I should hopefully have my favourite albums of 2012 up in the next few days, for now here's the choices from the Peenko team, Mike, Boab and Steve. There's some right corkers in here...
Mike's Top Five
5. French Wives - Dream of the Inbetween
Its pretty fantastic to see a band you’ve championed, watched from the touchlines, laughed with and cried with, finally getting a debut album out. While some of the re-recorded versions of earlier songs here lack the edge and punch of their rougher cousins, this record is testament to the dizzying songwriting ability which French Wives have at their disposal. Its a proper pop album, in a year of improper pop.
4. State Broadcasters - Ghosts We Must Carry
There are few records which have moved me more this year than this one. A wide-angle, beautifully written, luxuriously orchestrated sweep through the cold, autumn months in the company of this saw record saw me shifting uncomfortably in my bus seat to pretend there weren’t any stray tears. Some genuinely challenging lyrical themes to test the ducts here.
3. Chris Devotion & The Expectations - Amalgamation & Capital
Sometimes a record really doesn’t sound great when you first hear it. “Hmm, this sounds like a pastiche of early 80s Stiff Records releases” I thought when I first slipped this on. A week or two later I’d decided that was far from a bad thing, and this haunted me for weeks during the summer. Imagine Elvis Costello never met Jools Holland and didn’t calm down.
2. Meursault - Something for the Weakened
It was evident as far back as Homegame in 2011 that Meursault were going to be getting louder and angrier on record sometime soon. This collection of sometimes mournful, sometimes angst-ridden, always strident tunes matches Neil Pennycook’s howl of despair with some snarling guitar lines, amid the more familiar folk overtones.
1. Randolph’s Leap - As Fast As A Man
The rate at which Adam Ross generates miniature epics is matched only by the speed with which the size of the band multiplies. But here, its mostly just Adam and some songs which grew and changed during live outings during the year. I listened to this a lot, and I get the sense that even if big, brassy polished versions of these tracks appeared tomorrow, this simple, heartfelt songwriting would still be getting a spin.
Boab's Top Five
Noisy bastards PAWS demonstrated with Cokefloat that they are so much more than just noisy bastards. Emotive, heartfelt lyrics combined with catchy, memorable riffs make this a thrilling, although not always easy, listen.
4. RM Hubbert - Thirteen Lost and Found
I wondered where R.M Hubbert was going to take his music following his debut album. His brand of flamenco is all very lovely but I genuinely had no idea how he could develop on it. I needn't have worried. Thirteen Lost and Found took all those lovely elements and expanded a little, with some more instrumentation and collaboration with many other Scottish artists. Car Song, with Aidan Moffat and Alex Kapranos is one highlight among many. My favourite track however is one of only three entirely solo songs on the album, For Joe, which was written following the death of one of Hubbert's good friends. An album for headphones.
Killer Mike is one of the smartest rappers around just now. One track, Reagan, is a devastating and damning analysis of the long term societal effects of neo-liberal economics. I wouldn't necessarily agree with every word he says but he certainly puts his thoughts across rather adeptly. It's a classy album. Even when it looks for a second like he might be veering into 'money and hoes' territory on Southern Fried, he says - and I paraphrase - you can take all your strippers and easy sex but his wife comes first for him. Aww. As Mike says himself at the beginning of Untitled, 'you are witnessing elegance'. He's correct.
2. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
By the time I'd got into Godspeed they were on their long hiatus period (I'm only a wee young thing, see). So when I eventually did see them live, the albums I'd been listening to throughout that dormant period were suddenly brought to life, a stunning explosion of sound that physically as well as emotionally moves the listener. But Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! sort of turns things round the other way, as the bulk of the album is made up of two tracks which have featured regularly in live sets since the early 2000s. I was a little sceptical of how they'd do it, but all I can say is that they captured the intensity of the live versions superbly.
1. Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know
I remember interviewing The Twilight Sad over two years ago and discussing with them the direction they were heading in following their second album, Forget The Night Ahead. Thankfully the answer they gave me on that occasion ("it's sounding a bit...Jason Derulo") was not how things actually turned out. In fact, things turned out bleak as fuck, with tons of menacing keyboards and industrial drum beats - a bit like how the offspring of the Holy Bible-era Manics would sound when you mated them with the Pet Shop Boys. I'm glad this is how it turned out.
Steve's Top Five
5. The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know.
Embracing a change in direction can sometimes kill a band and alienate their audience. When The Twilight Sad decided to bring on board Andrew Weatherall and go down the industrial, synth-led path, it was a bold move. It also paid off handsomely with No One Can Ever Know. A driving urgency lent James Graham’s vocals are more menacing edge. The essence of what makes them a great band is still there, it just has a new facet that takes them onto the next level.
4. Easter – Innocence Man.
Short at six tracks, but lengthy with only two under six minutes. These songs bucked the trend of indie guitar bands and were epic, guitar led treks along dark paths. It’s intense at times and as much about instrumental passages as meaningful lyrics. It also has a nice feel on the production, letting the listener feel as though they are right there as this is being recorded.
3. Jonas Carping – All the Time in the World.
Another album that was filled with hidden depths and a darkly beautiful quality. Carping’s voice manages to convey a lifetime of experience in a few short seconds. The arrangement if subtle and complex and the accompanying vocals of Sigrid Nilsson could melt the hardest heart. It seems a fairly straightforward singer-songwriter’s album at first glance, but peek beneath the surface and you’ll get a pleasant surprise.
2. Linden – Bleached Highlights.
Like a warm summer’s breeze, no matter the weather. The return of Joe McAlinden to the musical landscape was very welcome. Vocals that lift your heart to the heavens. Melodies gently caress your soul. An album of beauty from start to finish, this is one to reach for during those dark winter months when you just need some warmth and light. Joe McAlinden’s voice can deliver that in spades.
1. PAWS – Cokefloat!
Energetic, fresh, inventive and downright great fun. From the moment it starts you’re hooked by the great riffs, thumping bass guitar and driving drums. Lyrically complex and heart-breaking, it was easily one of the highlights of 2012. It manages to capture the energy of the lives shows, but polish it slightly and deliver it in a tighter package.
Hopefully you'll find something new and exciting in these lists, tune back in a few days time and I'll let you know what's been floating my boat in 2012.