From lo-fi bass music and psychedelic electronica to pared-down blues and soulful house music, we highlight, in no particular order, the ten albums which left a mark on 2012.
1. Willis Earl Beal – Acoustic Sorcery (XL Recordings)
Wrenched, tortured and at times even painful, Chicago-based Willis Earl Beal’s debut is a magnificently distorted record. An artist that delights in being off-key, these home-recordings are raw and uncut and sound as though they were made in the backwaters of 1930’s Alabama.
2. Actress – RIP (Honest Jon’s)
The electronic record of the year, Actress’ follow-up effort is an exercise in restraint. Intense and at times even haunting, the moody and evasive London-based producer’s productions have evolved into a category of their own. This is electronic music for the smart, educated and cerebral man. Check Actress’ Boiler Room set recorded back in June below.
3. Bushman’s Revenge – A Little Bit of a Big Bonanza (Rune Grammaphon)
A road-tripping record at its core, A Little Bit of a Big Bonanza’s an instrumental gem that takes everything that’s good about stoner, psychedelic and hard rock to make what can only really be described as ‘precision’ rock: solid, tight-knit and calculated. Think Queens of the Stone Age and Battles with just a little more pep.
4. TGHNT – TNGHT EP (Warp/Luckyme)
Rise above the hyped-up blogroll tchit-chatter and TGHNT’s debut EP is one hard-hitting track after another. Making the kind of songs that can only best be described as ‘heavy’, the two production partners behind TGHNT, Hudson Mohawke and Lunice, released what is without a doubt the dance-floor banger album of the year.
5. Gaslamp Killer – Breakthrough (Brainfeeder)
The mad-hatter DJ from LA’s famed Low End Theory nights and the brains behind much of Gonjasufi’s debut album A Sufi and a Killer, the Gaslamp Killer has come to be known for his orchestral and obsessional approach to production. A psychedelic chemist making of electronic music what he wants, GLK’s record confirms the Californian as the unofficial flag-waver for the more innovative tribes in beat music, one where everything’s possible. Watch his Boiler Room set below.
6. Lauer – Phillips (19 Recordings)
Light, melodic and ethereal, Phillips is a soft-spoken record riding on undertones of 80s house and disco. Even when the bass steps it up a notch and the tempo teases the tip of your toes to the dance floor, the songs remain light-hearted, good-natured even. There’s a child-like innocence to many of the tracks on the record, one which reaches for the nostalgic notes of yesterday and, just for a minute, makes you pause for thought.
7. Alt-J – An Awesome Wave (Infectious Music)
The pop album of the year, Alt-J’s infectious melodies blend everything from hip hop references to classical music tendencies to create powerful and hard-knocked songs which just a tad of sorrow. Despite its populist inclinations, this remains a strong effort.
8. Matthew Dear – Beams (Ghostly International)
Matthew Dear’s Beams, his fifth studio album, sees the Texan singer, songwriter, DJ, producer and record label boss continue to make music you’d imagine the perfect modern-day family dancing to in its living room on sunny Sunday mornings. It’s dance music that puts a smile on your face and makes you feel good about yourself.
9. Vex Ruffin – Eulogy EP (Stones Throw Records)
Vex Ruffin makes the kind of broody and temperamental music firmly anchored in punk and that sits somewhere between Black Flag and Joy Division. The only Stones Throw artist to have been signed to the label following an unsolicited demo, he brings an uncharacteristic darkness to its sound, one you’d more expect to come out of the industrial towns of Northern England than the sunny shores of California.
10. Death Grips – No love deep web
Move past the cock on the album’s cover, and you’ll find a punk-rap album bursting with all the energy, arrogance and confidence of a band who, put simply, don’t give a fuck what you may think because they know they’re on to something. Led by the commanding spoken-words of MC Ride (who sometimes sound like R.A. the Rugged Man), the trio make paranoid and aggressive music. Music for the riot generation that’ll have you marching in unison to chants of ‘Death Grips for president’ before you know it.