The Best Fit Fifty: Albums of 2012

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Taken by Trees – Other Worlds

Inspired by Taken By Trees‘ namesake Victoria Bergsman’s time spent in Hawaii, Other Worlds was a natural step towards a luxurious pop sound for the ex-Concretes singer that saw her ditch the Pakistani influences that ran through the veins of previous album East Of Eden in favour of dream-like musings and dub-heavy experiments. Other Worlds is a complete work. A journey to paradise that begs to be listened to from start to finish in order to fully appreciate its density and intricacy. From Pakistan to Hawaii, where Bergsman will take her cues from next is anyone’s guess – but we can’t wait to find out.
- Rich Thane

Egyptian Hip Hop – Good Don’t Sleep

From its subtly blissed-out opener ‘Tobago’ to the strange and disorientating ‘Snake Lane West’ and breathy ‘Alalon’, this was a debut drenched in atmosphere. With a scope that suggested that the band’s record collection was well stocked with progressive rock, kraut and more than one Cocteau Twins album, Egyptian Hip Hop’s ambition and willingness to experiment (with sound, mood, pace, rhythm) would be impressive in any band, never mind one whose members are barely out of their teens.  Good Don’t Sleep is a marker laid down:  watch where they’ll take us next.
- Jude Clarke

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s fourth studio album is the sound of a band unshackled. Lift Yr Skinny Fists made them “An Important Band”; on its follow-up, Yanqui UXO, they collapsed under that pressure. Allelujah isn’t a complete reinvention, but their eight-year hiatus has at least allowed them to rediscover what it is to play only for themselves. Unlike previous records, Godspeed are not straining to soundtrack the world around them, Allelujah is defiantly not the sound of 2012. Its singularity is its success.
- Adam Nelson

Matthew Dear – Beams

Provocatively cool and indelibly gifted, Matthew Dear returned to our collective consciousness in Autumn with his fourth full length album, Beams. As soon as the first mesmerising tones of lead single ‘Her Fantasy’ resonated around the room, we were irrevocably hooked. Intensely textured sonic narratives guide the listener through a perfectly presented and precisely engineered tracks on this completely captivating record. Capturing Dear at his most confident, engaging and playful, this album could almost be mistaken as being a bit ‘cocky’ if it wasn’t so damn loveable and catchy.
- Francine Gorman

Dan Deacon – America

To the West is the Party Wizard of Baltimore. A Trippy Green Skull flickers nearby.  Dan Deacon wants to tell you about America. It’s a tale of multitudes just barely contained: a buzzing howl that crashes into percussion like an electrified sword; war drums, victory cries; robot campfire songs. Deacon has traded in some silliness over the last nine years – no titles like ‘Breast Cake/Penis Sleeve’ here! – but reaps just plain silly amounts of beauty in return. The Wizard conjures a gemstone United States – myriad glittering facets and a dark, unseeable core. You have become Transfixed. Game Over.
- Meryl Trussler

Richard Hawley – Standing at the Sky’s Edge

Richard Hawley‘s Mercury Prize nominated ninth album saw the one time Pulp guitarist and long time legend return to immaculate form with more than just a bit of gusto. Standing At The Sky’s Edge hits its high point on the very first note, its psychedelic leanings and pastoral sensibilities combining in amongst layers of distortion and reverb in an instant, remaining twisted together throughout. Waxing philosophical about wide-eyed dreams each song is grounded in a tumultuous darkness, the colourful instrumentation disguising a world of crime-ridden estates and murderous men weaved by Hawley’s distinct, low crooning drawl. More than just Hawley at his newly invigorated rock ‘n’ roll best, Standing At The Sky’s Edge brings all the Yorkshire man’s eccentricities together in one, magnificent 50 minute sprawl.
- Lauren Down

Tame Impala – Lonerism

By titling their second album Lonerism, Tame Impala are perhaps suggesting that listeners isolate themselves a bit while listening, or simply acknowledging that society in this digital age is still ultimately socially disengaged, tapping into that sense of solitude amidst the masses. That subtle designation hints at where the real beauty of this record lies, for while some of these anthemic numbers clearly make for great party music, the dazzling texture and tone of these tracks are best appreciated under a good set of headphones, the soaring sonic experiments truly flourishing and taking  flight when all other distractions have been removed. Lonerism is a grandiose, adventurous album, pulsing with the self-assured inventiveness of a band who clearly are onto something fresh and engaging. Intoxicating in their own right, the tracks also maintain a loose, seductive playfulness. At each turn there are surprises that await the listener, while nothing quite prepares you for the brilliance of ‘Elephant’: so good that the band just had to give it a towering name.  Creating their own link between the psychedelic pop rock sound of the late ’60s and the avant-garde electronic artifice of today, the band have crafted something that is at once familiar and relentlessly modern. But rather than coming off as yet another pale knockoff of the four famous lads from Liverpool, Tame Impala use their influences as a jumping off point to take their music in a far more distinct and unexpected direction. And that is perhaps the enduring appeal of Lonerism, that each time you put the record on, it can take you somewhere different and leave you struggling to figure out how you got there.
- Erik Thompson

Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes

Not content with simply pushing forward and breaking boundaries in electronic music, Flying Lotus has done what you might imagine seems logical only to him; he’s hopped into a time machine. Steven Ellison bombs straight back to smoky, exciting, decadent ’60s America where Free Jazz runs riot, and then adapts that entire landscape for his own design of skittering beats and swelling backdrops. It’s like musical poetry. If Allen Ginsberg had somehow ended up being an electronic producer in 2012, and written Howl as an album instead, we imagine it might sound a little like this.
- El Hunt

Liars – WIXIW

“Always different, always the same” was a line that John Peel used to sum up The Fall, but he could just as well have been describing Liars – and I don’t think I’m being a fantasist by asserting that Mr Peel would have counted Liars as amongst the best of today’s alt-rock acts. That’s if they even are an alt-rock act anymore – WIXIW, certainly their best album since their masterpiece Drums Not Dead, sees them ditch most of their beloved guitars and analogue percussion in favour of cold, minimal electronics, but still present is their signature obsession with woozy textures and unsettling grooves.  It attacks from a very different angle, but Liars remain so unique that the excellent WIXIW could only be the work of this one remarkable band.
- Thomas Hannan

Grizzly Bear – Shields

Shields feels like more of a follow-up to Yellow House than it does to Veckatimest. Without the crutch of a big obvious hook single it mostly turns back towards the shifting, textural soundscapes that begin somewhere near freak-folk and proceed to shift moods, time signatures and harmonies across the range as if it were perfectly natural. Entirely able to work on their own terms rather than follow the fashion their success may have suggested, each listen brings something new out from the detailed, crossthreaded arrangements, an ambitious, warm sonic palette in which every small part finds room to breathe.
- Simon Tyers

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