I have been looking forward to completing this less and less and have put it off as whenever I sit to type, another end of year list with another new album at number one appears from somewhere. There really do seem to be more than enough of these things now and so its time to wrap mine up as it increases in chronic insignificance by the minute. I’ve done a top 50 albums for a few years now, here’s this year’s lot:

Dexys - One Day I'm Going to Soar. My favourite album of the year.

Dexys – One Day I’m Going to Soar. My favourite album of the year.

1.  Dexys – One Day I’m Going To Soar
2.  First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
3.  Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
4   Forward Strategy Group – Labour Division
5.  The Sea and Cake – Runner
6.  The Walkmen – Heaven
7.  Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. City
8.  Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
9.  Six Organs of Admittance – Ascent
10. The Chromatics – Kill For Love
11. Giant Giant Sand – Tucson
12. Cody Chesnutt – Landing on a Hundred
13. EL-P – Cancer for Cure
14. The Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Big Moon Ritual
15. The Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
16. Bob Dylan – Tempest
17. Actress – RIP
18. The Men – Open Your Heart
19. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
20. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
21. Lee Ranaldo – Between the Times and the Tides
22. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
23. Dr. John – Locked Down
24. Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral
25. John Talabot – Fin
26. Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball
27. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes
28. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
29. The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know
30. The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
31. Goat – World Music
32. Django Django – Django Django
33. Death Grips – The Money Store
34. Grimes – Visions
35. Toy – Toy
36. Screaming Females – Ugly
37. Errors – Have Some Faith in Magic
38. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself
39. The Allah-Las – The Allah-Las
40. The Dirty Three – Toward the Low Sun
41.  Woods – Bend Beyond
42. Liars – WIXIW
43. Tame Impala – Lonerism
44. Billy Hart – All Our Reasons
45. ‘Allo Darlin – Europe
46. Holy Other – Held
47. Nas – Life is Good
48. Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet On Sky
49. Laurel Halo – Quarantine
50. Beak – >>

This has been a good year for good albums as far as I can tell. I have quite liked a hell of a lot of music and have at times thought that some of it was very good. Excellence has come in small amounts, brief flashes on otherwise less essential sounding albums. There’s about a minute on the Toy album which sounds like the best thing ever but it is a pinnacle they fail to maintain. Plenty of hyped or supposedly big, important albums left me feeling nonplussed. At least the XX album was short in its dullness, Toy dragged, Grizzly Bear sounded promising at first but nothing much new has emerged after the first few listens and I think I actually prefer Daniel Rossen’s EP, Dirty Projectors did quite well when I thought they might have soared and I preferred the first Tame Impala album’s raw quality which seems a little airbrushed out of ‘Lonerism’. Hot Chip seem to have become the electro 1oCC, Calexico sounded dull and I won’t touch that half-baked idea of an album that Flaming Lips farted out with a bargepole (hmm…seems there are 2 ways to read that sentence and one sounds painful). I keep listening to the excellent-sounding Spiritualized album hoping to remember something about it afterwards, but I can’t and so it must be dull to my ears even if I do like the sound. Was Frank Ocean THAT good? It strikes me as being filled with promise but not as fully realised as The Weeknd trilogy. How good can a song that uses Forrest Gump as a metaphor actually be? Even the strong albums released by the elderly didn’t quite excel for me, except for Dexys which was a surprise. Dylan’s ‘Tempest’ was almost great but that Titanic song followed to a tribute to John Lennon which really does suggest that Bob has only just found out he’s dead kind of ruin it. Leonard Cohen’s album has some powerful songs but lacks a little colour and shade for me. I have no idea what Neil Young though he was up to this year but I find it baffling that he actually gave up smoking weed this year as his book and two albums with Crazy Horse suggest the opposite. Dr John’s album was excellent, sounding like Captain Beefheart singing soul with Tinariwen in places –  a wonderful combination of desert and delta. The only real, consensus I can find on lists and including my own opinion, would be Sharon Van Etten and the fact that had that Burial EP been an actual album, it would have won album of the decade by now.

