albums | articles | contact | events | gig reviews | interviews | links | mp3s | singles/EPs | search

review of 2012

2012 - year of the the Matthew apparently. And where are all the lady reviewers this year?:


Christopher Carney

“All [things] start with a reading of history... How was it in the past? The question is a prelude to justifying how it should be in the future. History is a subject for study, but also a basis for action.” - Hugo Young, The Guardian, January 7 1982, p18

There has to be a reason for looking back. What has gone before should be built upon, improved and in some cases defeated. The only real purpose of a list such as this is to spur things on, to remind those who would act that they must push further than what exists.

What follows, in no particular order, is a list of reasons to push harder and be better.

Dead Wolf Club - s/t
The first album I reviewed in 2012 makes it onto the best of list, Dead Wolf Club's self titled début is still loud and I still haven't forgotten about them. They're a band I say you should watch out for. This is what I wrote about them:

Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth
Van Halen got Dave Lee Roth back, they managed to make an album... and... and... I loved it! The bit where DLR says “Told you I was coming back! Say you missed me, say it like you mean it!” Is still great. I got to not be disappointed by their return. Pretty stoked. Here's what I wrote about them:

The Rosie Taylor Project – Twin Beds
I thoroughly enjoyed this album when I received it and the band were kind enough to thank me for the review I wrote which I thought was lovely. I haven't listened to it as much as I expected to, but I revisited it recently and it's still lovely and it still makes me think that there's hope. Here's what I had to say about it back then:

Duke Special – Oh Pioneer
This album was gorgeous. I still think so too. It also has one of the best opening songs I've heard in a while. My review:

Japandroids – Celebration Rock
This band sounds exactly like running as fast as you can, in a city, during summer should sound. There is nothing better I could say. Listening to them now I still feel like there is wind rushing past my face. This album fights gloom.

Ben Folds Five – The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind
Yet another of my favourite bands returned and also didn't disappoint. This album stands with their best work and I'm still listening to songs off it with regularity. My iTunes genre for Ben Folds Five suggests that the whole is greater than the parts. I really like the parts, I love Ben Folds Five and this album. Here's the words that came when I listened to it before:

If anything, I like this album much more than when I wrote that review, this recap has caused me to put it back on.

Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral
Mark Lanegan brought an album out, it sounds like Mark Lanegan, yes even the disco number. You know that means it sounds like something fantastic. Buy it, and all the other stuff he does too.

We don't stand still. Much as I would like one, there will not be a moratorium on new releases. You can never catch up. All you can do is try and find the best stuff you can – within or without – and hope that that is what everyone involved is also doing. 2012 was pretty good, here's to every year after being better. Here's to there being no high water mark, or at the least to the attempt.

Matt Brown

Top 5 albums of 2012:
1. How To Dress Well - 'Total Loss'
I don't know if I could say that this is definitely the best record of the year but it's the one that affected me the most and maybe the one I've been back to most often. Such a personal album that manages to be completely sad but also really uplifting and ultimately just beautiful

2. Flying Lotus - 'Until the Quiet Comes'
A little more chilled and varied than 'Cosmogramma' but easily as good (if not better.) The kind of music Miles Davis would make if he was alive today. Amazing.

3. Grizzly Bear - 'Shields'
Their most focused and muscular record with brilliant songs and really inventive arrangements and playing.

4. El-P - 'Cancer 4 Cure'
Angry futuristic hip-hop at it's best from the ex-Company Flow rapper. One of the rare modern rap albums that is concise and engaging all the way through.

5. Laurel Halo - 'Quarantine'
Unsettling electronic torch songs - like Bjork meets Boards of Canada. The best album cover of the year too (probably.)

Top 5 tracks:
1. Burial - 'Kindred'
2. Frank Ocen - 'Bad Religion'
3. Killer Mike - 'Big Beast'
4. Sharon Van Etten - 'Serpents'
5. Perfume Genius - 'Dark Parts'

Will Columbine

Top Albums of 2012:

Tame Impala - "Lonerism"
One man music-making machine Kevin Parker's second LP is like 12 'best bits' of songs each expanded to 4 minutes and then stuck together. It shouldn't hang together as well as it does but the obsessive Aussie tinkered with the tracks for a year before enlisting Dave "Flaming Lips" Fridmann for the final polish, and the results speak for themselves. The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Todd Rundgren and Black Sabbath are all obvious influences yet somehow the album never sounds retro. Hopefully Kasabian are listening to "Elephant" right now and feeling really bad.

Dinosaur Jr - "I Bet On Sky"
At first listen, Dino's 3rd album since their reformation seemed underwhelming but I've gone back to it again and again. "Watch the Corners" and "Pierce the Morning Rain" are almost up there with the classics from Mascis and co's heyday, and even if some tracks sound like retreads of earlier work then that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a band just needs to do what it does and that's enough.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - "Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!"
Much like Dino Jr, another reformed band put out an album that was satisfyingly "them" rather than surprising in any way. Nonetheless, "ADBA" was shorter and easier to digest in one sitting than previous epics, and all the better for it.

