10. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
Growing up I was always firmly in the Mancunian camp when it came to the whole Oasis vs Blur saga, it’s only in recent years that I’ve come to appreciate Damon and Co. It was on drizzly night driving back home from Manchester that I decided to put stick on Everyday Robots, an intimate and nostalgic piece of work featuring guest appearances from Natasha Kahn and Brian Eno.
Standout Tracks: Everyday Robots, Lonely Press Play, Heavy Seas Of Love
9. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Days Of Abandon
Days Of Abandon is the 3rd full length album from the New York indie pop quartet. Following a re-shuffle of band members after touring their 2012’s LP Belong, the spotlight shifted onto singer Kip Berman and he wears his heart on his sleeve from the start. It’s his and the bands most personal record to date, less distorted than its predecessors revealing a much lighter side. The album also includes one of my favourite songs of the year, The Smiths influenced pop gem ‘Kelly’.
Standout Tracks: Kelly, Beautiful You, Until The Sun Explodes
8. Mac Demarco – Salad Days
Salad Days was recording in Mac Demarco’s Brooklyn apartment and released via Captured Records on April 1st. Mac’s sophomore album titled 2 was one of, if not my favourite album of 2012, and although Salad Days doesn’t quite reach the same dizzy heights, it’s still a mighty fine LP. A laid back and slightly more grown up return from the Canadian singer-songwriter.
Standout Tracks: Passing Out Pieces, Let Her Go, Chamber Of Reflection
7. Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain
Conor Oberst has stated in interviews that Upside Down Mountain is a return to his earlier way of writing, it’s laden with strong melodies and his ever poetic lyrics cover such topics as love, death and escape. Oberst is mostly known for his work with Bright Eyes and I have been a fan of theirs for years, so this for me, is the first time I have appreciated an album written by Conor Oberst not attached to that moniker. Highly recommended.
Standout Tracks: ZigZagging Toward The Light, Enola Gay, You Are Your Mother’s Child
6. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
After reading endless positive reviews about Sharon Van Etten’s new album I decided to check it out. This is the first time I’ve heard any music from the American singer-songwriter and it immediately struck a cord with me. Are We There is a dark, brooding and lyrically confessional body of work and it has most definitely left me wanting to hear more. I have a feeling by the end of the year this album will be a lot further up this list. A friend of mine recently interviewed Sharon, read it here.
Standout Tracks: I Love You But I’m Lost, Tarifa, Every Time The Sun Comes Up
5. Gruff Rhys – American Interior
Gruff Rhys’ latest release is inspired be the story of John Evans, an 18th century explorer who embarked on an adventure across America in search of a fabled Welsh speaking tribe. Since the Super Furry Animals went on a hiatus I haven’t really kept up with Gruff Rhys’ solo projects, so after a recommendation from a friend I decided to give American Interior a spin. It is a brilliant record and has led me to re-discover the Welsh songwriter, a prolific and fantastic talent who tirelessly produces great work. I recently went along to the Llangollen Fringe Festival to catch Gruff Rhys in action, you can read my review of the show here.
Standout Tracks: American Interior, 100 Unread Messages, Liberty (Is Where We’ll Be)
4. Future Islands – Singles
I, like many others, was first made aware of the existence of Baltimore’s Future Islands by the frenzy that surrounded their performance of ‘Seasons (Waiting For You)’ on Letterman earlier this year. The YouTube video went viral and rightly so, it’s an enchanting rendition, the kind that requires a few watches before you can decide whether you like it or not, watch it here. The synth pop trio have been making music for years, Singles is their fourth album and it’s nice to see the effort that they’ve put in is starting to pay off. Vocalist Samuel T. Herring is the reason the group is set apart from similar bands; his physicality, on stage presence and Jekyll and Hyde style vocal delivery make him one of the most interesting frontmen around. Singles is not an album I liked straight away but the more I listened to it the more the intoxicating melodies crept under my skin.
Standout Tracks: Seasons (Waiting On You), Doves, A Song For Our Grandfathers
3. Wild Beasts – Present Tense
Wild Beasts can do no wrong in my eyes, from the moment I watched their performance of ‘All The Kings Men’ on Jools Holland I knew there was something special about the Kendal quartet. It was with great anticipation I awaited the band’s 4th LP and I was not disappointed. The slow burning lead single ‘Wanderlust’ set the bar prior to the LP’s release and features my favourite lyric from the album: “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck” repeats singer Hayden Thorpe over the song’s long, drawn-out outro. The album is a lot more synth heavy than it’s predecessors and the partnership of Thorpes effortless falsetto alongside bandmate Tom Fleming’s lower registers have never sounded so good. This collection of shimmering, emotionally charged songs will knock your socks off.
Standout Tracks: Wanderlust, Mecca, A Simple Beautiful Truth
2. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream
Just before the release of Lost In The Dream I was a guest on a local radio show in my hometown. The DJ and I began talking music, he recommended to me an American band called The War On Drugs before playing their song ‘Red Eyes’. I wasn’t completely ignorant to the band as I had previously tried to get into their 2011 album Slave Ambient to no avail. The War On Drugs is the brainchild of songwriter Adam Granduciel and it’s well documented that his perfectionist attitude and self doubt make the writing and recording process an endless cycle of scrapping and revisions. All that ‘suffering‘ has definitely paid off. With a tip of his hat to Bruce Sprinsteen, this Americana influenced album really does take you on a emotional journey. Although lyrically Granduciel sings of his depression and anxiety following the touring of Slave Ambient, I do find the album quite an uplifting piece of work; take a drive on a sunny day and play Lost In The Dream loud and I’m sure you will think the same.
Standout Tracks: Red Eyes, Eyes To The Wind, Burning
1. Beck – Morning Phase
I’m ashamed to say that until recently I had never fully got into Beck, sure I’m a big fan of lots of his songs but as far as full albums go I had never given them enough of my time. During the last year or so I have delved into Beck’s back catalogue and really started to properly discover his genius. Two of Beck Hansen’s records shine brighter than the rest for me, 1996’s Odelay and 2002’s Sea Change, so when I found out that Morning Phase was being billed as a companion piece to the aforementioned Sea Change I eagerly awaited its release. What a remarkable record it is, laden in harmonies and overflowing with emotion, it really shows off some of his finest songwriting. It’s certainly going to take a really great album to knock Morning Phase from my top spot before the year is out.
Standout Tracks: Heart Is a Drum, Blue Moon, Blackbird Chain