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Best of 2012: Albums

December 23, 2012

Next up, my favourite albums of the year:

KidKoala

20. Kid Koala – 12 Bit Blues

As I found out when I talked to him earlier in the year, this album was inspired by San’s re-kindled love for the vintage SP-1200 sampler, the simplicity of old blues music and the strains hectic touring schedule. Whilst it does get a bit samey after a while, as concept albums go it’s really rather listenable. Plus, the CD inlay can actually be used to make a hand-powered record player.

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19. Tomas Barfod – Salton Sea

A late entry to my list, I took an RA recommendation and stuck it on my music machine to accompany my commute. It’s been there ever since, as the Whomadewho drummer’s lively solo debut kept me happy during the increasingly miserable autumn and winter months.

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18. Kindness – World You Need a Change of Mind

As the album cover would suggest, Adam Bainbridge is a bit of a hipster. This, however, does not preclude him from making some very fun and funky pop music. Having Philippe Zdar twiddling the knobs also helped give tracks like SEOD and Cyan the kick they needed to keep them in my playlists all year.

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17. Simian Mobile Disco – Unpatterns

SMD’s third album was mercifully more accessible than the pounding Delicatessen adventure and thankfully not as star-studded as Temporary Pleasure. Instead it was an impeccably produced voyage through the best of modern house and techno.

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16. Jack White – Blunderbuss

I was a bit miffed when the White Stripes broke up last year, as I hadn’t managed to see them in their pomp, so Jack’s triumphant solo return was very welcome news. Having secured free tickets to seem him in September via the iTunes Festival, I was denied again as it clashed with Bestival, so I had to make do with this album. More of the same really, but then that’s no bad thing when you’re one of the finest guitarists of the 21st century.

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15.The Invisible – Rispah

Inspired by the death of frontman Dave Okumu’s mother, interspersed with recordings from the funeral,  and delayed by his on-stage electrocution in Lagos; Rispah was always going to be an interesting record. With Richard File on production duties it turned out to be a fantastic evolution of the most promising aspects of their eponymous 2009 debut.

Format3

14. DJ Format – Statement of Intent

One of the last bastions of decent UK hip hop, Format stuck to his winning formula and created lots of great tracks for an exemplary collection of rappers to spit over. Shame Yoda couldn’t manage to do the same with his sophomore effort later in the year.

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13.  Lindstrøm – Smalhans

Unlike the musical body swerve that was Six Cups of Rebel, Hans-Peter’s second release of 2012 was a return to what he does best. With Terje on co-production, this was only ever going to be a slew of analogue-crafted, italo-disco dance-a-thons.

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12.  El-P – Cancer4Cure

After a bit of a roundtable with some friends, we decided that the raw power of the first four tracks more than makes up for a downward trajectory that follows. I’ve never been a massive fan of Mr Meline’s rapping, but his beat-making is pretty much peerless these days.

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11. Laurent Garnier – Timeless EP

A beacon of light in a pretty dark and depressing year for Ed Banger. Everyone’s favourite Frenchman proves that he can still make big room techno to rival anyone in the game.

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10. New Build – Yesterday Was Lived

See Data Transmission review. Unjustly overshadowed by Hot Chip’s latest.

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09.  Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes

More coherent than 2010’s Cosmogramma, Steven Ellison’s fourth release was a masterpiece of forward-thinking hip hop. Featuring collaborations as diverse as Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu, it’s a fantastic voyage through his fertile musical mind.

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08. Four Tet – Pink

Much like Daphni’s Jialong, is essentially a collection of production work that proved popular when played out over the last 12-18 months. So while the sequencing might not work as seamlessly as some of the other electronic albums on the list, there are more than enough great tunes to bag it a spot in the top 10.

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07.  Todd Terje – It’s the Arps EP

Made entirely using the semi-modular ARP 2600 synth – hence the title – this EP of course contains my favourite track of the year in ‘Inspector Norse’; so deserves to rank pretty highly. The other three songs are equally well crafted and surely now confirm Terje as the master of the pervasive Balearic disco sound.

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06. Justin Martin – Ghettos and Gardens

I’d always liked the Dirtybird man’s productions, but that doesn’t always translate into a successful feature-length release. Thankfully, Ghettos and Garden’s was 2012’s surprise package, representing the high point of the garage-infused house trend with tracks like ‘Don’t Go’, Ruff Stuff’ and ‘Hood Rich’.

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05. John Talabot – fIN

The Spaniard’s debut LP rightly came in for a lot of praise, and from both the dance mags and broadsheets alike, as it managed to be that most elusive of things; an electronic LP that sounds just as good on a lazy afternoon as it does at the house party that preceded it.

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04. Michael Mayer – Mantasy

When I spoke to the Kompakt boss earlier in the year, he told me this about the album: “I listen to so many different types of music, for instance I’ve been collecting weird folk music recordings. I wouldn’t say that’s really audible in the album, but it’s more like a therapy for myself to broaden my mind and not get stuck with something.” True to his word, it’s a diverse mix of the sounds that have influenced his label, DJ sets and other production work over the years.

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03. Django Django – Django Django

Between seeing them at Bestival and sticking them on the stereo whenever the sun came out, these likeable Edinburgh lads effectively soundtracked my summer. A fine debut that should have won them the Mercury prize.

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02. Daphni – Jialong

It was apparent from Caribou’s Swim that Dan Snaith had a talent for electronic music, but I don’t think anyone expected his dancefloor-focused Daphni moniker to produce quite such powerful house and techno. Tracks like ‘Ye Ye’, ‘Ahora’ and ‘Yes, I Know’ were ubiquitous in clubs this year, and for good reason; they’re absolute bombs.

TI-LONERISM

01. Tame Impala – Lonerism

I’m not alone in putting this album atop an end of year list, but when you think about it, the fact a ramshackle bunch of indie hipsters from South West Australia have achieved such widespread acclaim is quite an achievement. Building on the promise of their debut, Lonerism obviously owes a debt to 60s psychedelic rock, but always had the quality to raise it above a simple pastiche.

Also worth a mention: Daniel Avery’s Movement EP and Midland’s Placement EP; Andre Lodemann’s Fragments; Aesop Rock’s Skelethon; The 2 Bears’ Be Strong; Cadence Weapon’s Hope in Dirt City; Lone’s Galaxy Garden; Blockhead’s Interludes After Midnight; Pig & Dan’s Decade; Clams Casino’s Instrumental Mixtape vol.2; Com Truise’s In Decay; Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid M.A.A,D City; and many more I can’t remember right now…

Finally, my top 20 compilations/mixes of the year with links where available:

  1. Andrew Weatherall – Masterpiece
  2. Foals – Tapes
  3. Apparat – Resident Advisor Podcast 326
  4. Ame – Live
  5. Erol Alkan – Another Bugged Out Mix
  6. Leftside Wobble – Getting the Horn (A selection of Tusk Wax delights)
  7. Ivan Smagghe – A Walk in the Woods Tsugi Sampler
  8. The Revenge – Reekinstructions
  9. Funk D’Void – Balance 22
  10. Daniel Avery – FabricLive 66
  11. Tiga – Non Stop
  12. Paul Woolford – The Lab 04
  13. Photek – DJ Kicks
  14. DJ Sneak – Fabric 62
  15. Friendly Fires – Late Night Tales
  16. Maya Jane Coles – DJ Kicks
  17. Guy Gerber – Fabric 64
  18. Flying Lotus – Lovers Melt
  19. Ukkonen 1000 – Detroit Alternate Reality
  20. Nick Hoppner – Panorama Bar 04
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