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GIITTV’s 100 Albums of 2012: 10-1

Polls produce a consensus and here we have the top ten as voted for by GIITTV’s esteemed writers, these are the albums that brought people together in agreement. A forward thinking eclectic set of ten long players from 2012, jam packed full of great song writing and futuristic sounds. But when you boil it down of course music taste is all subjective anyway so why not tell us your albums of the year too?!

grimes visions

10 Grimes – Visions

Claire Boucher likes to do things that don’t really follow the intuitive logic path. In 2009, she sailed down the Mississippi River in a houseboat with nothing but a sewing machine, 20 lbs of potatoes and a load of live chickens. In a similar vein, “Oblivion” is the year’s most straight up addictive pop single but I guarantee you’ve heard it twenty times and not noticed that she sings the whole thing with an affected lisp.

It takes a while for them all to become apparent, but Visions is full of little idiosyncrasies that create a musical landscape that simultaneously evokes everything (Boucher acknowledges the influence of the internet; the ability to listen to any recorded music at any time) and nothing at all. But sounding unique isn’t necessarily enough, and the real reason that Visions has been as widely beloved as it has is much more simple; it’s relentlessly, breathlessly entertaining.(Duncan Vicat-Brown)

 

 

 

Death Grips The Money Store

9 Death Grips – The Money Store

Last year’s Ex-Military was a messy guerilla ambush. October’s No Love Deep Web had the unease and the nausea of chemical warfare. But Death Grips’ peaked with The Money Store, a relentless aural assault that exists so defiantly outside of convention that it’s been six months and no one really knows what to do with it yet. It’s kind of punk, but much more complex, and there’re no guitars in it. It’s kind of rap, except terrifying frontman/hypeman/rage-cypher MC Ride is mostly an unintelligible ball of aggression, all wirey muscle, half-heard phrases and mad-eyed staring. And it’s almost noise, except it’s hooky and you can actually dance to most of it.

Still, in many ways, Death Grips were THE band of 2012. Maybe because of the bizarre/imbecilic PR stunts, including a picture of MC Ride standing on the edge of a roof, putting an erection on their album cover and signing with then immediately getting dropped by Epic. Maybe because despite their seemingly limitless aggression, their completely incapable of backing themselves up in interviews. Maybe it’s just because they released a bit more music than most other people. Either way, they’ve inspired more debate in 2012 than any other band.(Duncan Vicat-Brown)

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8 Japandroids – Celebration Rock

Celebration Rock is bigger than all of its parts, and while trying to establish why I’m put in mind of the best album of last year, m83‘s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. The marriages of lyrical and musical content seen in both achieve a kind of transcendence by facing outward, creative an inclusive listener experience through generosity and optimism. Both have a youthful naivete that could be corny and laughable if it wasn’t so well meaning. But where m83 aimed for the heavens and the heart, here Japandroids are going for the gutter and the guts. Rather than finding optimism in dreams and aspiration, Celebration Rock is an album about what you already have. As ‘Continuous Thunder’ sees the album out on a mid-tempo, pensive note, they ask “If I had all the answers / and you had the body that you wanted / would we love with a legendary fire?” You could read it both ways, but there’s no doubt as to King’s meaning.

Celebration Rock is for the kid staggering to his feet, wiping away broken glass and teeth for round two. It’s for the frantic, sweaty embraces at the end of a night, a year, a lifetime. Fuck, it’s for star cross’d lovers re-uniting under an incoming jet-plane. It’s for underdogs, stray dogs, any dog who’ll respond to “Don’t we have anything to live for?” with a scream of “Well of course we do!” ferocious enough that there are chunks of throat in it . It’s a record about love and life in the most bombastic terms that isn’t afraid to be melodramatic or fun, and it does it without a single wink or sneer. And God knows we need that right about now.(Duncan Vicat-Brown)

Tramp cover

7 Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

It’s kind of hard to get a handle on just how big a deal Sharon Van Etten is these days. The new album “Tramp’ introduced me to an artist of whom I had previously heard their name at best, and yet she seemed to arrive a fully formed star in the indie firmament. For sure, she is signed to Jagjaguwar, which brings cred in itself, but there’s more than that. There is a whole back story of how the album was recorded in Aaron Dessner’s garage in Brooklyn, with the National man taking production credits, all this whilst Sharon was reputedly homeless, or at least sofa surfing. It is probably nigh on impossible to move in those sorts of circles, in the hipster epicentre of New York, without the kind of buzz that now surrounds Van Etten. Sharon is pretty comfortable wearing her heart on her sleeve, given that her stock in trade is tales of relationships gone off the rails.(Mike Hughes)

Click the pic to read our interview with Sharon Van Etten:

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6 Purity Ring – Shrines

PURITY RING SHRINES 575x575Purity Ring are a Canadian EDM act. Just how often have we heard that this year? This pair though are from Edmonton, Alberta, a million miles (well alright, 3,000 km) from the Toronto scene that has spawned Crystal Castles, Austra and Trust. The small town music scene shows in the state of separate development and lack of rule adherence in their debut album ‘Shrines’. It’s dance music but not as we know it. Instead of the icy blast of assumed cool, this is friendly, perky almost. The most austere song on the record is the breakthrough track ‘Lofticries’ and even here, in amongst the reverse whip-beats and wind-machine vocoder, Megan James can’t help sounding like the charming young Sunday School teacher that your niece dotes on. (Mike Hughes)

