I never got round to doing a post on my albums of the year last year. I’m sure this was a profound disappointment to everyone, so here are 11 tracks from records I liked which I don’t think featured on the Festive ‘Spill (my own choices apart) or other people’s list.
You know the rules. Pick your favourite, pick your 11th favourite. And please feel free to mention any songs or albums from 2012 to which the Spill’s collective attention should be drawn.
St Etienne – Tonight
A full 21 years after their debut album, Words and Music by St Etienne was about being teenagers in love with pop music. In which they managed to sound like teenagers in love with pop music – a trick they pull of beautifully. Having seen them live in December, I can report that Sarah Cracknell has aged beautifully; her fans, rather less so.
Frida Hyvonen – Terribly Dark
I’ve probably said enough about my love for Frida Hyvonen… Her album To The Soul is a masterpiece. This first single, a slice of 80s disco transported to a dark Swedish forest with wild bears, was something of a departure from her piano balladry. Pop hit of the year, in my world.
Alt-J – Matilda
I thought An Awesome Wave was a worthy winner of the Mercury Music Prize – Alt-J have more ideas in a single song than many bands have in a whole career. This isn’t the best track, but it’s been in my head more than any other song this year. My Matilda began the year having just come out of two weeks in intensive care; she’s now walking and correctly identifying basic farmyard animal noises. (Thanks to Shane for posting a demo version of this a long time back).
Anais Mitchell – Young Man in America
Tincanman proclaimed this his album of the year a few months back, which was enough of a recommendation to make me curious. It’s songwriting of the highest order: she has plenty to say about contemporary America, but is never obvious. Almost reminiscent of another Mitchell…?
Jesca Hoop – DNR
Jesca probably remains better known for being mates with Guy Garvey and nanny to Tom Waits’s kids. The House That Jack Built was neither the commercial breakthrough nor the leftfield masterpiece that some of us hoped it might be. But this unsentimental elegy for her father was one of the most moving things released this year. (DNR, of course, stands for Do Not Resuscitate.)
Peter Broderick – Asleep
Peter Broderick’s website-album http://www.itstartshear.com is the sort of generous, creative project the web was made for. Which wouldn’t count for anything if it didn’t also contain some beautifully crafted, deeply affecting music. It’s worth reading the story behind this song – the voices are all recordings sent in by fans. (Thanks to Shoegazer for introducing me to this)
Allo Darlin’ – Tallulah
Europe, my favourite album of jangly twee-pop this year, sees Australian singer Elizabeth Morris simultaneously homesick and in love with her new life – perfectly captured in this track, which manages to coax pathos out of a ukulele. “I’m wondering if I’ve already heard all the songs that’ll mean something /
And I’m wondering if I’ve already met all the people that’ll mean something.”
Sun Kil Moon – Track #8
Former Red House Painter Mark Kozelek isn’t the first person to make an album about the frustrations of touring and the music business. But Among The Leaves weaves melancholy with wit, and self-pity with self-awareness. Plus, I’ve always loved his voice.
Tindersticks – Chocolate
I thought Tindersticks were treading water with The Something Rain, which is a shame as they’d seemed to be getting their mojo back on their last couple of albums. But this opening track was a stand-out. See if you can guess the ending…
Jens Lekman – The End of the World is Bigger Than Love
Hopeless romantic Jens Lekman appears to have had his heart broken recently. Which is sad for him, but has resulted in a truly great break-up album, I Know What Love Isn’t. Thankfully, he hasn’t lost his sense of humour, or perspective.
First Aid Kit – King of the World
Alt-country played by Swedish women just out of their teens… how could I not love this? Their album The Lion’s Roar was on continuous repeat early in the year (thanks to the enthusiasm of Fuel, Shane and Shoey).