP – Slow Focus) (ATP) (video)
Daughn Gibson – ‘You Don’t Fade’ (LP – Me Moan) (Sub Pop) (Soundcloud)
Kink Gong – ‘Baozoo Khen’ (LP – Voices) (Discrepant)
There is one song I would like to have played in this show, but not having a radio edit of it, I couldn’t. It’s GMF, by John Grant. One of the highlights of 2013 was seeing him have the gaul to sing this in a busy shopping centre when he did an instore performance at Jumbo Records.
As many a dull, spawn-of-their-loins-obsessed parent will tell you, having a child can present a different perspective on the ways in which the World works from time to time. This has a peculiar way of manifesting itself now and again, such as, just for example, discovering that those irritating adverts on YouTube can serve a genuinely beneficial sociological function.
Of course it serves us ruddy well right for trying to watch something for nothing that we have to sit through up to a whole five seconds of an advertisement before we can view whatever 5-minute load of pelt we’re wanting to stream, but this does not stop us finding the 8%-of-a-minute commercial for arse hair removal something of an irritant. However, when your choice of viewing is an episode of Fireman Sam, selected by your 3 year old son, and the advert is for the new album by Villagers there is clearly something of a benefit to them. This is particularly true when 24 hours later said child expects to see the same advert again and asks for it, and then spends much of the week singing Villagers around the house.
Thus it was that we added Villagers to the list of Good Things that he has now shown a genuine postive interest in, which includes Talking Heads, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, Spirit of Eden period Talk Talk and Diana Rigg-era episodes of The Avengers. Parenting isn’t a competition, but I’ve definitely won.
Enough of this Look At Me I Procreated guff, here’s what I went and gone done played this week:
I think we can safely assume that time travel is impossible (which is a shame, because I’ve already written this entire thing once and then accidentally irretrievably deleted it [although admittedly this would be footling use of such a powerful tool - shall I stop the Holocaust? No, I'll undelete the BCB piece I wrote and lost which was largely about myself. Still Marty McFly didn't do much more than make his family rich and everyone seems to love him]) so I think I can be forgiven for failing to play David Bowie on last week’s show. As I have previously explained, the cunning fox sent his new single Where Are We Now? out into the World just a few hours after I had recorded my show. Still, it provided a perfect opener for this week’s Selection Box. What is more remiss of me is the fact that the 70th birthday of arguably the greatest ever pop singer, Noel Scott Engel aka Scott Walker (anyone now yelling “Frank Sinatra!” at their computer can go and shove it up their badger. I’ve never understood the fuss over Ol’ Short Arse and never will), passed me by on the very day my first show in the new timeslot was broadcast.
Whilst I would always maintain that some of the greatest vocalists of all time are people who cannot actually sing (Mark E. Smith being a primary and quite astonishingly brilliant atonal example) when hearing Walker open his trap and, indeed, his throat I feel the pressing need to point people at the speakers and say, THAT is how you sing. I can’t imagine anything I’d like to see less than a guest appearance from Scott Walker on The X Factor, but if such a thing took place at least the result might be that the long queue of neat-haircutted chicken-in-a-basket warblers might just nudge each other and say, “Come on, we may as well go home.”
Not that such a thing is likely, of course, because these days Walker’s output couldn’t be further removed from the conveyor belt claptrap offered by ITV’s flagship God-it-goes-on-forever entertainment piece. Indeed is hard to think of another successful artist who has moved as far leftfield as Scott Walker. I cannot help but applaud any bloody-minded artist who is determined to challenge their own boundaries, experiment with new sounds and seek to explore untrodden avenues, and to hell with shifting units and keeping the bank balance high enough to afford another swimming pool in the back of a stretch Hummer. However, that’s not to say this necessarily results in a more rewarding output because, as much as I love music that takes you somewhere you’ve never been before, I must confess that some of Scott Walker’s more experimental material leaves me rather cold – indeed parts of his 2006 album The Drift were frankly unlistenable. When his new album Bish Bosch was released last month I was, therefore, left with a ummm ahh hesitation as to whether I actually wanted to hear it, let alone buy it. However, I have decided that hard-earned brass must be shelled out as the wares from the album I have heard thus far have been really rather splendid.
This includes the extraordinary Epizootics – which featured in this week’s Selection Box as our long track for the Thanking Your Kind Indulgence section of the show – a 10-minute brooding stew of tribal drums, a malevolent squealing three-note trumpet motif and Walker’s haunting vocal with the added bonus of hearing our hero intoning that we should “take that accidentally in the bollocks for a start.” What’s not to like, frankly?
