The Top 50 Albums of 2012, Part One: 50 – 41

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Circa Survive, Urthboy, Dinosaur Jr., Bertie Blackman, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Title Fight, Regina Spektor, Minus the Bear, Ty Segall, Gossip, Hoodlum Shouts, Flying Lotus, Michele Stodart, Collarbones, Future of the Left, Craig Finn and Jens Lekman.

Fantastic records and some particularly fantastic songs – however, the best of the bunch lies beneath!

50. John Mayer – Born and Raised

Unless you’re a die-hard, there’s a good chance that you had no idea this record existed. With @johncmayer dead in the water and a serious throat condition preventing any touring or interviews, Mayer had no distractions stemming from his public to mar his creativity. The end result was an Americana-drenched day-dream, full of steel guitars, warm keyboards and earthy harmonies. It’s so Crosby, Stills and Nash at points that it even brings in one of the fuckers (David Crosby) for some backing vocals. No, John Mayer’s not your resident guitar douche anymore. Right now, he’s capable of career-best material.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Born and Raised, The Age of Worry, Queen of California.


49. Every Time I Die – Ex-Lives

With a new drummer, a new attitude and a new lease on life, it’s rare that a band sounds this vital and determined six records into their career. The Buffalo natives teamed up with producer Joe Baressi (QOTSA, Tomahawk, Melvins) to deliver a ploughing, fervent and downright pissed-off affair, bouncing from down-tuned furor to southern-fried licks in the blink of an eye – not to mention without missing a beat. This shit isn’t about Facebook fans or the hardcore fashionistas – it’s a half-hour of power that guaran-damn-tees you a good ol’ time.

THREE TOP TRACKS: I Suck (Blood), Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space, Drag King.



48. Yellow Ostrich – Strange Land

Three years ago, Yellow Ostrich began humbly enough as the bedroom project of looping whiz-kid Alex Schaaf. Four albums later, Schaaf has expanded the project into a trio and developed a formidable name for his bright, harmonious take on jagged indie-flavoured guitar pop. Strange Land is the first effort from the Ostriches as a three-piece, and is tellingly a record that brims with new sounds and ideas. The usual vocal trickery remains, but a driving side of percussion and flourishes of golden horns draw the listener in further. If you haven’t already seen, heard and known, you better keep up.

THREE TOP TRACKS: I Got No Time for You, Marathon Runner, Daughter.


47. Enter Shikari – A Flash Flood of Colour

The first time you heard Enter Shikari was either the most exciting, fresh thing you’d heard in ages; or a traumatic experience that you still shudder about. The Hertfordshire lads have been dividing rooms like the Red Sea since their debut, and on their third LP, they have less pushed a new direction and more hurled themselves at the wall in an act of mad-hatter defiance. Explosive guitars lock horns with gut-rattling bass synth; often within the same track. Brave, anthemic and just a little ridiculous, this is the must-own out of the ES discography thus far.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Search Party, …Meltdown, Warm Smiles Do Not Make You Welcome Here.


46. Good Heavens – Strange Dreams

The mid-2000s were very different times for Theredsunband and Wolfmother. The former spent time wowing the indie circuit, not quite reaching further; while the latter exploded to the point of being – at least for a period – Oz’s biggest contemporary rock commodity. In 2012, a phoenix rose: Former TRSB frontwoman Sarah Kelly formed Good Heavens alongside ex-Wolfies Chris Ross and Myles Heskett. The result was a debut that was more JAMC than “Joker and the Thief”: A brisk shoegaze affair with lush arrangements, the occasional rock rush and a pleasant sway. A noted surprise, but a particularly pleasant one all the same.

THREE TOP TRACKS: It’s Not Easy Being Mean, You Lose, Know Your Own Heart


45. The Killers – Battle Born

If Brandon Flowers’ Flamingo proved anything, it was this: He needs the Killers just as much as they need him. On their best effort since Sam’s Town, the Las Vegans return to small-town hopin’, big-city livin’ and all-American dreamin’. It’s cheesier than Bega at points, but in some ways that’s exactly the point. Besides, few sell their themes with greater conviction, as they have proven time and time again from “Mr. Brightside” all the way to the bombastic opener of “Flesh and Bone.” With heart, soul and arena-sized guitars, Battle Born wins the war on effort alone.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Miss Atomic Bomb, Flesh and Bone, Battle Born.


44. Jack White – Blunderbuss

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Blunderbuss was its refusal to stay within any boundaries. Begging, borrowing and stealing from all of his projects to date – not to mention throwing out some new shapes entirely – Blunderbuss does not sit still for its entire 40-minute runtime. It’s either shaking hips, kicking up dirt, slow-dancing with an estranged lover or stomping into an old saloon with a bone to pick. What’s even more exciting is how willing you become to follow White wherever his imagination may roam. Like the titular gun, Blunderbuss lets out a single yet resounding shot into the air.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Freedom at 21, Sixteen Saltines, Missing Pieces.


43. Gallows – Gallows

Here comes the new guy. Both stakes and longtime fan’s fears were at feverish highs as Wade McNeill walked up to the mic for the band’s third studio album. Those expecting a carbon copy of Orchestra of Wolves were the only ones who walked away with sore disappointment. For the rest of us, a snarling and unapologetic punk record awaited, the classic kind that grabs you by the collar and refuses to loosen its grip. With riffs that tear through the speakers and the kind of shout-alongs that fill entire rooms, Gallows proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is life after Frank.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Outsider Art, Everybody Loves You (When You’re Dead), Victim Culture.


42. Deep Sea Arcade – Outlands

Having taken a slow-burn approach, Sydney kids Deep Sea Arcade dropped a slew of infectious singles that lead like a trail to Outlands, from the sour surf-pop of “Lonely in Your Arms” to the clap-along rollick of “Steam.” With their powers combined, these tracks created a fun and unique atmosphere for twist-and-shout pop/rock that was often darkly submerged in warped keyboards or enough fuzz to make the Davies brothers blush. The new material proved to be just as formidable and unfathomably catchy, too, balancing out the record substantially. Outlands, put succinctly, was worth the wait.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Steam, Outlands, Seen No Right.


41. Bloc Party – Four

Four years since Intimacy, fourth album, four members – all symbolism aside, Four was Bloc Party’s chance to prove that there was still life left in what started out as a spearhead of the post-punk revival halfway through the decade prior. For what it’s worth, they succeeded: “Octopus” and “3×3” took its fervency and urgent guitar chops straight from the book of Silent Alarm, while heavier moments like “Kettling” and “V.A.L.I.S” indicated towards bold experimentation and a willingness to adapt and evolve. Where can the U.K. heavyweights go from here? Absolutely anywhere – and that’s probably the most exciting part.

THREE TOP TRACKS: Kettling, Octopus, So He Begins to Lie.


40 – 31

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