I know, I know, I promised to post my albums of 2012 ages ago, but somehow I never got round to it. Family stuff, daddy duties, Christmas, gigs radio sessions and real life all seemed to conspire against me. Plus it wasn't as if there was anyone out there gagging to find out what I've been enjoying in 2012. But seeing as I am a music blogger and it's a bit of a tradition to do an end of year list I thought I'd share/inflict my music tastes on you.
Having mulled over my choices for some time now, I kind of got to the point where by I realised that I had a bit of a tough choice on my hands. Many of my peers have bemoaned the fact that this year has been slightly devoid of great albums and they've heralded the return of the EP instead. Personally, I think 2012 has been one of the strongest years in a good long while, perhaps I can put that down to two things, one that I have once again started to listen to music that isn't just from Scotland, and two, that I bought a record player at the start of the year and have become a bit of a vinyl junkie. The only downside of vinyl for me is that I am now spending twice as much money buying CDs and yummy vinyl goodness.
Upon reflection I have to admit that I spent most of this years listening to Randolph's Leap albums, that would be Randolph's Leap and the Curse of the Haunted Headphones, Introducing... Randolph's Leap and As Fast A Man. None of which the band are actually classifying as their debut album proper, which should be due out at some point next year. However, seeing as I both manage the band and released a couple of those records it would feel a bit like cheating if I was to include in my end of year list.
In previous years my album of the year lists have proved to be very Scottish-centric, this hasn't really been the case this year as I have 3 American and 2 Welsh and 1 English band in there. While the rest are of course of the Scots variety, anyway that's enough of my waffling, on with my choices for the best things to grace our ears in 2012...
Having stopped reading Pitchfork and the like a long time ago, I am never too sure as to what the hipster kids are digging these days. Instead when it comes to being introduced to new music from across the pond I tend to find that word of mouth is a good place to start, with seeing a band live being even better.
Way back in February, I had the pleasure of accompanying my blogger friend, The Pop Cop, through to Edinburgh to see Frightened Rabbit at the Picture House. This was the first time I'd ever come across the mighty We Are Augustines, who pretty much blew me away with their heartfelt sing along songs. Being me though, I didn't actually bother to pick up their album until later on that summer after witnessing them at the most miserable and muddy T in the Park I have ever been to. Hands down they were the best thing that I saw all weekend and ever since that day I have pretty much been in love with this album.
If you don't listen to the Cloud Sounds podcast, then you really should, as it's fucking ace. As are Manchester based three piece, Onions, who I first came across after Ted who runs Cloud Sounds basically went on and on about them for months upon end. Having listened to Pleasure Blast to death over the summer I have to agree that he's unearthed a hidden pop nugget in Onions. If you like your indie pop with an added dash of bonkers thrown in to boot, then I would urge you to check them out.
If I hadn't finalised this list a few weeks back in my head, I am pretty sure that this would have placed much much higher in this list after their appearance at the infamous Glasgow Barrowlands, which they pretty much owned that night. Taking a bit of a shift in their stylistic sound to a more industrial direction was a bit of a bold move for Kilsyth's finest sons, however, it was one that they pulled off and then some, cementing their place as one of the greatest bands that this wee nation of ours has ever produced.
I have to hold my hands up and admit that aside from knowing that they hail from Brookyln and that they play amazing punk pop tunes, that I could tell you very little about Swearin'. They were first brought to my attention by the podcaster, Edinburgh Man, who's show is well worth listening to. The only problem that I have with listening to his show is that every time I do, I tend to end up buying vinyl. However, the music that he does recommend does tend to be top notch and this was by far and away the pick of the bunch of the releases that I have picked up after he'd given it a spin. As for Swearin' they play fast infectious pop-punk music that embeds itself into your brain, it reminds me a lot of the kind of music I was listening to towards the tail end of the 90's, so for me it's a record that makes me feel young again.
So I follow up my choices with another album from a band that hail from Brooklyn. Having liked but not loved the bands previous album, Veckatimest, I didn't pick up on Shields until it had been out for a few months. To be honest I only bought it as Raindeer from Mitchell Museum/Behold the Old Bear, raved about it in a message he sent me. Thankfully he was right as this a corking wee album that continues to warm my cockles with each listen. For me it wasn't an immediate album, it was far more subtle than that. My ownly regret was not being organised enough to catch them at the Barrowlands.
Mr Hubbert, let me tell thee the ways in which I love you... Not only is RM Hubbert officially the nicest man in the Scottish music scene, he's also one of the most talented guitar players that I have ever had the pleasure of gracing my ears. Following up his much loved debut album, First and Last, was never going to be an easy task for the Glasgow post-rock flamenco-ist (that's a genre right?). So what better way to take on that challenge than by getting some of your friends to help out, and if your friends are folk such as Alasdair Roberts, Aidan Moffat, Alex Kapranos and Emma Pollock, then you know you're in good company. What transpired with Thirteen Lost and Found was a gem of an album that got me through many a damp drizzly Scottish day.
4) The School - Reading Too Much Into Things Like Everything
It might seem a bit odd to you, but I was first turned on to The School by a guy in Japan who was going to be releasing their album out in his neck of the woods. Having never heard any of their music before, I bought this album based solely on his recommendation. I am bloody glad I did though as it's one of the finest pop records that I had the pleasure of listening to in 2012. The band who hail from Cardiff have conjured up an album of pure unadulterated fun from start to end, imagine a happy Camera Obscura with a touch of 60's pop and you're half way there. If you're looking for the cure for the dreaded January Blues, then look no further.
Regular readers of this site should already be aware of my love of the band Flutes. Their self titled debut album came as a real surprise to me, having initially been taken aback by just how good their single Auld Archie was, I never really expected their album to live up to the high expectations that I had. I am glad to say that I was wrong. At just over 32 minutes long, it's an album that I find myself continually going back to. I guess I knew how much I liked this band when I found myself trying to tell every man and his blog about how good they are. I guess if you're looking for a comparison then imagine a more poppy version of John Knox Sex Club with an added dose of Editors. Look out for these guys in 2013, I promise you won't regret it.
By now I guess you'll be fully aware of how I like a good pop album and Summer Special was exactly that. Actually to be fair, it's a very very very good pop record, that sound tracked my summer of 2012. The first two tracks of the album, 'Be Be High' and 'That's Better' set the tone of the album perfectly for an album that fills me with joy. You don't need to take my word for it, as you can download the album for free on his website. Then one you've realised just how good it is you can either go back and buy the album on CD or make a wee donation. If you like pop music that makes you happy, then look no further.
There can be only one... and in 2012 that one was none other than Edinburgh outfit, Meursault with their offering, Something For The Weakened. Having already topped many end of year lists, including the BAMS, I don't think that there's much more that I can add about just how good this album is. From start to end, there isn't a weak (no pun intended) song on here. In a year were a lot of band seemed to have upped their game, Meursault took the bar up a notch and then some. I already have high hopes that the album might do well at this SAY Awards, if there's any justice in the world then hopefully we will see Neil Pennycook and Co. go on to achieve the success they deserve.
Below is a playlist featuring all of the bands that I have included in my top ten albums of 2012...