Everything But The Young Marble Giants?

Everything But The Young Marble Giants?

Well, that’s the moaning out of the way so what about positives? The Dexys album is a fine, fine thing. A Celtic soul concept album of the highest order. Sure, his singing voice leaves a little to be desired and isn’t really acting his age but the world needs that these days. The songs stand out and stick in the mind as well as being blended with familiar riffs and melodies too. An album about never settling down from the mind of a man in his 50s seems appropriate for this year as so many of the better albums of the year have been made by performers over 50, even 70 – Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Dr. John, Bruce Springsteen, Lee Ranaldo, Giant Giant Sand as well as Billy Hart’s album on ECM (this year’s token jazz effort?)  but perhaps not the two Neil Young efforts though two in a year seems pretty unsettled too. Even the 40 somethings seem to be doing good things especially as I never thought I’d become a fan of Chris Robinson back in his Black Crowes days.

First Aid Kit are probably the best Swedish country duo of sisters I’ll ever hear. Wonderful harmonies Especially on the sublime ‘Emmylou’. Sharon Van Etten seems to harmonise with herself at times. Either of these albums could have been the best of the year or possibly a little lower. Essentially it was hard to separate whether I was impressed or genuinely into these albums at times, though ‘Emmylou’ does tip the balance in First Aid Kit’s favour. It’s all been very nice so far despite the messy break up documented on Dexys’ album. However, things change with Forward Strategy Group. Industrial influences creep into their classic techno sound to create something both unsettling yet surprisingly infectious and not anonymous at all. Then rounding out the top 5 is a very under-rated album from The Sea and Cake, ‘Runner’, which seems like a career high by a large margin. Songs seem important rather than the lush sounds that have dominated recent albums although the mini-album, ‘The Moonlight Butterfly’ did point the way to this achievement. Now regret not going to see them live in Mexico City last March.

'Runner' - a return to form for The Sea and Cake.

‘Runner’ – a return to form for The Sea and Cake.

I could run through the whole 50 like this but sense that would get a little wearing as so many little summaries of this year’s albums have been produced in the past month that googling them or even just checking in with www.albumoftheyear.org should pretty much cover every possible opinion there is to express. Better to focus on mentioning less popular selections like the already mentioned Forward Strategy Group and The Sea and Cake. For example, no round-up I’ve seen seems to have mentioned that Giant Giant Sand’s album is one of Howe Gelb’s best, that the Chris Robinson Brotherhood really can cook up a groove or that Lee Ranaldo has politely laid down a gauntlet for Thurston and Kim to try to improve upon. Screaming Females, Woods and The Cloud Nothings all weighed in with impressive albums this year and my belated discovery of Errors has opened up a world of electro-Mogwai tunes. This morning, I have been blown away a little more by the Dr. John album and it strikes me that this is the problem with the list that I have above. Maybe by June next year I’ll be able to look back on the best albums of 2012 but for now they are still finding their mark even 6 months or more after buying them. Writing this paragraph has made me realise that I haven’t heard the Errors album for a while and need to do so again. This could keep happening for a long time and suggests that 2012 might end up being a rich year for music once compared with what is to come.

Enough! Apologies for any repetition, but its hard to spot mine from what I’ve already read in countless other lists. I should have known that writing a piece about the pointlessness of end of year lists (https://tuppencedylan.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/end-of-yearmonthweek-lists/) would immediately lead me into doing exactly that. As a result, I have deliberated over a messy list on a piece of paper for weeks rather than actually thinking about something with a little more substance to it. Ultimately, that’s why lists should be avoided but also why they are so enjoyable. I should write in more depth about some of these albums in the future, but for now you can expect singles and compilations/reissues etc. lists to follow but feel quietly pleased that I’ve overcome a problem if they don’t.

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