As the countdown to the end of the year approaches we take a personal look back on our familiar names, features and musicians’ top releases of the past 12 months.
This year has stood out for incredible releases and even more so for uncovering exceptional talent; most of which discovered, promoted and featured right on this site.
This year was probably the hardest top 5 I’ve had to do yet. There were a lot of great releases over 2012 and I discovered and rediscovered a lot of albums and artists which made it no easier. Before I get on to my top 5 for 2012 I want to acknowledge a few other bands and artists who released fantastic albums this year. Including: Maserati, Deftones, Robert Glasper Experiment, Aesop Rock, The Faceless, Christian Scott, Crypts, Hiromi, Indian Handcrafts, Meshuggah, Sleep Party People, Rolo Tomassi and Castrovalva.
Esperanza Spalding – Radio Music Society
This has been on repeat on my iPod basically all year. Radio Music Society is the fourth full length album from Esperanza Spalding and I have been a huge fan of her work for a few years now, but Radio Music Society is my favourite yet. Soul, gospel, big band swing all incredibly mixed with modern jazz. This album is as intelligent and musically technical as anyone could ask for but remains catchy, memorable, soulful and beautifully arranged. I’ve listened to this album 16 or 17 times this year and found new things to love upon every listen. Tracks like, Black Gold, Smile Like That, and Crowned & Kissed take away the stigma of jazz just being a genre of musician’s music but rather something that can be appreciated for what it is, thoughtful, intelligent, soulful art.
Baroness – Yellow & Green
To me, Baroness are unstoppable, and as to true to metal as a metal band can be. Just as they did with Blue, one of my favourite albums of all time, they proved they are so much more with Yellow & Green. Eighteen tracks in length, Yellow & Green is amazingly arranged, fantastically dynamic, crushingly heavy and gorgeously rich. I feel like this is Baroness’s most mature release yet; it seems like they really took time over their song writing and arrangement of not only each song, but the album as a whole piece. From start to finish there a golden moments and amazingly written transitions which make this record so fascinating to listen to. It’s progressive, sludgy, sweet, catchy and fucking heavy.
Flying Lotus Until the Quiet Comes
Flying Lotus has been a pretty recent discovery, but has become an instant favourite of mine. As a producer he has brought his own unique style of electronic music as have artists like Aphex Twin, Autechre and Venetian Snares. Until The Quiet Comes is by far, the most tonally satisfying electronic album I’ve ever heard. There are harmonies and rhythms that would normally see home as contemporary jazz rather than electronica yet Flying Lotus (Steven Ellinson) has merged the two magically with elements of hip hop, trip hop and IDM. This album is a journey from start to finish, songs and sections that urge you dance, think and just listen. Subtle ideas in arrangement make this album unique, inspirational and a favourite of mine.
Death Grips No Love Deep Web
Bands as prolific as Death Grips don’t come by particularly often, but when they do it can often be shocking. Death Grips proved this fully, releasing 2 full length albums this year, cancelling tours, booking tours and totally fucking over Epic records in the most amazing way possible. Achievements aside, Death Grips third release ‘No Love Deep Web’ is in a league of its own. Some kind of twisted hybrid of their previous two releases, while maintaining the dark, heavy aggressive aesthetic that gained the group popularity, it’s also more spacious, minimalist and emotional. This album is as punk rock as it gets yet could fit into any rave or dance context. I think this album really expresses that Death Grips are a band who are true to their art and unwilling to change that for anyone, that as well as 13 skull thumping tracks makes this one of my favourite records for the year.
The Samuel Jackson Five
The SJ5 are one of the most original bands I’ve ever heard, it’s not even worth trying to fit a band like SJ5 into one style or genre as everything they do is so varied, tasteful and unique. The latest self-titled release is simply amazing. Complex yet accessible, thoughtfully coloured and shaded with rich, orchestral like arrangements, this is everything I could want a SJ5 record to be. This was the first album they introduced vocals to, ‘Electric Crayons’ and ‘Ten Crept In’ completely destroyed any worries I had prior to listening about how well they could pull off vocals alongside music as unique as their own. The instrumentation on this record is also a big part of what sucked me in, guitars, bass, drums as standard but then pianos, mandolins, bells, strings, synths and more paint gorgeous sounds through your head. I can’t anything more to say about this record other than it’s 45 minutes of fucking amazing music that everyone should at least try listening to.