The Music You Need To Get This Xmas: ST's Top Albums Of 2012

It's been a cracking year for the album with Richard Hawley, Lana del Rey and Frank Ocean releasing epics so if you want to know what to get from Santa, here's some tips.
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As with everything, hindsight is a wonderful thing in music.  It's hard to judge a year's output unbiasedly without the benefit of the year or two's grace, to assertain whether the records we've described so readily as groundbreaking/inspiring/convention defying (delete as appropriate), are genuinely deserving of such well-worn accolades.  Regardless, despite protestations that the album is dead as an art form, it seems that 2012 has been a strong one for the long player; we've seen muscially literate but accessible offerings from brand new artists (Alt-J and Polica), third album consolidations from indie heroes (Bat For Lashes/The Maccabees) a stomping return from an old-school superstar (Dexys), and a rapturously received effort from the world's first gay (okay, bi) hip-hop superstar in Frank Ocean.  On top of that, there's been powerful returns from the likes of The xx and Sharon Van Etten, an electro-soul belter from Twin Shadow and an as-yet unheard album from Scott Walker, which if his last album 'The Drift'  is anything to go by, we should be as terrified as we are excited about the prospect of listening to.

Sabotage has a bevy of excellent music scribes. all of whom are never short of an opinion when it come to their favourite or least favourite music.  Their tastes are so diverse that it didn't seem right to put together am amalgamated list of the years best records; instead, I asked them to name their top 5 with a a brief summation of their choices.  Unsurprisingly we had an impassioned reaction, here's a selection of those that came back...

Tom Griffiths-@darthbrush

5:'Standing At The Sky's Edge' - Richard Hawley
4: 'Bloom' - Beach House
3:'The Dark Knight Rises (OST)' - Hans Zimmer
2:'Shields' - Grizzly Bear
1:'Rooms Filled with Light' - Fanfarlo

Fanfarlo's second record is an under-appreciated gem. With nods to classic indie records, 80s production, and occasional moments of Arcade Fire style epicness, it's upbeat in a world where the prevailing wind seems to blow towards the brooding.  Richard Hawley produced another album that would have sounded relevant at almost any time in the past forty years, whilst'The Dark Knight Rises' soundtrack is an awesome achievement, with Zimmer capturing the essence of the film and its characters perfectly. There's bass on there that will cave your skull in if you have the headphones up loud enough...

Sam Diss- @SAMDISS

5: Heavenly Beat - 'Talent'
4: Frankie Rose -'Interstellar'
3: Joey Bada$$ - '1999'
3: The Men - 'Open Your Heart'
2: Frank Ocean- 'Channel Orange'
1: Twin Shadow- 'Confess'

George Lewis Jr. aka chill-synth maestro Twin Shadow, produced this record to little mainstream success. Star single "Five Seconds" should have, by rights, been a smash-hit; a beautiful singalong vocal with an even more singalongable beat about chasing after love. The entire album, released on the respected British indie label 4AD  has a sound unusual in it's accessibility: this isn't a barely listenable jazz-shoegaze record for poseurs, hipsters and lonely men with beards. This is Prince if he could reign it in, went rocky and played small rooms in Camden.

Fiona Evans- @fkevans

5: The Milk - 'Tales from Thames Delta'
4: Django Django - 'Django Django'
3: First Aid Kit - 'The Lion's Roar'
2: Alt-J - 'An Awesome Wave'
1: Lana Del Rey - 'Born to Die'

Released back in January, amnesiac music lovers might have already forgotten Lana Del Ray's place in 2012 best of lists, especially since recently she has been more recognisable as the girl on every billboard from here to John o’Groats. Ignore her photoshopped platypus face; 'Born to Die' is an incredibly distinctive offering, even without all the self-promotion . Warbling woozy pathos and a poor-little-rich-girl persona that emerges intensely from deceptively simple piano led tracks; stand-out singles 'Video Games,' 'Blue Jeans' and the huskily beautiful title track were some of the best songs from last summer to now. Now the backlash has had time to settle, this still manages to emerge from the critical fog as a genuinely exciting album.