 


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5 Tame Impala – Lonerism


Lonerism’s statement of intent is announced right from the very start. The tattoo of Be Above It’s rhythm gamely holds onto the coattails of Parker’s imagination as it swoops and soars, the reverberations of its vapour trail still rattling around in your frazzled brain for days afterwards. And so it goes, on and on and on, towards infinity the music goes on. Propelled forever onwards and upwards by drums straight out of The Soft Bulletin, the spirit of Arthur Lee and a mighty phalanx of synthesisers and guitar, it just goes on and on. Parker’s diffused, dreamy vocals are somehow swept along in the backdraft of the record’s psychedelic swirl. “Everything is changing” he sings on Apocalypse Dreams, as Lonerism moves further and further away from its predecessor’s rock n roll roots, evolving into some fluid, mind-expanding groove the likes of which can lose you for hours on end.

Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control concludes Parker on the album’s penultimate track, the accuracy of his assertion clearly not lost in the mist and haze of the song’s lysergic dream. As 2012 fades away Kevin Parker now finds himself sitting on top of the world. But despite Lonerism’s inherent sense of emotional isolation he is not alone up there, for deep within the grooves of this euphoric record he has graciously chosen to share with us his view. (Simon Godley)

Crystal Castles III

4 Crystal Castles – III

‘III’ sees Crystal Castles moving on from the tracks to lose your shit to – such as Doe Deer, or tracks to do your drunken Friday night karaoke to – such as Alice Practice, and pushing forward with the witch house vibes, soaking the album with eerie beats and a voice so chilling on Alice Glass you aren’t quite sure where the album will take you next.

‘III’ deals with the theme of oppression, the album cover captures that theme perfectly with a snap taken by photojournalist Samuel Aranda, it’s a striking image of a woman named Fatima Al-Qaws cradling her son Fayed, who has been struck by tear gas during a street demonstration in Yemen.

The Canadian duo have come along way since their debut back in 2008 with ‘III‘ being their most mature outing yet, hopefully for my sake IX will see the band going down the death metal route.(Aaron Lewins)

 

3 Perfume Genius – Put Your Back n 2 It

Perfume Genius, or Mike Hadreas to others, and Mike to his mates, I would assume, earned his place on the vast landscape of modern music with debut album ‘Learning’ in 2010. His appeal was based around a very typified sound, constructed from a bed of melancholic piano, accompanied by tender vocals and a collection of lyrical subject matters that were starkly honest and gripped its audience with shades of perturbing detail. His songs used a sense of minimalist purity to resonate with its listener, it would shock you that someone could perfume geniusput out something so blunt, but yet so vulnerable and delicate. In many ways, his music represents absolute honesty, with the sort of fearlessness that many of us can barely even muster when in complete solitary confinement to ourselves. Placed in more simplistic and tangible terms, his trademark sound could be reduced down to something more minimalist, and less electronic than Xiu Xiu.

The problem with minimalist music is that it can fast become stale and old. To be truthfully honest, on first listen, I found this second album a little disappointing. I didn’t feel that it had taken what was achieved with ‘Learning’ to new ground. But then of course, I listened again. The album is extremely similar, but yet distinctly different from the first record in a way that is hard to firmly put your finger on. What it manages to do even more than ‘Learning’, is make a series of songs that, track-by-track, each feel different and unique from each other, but yet when you reach the end of the album’s flow and look back, all seem to merge into one effluent stream.

With access to a greater level of instrumentation and arrangement, the music is a touch richer, and certainly more accomplished and varied. Songs like ‘Hood’ contain a nice injection of euphoric pace that help break up the, at times, torturous flow of the album. However the balance is still struck so that it still retains the fundamental and overarching duality of keys and vocals that make his sound resonate so softly, and personally. Despite still being intensely intimate, the album appears slightly less introspectively focussed on the battles of the self, but upon a broader expanse of emotion, which is perhaps more universal in its appeal. If ‘Learning’ was written for himself, a musical bildungsroman of sorts, ‘Put Your Back N 2 It’ is written for a million others, in empathy, understanding and encouragement. Hadreas has said of his second album, ‘I didn’t want to just go through my diary again, I wanted to write something more forward-moving, something about things that were going to comfort me now, as opposed to trying to heal up old things.’ This deliberately and assertively progressive, forward-thinking mentality grows more and more evident with each listen. In this way it can be seen as a more valuable work of art, written with slightly more detachment, but a touch more wisdom, strength and spirit.

