This is already festive season time and our worldwide-famous best of 20 of the year. No smart words to write down this year as an introduction except that no excuse not to be interested in music in 2012 as choice and diversity are here more than ever.
Album of the Year – Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE”. Frank Ocean had been around for a few years either in the collective Odd Future or as being one of the guests of last year shared album between Kanye West and Jay Z…but really nothing was preparing us for such a beauty. A tremendous record which one can really identify as being part of the 2012 culture and themes but bearing at the same time a sense of history. The music is a mix of soul, hip-hop, R’n’B, pop, rock with a beautiful voice reminding the greats such as Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder. I particularly liked as well as the interludes within the LP that make you feel this is more than one simple record. Album of the year!
My number 2 – Shearwater “Animal Joy”. Once more and as in previous years, an excellent record from Shearwater, the Austin, TX based band. I had the pleasure in seeing them live twice in Paris this year (first one in La Maroquinerie with a great talk with their singer Jonathan Meiburg and the second one in La Boule Noire this time having a talk with the great rock critic Michka Assayas). I take the risk of repeating myself but this band is really amongst the best we have either for the intensity of the music or the class of the songs and I do not understand why they are not more famous. If you never heard a Shearwater record before, start with this one.
My number 3 – Paul Buchanan “Mid Air”. 2012 has been a kind of old-guys-being-back list and Paul Buchanan is the first example. This is the first solo LP of the singer of The Blue Nile and this is an album not to share but to listen to on your own very late at night. Based almost only on piano and voice, this record seems so fragile and strong simultaneously, bringing a sense of sadness and serenity complicated to explain with words.
My number 4 – Dexys “One Day I’m Going To Soar”. Talking about come back, this one was probably the most incredible and unexpected one of all times. This blog has been a huge fan of Dexys Midnight Runners (their 1985 LP “Don’t Stand Me Down” being a masterpiece as far as I am concerned). The issue is that band leader Kevin Rowland had lost himself in a perfectionism will and that apart from two weird solo LP’s, the name Dexys had been buried for 27 years…. Built with the help of former Style Council man Billy Talbot, this is as if Dexys had never left the music scene, with this fantastic white soul style. A very moving return.
My number 5 – Benjamin Biolay “Vengeance”. Vive la France ! Hyperactive Benjamin Biolay has returned again with a great LP, mixing very different styles and guests (including Carl Barat from the Libertines and French rapper Oxmo Puccino). Fewer ballads than usual but always that emotion one can feel I guess even if they do not understand the lyrics. Looking forward to seeing him on stage in 2013.
Other great records of my top 20 (by alphabetical order)
Alabama Shakes “Boys & Girls”. Debut album from the Athens, Alabama, soul and southern rock oriented band. This record could have been out forty years ago but is really fresh as well. Click on les Inrocks Festival review to get a better flavour of the band.
Fiona Apple “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do ” Tiny American chanteuse back with her leaner album in terms of instrumentation, with songs that directly go under your skin.
Cloud Nothings “Attack On Memory”. Nothing revolutionary in leader Dylan Baldi’s music but such a pleasure to hear a pure guitar-band, influenced by Nirvana and by German repetitive rock at the same time. Pitchfork Festival review available when clicking.
Hot Cheap “In Our Heads”. London dance band Hot Chip’s 2012 LP might be their best. If you like your classic New Order dance period and beautiful nostalgic melodies…
Howlin Rain “The Russian Wilds”. Every year, a psychedelic rock record gives me shivers down the spine. Last year was Jonathan Wilson, this year this is Ethan Miller’s band new LP.
Japandroids “Celebration Rock”. Two crazy motherf*****s from Canada on guitar and drums making noise as if they were ten on stage (as seen at the Paris Pitchfork Festival) but with a “je ne sais quoi” of nostalgia that makes them one of the current bands to get interested in.