Dale Shaw- @MontyBodkin

5: Frank Ocean – 'Channel Orange'
4: CAN – 'The Lost Tapes'
3: Dexys – 'One Day I’m Going To Soar'
2: Field Music – 'Plumb'
1. Gaggle - 'From the Mouth of the Cave'

I accidentally wandered into Rough Trade, confused, lightly drunk or glum for some reason. I stumbled across a Gaggle instore, which, as there are around 20 of them, was quite a scene. It was incredible.

Field Music's effort is completely unique and impossible to categorise – how many bands can you say that about these days? Whether as Field Music or in a variety of other guises, they always deliver something thrilling. Robbed at the Mercurys.

Freddie Slaughter

5: Quakers - 'Quakers'
4: Kendrick Lamar - 'good kid, m.A.A.d city'
3: Nas - 'Life Is Good'
2: LV - 'Sebenza'
1: Frank Ocean - 'Channel Orange'

The hip hop full length strikes a chord with me in a much stronger manner than electronic music, though the latter genre would certainly dominate my singles chart. That's not to take away from any of these albums though: Quakers' sprawling full length combines rugged hip hop rhythms with a menagerie of MC talent, whilst the-most-talked-about-West-Coast-kid-since-Dre lives up to the pressure with his stunning narrative. Nas gives us his best output in years. LV, meanwhile, morph the sounds of the UK and African underground into something unheard before and totally brilliant for it. But this year is all about Frank. After the heartfelt open letter of his ‘coming out’, the hype has blown up; but for the album to eclipse this is testament to his superb songwriting ability, the panoramic production and effortless style.

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Raj Bains- @BainsXIII

5: 'Halcyon'- Ellie Goulding
4: 'Blunderbuss'- Jack White
3: 'Coexist'- The xx
2: 'Born To Die'- Lana Del Ray
1: 'Lonerism'- Tame Impala

By writing, recording and producing the majority of both albums, Impala mainman Kevin Parker is beginning to make name for himself, and quite rightly so. Further down the list, The xx managed to evolve without venturing too far away from the blueprint that saw their debut album do so well,  whilst 'Blunderbuss' delivered on all its potential for greatness.  But it was never in doubt, was it?

Lara Coffey

5:  Maximo Park – 'The National Health'
4: Gaslight Anthem – 'Handwritten'
3: The xx 'Coexist'
2: Hot Chip – 'In Our Heads'
1: Alex Winston – 'King Con'

Alex Winston has produced an album that encompasses ethereal warmth and quirky vocals that Florence + The Machine wishes she could produce. More accessible than Joanna Newsom and equally as wonderful – it's an album that’ll keep you listening into 2013 and beyond.

Tim Brown- @sockformation

5: Wild Nothing- 'Nocturne'
4: Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros- 'Here'
3: Alt-J- 'An Awesome Wave'
2: Death Grips- 'The Money Store'
1: Purity Ring- 'Shrines'

How can a debut album be so perfect? Nothing has sounded like Purity Ring before, yet it isn't so out there that it's unaccesible. Magan James' lyrics are some of the most beautiful and complex you'll hear this year and the inventiveness of Corin Roddick's instrumental work is extraordinary. This album is perfect whatever your mood, whatever the weather and whatever the setting.

David Hillier- @Gobshout

5: Yeasayer- 'Fragrant World'
4: Foxygen: 'Take The Kids Off Broadway'
3: Low Cut Connie- 'Call Me Sylvia''
2: Sharon Van Etten- 'Tramp'
1: Alt-J- 'An Awesome Wave'

The Mercury Music prize-winning album has been a constant on my laptop since it was streamed (prior to its release) on Soundcloud. Multi layered and complex, yet sonically appealing to all , it was a deserving winner of the often-maligned award.

You can listen to the Foxygen album on bandcamp here:  It sounds like a glam rock album make by (stoned) Stones fans in their bedroom. All roads point to them being spectacular in 2013.

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