Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Favourite Albums of 2012

Another year has gone by, and although I didn't get enough time to blog about music, I was able to listen to a lot of new stuff, primarily thanks to iTunes Match and Spotify, that make music more accessible even for when I only had a few minutes to listen here and there.

The list this year seems a bit more mainstream than other years, not sure what it actually says about my music tastes, in saying that, the first entry in the list is not your typical pop record...

5. Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion

This is a collaboration between Mikael Ã…kerfeldt, best known for his work in Prog Metal Band Opeth and Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree, No Man, etc. Despite their background, this is not a metal or prog album.  Although very difficult to label, this can possible be best described as experimental or avant garde.  One thing is very definite, it has a very eerie feel to it and at times a bit disturbing.  The video for Drag Ropes will help you understand what I mean by this.

Storm Corrosion is difficult to get into, but once you do, it is rewarding.  Interesting orchestral soundscapes and excellent musicianship make this album a rare gem.

4. Field Music - Plumb

Plumb is the 4th instalment from the Brewis brothers from Sunderland.  This one was very anticipated and it certainly didn't disappoint.  Contrary to previous albums by Field Music, this was full of very short songs which was viewed negatively by some critics who said the album lacked the cohesion of previous work by the band.  I have to say that I particularly liked that.  Short musical ideas, direct and to the point.  Having said that the musical themes spread through the whole album and come back again and again giving this album a structure that perhaps escaped in the first few listens.  I think this was the album I listened to the most in the first few months of the year.

3. Julie Feeney - Clocks

I may have mentioned Julie once or twice before here. Her second album 'Pages', featured as one of my favourite albums back in 2009.  Clocks is the long awaited difficult third album for Julie.  It was crowd funded through irish website FundIt and self produced by Julie in a very busy year that saw her have a 10-night run at the Irish Arts Center in New York and 10 choral concerts around Ireland the that finished the week before the official album launch shows in Galway and Dublin in early December.

Clocks has won multiple accolades here in Ireland, and it is for good reasons.  It is full of fantastic melodies and complex arrangements yet its simplicity is beautiful.  I was lucky enough to see one of her 10 choral concerts back in November where the songs took a different life when sung accompanied by a choir.  Stand out tracks for me are Galway Boy and Every Inch a Woman.  I haven't had time to listen to this one again and again, I have a feeling that this album would have ranked higher if I had given it a few more listens.

2. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do

Or simply referred to as 'The Idler Wheel...', it is the long awaited 4th album from Fiona Apple.  It only took 7 years to be released and it was worth the wait.

This is another difficult album to get into.  Demanding, but it is definitely worth the effort as you come out on the other side feeling that you have experienced something that was carefully crafted and pull together but at the same time is full of the volatility and anxiety that have made Fiona Apple so successful since she first appeared back in 1996.

1. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

I discovered Sharon Van Etten back in April through an eMusic article about women singer songwriters. I quickly fell in love with her music and this album in particular.  I can listen to te melodies over and over again and I have often finished listening to the album only to start it again and again.

I find the combination of the melodies, her voice and the simplicity of the music beautiful.  Give Out and Serpents are contenders for my song of the year.

I was delighted when a little later in the year, this album broke and was much talked about in the media.  I think everybody should go and listen to Sharon Van Etten!

Other Stuff

Other albums that deserve a mention include The Temper Trap by The Temper Trap, Coexist by The XX, An Awesome Wave by alt-j, Shields by Grizzly Bear,  Jack White's Blunderbuss and the Debut album of Django Django, to name a few.

As for the best Irish Albums, you can find an extensive list on swear I'm not Paul, although he is missing Clock's there!  For me stand out ones here Kingdom by Heathers and Family by The Cast of Cheers.

As for the song of the year, for me it was Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men.

Next year, I will look forward to the new Villagers album as well as new songs from Birth of Youth.

Hopefully I will get  chance to listen and write more about music.  But if not, see you here next year for another eclectic collection of music.


Paul Clements said...

I think the only new album I listened to this year was Lana Del Rey. Everything else was about 40 years old! I really have to move on from Slade...

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