There was a top 20 and then @danmumbleson released an album on 8 December. So, 20 became 21.

St Vincent – Masseduction

SV

The promo campaign did nothing for me, neither did the outfits, nor a couple of the über-pop tunes, but, fundamentally, behind all the post-modern irony and the major-label production values, this was an old-fashioned St Vincent album in all its glory.

Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life

LdR

Lana Del Rey is one of my favourite artists. A woman who has beaten corporate musicality and has been able to make the music she wants. Respect. Don’t tell anyone, though, but without the collaborations this would have been an even better album.

Ryan Adams – The Prisoner

Ryanadamsprisoner

Maybe it was the Flying V, but from the very first chords Prisoner hit the spot.

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

JI

My gig of the year. But Jason Isbell didn’t just deliver a fantastic show in 2017. He also delivered a top-class album with songs about beating alcohol, managing anxiety, and living in Trump’s America. All the more remarkable when you think that you’d need the first to manage the second caused by the third.

Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface

220px-Manchester_Orchestra_-_A_Black_Mile_to_the_Surface

Truly a mad-cap project. But an album that at a certain point of the year I simply could not stop playing. And it had the effect that all great albums have. It made me reacquaint myself with the back catalogue. Revisiting Simple Math was an almost equal pleasure.

Holy Holy – Paint

Holy+Holy+PAINT

Holy Holy delivered their ‘difficult’ sophomore album with great panache. Better even than their debut, Paint was full of good old fashioned rock songs (but for a modern age).

Well, here we are. The culmination of yet another musical year. And the great thing? Next year’s only just around the corner. Can’t wait.

Lucinda Williams – Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

Down_Where_the_Spirit_Meets_the_Bone_-_Lucinda_Williams

Released on her own record label, Lucinda Williams returned with a new-found freedom. The songs were strong. The lyrics were stark. The band was tight. And there was a great JJ Cale cover at the end.

Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

The-Voyager

After a period of musical self-doubt, Jenny Lewis returned with her first release in six years. And it was well worth the wait. Voyager was chock-a-block with foot-tapping melodies and grown-up lyrics.

Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

lana-del-rey-1403216000

Ultraviolence has been largely overlooked in end-of-year, best-of lists. Perhaps it’s unsurprising. Slowing things right down, LDR managed to alienate most of the people who loved the dance-floor anthems of the last album. What a relief! Let’s hope she’s got the strength to explore the altogether darker nooks and crannies of her current musical space.

The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

war-on-drugs-lost-in-the-dream-300x300

By contrast, TWOD are a seemingly obligatory inclusion in everybody’s end-of-year list. But it’s a no-brainer as to why. This was an old-fashioned sort of album. Full of great build ups, long wind downs, and thrilling middle sections. (Don’t tell anyone, though, but it ran out of steam a little bit towards the end of side 2).

The Antlers – Familiars

FamiliarsAlbumCover

Familiars was full of slow but irresistibly funky songs, most of them led by a trumpet or two. It was the sort of party you’d have if you were stuck in a funeral procession. Against your better nature, you’d be really enjoying yourself.

Here are my top 5 favourite releases of 2012, in no particular order:

Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

She can’t sing. The lyrics were phoned in by a bunch of hacks. There are a couple of really dire sub-X Factor numbers. And yet. This is a great album. ‘Off To The Races’ is utterly compelling throughout. The way the song swoops to a close for more than a minute is just sublime.

4d08b1b5a5658019e49a9232681c3612
John Murry – The Graceless Age

 

 

John Murry was the most real album of the year. Many of the songs come straight from Murry’s own experiences. They weren’t pretty. He nearly died of an overdose and he recounts the events in some detail. The results ought to be morbid, but they’re not. They’re magnificent. Flawless. Life-affirming. And it was clever. “What keeps me alive will kill me in the end”, he sings on ‘¿No te da ganas de reir, Sènor Malverde?’.

EHL - 3 months
Lambchop – Mr M

‘The strings sound good, Maybe add some flute”. Mr M had the lushness of It’s A Woman. The songs were slow. And there was room in them to let them utterly envelop you. But they were all tinged with sadness. Scrap that. They were thoroughly marinaded in it. The album was dedicated to the late Vic Chesnutt. Maybe it took such a loss to produce one final great Lambchop record. If that was his last act, then he can surely rest in peace.

artworks_000018743146_glul5c_original_300x300
Giant Giant Sand – Tucson

This album should not work. Apart from the fact that after nearly 30 years of writing songs, and at a furious pace, there should be nothing left in the tank, this was officially billed as a country rock opera. Well, maybe it did work precisely because Howe Gelb is such an experienced songwriter and also because it sounded nothing like what you might imagine a country rock opera would sound like. Eclectic. Individual. Simply unique.

field_report_cover_larg-570x570
Field Report

Field Report are a serious proposition. It’s hard to imagine them having much fun, or even smiling. But, if that’s the price of such a wonderful listen, then so be it. The songs on this album lingered. They were given plenty of space in which to develop, evolve. Nothing was hurried. Sure, the lyrics were a little pretentious at times. But these were genuine, organic, hand-crafted songs.