Time to recap the year of 2012. Overall, this was a weak year in turns of quality of albums. We received a lot of disappointing efforts from established artists, even from bands I don't care for to begin with (Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, Animal Collective).
On the plus side, it was a strong year for new bands and singers. The depth of the Honorable Mentions is a testament of the creative forces that emerged this year. What I like is the sonic diversity that emerged this year. You have soul singers, folky singer-songwriters, shoe gazer, garage punk, mellow electro-dance and experimental popsters.
As always, my definition of a new act is if they released a debut album this year. Thus, acts like Palma Violets, MS MR, Willy Moon and Savages will wait until next year.
5. Poliça -- Trip hop might seem like a dated term -- an artifact left over from the 90s when Massive Attack and Portishead reigned supreme. WIth that said, Channy Leanagh and her band created a mood that many term as dreamy and haunting, but I find it completely beautiful. That aura they created on their debut, Give You The Ghost, stays with you.
4. Michael Kiwanuka -- You and I don't give a shit about the Grammys. So when the Best Artist category was announced, I was a little bit annoyed when Michael Kiwanuka wasn't among the five nominees. I figure his voice and classic style would be right in tune with the out of touch Grammy voices. I guess if one of his songs was used in a car commercial or movie trailer, he would be included. In any event, I think he's best new solo artist from the year. Even the BBC Sound of 2012 was correct for once. His debut album, Home Again, is a throwback to early 70s soul. You can name a dozen artists from that era that he draws and I would agree with that he sounds like him. Bill Withers is the first name that comes to mind. I'm also kicking myself for not seeing him live. I forgot that he was opening for Laura Marling at Prospect Park over the summer. This is what happens when you're disorganized like me.
3. Toy -- This ia band that speaks to my anglophile musical tastes. They have been many bands that draw inspiration from Jesus & Mary Chain, Stone Roses and My Bloody Valentine, and Toy doesn't hold back on that aspect of their sound. I think what makes the band and their self-titled debut album a winner is their groovy hooks and willingness to go all out. Their early single, "Left Myself Behind", clocked in at almost eight minutes.
2. Django Django -- For while I thought they would take the top spot, but ultimately, I gave to the Shakes for the strength of their debut album. That doesn't mean that Django Django didn't make a huge achievement this year. After three years of singles and knocking around the UK music scene, the wait was well worth it. For me, this is what Beta Band could have been if they held the band together. The comparison is just since drummer and producer is David Maclean, brother of John from the Beta Band. You got love a band that creates a fun, unusual sound that defines categorization. That's when you have to use the term, "experimental".
1. Alabama Shakes -- Well, this band did get a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. So I was wrong in January when I said Lana del Rey would be nominated. She got zilch. Anywho, this a band that doesn't reinvent the southern soul rock sound, just perfects it. They own their sound, wear it on their sleeves and belt it out with reckless abandon. It's brash and subtle within the same song ("Heartbreaker"). More than anything, here's band that sound have a vibrant career ahead of them. That's the reason they are ahead of the pack.
-- Metz -- The top, doesn't quite make the top 5, goes to Canadian trio Metz. The rest of the world can suck up to Japandoids, I'll stick to Metz with their loud, out-on-control intensity.
-- Lucy Rose -- My British buddy did well for herself this year, and became sort of a big deal in her native country with her honest songwriting and soothing voice.
-- Melody's Echo Chamber -- She's makes dark, sexy music for the tortured lover inside of you. It's even got a beat, so you can bug out to it
-- Kindness -- Adam Bainbridge made an album that Air has refused to make since Moon Safari. 70s european disco chic at its finest
-- The Lumineers -- Another Grammy nominee, who probably landed on the list for the liberal use of "Ho Hey" in commercial media. You have to admit, it's one of the great songs of the year.
-- Trailer Trash Traceys -- I'm surprised they didn't catch on in the UK, or here. In any event, the shoegazers/dream poppers layered in plenty of depth and musicianship on their debut from January, Ester.