bat for lashes

2012 Album of the Year, Part Three: 5 to 1

Today I wrap up the final post on my Albums of the Year, confirming the five best long-players of the year.

As with yesterday's post, the headings link to album reviews where they exist, and there is a Spotify player and an affiliate link to the MP3 on where possible.

Once again, don't forget there is a Spotify playlist including songs from almost every album on the top ten and the long-list, together with songs from some of the best single and EP releases this year. You can check out the playlist here.

5. Kill For Love - Chromatics

2012 felt like it would belong to Chromatics entirely at one point, up until Frank Ocean came along, but it goes without saying that it was the band's biggest year to date.

Kill For Love's gothic tones, all black lace and poison, may be the first thing listeners noticed upon the opening bars of Neil Young cover 'Into The Black'. It is the dalliance with futurism that made this album so essential however - a haunted reflection of a future we can only hope to avoid, and the perfect soundtrack to late night driving.

Get it on Amazon.

4. Channel ORANGE - Frank Ocean

I was never as taken with Frank Ocean's Nostalgia, Ultra as everyone else and as a result it was some time before I gave Channel ORANGE the room it takes to worm its way into your head. Unusually for a popular R&B star the appeal of Ocean's music isn't instantly all that obvious - the joints are well seasoned but the production work isn't as quick to deliver as that of either the Neptunes or Timbaland in their heyday.

The real reason Channel ORANGE is a classic album is because of the depth of Frank's mind it portrays. Whether it is the spellbound, unrequited and insistent 'Thinkin Bout You' or the paranoid and jealous slow-epic 'Pyramids', it was the words Ocean used that really made this album appeal. So rare is it to hear such attention to detail and sophistication on a record so commercially successful.

Get it on Amazon.

3. Lonerism - Tame Impala

On which Kevin Parker takes every element of his début Tame Impala release Innerspeaker and builds on them in every way. Lonerism was a psychedelic trip through its creator's mind with a soundtrack obviously influenced by the past but created in a way that is only possible right now.

No other album had as much incredibly dense and startlingly beautiful production work this year. At it's best, as on 'Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could', Lonerism sounds like we're all just dreams inside Parker's head.

Get it on Amazon.

2. Fin - John Talabot

This year the top two positions on my list were more heavily contested than during any other year. John Talabot created an electronic album that seemed to re-imagined what the format could do. Much more for the hardcore than anything from the likes of Cut Copy or Hot Chip and yet it retained a similar sense of immediacy. 

Crucially Talabot made an album that appears to be universally loved, doing something for almost everyone. Fin feels like a sign-post for the future - the raw, bluesy vocal refrain from 'When The Past Was Present' represents 2012's conflicted nature perfectly - encouragingly futuristic and yet overwhelmed with uncertainty.

Get it on Amazon.

1.  The Haunted Man - Bat For Lashes

Before The Haunted Man Natasha Khan already made fascinating pop music. By focusing on a specific theme - moving on from ghosts of the past - Bat For Lashes achieved so much more with much less.

The Haunted Man may not exactly be a straight-forward pop album, but everything from the restrained artwork to the immaculately handled production screamed that this was an album Khan had poured everything in to, determined to create a living, breathing record (in the original sense) of herself.

And it works, consistently and excellently, across the entire 52-minute duration. Every track creates a surprising moment, and yet the whole is both accessible and consistently themed - an album soundtracking the end of Khan's emotional winter, complete with snowy soundscapes.

The shadow of Kate Bush is impossible to ignore but Khan uses that inspiration to create an album of incredibly well-defined songs that are all unmistakably her own, and much more interesting than those of her contemporaries.

As with any great album there are too many brilliant tracks to call-out, but it would be difficult to avoid mentioning the naked-yet-elegantly-wasted 'Laura', a poignant tribute to the trappings of fame. The Haunted Man's greatest moment however is the title track, complete with its all-male choir, aerial synth line and rumbling bass. This may be a pop album, but it's unlike any other you will have heard all year.

Get it on Amazon.

And that's it. Thanks for staying with the site this year and please feel free to comment, call out what I've missed or what your favourites are. Normal service will be resumed next week!

Comment: Our prediction - the Mercury Music Prize

Not so long ago we predicted who would get shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize and whilst we weren't exactly spot on we managed to guess seven out of the 12... Not too shabby!

With the event happening tomorrow we thought it was time to lay our predictions down on paper (albeit virtual) and put our money where our mouth is.