Kendrick Lamar “good kid, m.A.A.d. city”. This, the official debut from young L.A., California, M.C. Kendrick Lamar is my favourite traditional hip-hop record in a very good year for the genre. Produced partly by Dr. Dre, this narrates the story of an 25-year old guy hanging out in Compton and has the best beats and samplings (hello Beach House) I have heard in a long time.
Bob Mould “Silver Age”. Good old Bob… In a year when the three Sugar albums have been reissued and when he played “Copper Blue” on stage, Bob Mould took the time to give us this new LP, finding back the muscular guitar oriented sound of these first Sugar records. An important and appealing personality, Bob Mould is more relevant than ever.
Spiritualized “Sweet Heart, Sweet Light”. Talking about classic bands, here is another one. And this is probably one of the best records in Jason Pierce’s long career started in the 80′ with the Spacemen 3. If you like your gospel melodies with repetitive mantra, this record is for you (click for Festival les Inrocks review)
Tame Impala “Lonerism”. Kevin Parker, leader of this Australian band, is simultaneously a complicated young man and a huge music lover, both qualities that created a monster of a modern psychedelic record. This is probably the album in our list that requires the most listening as their music is very rich and hides many beauties.
The Walkmen “Heaven”. Like for instance Spoon, The National or Shearwater, The Walkmen are part of these great American middle-aged bands whose punch and melodies know-how is to cherish. What is difficult with these bands is distinguish an album from another as they are all excellent. I found a very moving maturity in “Heaven” and the songs were perfect for live shows.
Paul Weller “Sonik Kicks”. Our all-time favourite non-smiling British citizen, Paul Weller has once again delivered the goods mixing his beautiful melodies with a rejuvenated interested in repetitive Krautrock. This guy should really be a model for all young musicians as his never-ending enthusiasm is something to cherish (as seen on stage).
Jack White “Blunderbuss”. This is probably the most beautiful cover of all year (hello blue, goodbye red) but this is not the reason why Jack White is here. Amazing first solo record, mixing soul, retro rock, ballads and even…hip-hop influences. We do love values of hard work in this blog and this is not a coincidence to find musicians such as Jack White (and Paul Weller and Benjamin Biolay…) in our end of the year list. Tremendous shows as well all year-long for Jack White!
Yeti Lane “The Echo Show”. This is the second LP of this French band and one of the most enjoyable LP’s of the year. I must say this is the ideal target for our blog as we like melodic repetitive music here! I had the pleasure in seeing them live as well at the Rock en Seine festival and they are very good on stage.
Neil Young with Crazy Horse “Psychedelic Pill”. Last but not least, 2012 was also the year of our beloved Canadian with no less than two records done with the beautiful Crazy Horse and one biography (“Waging Heavy Piece”). Fantastic long songs with lots of feedback ; keep on rocking in the free world, Neil!
Other top 5’s (Frank Ocean and Tame Impala everywhere!) :
- New Musical Express (UK weekly mag.): 1. Tame Impala “Lonerism” 2. Grimes “Visions” 3. Frank Ocean ”channel ORANGE” 4. Crystal Castles “(iii)” 5. Alt-J “An Awesome Wave
- Uncut (UK monthly mag.): 1. Leonard Cohen “Old Ideas” 2. Bob Dylan “Tempest” 3. Jack White “Blunderbuss” 4. Dr John “Locked Down” 5. Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE”
- Mojo (UK monthly mag.): 1. Jack White “Blunderbuss” 2. Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE“ 3. Bill Fay “Life Is People” 4. Leonard Cohen “Old Ideas” 5. Dexys “One Day I’m Going To Soar”
- Paste (US web mag.): 1. Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE” 2. Father John Misty “Fear Fun” 3. Titus Andronicus “Local Business” 4. Fiona Apple “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do ” 5. Sharon Van Etten “Tramp”
- Pitchfork (US website): 1. Kendrick Lamar “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” 2. Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE” 3. Fiona Apple “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do ” 4. Tame Impala “Lonerism” 5. Swans “The Seer”
- Les Inrockuptibles (French weekly mag.): 1. Alt-J “An Awesome Wave” 2. Tame Impala “Lonerism” 3. Liars “WIXIW” 4. Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE” 5. Django Django “Django Django” Their “best of 2012 Hors-Série” is as usual recommended as still excellent and coming with a CD of their prefered tracks of the year.