Sunday night saw the family outfit Kitty, Daisy and Lewis take to the stage at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds in support of their long awaited new album â€“ Smoking In Heaven. Kitty, Daisy and Lewis sprang to fame a few years back with their endlessly danceable rockabilly album that sounded like it should have been recorded decades ago, and not by a trio of youngsters from London-town, and with the backing of Rob da Bankâ€™s Sunday Best label, won over the hearts of every retro-loving music fan in the land. The retro-image doesnâ€™t stop at slicked back hair and a love of banjos however â€“ the band release all their music on a variety of vinyl formats, and their new album is available in an old-style 78rpm 10â€ vinyl in a 1950â€™s hard-backed record album; itâ€™s the sort of dedication that makes me think none of them own iPods and must make all their calls on Bakelite phones. They were supported by guitar and double bass duo Spirit of John who came straight from the dampness of Rough Beats Festival to play an entertaining set of folk-rockabilly before the siblings took to the stage accompanied by their dad on guitar and mum on double bass.
The problem I have with seeing bands who are touring with a new album is that I always end up mildly disappointed â€“ I basically wish to hear the last album and inevitably havenâ€™t listened enough to the new record to fully appreciate the set. I havenâ€™t heard an awful lot of Smoking in Heaven, but KDL managed to balance the new and old songs enough to keep me happy. Guest musician Tan-Tan of the Skalites joined the trio on stage to show a diversity of the band that was refreshing to see â€“ just when you think that all this band are capable of is quaint rockabilly, they whip out a splash of dancehall/ska that keeps you dancing. The highlight for me was new single â€˜Messin with my Lifeâ€™, which is unashamingly a summer pop song; yeh itâ€™s obvious, but Kitty, Daisy and Lewis do it so well that I donâ€™t mind at all.
New single – Messin with My Life, released 27th June
Now that the internet has rendered music from most of the world available in the time it tales Nick Clegg to renege on an election promise, it seems almost quaint to remember that the zeitgeist used to have a bike.
The indefinable spirit of the age used to pop up all over the world and each musical advance was complete with a map reference.
Whether it was Manchester in the late eighties, Berlin in the mid seventies or Liverpool in the early sixties geographical locations were synonymous with the music that was made there, and never was this more pronounced than in Nashville, Tennessee, which is indelibly linked in popular culture with country music.
In contrast to the examples above, country music didn’t begin in Nashville, but it was here that the music that had originated in Appalachian bluegrass and hardened into the gritty honky tonk of Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzel had the beer stains hosed off it’s Stetson and cleaned up it’s act.
In the process it became, and still is, the most successful genre of music in the world.
If you can get over the unashamedly prosaic title of this newly released compilation by The Undertones, it’s a fine set of tunes. Â This is the third Undertones ‘Best Of’ compilation to have adopted the title of their debut single, and best known song, ‘Teenage Kicks’. Â The difference is…this time it’s The Very Best Of. Â I assume that’s because not only does it have 20 songs on, but also the videos to ‘Teenage Kicks’ and ‘My Perfect Cousin’, both of which feature some fine knitwear.
I hadn’t realised how popular Crystal Castles have become. Â I haven’t got their second album and have missed what I can only assume has been a huge furore surrounding them since the release of their debut in 2009. Â Last night’s gig at Leeds Met was a sell out, and the kids were loving it. Â [I can now legitimately refer to such gig-goers as kids as I believe I am now scientifically old enough to have fathered a child the same age as at least half of last night's audience. Â This fact is reassuring rather than alarming, as it evidences my belief that I'm still 'cool' (although use of that 20th century word may betray me) and have not yet succumbed to the type of 'safe' dad music someone of my age might start realising is going to see my happily to my retirement.]
HEALTH, Leeds Met, 23rd October 2010
This tour isn’t the first time Crystal Castles and HEALTH have been mentioned by me in the same breath, as I have played previous musical collaborations by them in my show. Â I had thus far failed to see HEALTH and having heard they were marvellous live, I was not disappointed. Â They were quite brilliant and I was left wondering whether Crystal Castles may have made an error by being supported by a band so good. Â The charismatic bass player was centre stage, being as he wasÂ Â the most visually entertaining member of the band. Â I was actually surprised by how organic their line-up was. Â There was a fair amount of synthetic effects, but largely their sound was comprised of guitars, bass, drums, more drums, and vocals. Â Their whole set was an onslaught of confident, articulate, tightly knitted noise, and the highlights were Die Slow and USA Boys.
The between-band downtime, prolonged due to the malfunction of either an XLR or a DI box on stage, wasn’t the usual painful wait, for me at least. Â The soundman had a penchant for Elliott Smith, so I got to hear all of Elliott Smith and half of Either Or during the wait.
Crystal Castles, Leeds Met, 23rd October 2010
My paternal concerns about whether Crystal Castles may find themselves upstaged by HEALTH proved unnecessary. Â They started with (I assume) a couple of tunes from Crystal Castles (II) and the youth were going crazy, lapping it up. Â The sound was quite immense – deep, full-on electronics, piercing vocals and live drums. Â Couple their aural onslaught with the visual element of the live experience, and it was a performance I really could not find fault with. Â The heavy use of backlit strobes, against an otherwise mostly dark stage, with Alice Glass’s onstage athleticism, and they are quite a proposition. Â Quite a brilliant night.