The shortlist in full then:

  • Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
  • Florence & The Machine - Lungs
  • Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires
  • Glasvegas - Glasvegas
  • Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
  • La Roux - La Roux
  • Led Bib - Sensible Shoes
  • Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew
  • Speech Debelle - Speech Therapy
  • Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Twice Born Men
  • The Horrors - Primary Colours
  • The Invisible - The Invisible

Pondered we have but BlackPlastic still thinks the smart money is on The Horrors, with Bat For Lashes and Florence & The Machine close also-rans. If it were down to us though we would commend that loved up debut from Friendly Fires... It's just too gorgeous to resist.

Check out the BBC site for coverage on the even.

BP x

Comment: The Mercury Music Prize

For the most part BlackPlastic believes that music award ceremonies are for chumps. Like every good rule there is, however, an exception. And that exception is the Mercury Music Prize.

What makes the Mercury Music Prize transcend that crappy sycophantic lip-service of other award ceremonies is its simplicity: one album. That's it. By focusing on that at the expense of lifetime achievement awards, best newcomer, best use of women wearing gymwear in a music video and longest speech at last year's event it gets to the point and is much better placed to judge how has achieved greatness in the past year.

There are still obviously decisions BlackPlastic would disagree with. Particularly M People (1994), Talvin Singh (yawn, 1999) and Ms. Dynamite (WTF? 2002). But the discussion and the deliberation is half the point.

With the shortlist announced on 21 July here are our picks for who may / should get a nod (in no order of course):

The Horrors - Primary Colours
Art-y but relatively approachable and safe, Primary Colours was the shock-horror-it's-actually-alright album of the year when it was released. BlackPlastic loves it and tips it for the win.

Late of the Pier - Fantasy Black Channel
Noisy, unique, dark, mysterious - Late of the Pier's epic début had BlackPlastic gushing when it was released last year. It just sounds so fresh and new. In our opinion Fantasy Black Channel SHOULD win, but it probably won't.

Glasvegas - Glasvegas
Not BlackPlastic's cup of tea but they manage to come across as creative whilst still being a firm Dad favourite. It certainly did Elbow no harm.

Jack Peñate - Everything Is New
The other shock-horror-it's-actually-alright album for this year. To be fair, Jack's début was actually pretty enjoyable (certainly better than the Horrors' first effort) but this is clearly better. An album that drips in hot summer evenings, it took Jack from being an also-ran, coming in second place to Duffy and Adele, and gave him a genre all of his own.

Kasabian - West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
They're like a rowdy British version of Kings of Leon and from a judging point of view that can be no bad thing. Plus, you know, they're actually alright.

Metronomy - Nights Out
With added vocals and a pop sound offensive enough to irritate people on the next pod in your office Metronomy's sophomore effort feels like the Streets for the late 'noughties'. To deny then a place on the shortlist would seem churlish.

James Yorkston - When The Haar Rolls In
Beautiful and haunting and lapped up by the critics James is one of those chaps that most mere mortals have never heard of, let alone invested time and money in. Obviously if this was the late nineties, a time when you had to be unknown to even your mother if you wanted any real chance of winning, Yorkston would be a dead cert. It isn't, and he isn't, but it's still good enough that he could sneak a win.

Florence and the Machine - Lungs
Currently in vogue and universally loved so it seems a bit of a no-brainer for the shortlist, but BlackPlastic would be surprised if Lungs wins on the night.

Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires
Radio friendly and inventive, Friendly Fires make better house records than any other 'band' BlackPlastic has heard of, really challenging what people consider rock music to be. It's hard to find people that don't get at least a bit excited by their single 'Paris', and that has to mean something, right?

La Roux - La Roux
Total codswallop in BlackPlastic's opinion but since when did that matter? Bad edgy pop for the masses. She probably has enough attitude in her quiff to give her the edge over Little Boots and if they were both nominated it would be a bit boring, wouldn't it?

Bar for Lashes - Two Suns
Yawn. Loved by journos and students, probably. BlackPlastic doesn't care but she's bound to get nominated anyway.

Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You
The pop princess it's okay to like, this will help justify press coverage but it would be as ridiculous as, ooh... Ms Dynamite or M People winning if this got the prize.

Okay, so we are clearly missing the random token jazz an classical albums but we just aren't knowledgeable about those genres.

You can check the BBC's coverage of last year's Mercury Music Prize for footage of the winning announcement as well as interviews and performances.

Did we mention we thought the year Dynamite won was stupid?

Any thoughts?

BP x

P.S. We'll be back to discuss the shortlisted albums and predict the winner once the list is confirmed.