Steve Rhodes' Albums & Songs of 2012 - Articles - Soundblab

Steve Rhodes' Albums & Songs of 2012

by Steve Rhodes Rating: Release Date:

Well, 2012 is nearly over and just before the year ends early due to a non-existent Mayan prophecy, here is my rundown. 2012, while excelling in sport, doesn't seem to have been a vintage year for the LP release. However, a number of great records have appeared. From the welcome returns of O.Children, Piano Magic, Bat for Lashes and, after a very long absence, The Seer from noise-mongerers Swans, and Strobosphere from New Zealand's finest Bailter Space.

Excellent debut releases came from Mac DeMarco, Trailer Trash Tracys, Islet, Echo Lake, 2:54 and Yeti Lane, and there were surprising arcs in direction towards hints of electronica from ILikeTrains and The Twilight Sad. The main theme of the year, though, seems to be great, expansive guitar albums, with lashes of echo and dreamy flourishes, with US artists generally leading the way, such as on releases by Diiv, Crocodiles, Tamaryn, Wild Nothing, Dunes, Ringo Deathstarr and Lotus Plaza.

Here are my top five albums and songs:

Albums:

  1. Baltic Fleet - Towers

This under-looked sophomore album from Warrington's Baltic Fleet was a bolt out the blue, a discovery after a happy accident listening to them in session on 6Music. Using analogue and digital electronica as well as spacious guitar, Towers came across like Hood meets Errors via OMD. Highlights are 'Winds of the 84 Winter' - Roll the Dice's 'Way Out' combined with 65 Days of Static, without their bombast - a song which could easily soundtrack a John Carpenter re-invention of Pan's Labyrinth; the driving 'Hunting Witches', with echoes of Ladytron, and the Kraftwerk-influenced title track. A gem of an record and worthy of the album of the year slot for me.

  1. Diiv - Doused

A beautifully cheerful, upbeat, chiming guitar record full of swoon and wonder. A perfect antidote to austere times. Highlights are the simple and joyful 'How Long Have You Known', the frenetic and driving 'Doused' and the soaring 'Wait'; the latter a neat mix of M83 listening to The Dream Academy.

  1. Glissando - The World Without Us

A spacious and beautiful album, full of beguiling charm, which takes you to a place deep in the imagination, where Elly May Irving's piano and enchanting, almost Olde-English vocal, are given room to dominate, accompanied by a wealth of subtle instrumentation. Highlights are the eerie and pastoral 'Of Silence', the wonderful 'The World Without Us', where a slow piano and intricate guitar dynamics, similar in DNA to Bristol's Blueneck, set the backing for Elly and Lidwine's mesmerising vocals, and the unsettling 'Companion', where distant, apocalyptic guitars provide the support.

  1. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

The third album is a glorious showcase of Sharon's talent. Strong vocals, in the realm of Cat Power, Sleater-Kinney or a muscular Marnie Stern lead the way, accompanied by direct, purposeful guitars. Taking perhaps a dustbowl-path trodden by early Howling Bells, Tramp is an excellent statement of intent, with 'Serpents' the album's highlight.

  1. Daniel Land & The Modern Painters - The Space Between Us

With America leading the way in the last two decades continuing to develop dreamy, guitar music, it is nice to see the UK hit back with a superbly consistent, hook and effects-laden guitar album from Manchester's Daniel Land & The Modern Painters. Far from pushing the amps up to 11, The Space Between Us is full of subtlety, charm and nicely-paced songs which may not rock the boat but will have you pleasantly swaying along.

'The Silver Medal' is a highlight, a melancholic companion piece to Piano Magic's excellent 'The Blue Hour', but it's 'Sleeping in the Past' which sums the album best. With nods to The Cocteau Twins and Daniel's other band, Engineers, it is a beautiful, building song that allows the odd, delicate crescendo to penetrate the relaxed atmosphere. Sadly the band are now on hiatus, but if this is their last release then it's a delightful epitaph.

Songs:

  1. Diiv - 'How Long Have You Known'

Just the most joyous and upbeat song of the year

  1. Baltic Fleet - 'Winds of the 84 Winter'

The highlight of a truly excellent album

  1. Bat for Lashes - 'Laura'

The lead single of third album The Haunted Man, this is Bat for Lashes at her best: Just Natasha and a piano, stripped to the core. A beautiful, yearning song which Kate Bush would be proud just to hear.

  1. Savages - 'Husbands'

Almost from nowhere, Savages produced an intense, abrasive track, propelled by break-necked drumming, pulsing bass and bludgeoning shards of guitar. Jenny Beth's blank and often yelped vocal recalled Ian Curtis, Siouxsie and Sue Tompkins from Life Without Buildings, adding a focal centre-point to an excellent, immediate song.

  1. Mac DeMarco - 'Rock and Roll Night Club'

A charmingly underproduced number from one of the best and oddest live acts of the year. Like Connan Mockasin meets a stripped-down Of Montreal in a dive bar or Jonathan Richman played at the wrong speed, 'Rock and Roll Night Club' is a superb, breezy song, full of swagger, which even somehow gets away with hinting at calypso in the guitar.

Comments (1)

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I love 'Husbands' by Savages! Definitely one of the best singles of the year.

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