Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N2 It

Top LPs of 2012
#7

No one blurs the line between disarming frankness and confused ambiguity quite like Mike Hadreas. His songs as Perfume Genius are often deeply sad, but there’s something about them that keeps them from veering into trudging self-pity – instead there’s a strange nobility to them, as if he knows that he’s not just speaking for himself.

This, his second LP, may have a bigger budget than his home recorded debut, but there’s something about it that makes it feel even more stripped back than before. Maybe it’s that the melodies are simpler than before, but, this works in his favour, making them more resonant and visceral than ever, and while this was clearly recorded in a studio (rather than at home on a rickety piano), it remains intimate. What shines brightest, however, is the songwriting. ‘Dark Parts’ reaches out to a victim of child-molestation over strident piano rumbles; ‘Hood’ is one of the most accurate depictions of love mingled with self-doubt (and it’s over in less than 2 minutes); ‘AWOL Marine’ is a disturbing portrait of a basement porno, vividly depicted with just 16 words. I only heard about this record because its video advert was banned by YouTube – why it was banned I have no idea, seeing as it just a clip from the ‘Hood’ video, showing two men (in their boxer shorts) embracing, while a section of ‘All Waters’ played in the background. This was banned by YouTube for not being “Family Safe”, yet if you type “Rihanna Lap Dance” into YouTube, the results may make you think that there were other undisclosed reasons. This was particularly ironic, seeing as ‘All Waters’ (probably my favourite on the LP) is about internalised homophobia. Behind all the buzz, however, was a record that remains as muted as it is powerful, as bleak as it is warm and as minimal as it is, unmistakably, beautiful.

For fans of…Bonnie Prince Billy, REM (Automatic For The People era), Iron & Wine, Bat For Lashes
Click here to hear Hood.
 –Joe Anthony Hill

Django Django – Django Django

Top 25 LPs of 2012

#8

The geek shall inherit the Earth. I have a strange (and possibly overly optimistic) feeling that Django Django may yet save British indie pop from the wave of uniform, shiny-toothed, whitewash, “professional” “indie” bands that followed in the wake of the baffling success of Razorlight. You just have to look at their Facebook page to see that these guys are in love with music from every avenue, posting links to Isaac Hayes, Factory Floor, proto-punks The Monks, Johnny Cash, Kraftwerk, NWA, and shedloads of electronica bands that neither of us have ever heard of. What’s amazing though is how they cram all their far-afield influences into the same formula, to make something at once familiar and unmistakably fresh. Their warm sunny harmonies recall both doo-wop and Bon Iver, their drums alternating between steely machine-led electronica and rumbling afro-beat, while their keyboard sections are like if Tangerine Dream tried to make a Beach Boys record. The result is a fantastic pop record, one that is (more often than not) catchier than a cholera outbreak in a steam room, but rewards deeper listening over and over again; a record of such confidence and panache, it’s hard to believe that this is their debut.

For fans of… The Beta Band, Hot Chip, David Bowie, Stereolab, Animal Collective, The Flaming Lips
Click here to hear Life’s A Beach

–Joe Anthony Hill

Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man

Top LPs of 2012
#9

Back in 2010, Natasha Khan made a distraught phone-call to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, asking him “What do you do when you feel like you’re going to die because you can’t write anything?”. Yorke told her to draw, so she took up life drawing and illustration, as well as intensive dance classes. It worked, but it would be wrong to say she was her old self again – she’s more than that.

‘The Haunted Man’ is a record of both bold and elusive beauty; while it has moments of visceral simplicity that hit square between the eyes (such as ‘Laura’ and ‘Marilyn’), perhaps its greatest strengths is how much its subtler moments reward your patience. I just love those eureka moments in music, the moments where you’ve been listening to a record for a while, thinking there’s something missing, and then, somewhere around the 8th or 9th play, it hits you, and you wonder how you never saw how wonderful it was before. ‘The Haunted Man’ is full of those moments, like the jangling synth spirals at the end of ‘A Wall’, the distant male choir on the title track or the bottle clanks in ‘Rest Your Head’ – eventually every tick and swell in ‘The Haunted Man’ seems vital, until it’s hard to imagine anything added or taken away from this glorious whole. Musically and lyrically, it’s both raw and detailed, elegantly sexual, euphoric and melancholy, but underneath all that, it’s the sound of someone revelling in a new direction that they happen to be very good at indeed.
For fans of… Kate Bush, St Vincent, Feist, Beck (Modern Guilt era)
Click here to hear Marilyn

 

–Joe Anthony Hill

Jack White – Blunderbuss

Top LPs of 2012
#10

Is Jack White the definitive musician of our era? Yes. Now shut up. How many obvious adjectives would you like? Eccentric, iconic, experimental, trend-setting, weird, peerless, genius? Maybe the last two are all you need. It feels like this is the record he’s been wanting to make for years. It’s probably his most personal record yet, which doesn’t say much since he’s always had a knack (habit?) of divorcing his personal life from his music. No one actually believes he had a brother called “Baby” who cried like an earthquake. ‘Blunderbuss’, on the other hand, has, in his own words, “nothing to do with anyone or anything else but my own expression, my own colors on my own canvas.” The result is (somewhat predictably) brilliant. It’s one of the smartest, coolest and from-the-gut rock records for years. Do I need to write any more? You’ve heard this already haven’t you? This was probably one of the only albums in this list to be played on Radio One, though if I may say so myself (in my infinite snobbishness) this is far too good for Radio One. Either way, you have no excuse.
For fans of… The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Alabama Shakes, The Rolling Stones, The Strokes
Click here to hear Freedom At 21

 

–Joe Anthony Hill

First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar

Top LPs of 2012
#11
If you type almost any song into YouTube, the results will stand thus:
20%: The song you’re looking for.
10%: Inexplicable Family Guy montages.
70%: Cover versions of the song you’re looking for, usually being played by a sorrowful bald man with a beard or a girl with long hair in a Bohemian bedsit.

Despite the fact that they seem to clutter the search results like miracle impotency cures in an unfiltered inbox, they’re sometimes worth your time. Case in point? Case in mother-fudging point? Back when Fleet Foxes’ first LP came out, I searched for it and came across a video of two teenage sisters playing a cover of ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ in the woods near their house in Sweden. As annoyed as I get with people who use the cliché of “I knew this was something special”, it bloody was. Their harmonies were spine-tingling, their voices at once earthy and celestial and I remember thinking “I really hope I see more of those two.” And I did.
Apparently I wasn’t the only person who saw that video. After an EP and a debut album, ‘The Lion’s Roar’ marks the moment where this pair of singer/songwriters moved from “Very good” to “Sodding magnificent”. Hitting an effortless stride, this LP sees them finding a sound that is completely their own – their lyrics would be beautiful, honest and astute even if English was their first language (which it isn’t) or barely out of adolescence (which they are). Take ‘This Old Routine’, which depicts a quietly depressing and uneventful marriage so poignantly you’d think they had lived it. Ultimately, even if the glorious rush that this pair’s harmonies bring dies down (which, after a year, it really hasn’t) they’ve got such good songs to fall back on that they run no risk of being a passing of-the-moment fad.
For fans of… Joni Mitchell, The Tallest Man On Earth, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver
Click here to hear the title track
-Joe Anthony Hill