30. OFF! – OFF!
Every listener is different before OFF!’s debut self-titled effort starts up. By the end of its seventeen-minute run-time, however, all listeners are exactly the same – fucking on the floor, breaking shit and stomping holes in the floor. OFF! has classic punk rock literally bred into it – vocalist Keith Morris has been fuelling angst since before you were born, from Black Flag to Circle Jerks and beyond. Here, he’s maintaining the rage with an all-star cast, barely pausing for breath as he takes down any and all challengers. It’s pretty simple, really: Don’t fuck with OFF!
THREE TOP TRACKS: King Kong Brigade, Wrong, Cracked.
29. The Presets – Pacifica
It seems like only yesterday that The Presets – unwillingly and unwittingly – became the biggest thing in the country on the back of their platinum-seller Apocalypso. Perhaps it doesn’t feel like all that long ago thanks to Pacifica, which brings you right back into the duo’s odyssey of thunderous synths, bomastic beats and the kind of choruses that smack you around the head a few times before slipping inside your conscience. Featuring their biggest pop tracks as well as their most dank and dirty material to date, Pacifica expanded in all directions and struck gold across the board. Overlooked and under-appreciated.
THREE TOP TRACKS: A.O., It’s Cool, Push.
28. Hira Hira – Now Here Nowhere
There has never been a better time than right now to be a fan of Sydney collective Hira Hira. The sneering, jagged post-punk that litters their debut full-length has never sounded this forceful, visceral and… well, frankly, fucking excellent. Although bits and pieces are nicked everywhere from surf rock to Neil Young, Now Here Nowhere presents listeners with a sound that unmistakably belongs to them. If Royal Headache were the “sound of the underground,” so to speak, as far as Sydney was concerned in 2011; then it’s safe to say that the 2012 title belonged to this band and this record.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Nowhere, Bugs, Dead Land.
27. Passenger – All the Little Lights
The way it reads almost lends itself to fairytale more than reality: A visit to Australia leads to some busking, some busking leads to some gigs, some gigs lead to some tours, some tours lead to an all-star collaborative album, which eventually makes Passenger – aka Mike Rosenberg – the little ex-pat folkie that could. Here, he leads us down the roads less travelled as he spins stories and weaves characters – both first and third-person – between gorgeous acoustic picking, creaking double bass and fluttering brushstrokes. Excuse the horrific pun, but Passenger has undoubtedly arrived at his destination.
THREE TOP TRACKS: The Wrong Direction, Holes, Things That Stop You Dreaming.
26. Paul Kelly – Spring and Fall
For fans, a new Paul Kelly record feels like coming home – and, with a five-year interval, this homecoming couldn’t have come sooner enough. Shedding the biblical imagery of predecessor Stolen Apples, Kelly – along with nephew Dan and producer/collaborator J. Walker – instead picks apart a relationship that begins with all the joy of a major chord, yet falters substantially along the way. It’s no spoiler to let you know that it won’t survive the album’s running length. Besides, it’s the journey we’re taken on with Spring and Fall that makes it such a joy to listen to.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Gonna Be Good, New Found Year, None of Your Business Now.
25. Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls
A drum shuffle, a guitar twang and an androgynous blues howl admitting that they “didn’t think [they’d] make it to 22 years old.” For many, this is where the love affair with Alabama Shakes began – and let’s keep in mind this is within the first minute of their stellar debut album. Rolling through tight grooves, fiery licks and some serious vocal chops from 2012’s first lady of rock, Brittany Howard, Boys & Girls, had heads turning across the globe; not to mention festival tents packed on the off-chance of hearing these sumbitches live. Turn it loose and shake it like a Polaroid picture.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Hang Loose, You Ain’t Alone, Hold On.
24. The xx – Coexist
Given all of the attention that production man Jamie XX has received in the past few years, 2009’s xx could well have been the last we heard from Britain’s great white electronica hope. Thankfully, however, Jamie came back on board for the make-or-break sophomore LP – somehow he must have know that they still had stories left untold. Submerged in ambience and lingering on heartbreak, Coexist runs through deeper bloodlines and emotional centres. Its morose overtones means that there is no “Islands”-esque moment of pop clarity, but this does not serve as a deterrent. Rather, it makes Coexist feel whole.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Fiction, Reunion, Angels.
23. Justin Bieber – Believe
Remember the Justin Bieber hate page you joined back in 2009? “Puberty is going to hit Justin Bieber like a truck”? That one? Well, get your cutlery ready and prepare to eat your damn words. At eighteen years of age, the Biebs has evolved into an untouchable pop phenomenon – and, remarkably, his audience has grown up with him. The club bangers and rnb jams are crystallised perfection, while even the ballads and Hallmark-card rap verses have grown less grating. Deny Believe its credit all you want, but it won’t be long before you’re the last one against the wall.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Beauty and a Beat, Right Here, As Long As You Love Me.
22. David Byrne and St. Vincent – Love This Giant
Between them, they’ve made enough indie anthems to fill an entire night’s playlist, from “Life During Wartime” to last year’s “Cruel” (read: Cruuu-uuuuu-uuuueelllll). So, what happens when a Talking Head melds minds with the guitar-wielding femme-fatale? In a word: Horns. Shitloads of horns. On probably the funkiest record Byrne has put his name to in years, he battles pretentious parties and the rapidly-devolving human species with Annie Clark cooing, shredding and occasionally screeching alongside him. A suitably and delightfully odd affair from what can only be described as 2012’s most successful experiment.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Weekend in the Dust, Who, Dinner for Two.
21. Best Coast – The Only Place
The Only Place is not a carbon copy of the duo’s 2010 debut; nor is it an open love letter to the state of California as the title track may have you thinking. Rather, Place sees frontwoman Bethany Cosetino rummaging through bad relationships, poor health, gossiping frenemies and crippling homesickness. It’s done with impeccable production and Bobb Bruno’s sun-kissed lead guitar, adding a greater texture to what was previously a fairly straightforward sound palette. If your twenties suck, have sucked for a period or did suck, then perhaps you’ll find some respite in The Only Place.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Why I Cry, How They Want Me to Be, The Only Place