- Magic rpm (French monthly mag.): 1. Chromatics “Kill For Love” 2. Chris Cohen “Overgrown Path” 3. Kindness “World, You Need A Change Of Mind” 4. Grizzly Bear “Shields” 5. Dominique A “Vers Les Lueurs”
- New Noise (French bimester mag.): 1. Electric Electric “Discipline” 2. Dinosaur Jr. “I Bet On Sky” 3. OM “Advaitic Songs” 4. Mark Lanegan Band “Blues Funeral” 5. Cloud Nothings “Attack On Memory
- Sound Opinions (US music podcast) Greg Kot’s 1. Frank Ocean “channel ORANGE” 2. Kendrick Lamar “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” 3. Tame Impala “Lonerism” 4. Killer Mike “R.A.P. Music” 5. Kelly Hogan “I Like To Keep Myself in Pain” Jim DeRogatis’ 1. Tame Impala “Lonerism” 2. Kelly Hogan “I Like to Keep Myself in Pain” 3. Frank Ocean “Channel ORANGE” 4. Melody’s Echo Chamber “Melody’s Echo Chamber” 5. Spiritualized “Sweet Heart, Sweet Light”
- Fargo (Paris records store): Top 2012 records in no particular order (4 records in common)
- Ground Zero (Paris records store): Top 10 – not available yet.
- Other Music (NY records store): 1. Andy Stott “Luxury Problems” 2. Frkwys Vol. 9 Sun Arraw & M. Geddes Gengras Meets The Congos “Icon Give Thank” 3. Actress “R.I.P.” 4. Kendrick Lamar “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” 5. Daughn Gibson “All Hell”
Box Sets and Reissues
Many fantastic reissues this year (The Blue Nile, Sugar, Everything But The Girl, The Beat, Can, etc…) but if I had to choose three of them, no hesitation :
Blur “21” Yes, you read well, 21 records (well, actually 18 CD’s and 3 DVD’s…) summarizing Blur’s career. They went back on tour as well and found time to play together between Damon Albarn’s numerous side-projects and Graham Coxon’s solo records and probably published the Single of the Year for me (“Under the Westway“). Beautiful box in which to dig every other day.
The Beatles “Vinyl Box Set” Expensive indeed but having the complete works of this quite famous band remastered in a nice box with a beautiful book might be priceless. (re)discover if need be…
Roxy Music “The Complete Studio Recordings” Jump on it ; very cheap and indispensable CD Box Set if you want your place to look like home. Best band ever?
DVD’s and Blue Rays
Experiencing Blue Ray for movies is like doing the same when you have your first automatic gear-box for cars ; very difficult to give up when you have such a degree of quality definition in pictures and sounds. I therefore warmly recommend the two following extraordinary movies in this format :
LCD Soundsystem ” Shut Up And Play The Hits” 3-Disc set with on one side the full last ever show shot in 2011 at the Madison Square Garden with guest such as Arcade Fire and on the other side the melancholic documentary about leader James Murphy future life. Basically, what will be your life when you split a music band at the height of their powers?
Led Zeppelin “Celebration Day” This is the famous 2007 one-shot concert with Jason Bonham (John’s son) on drums. 20 million people (including me) had applied on the internet to see that show and one can see why here : one of the best songs ever written played by these great men.
That’s it for 2012. Please surf on the blog as there is plenty to watch and read and see you in 2013 for the follow-up of our Top 100 bands/artists of all times!