Top 10 Albums 2012

So, it's getting on for the end of the year, and time to list my top 10 albums. I said that like I do this every year, didn't I? Well, I suppose I do - in my head/heart, but this is the first time I've put it on here; I feel a tradition coming on. Anyway, here are my choices, in one particular order:

10. Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls
Echoes of vocal touchstones aplenty (Beth Ditto, Dusty Springfield, Janis Joplin), but actually there's nothing quite like this raw aggressive style; and there's definitely nothing quite like Brittany Howard's voice.

9. Grizzly Bear – Shields
Sophisticated guitar music, a lighter step on from their last, but actually a move towards something better. Wistful psychedelia kicking on from 60's fluff to Pink Floyd greatness.  

8. Beat Connection – Palace Garden
If blissed-out electro-pop is part of the mix that gives you your fix, then you'll have loved this. Sophisticated and uplifting; an absolute delight.

7. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant
I wasn't expecting much from this, these kind of collaborations can be more miss than hit, but actually these two seem made for each other; interesting brass grooves and playful melodies create a new common space between them, and it turns out to be a fun place for them both to play.

6. Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
Pop experimentalism to be sure, but to me it's more electronic folk. It's engaging and emotive and sometimes thoroughly exhilarating, especially as it continues to surprise long after you thought it would. Not for everyone, but even detractors are forced to admit that there's something very interesting going on here. Something that makes you long to see what direction they go in next.

5. Cat Power – Sun
Scintillating. I've written Chan Marshall off so many times in the past and, to be honest with you, I thought she'd gone. And that's the double joy of this album; she's still here and she's pistol whipping me with her cat power. This album is a thrilling journey of self discovery from the incredible opener Cherokee, through to the unbelievable Nothing but Time. Even Iggy's having fun again. 

4. Beach House – Bloom
Radiant repetition and sweeping melancholy; layer upon layer of intricate detail washing over the listener. Sometimes we float away, sometimes we drift down to the deep; always we 're pulled along by the intense and emotional euphoric gloominess of it all. 

3. The xx – Coexist
It's difficult not to be touched by such beautifully-crafted minimalism, it really is. Indie dreaminess both violated and liberated by dubstep grind. Not a great leap forward perhaps, but actually the leap doesn't have to be great to be crucial. The songs are better, Oliver has deigned to put some (conscious) effort into his singing, and the textures are undoubtedly a little bit tighter; fiercer even.

2. Django Django – Django Django
Hazy harmonies and rockabilly riffing fill this stunning d├ębut  Sure there's lineage and heritage from The Beta Band, but I wouldn't want to do them a disservice. There's something else happening here. The energy of this album is stunning, as is the humour-laden lyrics. If you can't feel good listening to this, then you must already be dead.  

1. Gravenhurst – The Ghost in Daylight 
An exquisite and unexpected gem. It sparkles throughout with a fascinating mixture of the understated and its seam of diamonds; melancholic and lush with moody atmospherics.


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