Here are my 11th-15th favourite releases of 2012, in no particular order:

Jack White – Blunderbuss

The best way to enjoy Jack White’s album was to forget what it was about. Was it about Meg? Was it about Karen? Was it about both? Did she – whoever it was – really do those things to him? Did he ever really say those things to her? Who knows? Who cares? In Jack’s head it’s probably about all of these things, none of them, and many others as well. Like the impenetrable cover, which must mean something but who knows what, the trick was to sit back and listen to the song craft. There’s great playing, great tunes, great drama. It’s more enjoyable than most White Stripes albums.

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Adrian Crowley – I See Three Birds Flying

Ah, this was the album with the lyric: “And I tried to write, The Saddest Song In The World”. Well, good news, Dr Crowley, you’ve won first prize. Sure, I have a soft spot for the miserabilists, a penchant for the self-pityers, an attraction to the artists of anomie, but Adrian Crowley can out do them all. He makes Leonard Cohen seem virtually jolly. But it’s not all melancholy madness. “I see three birds flying”, he sings, “One will steal your rings and, One will make you sing, And one will lead you home”. Full of wonderful imagery and poetic lyrics. This is a fine album.

Chase the Dark Away
Jim White – Where It Hits You

A great thing about most of Jim White’s songs is that when they get going they often move along at a decent pace. There’s usually a good rhythm underpinning the subtle orchestration. And when he does slow it right down, then there’s always something going on in the music. Some sound. Some texture. All of which means that the songs never get boring. Plus, there’s a real sense of the south. Of chairs swinging on the porch. Of someone who’s been through quite a bit and wants to reflect on it. And, for once, not in a way that’s achingly sad, but with the sense that, hmm, that was really something.

Damien Jurado – Maraqopa

This was the latest of a string of fine albums by Damien Jurado over the last few years. He’s never going to make the big time. He’s never going to sell out big theatres. Commercially, probably the best he can hope for is to get a song played on an episode of a top US TV programme. But this doesn’t diminish the fact that he’s a wonderful songwriter. On this album, he added just a touch of psychedelia on a couple of the tracks and it sounded really good. That’s right. Just a touch. Richard Hawley please take note.

Simone Felice

Simone Felice told some of the best stories of the year. Some of them were even true. Homicidal Native Americans. Perverts from Jersey. Michael Jackson. Characters you’d cross the road to avoid. Simone Felice brought these and host of others to life in gentle-sounding songs, but ones with a hint of menace nonetheless. His retelling of the story of Charles Manson and Sharon Tate is particularly chilling. But it’s when he dreams of taking a chance and running away with Courtney Love that the shivers really kick in.

Jack White – Blunderbuss

This is unmistakably a Jack White album. The thin voice. The cold production. This is unmistakably a Jack White album. The angry riffs. The aggrieved, cutting, remorseless riffs. This time, there’s plenty of reason to be angry. The lyrics capture the break up with Karen Elson or perhaps Meg White. Allegedly. “I hear a whistle, that’s how I know she’s home. Lipstick, eyelash, broke mirror, broken home”. Ouch. “She don’t care what kind of wounds she’s inflicted on me. She don’t care what color bruises that she’s leavin’ on me. She’s got freedom in the 21st century”. Oucher still. Well, the Karen Elson album that you produced was full of murder ballads. Allegedly. So, Mr White, what did you expect? ‘Sixteen Saltines’ is the classic Jack White song. All bluster. But while there’s plenty of drums and guitars, there’s more to the music than just that. ‘Love Interruption’ reads brutally, but sounds composed. Keyboards. Acoustic guitar. Backing vocals. ‘Blunderbuss’ suggests it should be the noisiest, fearsomest track on the album. But with its backing of pedal steel guitar and double bass, it just lies on its back and waves its legs in the air. And that’s what works. Thirteen angry guitar-driven songs might have been very cathartic for Mr White, but it would soon have outstayed its welcome. Like someone you let sleep on your couch because they’re having a tough time, but who you soon want to kick out because they sure do moan a lot. You wouldn’t wish on anyone the obvious pain and torment that provides the background to these songs. But they sure make for a great album. Allegedly.

Jack White – official site