Best of 2012: All of Me by Tanlines

Dee dee da-da-da! It’s Saturday Night for the first bar or so! But bear with it: few choruses this year can match the sheer joy of All of Me, with those strange, strained ‘yeahs’ being beamed in backwards. It borders on guilty pleasure territory (well, it’s certainly not cool, is it?), but what pleasure it is. Good old fashioned pop fun.

(Apologies for the rubbish photo video. There is an official video directed by The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt here, but there’s a pointless minute before the song kicks in.)

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Best of 2012: Kemosabe by Everything Everything

[youtube http://youtu.be/TKKMfJ8cZoQ]

It’s not actually out until next year, but the second single from Everything Everything’s second album Arc has been doing the rounds since late October, and man, is it addictive. The “at the border, at the at the border” refrain makes it one of their catchiest moments to date, while that chorus “Kemosabe, I’m alone” is at once euphoric and desperate. Plus where else do you find the line “I’m genuflecting in a penitent way”? 2013 is already up on 2012 for having the official release of this.

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Best of 2012: The Drummer by Niki and the Dove

Sometimes, only a bit of fluff will do. And what fluff. Niki and The Dove’s Instinct is platinum grade candyfloss, and is one of the most addictive albums of the year. By rights, it should be terrible. The lyrics are often a bit wonky, and Mother Protect features the worst synth pan pipe noise in existence, but it’s absolutely irresistible. The dreamy Last Night captures the atmosphere of Madonna’s Crazy For You, while The Fox shows that juddering cellos really aren’t used enough in pop these days. Somebody and Love to the Test are sugary pop just on the right side of cheese, while the aforementioned Mother Protect is worth putting up with the terrible synths for the execution of the pay off line “you can’t keep me down, I am young, I am furious”. Never has a vocal catch been so well deployed.

The best moment is perhaps The Drummer, driving, inventive and the owner of a chorus it’s impossible to stop singing. Drop your voice for “human” and you’ll understand: it’s far more fun that you ever thought it could be.

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Best of 2012: Born To by Jesca Hoop

Another of this year’s highlights was Jesca Hoop’s third album The House That Jack Built. Perhaps more mature than her previous efforts, this is the sound of a woman finding her, well, sound. Her incredible voice seems to have new power, at once wonderfully free and ultra-precise. It’s an album of two very distinct sides: half mourning, half call to arms. The title track and DNR in particular deal with the recent death of her father with a startling lyrical honesty. While emptying her father’s house, she lists his possessions, lamenting “it’s not enough to know you through this”: simple, frank and devastating.

As for the call to arms, it’s a word that’s overused, but empowering is the only one that fits for Jesca in combative mood. See Peacemaker, in which women stop a war by witholding sex. Seriously. It shouldn’t work, but it’s threatening and terrifically sexy. And to let you know what you’re in for, opening track Born To is her best moment to date. It sounds like it was forged in a storm: a thundering sort of mandolin sound, that howl towards the end and that repeated assertion “I was born to, I was born to”. Born to what, we don’t find out, but whatever it is, you definitely believe her.

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December 12, 2012 · 8:00 pm

Best of 2012: No Dreams by Simian Ghost

This one was a gift, in many senses. A birthday present my brother thought I would enjoy, and it’s a shimmering little masterpiece. Everything simple and effective guitar pop can be. The lead single from Simian Ghost’s Youth was Curtain Call, a bit of a red herring with its sort of do-wop shuffle as what follows is exquisitely delicate. When the tempo picks up, as  on Crystalline Lovers Mind,  it’s thrilling, yet still somehow fragile, and almost more thrilling as a consequence. The slower songs create moments of outstanding beauty: Sparrow is a sparse, aching tale of trying to look after an injured bird, and as twee as that sounds, it’s not. It’s heartbreaking.

The real bewitching quality of the album is captured right in the middle of closer No Dreams. Layers of guitar slip over each other, water over pebbles, and over this, the vocals sigh “no dreams, nothing magical”. Nothing could be further from the truth: this is the most magical concoction of 2012.

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Best of 2012: Lilies – Bat For Lashes

The Haunted Man First, I know this thing has been dead, but I’ve been doing a degree. To make up for one post in six months, I’m going to recap some of my musical highlights of the year.

Bat For Lashes has always appeared to be on the wrong side of trendy, trying a bit too hard, not very easy to like. And the cover of third album The Haunted Man doesn’t do much to assuage these doubts, but taking the chance is absolutely worth it. Singles All Your Gold and Laura are shimmering, seductive pop perfection, and the album is studded with jewels like Winter Fields, but that’s if you get past the towering opener Lilies.

Mournful,  joyous, and Miss Bat For Lashes Natasha Khan at her most Kate Bush (particularly on the line about children having a private world), it’s a little world all of its own. It’s deceptively simple, mostly vocal with incongruous synth squelches, and the chorus is just the words “Oh, the lilies on the hill” repeated, but it’s somehow loaded with meaning. Towards the end, she erupts with “Thank God I’m alive”, and it’s hard not to punch the air in celebration. It’s unashamedly over the top, and indeed the album is a decadent listen, but what a way to indulge.

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Everything Everything – Cough Cough

So, new Everything Everything. Previewed this week, Cough Cough is the first taste of their second album, and ooh, job well done. The video might be a bit off-putting (subject relevant or not, the footage of the London riots feels a bit tokenistic amid black and white artsiness), but even for a band as forward thinking as Everything Everything, it’s a slap in the face and then some. Urgent, almost unfathomable and utterly alive. The new album arrives in January – this is going to be one hell of a wait.

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