The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Joel Durston Headshot

The Best Albums of 2012 20-11

Posted: Updated:

20. Calvin Harris - 18 Months
OK, so it's hardly going to win any prizes for originality or depth, but Mr Harris has an almost unparalleled consistency for creating - as they say (or at least said) in the trade - bangers, and a seemingly endless contacts book, put very liberally to use here (it's telling how mediocre the tracks with no featured artists are). 18 Months has dominated dancefloors, gym playlists and dancefloors alike for...well, around 18 months, and surely that's got to be worth something. And can any other artist regularly create beats so big they are basically the chorus in themselves?

19. Chromatics - Kill For Love
After Ryan Gosling cruised and raced his way around Los Angeles to a soundtrack of moody, electronic-pop ballads in Drive last year, eighties music is officially cool again. Chromatics, with this their fourth album, profited (Tick of the Clock featured on the soundtrack), with probably their most acclaimed album to date - a bumper collection (16 track, 77 minutes) of brilliantly atmospheric, shoegazey synths and washed out vocals. And now you can pretend you're an uber-cool stunt driver-cum-getaway driver-cum-hearthrob when listening to it, rather than navel-gazing bore.

18. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Trouble

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - TEED for short - is one of those acts you probably unknowingly know. Their song Garden soundtracked the advertising campaign for the Nokia Lumia phone - and seemingly managed the feat of still sounding cool and uncompromised by the association. But Orlando Higginbottom is more than a one-hit-wonder, as shown by this collection of electronica that has appealed to many a raver and rocker (Damon Albarn is a big fan). Plus, he has some great hats.

17. Django Django - Django Django
How to describe the sound of this album?! This Mercury-nominated album seems to have had nearly all the tags under the sun thrown at it - electronic, indie, psychadelica and all manner nu-s, alt-s and proto-s. Unsurprisingly given the kitchen sink approach, it doesn't all work - but it's joyously anarchic when it does. And surely, in a world where Adele, Coldplay and co. are proclaimed the death of music, this should be applauded. But perhaps the best description of their sound is offered by VaporizerBrothers as the top comment on Storm: 'Gonna come back to this when I'm high'.

16. Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
Geography teachers, as one critic claimed the lead singer of this unsurprisingly Alabaman band looks like, do not usually make the best rock stars. But she and the rest of Alabama Shakes have a sound right out of the classic stable of blues rock. It might not break the wheel, but it sounds like one of those albums the whole family could listen to and not be ashamed of - not an easy feat by any means, and one I think there's something to be said for.

15. Santigold - Masters of My Make-Believe
While the Biebers and Rae Jepsens of this world continue to dominate the charts, a lot more interesting pop is being made at pop's fringes; brilliant weird electronic stuff from Scandinavia courtesy of Lykke Li and Niki and the Dove, newcomers Haim with their sunny Californian Fleetwood Maccy pop; and Ms Santigold. It's hard to describe exactly what she does, but it's some sort of scratchy, frenetic blend of R&B, electronic and pop. That the American has here worked with everyone from Mrs Indie, Karen O (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs fame), to DJ and R&B super-producer Diplo, shows the breadth of this album. Maybe it's actually for this reason - it's determined resistance to be pigeonholed - that it's had relatively little success, peaking at just 33 in the UK chart. Whatever it is, and whatever the reasons for its relative anonymity, it deserves a bigger audience.

14. Plan B - ill Manors
Say what you like about Mr Ben Drew, and much has been, but he's certainly a smart cookie. After a no-holds-barred debut which was well-received critically but only mildly so commercially, he went away for four years and decided to make an album that would appeal to Radio 1, even Radio 2, listeners - which it duly did, going to number one and three times platinum and gaining good reviews -all so he had the platform that people would hear this, his unrelenting state-of-the-nation film and album. Some of those newer fans with gentler musical tastes may be turned off by this unrelenting return to his roots, but for those who persist it's a good marriage of the two.

13. Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
The year's customary critics' darlings were these Mercury Prize winners. The former Leeds Uni students introduced the UK to an esoteric brand of indie being touted as 'folk-wave' or 'folk-tronica', for their mix of Foals-esque intricate guitar riffs and 'quiet bits' with Joe Newman's haunting/annoying falsetto, a little reminiscent of Wild Beasts' frontman. It's sometimes easier to appreciate than love - music for the head rather than the heart - but this listener's warmed to it.

12. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
Surprisingly, given the massive hype and the impressive mixtape Nostalgia/Ultra, this is actually Mr Ocean's debut album. Helped by his controversial (in the rap world at least) declaration of a previous homosexuality relationship, which forms much of this album, Channel Orange garnered huge fanfare (though not to say the move was purely a PR stunt). It debuted at number two both sides of the Atlantic and earned rave reviews (an average of 92 on Metacritic). It's certainly an accomplished album; a quintessentially modern soul record, with clever touches on all from funk to jazz, even to electronica on the outstanding Pyramids. Also, the album starts with the noise of the old Playstations firing up, which makes any male of my generation very happy (or me at least). Basically, it sounds like the record Marvin Gaye might make if born a few decades later and allowed to indulge his carefree hedonism. Yet for all its considerable merits, some of the tracks, to me at least, do feel a bit average - easier to admire than adore.

11. Lucy Rose - Like I Used To
Ok, so a new demure female twenty-somethings from the Home Counties (Camberley, Surrey) with a nice voice and a guitar is hardly, on paper at least, the most exciting thing in music at the moment. Indeed, Ms Rose is basically a carbon copy of Lucy Marling. Or Alas I Cannot Swim-era Laura Marling, anyway, before she got all mature and grown up (and, frankly, a little over-earnest and dull). Apart from the odd electronic flourish here, and slightly drummy bit there, Lucy Rose seems pretty ordinary - but she's got a great way with a melody and a voice so lovely and beguiling even Abu Nasir or Voldemort might be won over. Or maybe that's just this observer, who frankly is just a little besotted with Lucy (creepily so?) - and wants to join her in, just like she does in Scar, skimming stones, driving in an open-top vintage car, climbing in a treehouse and wondering around non-descript parts of London looking all indie 'n' that. And indulge in some of her home-made jam and tea she offers at gigs. The soppy twat that he is.