cloud nothings

2012 Album of the Year, Part Two: 10 to 6

Following on from yesterday's 2012 Album of the Year long-list I'm happy to unveil the first half of the top ten. 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.

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.

10. The Dread Of An Unknown Evil - KRTS

The most recent release on my list of the year (long or otherwise) and one of most deserving. A short, entrancing album that aims to do so much more than many contemporary releases this year. Subtle and at times unnervingly entrancing.

Get it on Amazon.

9. In Our Heads - Hot Chip

This year Hot Chip finally came out from the shadow of The Warning with an album of grown up songs of relationships and growing up. In Our Heads is the sound of a band free of constraints, maturing with their fans. Where previous albums were torn between the requirement to be commercial and a desire to go deep this (almost) entirely abandoned the single format in favour of something much more adult. The cheeky token single, 'Night And Day', remains the only exception and is the only moment In Our Heads comes up lacking. 'Flutes', on the other hand, is one of the best things the band have ever released.

Get it on Amazon.

8. Shields - Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear managed to achieve so much more than any contemporary indie band this year by embracing a free form love of experimentation. Shields sounds like a jazz album recorded on banjos, snares and blues guitar by a band of ramshackle bearded men.

And that's pretty much exactly what it is. Free form song structures and out of step timing created an album more difficult to get to grips with than Veckatimest but at times all the more rewarding, particularly on the epic closer 'Sun In Your Eyes'.

Get it on Amazon.

7. World, You Need A Change Of Heart - Kindness

BlackPlastic is a small, personal blog and as such hopefully it is understandable that four of the top ten albums for 2013 ended up being releases that I didn't formally review. What is surprising, however, is that Kindess' debut was one of those.

World, You Need A Change Of Heart is an album that does everything I personally could ask an album to do. Full of warm, drowsy and hungover songs it sounds like a loved up festival refugee too spun-out to remember real life. 'House' is the kind of record that could make things sound better at any time, anywhere - deep, dizzy disco bass carving a party out of maudlin vocals and a tiny glimmer of hope. One day you and I will be okay.

Get it on Amazon.

6. Attack On Memory - Cloud Nothings

It's relatively rare that an album as heavy as Attack On Memory makes it onto the pages of but in this case it was just too good to ignore. Steve Albini's production mostly just gets out of the way (as always), leaving Cloud Nothings to make the album of their career.

At 34-minutes long Attack On Memory may be barely long enough to qualify as an album but it was all the better for it's economy - a tight and focused burst of aggression. The nine-minute epic 'Wasted Days' is both starry-eyed and terrifyingly taught, and in the conclusion of the "I thought I would be more than this" refrain Cloud Nothings delivered 2012's best rock song.

Get it on Amazon.

And that's the first half of my album of the year list - come back tomorrow for the final part!

Album Review: Attack On Memory - Cloud Nothings

Source: MTVHiveI'm circling back around this week to touch on a couple of releases from this year that I already managed to miss at the time. First up is Cleveland four-piece Cloud Nothings' third album Attack On Memory. I don't cover much straight up rock music on the blog because not much of it captures my attention - occasionally something does however and this is just such a case.

The cover of Attack On Memory depicts a black and white out of focus lighthouse. Cloud Nothings make mildly scuzzy music, the sound of a lo-fi rock band slipping down the back of a radiator and taking a bit of grunge with them before rolling into a furry bit of punk. That cover fits perfectly - slightly out of time, blurred and messy, yet beautiful and still trying to point the way. And that raw sound just makes this band all the more exciting, the lack of polish shining through brightly on Steve Albini's lassé faire production.

Opening with a melodic piano on 'No Future/No Past' is a good example of one of the two apparent halves of Cloud Nothings' new darker sound - less quiet-loud-quiet, more just quiet-quiet-quiet-loud-loud-louder as the song slowly stumbles towards an aggressively climatic staggering punch-out, drummer Jayson Gercyz's kicks punctuating vocalist Dylan Baldi's wails.

It's a fantastic start and as if to prove a point they go and do it again, one more time with feeling. 'Wasted Days' starts as a freewheeling wrangle, arms-a-windmilling, looking for a fight before entering a taught, paranoid instrumental middle section only to come out fighting once more, Baldi hurling dissatisfied barbs that result in a screamed onslaught: "I thought, I would, be more, than this".

Just when it feels like there is only one way to go Cloud Nothings reel things back in, showing a lighter side. Both 'Fall In' and 'Stay Useless' feel, musically speaking, like hopelessly loveable romantics - the latter's guitars, drums and bass all locking into melodic interplay before an unsympathetically unrefined chorus in tribute to apathy.

The second half of the album can't quite maintain such a pace, but few albums could. 'Our Plans' rumbles away, a disintegrating band playing away, gradually getting noisier and less in control like a musical take on Chinese whispers. Attack On Memory closes with its musically most straight forward song, needy punk longing ending things on a lyrically confessional note of masochism and love.

34 minutes and you are done, but Attack On Memory is a wonderful record that shows subtlety, aggression and creativity.

Attack on Nothing is out now, available from on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].