The album finishes with the words ‘drive on, drive on, my special one, don’t stop, until you know you’re gone’, which is of course characteristically dark, but conveys a message of an abstract form of solidarity which summarises so much of what works about this album. Whilst clearly written at an extremity of emotional expression that would alienate many and push him to one end of the musical spectrum, it is still a gripping portrayal of human emotion and a psychological battle of the tortured self that is still vaguely universal to all of human life. It is an album that is difficult to try and contextualise and place amid the work of others, but it is a wonderfully strange and intriguing experience, and something that at the end, leaves you with an impression that I personally think, all things considered, actually surpasses that of ‘Learning’. (James Smith)

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2 Grizzly Bear – Shields

Right from the crashing dislocated rhythm and progressive syncopated chords of the opening “Sleeping Ute” you immediately know just exactly how good this record is going to be.  Daniel Rossen cries “I Can’t Help Myself” over the contradictions that lie in the song’s tender coda as if he is trying to explain just how imperfectly perfect it all really is.  Clearer, louder and much more raw than its predecessor, Shields invigorates Veckatimest’s pastoral beauty with a newly acquired power and passion that owes much to the band’s more collaborative approach to songwriting this time around. Emboldened by the confidence of individual life changes and the process of growing older, no pussyfooting now appears to be Grizzly Bear’s guiding light as the quartet take more and more chances with their song structures and brave amalgamation of styles.

Speaking about the ten songs that comprise Shields, founding member Ed Droste said there are not a lot of them but that they do go a lot of places. He could just as easily be talking about a short history of contemporary music. “Yet Again” welds the beauty of those more familiar Fleet Fox vocal harmonies to a gorgeous melody of glistening guitar and synths, and is then bookended by an electronic flash flood of quite startling ferocity. “The Hunt” could be the sound of Dennis Wilson if he had not gone and drowned on us. Lolloping along across the tundra, “A Simple Answer” adds layer upon gentle layer of guitar, drums and piano at every single staging post that it reaches. And if you could only extract the song’s essence then this is probably what joy would look like. The juxtaposition of “Gun-Shy” and “Half Gate” captures the band’s evolving tastes all the way from classical through to jazz and from vintage Fleetwood Mac to Harry Nilsson, as Messrs Droste, Bear, Rossen and Taylor trade duties with each other, marry up their respective ideas and end up making such sweet, emotionally charged music together.

And then there is “Sun In Your Eyes”, a magnificent sprawling beast of a song for which the word epic was most surely invented and which would be the perfect finale for any album in any era.  But this is not just any album; it is the best album of 2012 and quite possibly of many more years to come. Prepare yourself to be dazzled. (Simon Godley)

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1 Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

‘Channel Orange’ was an album that came with a surprising amount of baggage. Firstly, there was the reputation of Frank Ocean as Odd Future’s Def Jam poster boy who was, in many ways, worlds apart from the underground bogie-flicking antics of the rest of the LA crew. There was also the heavyweights that had backed Ocean- Pharrell had expressed a public faith in Frank Ocean’s future. Jay-Z and Kanye West had showcased his crooning on ‘WatchThe Throne’ and the worlds press wouldn’t give up on the fact that Frank had previously written tracks for the likes of Beyonce and Justin Bieber. Then came Frank Ocean’s astonishing tumblr post where he admitted to being bisexual by recounting his first and only real love as a man. Maybe the expectations of this record were that it would come with a velocity and momentum that would rocket Frank Ocean to stadium status. What we were met with was a far more humble creature, ‘Channel Orange’ was an album like no other in 2012 because of it’s honesty, purity and undeniably remarkable songwriting.

The LP opens with the humdrum sounds of suburban central America in 2012. Muffled PC noises, and hazy television noises that are seemingly aired out by the protagonist of this record. Then comes ‘Thinkin Bout You’ which is a forerunner for track of the year. It’s a perfectly written love song with narrative, character and a real testament to Ocean’s lyrical ability. The falsetto chorus swims through the soulful, steady production. Then comes Pharell’s production on ‘Sweet Life’ where the lyric “Why see the world, when you got the beach?” showed Frank’s critical lyricism and subtle scepticism after spending too much time in the midst of California. This becomes evident again in the perfectly effortless ‘Super Rich Kids’ where the over-indulged youngsters of America play parallel to the success Frank and his Odd Future comrades have found. “Maids come around too much, parents ain’t around enough.”

The lead single, ‘Pyramids’ is almost 10 minutes long and wasn’t exactly the conventional single for a major label R’n’B artist but it isn’t this track that stands out on the LP. For under 3 minutes on track 14, Ocean’s ‘Bad Religion’ is Frank using a taxi driver as his “shrink for the hour”. Speaking of unrequited love with the staggeringly powerful lyric “If it brings you to your knees, it’s a bad religion.” It was a performance of this track on US chat show Jimmy Fallon where people started to expect more of ‘Channel Orange’. The song has a element of admission and despondency which Ocean captures in a way that is captivating.

The LP ends with the sound of footsteps walking up to house, unlocking the door and shutting it. Maybe that’s all we’ll get from Frank Ocean. Perhaps ‘Channel Orange’ was a moment in time where a faultless communicator had something to say. This record almost muted all the hype that surrounded Frank Ocean, he had said what he needed to say and in doing so had put out an LP that was unshrinking, current and conclusive. (Duncan Harrison)

 

Read the other parts here: Albums 100-51, and Albums 50-11

Listen to our Spotify playlist GIITTV’s 100 albums of 2012:

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.