10. Beacon - Two Door Cinema Club
Not as laden with obvious singles as their 2010 debut, Tourist History, but this is a more assured, mature effort. Lead singer Alex Timble sounds a bit like an Irish Brandon Flowers, and while there is a more controlled sound to Two Door this time around, there is no lack of jangly guitar. Sun is one of the songs of the year and Someday is a terrific track that will get you moving. I’m looking forward to seeing where these guys go from here, because I had them pegged as a one-album wonder. I’m glad I was wrong.
Key tracks: Sun, Next Year, Someday
9. Centipede Hz - Animal Collective
Backing up from their most successful commercial release, experimental rockers Animal Collective have produced a challenging but rewarding album that I actually rate above Merriweather Post Pavilion. To many it will be as inaccessible as previous releases, but if you’re a fan than you’ll know what to expect. Today’s Supernatural is a cracking song, and Monkey Riches is a desperation-filled epic.
Key tracks: Today’s Supernatural, Monkey Riches, Father Time
8. Pacifica - The Presets
It was always going to be interesting to see how the Presets followed up to 2008’s Apocalypso, which was a genuine powerhouse of an LP. After a four-year wait the Sydney duo have delivered a measured album that has a lot of depth and, in opening songs Youth In Trouble and Ghosts, some firepower. Pacifica doesn’t have the brute strength of Apocalypso, but it doesn’t need to. Pacifica is relatively relaxed, and mightily enjoyable. They’ve sure come along way from essentially being Paul Mac and Daniel Johns’ backing band in the Dissociatives, and are now one of Australia’s most accomplished groups.
Key tracks: Ghosts, Youth In Trouble, Promises
7. An Awesome Wave - Alt-J
With soaring vocals and a dash of folk rock, alt-J (or, if you’re being proper, ∆) could easily be dismissed as an up-market Mumford & Sons, but there’s much more to this distinctive debut. Breezeblocks is a stunner, Tesselate a teasing opener and there really isn’t a track on this LP that lets the standard slip. It’s probably why it took out last year’s Mercury Prize, a worthy result.
Key tracks: Breezeblocks, Tesselate, Fitzpleasure
6. Gossamer - Passion Pit
After their iconic LP Manners, Passion Pit had to deal with mixed reviews. Some thought it too poppy, too commercial. Others, myself included, thought it an album of burgeoning genius. Since it’s 2009 release, the band has gone through seemingly an endless supply of remixes for other artists, while the group’s bipolar leader Michael Angelakos battled continuing mental health issues. The result is an album that’s not as intense than its predecessor, but no less interesting. In fact, across the board Gossamer is perhaps stronger than Manners, and the first three songs are the strongest opening to album you’ll find in 2012.
Key tracks: Carried Away, Take A Walk, I’ll Be Alright
5. Neck of the Woods - Silversun Pickups
Best known for their seminal 2006 tune Lazy Eye, Neck Of The Woods was released without a whole lot of fanfare in the middle of 2012 but quickly shot the band back to prominence. And deservedly so. The constant driving, wailing guitar is the foundation of the album, and it juxtaposes Brian Aubert’s high-pitched vocals brilliantly. It’s a tremendously even LP, the lowest points not too far from the highlights, which is an achievement as this is an album of serious quality.
Key tracks: Make Believe, Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings), Busy Bee, Mean Spirits
4. Blunderbuss - Jack White
It’s amazing to think, as great as they were, perhaps the White Stripes held Jack White back. That’s one of the great acts of the 2000s we’re talking about, but Blunderbuss is such a rollicking, diverse album that it’s not an unreasonable position to take. With more lashes of country and soul than his blues past, White has produced an album that reinforces his reputation as one of our generation’s most versatile and talented artists.
Key tracks: Love Interruption, Freedom At 21, Missing Pieces
3. In Our Heads - Hot Chip
Hot Chip’s fifth album is full of confidence and feels more assured than previous efforts; it’s certainly less patchy. Upbeat tunes like Night And Day and How Do You Do? are punctuated by the contemplative ballads Look At Where We Are and Now There Is Nothing. Having the epic Let Me Be Him and the lovely Always Been Your Love closing the album gives it a well-rounded feel.
Key tracks: How Do You Do?, Night And Day, Let Me Be Him
2. Django Django - Django Django
Django Django’s buzzing debut fizzes from one track to the next with the opening moments of each track playing with your mind before it inevitably settles into an instantly familiar beat. It’s like they’ve harnessed the best dream-like qualities of Cloud Control and interwoven it with pulsating African beats. This is the album that piqued my interest most in 2012 - it certainly can’t be considered boring. Default is one of the songs of the year.
Key tracks: Default, WOR, Life’s A Beach
1. Bloom - Beach House
Bloom makes its mark with lush dream-like music overlayed with gorgeous, understated vocals. It is anything but boring, though. The album starts with heavyweight track Myth, and doesn’t let up from there, finishing nearly as strong as it started. This is easily the most complete album of the year; Bloom is the only album from 2012 I heard without a single weak spot.
Key tracks: Myth, Wild, Wishes