As regular readers of my writings on the CFZ Blog will know, for the past few years (six I think, but I can't be bothered to count) On Christmas Day I always post a list of my favourite albums of the year. In quite a few years I have been forced to scrape the barrel, because - to be brutally honest - there have not been that many particularly good records that year. However, this year - 2012 - it has been different. I don't know whether it is because I am back in the music business for the first time in years, and am therefore keeping my ear closer to the ground (as Dr Shuker suggests), or whether everyone of an Eschatological bent had a secret suspicion that the world was indeed going to end in December, so pulled out all the stops to make sure that their final statements would be corkers, or whether there was just something in the air, but this year has been a stonker for music.
I found it very hard to limit my choice to just ten, and even cheating and having for 'bubbling under' I found myself leaving out such peaches as the new Unthanks
album, and Mimi Page's gorgeous album, which would definitely have made it into the Top Ten in a normal year. But here they are (and just in case you wondered where the Magick Brothers
album was, for example, it was recorded back in 1991 and so doesn't count, although I am sure that once again I would have bent the rules for it and other live albums, compilations and reissues in a normal year).
1. Bob Dylan 'Tempest'
No contest! I think that this is the best Bob Dylan album since Blood on the Tracks
. His apocalyptic visions, especially in Scarlet Town
when he revisits the scene of one of his earliest traditional folk songs is particularly searing.
2. Damon Albarn 'Dr Dee'
Utterly magnificent. I am waiting with baited breath to see how this is staged as an opera. I forst heard of Dr Dee through my mother reading me Rudyard Kipling (The Mortlake Witches
) and my old friend Doc Shiels in Monstrum!
so this music presses all sorts of personal buttons for me.
3. Jack White 'Blunderbuss'
I have been waiting for White to produce something like this ever since he let himself out of his self-imposed stylistic straightjacket of The White Stripes
. He has suddenly bloomed into an extraordinary talent. I can't wait to see what he does next.
4. Michael Des Barres 'Carnaby Street'
I have played this album incessantly since it came out. Michael has tapped into a wonderfully primal veing of blues/rock/soul and gets better and better. I am looking forward to the live album which is out very soon, and I am immensely proud to have been (in a small way) part of the publicity machine for this fantastic album.
5. Auburn 'Indian Summer'
Liz Lenten is another fantastic talent that I have been lucky enough to work with this year. I love her sultry voice and intelligently crafted little songs which never quite do what you expect of them, always taking an unlikely twist and doing something completely unexpected
6. Public Image Limited 'This is PiL'
This record could have been so lacklustre...but its not. Like so many people, when I heard that Wobble and Levine had been invited to play on the reunion album, but declined I was massively disappointed. But I shouldn't have been. Lu Edmonds is a completely shamanic guitarist conjuring up waves of completely unimagined sound from the depths of his soul, while Lydon, cackled and struts and is as Lydon as we all hoped that he would be.
7. The Beach Boys 'That's Why God made the Radio'
This is another record that I thought was going to be terrible, given the bad blood between Brian Wilson and Mike Love, and the fact that poor mad Brian is the only Wilson brother left alive. But it is glorious. It is the perfect valedictory album, as the Beach Boys, now old men take stock of their lives and what they have achieved. Then the tour came, and the whole thing fell apart.
8. The Pet Shop Boys 'Elysium'
This is exactly what one would hope from the classiest pop band ever. It is a pleasing return to form, with a preponderance of old analogue synths, classy strings and the wittiest, bitchiest lyrics this side of Noel Coward
9. Neil Young and Crazy Horse 'Psychedelic Pill'
Neil Young released two albums this year, both with Crazy Horse
, and whereas the first one has its moments, the second one is an absolute delight. It presses all the same buttons as do classic albums like Rust Never Sleeps.
I also enjoyed his peculiar rambling autobiography, and note that he said that he has problems writing since he stopped drinking or smoking pot. If this record was made post abstemiousness then we have now't to worry about.
10. Martin Stephenson and Helen McCookerybook 'Cafe of Tiny Kindnesses'
Finally, someone else that I actually know. I am a big fan of Helen - the ex-punk academic who sings like Doris Day! Team her up with partner Martin who was one of the most intelligent and literate artists to have come out of the post punk Indie movement, and you have a meticulously crafted delight of an album.
11. Leonard Cohen Old Ideas
An extraordinary album, which is spoken rather than sung, but which carries such a weight of emotion, in some frames of mind it is almost too painful to listen to
12. The Ting Tings Sounds from Nowhere
Nowhere near as fun as (and much heavier than) their debut album, but it still has many joyous moments, and the homage to Brill Building girl bands featured through The Runaways
and Dr Dre is magnificent
13. The Producers Made in Basing Street
I have always been a sucker for sophisticated, Steely Danesque
pop, and this record presses all the right buttons. I went up quite a few notches in the estimation of one of my nieces for having liked this
14. Fairport Convention By Popular Request
I was friends with this seminal band once upon a time, but a lot of water and other substances have passed under a lot of bridges since then. But I am still fond of their music, and this re imagining of some of their most popular songs is all that one would wish for.
15. The Flaming Lips '...and heady fweinds'
Insane, beautifully crafted and funny. However its just filler, as was the previous album. When can we expect a proper new album gentlemen?