NME's 50 Best Albums of 2012
Sounds phase in and out, drums thunder, guitars chime with warm, valve amp bite, voices are multi-tracked into luscious harmonies, snatched sentences of speech burble in the background, loops repeat and vocals echo distantly, like they’re drifting in from a radio in another room.
It’s like skipping through a thousand excellent tracks on your iPod shuffle and isolating 13 perfect moments.
In toning down the shock and awe, they’ve revealed the beating heart at the centre of their work.
It is also miles better than ‘Innerspeaker’, and quite possibly the best album released so far this year.
It still defiantly goes against the grain, but also explodes with immediate, attention-grabbing riffs.
While ‘Blunderbuss’ isn’t that definitive, unarguable document we’ve been seeking, it still feels like his most candid and personal record yet.
The arrangements are exquisite from top to bottom, and producer Congleton – who worked with Clark on ‘Strange Mercy’ – helps make it easy for us all to love this giant of a record.
It hides more than ‘xx’ did, sneaking its miserable joys behind bare spaces, surprise time signatures and subtle dramas.
It has been a joy to see Van Etten growing in confidence as an artist – and this isn’t just her finest album, but one of early 2012’s best.
Here are two people who already see the best in each other, and with ‘Melody’s Echo Chamber’ they’ve tried to make everyone else see it too. It shows.
For all the strange twists and turns, the rich layers and dark beauty to be found, nothing here grabs you and sets up home in your heart like ‘Veckatimest’ did.
It’s weird and wonderful and you’ll want to listen again as soon as it’s over.
There’s also pleasure in hearing a band do what they do so peerlessly well: croon sweet, sweet lullabies to console us in our fleshy prisons.
It’s a hardcore record from a top-shelf kind of a guy, but the work of a unique mind.
‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’ is a more than enjoyable collection of old-school indie gems.
Like all the great British pop records of the past five years, ‘Devotion’ combines the present and the past to make a record that sounds both contemporary and timeless.
This record is, as you’d expect, by turns breathtaking, entrancing, deafening and challenging, and Spiritualized are still the Vatican of bands.
What '2' makes clear, quickly, is that DeMarco is a skilful songwriter.
After the twin peaks of ‘Watch The Throne’ and ‘My Beautiful Twisted Dark Fantasy’’s rap-pop grandeur, ‘Cruel Summer’ feels slight in comparison.
Coxon has made one of the best albums of his career – a pop record with dangerously anti-social tendencies.
For large swathes, it's like being plunged into a fairytale soundtracked by skin-prickling electro and populated by downtrodden sods hunting for breadcrumbs of comfort.
‘…Come Of Age’, then, is not perfect, but it’s a damn fine specimen of a band on the way to something great.
A shyly introspective listen that, much like The xx’s first album, sits awkwardly with the industry furore surrounding it.
It has the reckless spirit of a record that hasn’t been over-analysed, but with an intense flurry of ideas from someone in the absolute prime of their creativity.
‘Sonik Kicks’ is the sound of Paul Weller growing old the only way he could – not particularly gracefully, but with no small amount of style.
It might lack the raw appeal of Kendrick’s 2011 mixtape ‘Section.80’, but it’s also a big-budget reminder that the 25-year-old hasn’t forgotten his roots.
Although it’s not quite the perfect pop record ‘Video Games’ might have led us to wish for, ‘Born To Die’ still marks the arrival of a fresh – and refreshingly self-aware – sensibility in pop.
‘Be Strong’ is one of the smartest and funniest dance records you’ve heard in a long while.
Ultimately, this album is the sound of the future.
‘Shrines’ is a euphoric treat in its own right, made all the more thrilling by its heady potential.
MORE 2012 YEAR END LISTS:
MORE YEAR END LISTS FROM NME: