The Top 12 Albums of 2012

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A lot of ladies made it into our list this year, one of them a veteran but most of them fresh-faced (save for a bit of dripping kohl eyeliner). As for the lads, the majority seemed to fall into a more warped category of rock, veering into areas of folk and psychedelia. Yep, the men have gone soft and the girls have gone hard. Here are our most played longplayers of 2012…

↑ 01. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (Interscope/Universal)

Is she pro Americana, or anti? Who can tell? But when it’s packaged as gorgeously as Lana Del Rey, we’re not complaining. Unsure herself if she likes the emotional abuse and bittersweet aftertaste from relationship fallouts, the woman is the ultimate post-feminist conundrum. With effortless hair.


↑ 02. Tame Impala – Lonerism (Modular)

Psychedelic pop didn’t get better this in 2012. The Perth band of trippers pretty much say it all in latest single Feels Like We Only Go Backwards which in effect borrows from ’60s tricks in Beatles-style backmasking, Beach Boys-like melodies, and more pastiche than you can throw a long-stemmed gerbera at.


03. Fun – Some Nights (Fueled By Ramen)

A lot of acts paid tribute to the late Freddie Mercury this year, from Muse to Mika, but no band captured that showman ethos as good as Fun, particularly on the single Some Nights and its epilogue of an album opener. The album is rounded out with Broadway-like bombast, ‘80s sounding synth-pop, and even an injection of indie-style acoustics. 



04. Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (Universal)

Everywhere you turned this year, you saw Nicki Minaj – or at least heard her big mouth spout short’n’nasties to the more delicate likes of Mariah. Dance music and hip-hop never sounded so sizzling together, and topped with speedy, wacky, dirty lyrics, imitators found it hard to keep up. Yet, as much as the verbal bashing was aimed at the male of the species, Ms Minaj managed to draw equal appeal from both the sexes.



05. Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man (Parlophone/EMI)

Natasha Khan takes qualities like courage, esteem and post-feminist bravado and injects them with just enough doubt that listeners are both in awe and in sync with the girl. This record is full of gorgeous angst – an oxymoron, yes, but when it looks and sounds as stunning as Bat For Lashes, who’s analysing?



06. Animal Collective – Centipede Hz (Domino)

With an insane laughter weaving in and out of a couple of these tracks, reminiscent of the subliminal crazy wails on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, Animal Collective managed to balance the cred (great instrumentation) with the crazy. A sonically sprawling LP that comments as much about white noise as it concentrates on delivering it.


07. Grizzly Bear – Shields (Warp)

Another band with an animal moniker, Grizzly Bear venture into wilder territory – not in a rock’n’roll sense of the word, but in an unchartered one. Conflict and discord are at the heart of most songs but with vocals so harmonious and high-pitched, you’d think everything was AOK for the boys. And then that angry bass kicks in…


08. Santigold – Master Of My Make Believe (Atlantic/Warner)

Though not as instantly contagious as her debut LP, Make Believe is Santi White with her heart on her sleeve, bruised a little but enough to motivate her to get back at the B-boys and ‘hoes’ who’ve peeved her off. It’s frenetic, acidic and freakish to varying degrees. And a cameo by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O confirms that incestuous mod New York underground vibe she helped kickstart with producer Diplo.



09. Madonna: MDNA (Interscope/Universal)

So most of this year’s best-of music lists will most likely bypass Madonna’s last album but, especially when heard through headphones, this is one blissful sonic affair. Indeed, while Madge and her bevy of electro-boffin producers do sound like they’d spent endless days on each track, layering them to the point of overkill, the whole squidgy/synthy/sampled result works well. Could have done without the “L.U.V Madonna” bits, though.



↑ 10. R.Kelly – Write Me Back (RCA)

The man many a diva turned to for production work and vocal drop-ins appeared to step away from all the mashing, genre-smashing and ultra-bragging this time ’round to make a record that harks back to the simpler sounds of soul and groove of the ’50s through to the ’70s. The command for sex is still there: only wrapped in white satin sheets instead of a gold cock-ring.



11. Ellie Goulding – Halcyon (Polydor/Universal)

Listen to the a capella opening of Anything Can Happen and try to block out the Coca Cola campaign connection, then try telling us it’s not an angel sent from a kookier heaven. Goulding’s Halcyon is one part sex kitten in denial, two parts Björk with a bleach job, and a pinch of “Kei$ha can kiss my ass”.



12. Bertie Blackman – Pope Innocent X (Universal)

With a title inspired by a Francis Bacon painting, the art and craft ethos of BB appears endless on this LP. It’s dark and stirring for the most part but occasionally dives into pop – yet still with that gothic tinge that reminds us so much of a younger Siouxsie Sioux. Less innocence and more trekking the darker end of the woods only to come out kohl-eyeliner dripping and hands filthy from digging in the dirt.




The Presets: Pacifica (Modular)

Marina And The Diamonds: Electra Heart (Atlantic/Warner)

Calvin Harris: 18 Months (SME)

Example: The Evolution Of Man (Ministry Of Sound)

Ne-Yo: R.E.D. (Motown/Universal)

Jack White: Blunderbuss (Third Man/XL)

P!nk: The Truth About Love (Sony)

San Cisco: San Cisco (Fat Possum)

The Temper Trap: The Temper Trap (Liberation/Universal)

Pet Shop Boys: Elysium (Parlophone/EMI)

Maroon 5: Overexposed (A&M/Universal)

Frank Ocean: Channel Orange (Def Jam/Universal)