Grimes - "Visions"
Canadian chipmunk-looking girl goes three weeks without sleep or food and produces dark, swirly, ethereal dance music with harsh beats, pitch-shifted vocals and a pop edge. Never mind that you can't understand what she's singing about...I'm sure this is what Madonna ended up sounding like in an alternate universe.

Animal Collective - "Centipede Hz"
I could have chosen another band that rested on its laurels in 2012 (hello, Beach House!) or gone with the popular consensus (however, the latest Grizzly Bear album is only half excellent); instead, my vote goes to a group that tried to do something radically different and got penalised. Compared to the lush, melodic "Merriweather Post Pavilon", "Centipede HZ" was jarring, messy, inaccessible and self-indulgent to many ears, but, taken as a whole, it gradually revealed itself to be a strange and intoxicating journey. It just goes to show that not all albums can be immediately understood or appreciated.

Top Tracks:
Jessie Ware - "110%"
Dinosaur Jr - "Watch the Corners"
Alt-J - "Tessellate"
Grizzly Bear - "Yet Again"
Beach House - "Lazuli"

Matt Bull

Top albums of 2012 are:
1. Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg
2. Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
3. Django Django - Django Django
4. Shearwater - Animal Joy
5. Grizzly Bear - Shields

Top tracks:
1. Shearwater - Animal Life
2. Django Django - Default
3. Alt-J - Tessellate
4. Spiritualized - Hey Jane
5. Anais Mitchell - Young Man In America

...I thought I'd give an extra 5 as these narrowly missed out!
6. Alabama Shakes - Hold On
7. Lucy Rose - Lines
8. Two Gallants - My Love Wont Wait
9. First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
10. We Are Augustines - Chapel Song

Matthew Haddrill

Of course it's hard to narrow it down to 5. A hard year for me, quite unsettling, admittedly moving to a lovely new town in the heart of Galicia, Spain, but the country faces tough times and I felt right up close to some of the economic problems. I'm also dogged with a persistent illness which again shadowed my year. So I drew on music quite heavily, for both sustenance and solace. It's my drug of choice these days … so from the mountains of music, here are a few gems:


The Maccabees – Given To The Wild
Hands up all those who think (like Mark Radcliffe on SixMusic) The Maccabees really stepped up a gear for their third album, maybe omething in the water? Given To The Wild is a modern-day pop masterpiece, with its amazing shimmering anthemic songs and Orlando Weeks silky smooth vocal. Weeks and guitarist Hugo White are the Tears For Fears for our times, and they similarly captured our hearts in songs like 'Feel To Follow' and 'Pelican'.

Django Django – Django Django
It seems nobody's noticed The Beta Band connection yet, but I don't mind … if you're gonna copy, copy the best (The Beta Band 'Three Ep's)! Kraftwerk- and Neu-approved, darned good songs ...

Here We Go Magic – A Different Ship
I played this endlessly, and that must be its hypnotic charm, a whirlpool of loops, great improvisational playing and Luke Temple's beautifully plaintive voice. Full of great pop songs, too, nice hooks like on 'Make Up Your Mind' and infectious 'How Do I Know', not to mention 'Alone But Moving' (Check out the elevator video somebody posted on YouTube, it's quite literally a work of art!).

The Walkmen - Heaven
Don't believe all the nonsense about this band being a one-hit-wonder. So 'The Rat' on 2004's Bows + Arrows was great, but every album they've done since surpasses that. Their main appeal is probably in getting something earthy and straightforward out of their music, a sort of modern-day Buddy Holly equivalent. They distil songs into something beautiful, why complicate things when they sound this good?

Spiritualized – Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
People 'of-a-certain-generation' follow Jason Pierce's career with interest. He's a survivor, I'd hate to label him 'National Treasure', but this album for me is almost genre-defining in its brilliance. Certainly a nod, maybe a throwback to the Velvet Underground's great heyday … and therefore the reason many of us listen to music. Hats off to Jason Pierce!

Tame Impala – Lonerism
Watch out for this guy. His lonerism is really his perfectionism, perhaps we should worry for his sanity (Brian Wilson after all the takes for 'Good Vibrations'!). Perhaps like Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree, Tame Impala's frontman Kevin Parkers is driven by an intense desire to create something beautiful, maybe how The Beatles would have sounded today. The sound on Lonerism seems to hang in the air … forget the single 'Elephant', listen to all the phasing and psychedelic effects going on with all the other powerful songs.


Burial & Massive Attack – Paradise Circus
Maccabbees – Feel To Follow – song of year!!
Jess Bryant – Oracle Night (from 2011 album Silvern)
Paul Banks – The Base (from Banks)
Caught In The Wake Forever – Last Of The Heroin (from VA – In Support Of Tom Carter)


Shane Blanchard

Top Albums of 2012:
Cuddly Shark - The Road to Ugly
Future of the Left - The Plot Against Common Sense
Hawk Eyes - Ideas
Joy - Joy

Top Tracks:
The Cast of Cheers - Family
Sennen - Vultures
Breton - Interference
The Wind-Up Birds - Cross Country
Pylo - Enemies


    all work remains the copyright of the writer