tame impala

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 Amazon.co.uk 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!

The Obligatory Best of 2010 List - Part Two

Following on from Part One, here they are... Our favourite nine albums of 2010:


9. Crooks & Lovers - Mount Kimbie

This year saw dub step evolve. Having previously felt like an excuse for people who should know better to listen to garage some of the genre's pioneers began to, well, actually pioneer. And the innovation really came from combining the music with other genres. Mount Kimbie's debut is a perfect example - tempered with a bit of intelligent soul you suddenly had a classic on your hands, particularly on the standout 'Before I Move Off'.

8. Total Life Forever - Foals

It shouldn't really have worked... Following their acclaimed status prior to the release of their debut album (and subsequent fall from grace when it disappointed some), Foals returned with a more melodic, accessible and populist album. And it was also the best thing they have produced yet.

Criticism has been levelled at Total Life Forever on the basis that it contains too many songs to appeal to summer festival goers. Which basically means it has too many songs people will actually like. Go figure.

By stripping back the math-rock and building some actual songs Foals made an album containing several of this year's best songs. And it isn't just the sings that shine - the production work from Luke Smith is sublime - a gorgeous, melancholic, sun-bleached feeling runs through the record from the dip-in-the-pool-refreshment of 'Blue Blood' through to the desperate 'What Remains'. With not just one but two completely killer tracks ('Spanish Sahara' and '2 Trees') Total Life Forever is already shaping up to be one of 2010's most overlooked albums in the end of year roundups.


7. InnerSpeaker - Tame Imapala

Whatever you think of Tame Impala - little more than plunderers of the past or innovators kick starting a new genre - it's difficult not to get caught up in it all. Sure, the production is epic - thick basslines, rhythms punched out of solid steel and guitars that encircle the listener in proggy bliss - but it is the songs that will keep you coming back, particularly the apathetic bluesy closer 'I Don't Mind'... It's the stoner equivalent of La Roux's 'Bulletproof' and the weird rave bit halfway through never fails to surprise. Genius.

6. Black City - Matthew Dear

Potentially Dear's magnum-opus, Black City builds on everything that has come before and turns it into something original. Darker than ever, it straddles a variety of emotions, at turns alienated, sexually depraved and wounded and needy. 'You Put A Smell On Me' is like Nine Inch Nail's 'Closer' re-made for 2010 - pure, unadulterated filth of the sort that will have you singing things you really shouldn't in public.

5. The Suburbs - Arcade Fire

BlackPlastic still isn't sure if The Suburbs is as good as either of the last two Arcade Fire albums but the fact that the question even lingers means this is an album that deserves a place on the list. A cleaner and sparser record, but potentially all the more weighty for it. On first listen it seemed to lack stand out moments but repeated listens just demonstrate that this is simply because every track is a highlight.  


4. Klavierwerke - James Blake

Not an album but still one of this year's most significant releases, James Blake seems to be making it his personal mission to upset hardcore dub step fans by tearing up the rule book, taking the genre's best ideas and running off to make something entirely new with them. 'I Only Know (What I Know Now)' is the sound of a man learning from his past mistakes. It is also this year's most emotive five minutes.

3. Vampires With Dreaming Kids / Color Your Life - Twin Sister

Not an album but really a double pack EP, this nonetheless was the sound of one of 2010's most promising bands. With the stripped back aesthetic of the XX, the rawness of early Yeah Yeah Yeahs and what sounds like sterling taste in 1980s pop music at their best the influences combine to make something marvellous, as on the slow burning 'The Other Side of Your Face'. Twin Sister will be ones to watch in 2011.

2. This Is Happening - LCD Soundsystem

If albums were judged on artwork alone This Is Happening would have owned this year. With its minimal type combined with that picture of James Murphy flying through the air in his suit it really felt like a statement of intent.

Whatever. This Is Happening is regardless one of the best things to come out of any stereo this year. With greater focus than Sound of Silver LCD's latest release felt more like a proper album. And with the monstrous bass of 'Dance Yrself Clean', the middle-aged-guy-having-an-epiphany gut-wrencher that is 'All I Want' and the subtly epic 'Home' it also had the tunes. It may not have another 'Someone Great' but it's the sound of one of our times' best bands all grown up.


1. Cosmogramma - Flying Lotus

It says a lot when a record has increasing amounts of praise heaped on it the longer it has been out. He may not have won a Grammy but he has made 2010's best album - a record that fuses genres like they don't even matter. The J Dilla comparisons are perhaps inevitable but Cosmogramma is no mere re-tread - it demonstrates that Flying Lots is one of the most innovative producers of our time.


So what are your thoughts? What did we miss?