Gareth’s Top Ten Albums of 2012

Following on from Paul’s top ten review last week it is time for me to put together my thoughts on the albums which really struck a chord with me this past year. Putting the list together this time around proved more difficult than previously as 2012 seemed a far better year for great new albums than 2011.

Halestorm-Strange-Case-Of10. Halestorm – The Strange Case of…

Halestorm are great live and have been working extremely hard over the past few years constantly touring both on their own dime and as support to some big-name acts. They also have some great songs. Latest album The Strange Case of… is worth hearing overall. Tracks such as ‘Love Bites (and So Do I)‘ are up there with the best songs of the year.

Lzzy Hale’s voice is as amazing as ever, and the rest of the band’s playing is getting stronger and stronger. However if I’m totally honest, somehow the album just didn’t live up to all my expectations as the follow-up to the brilliant self-titled Halestorm.

This album is definitely worthy of a top ten placing in my list for 2012 but only at 10. A band worthy of keeping an eye on in the future. 2013 will be a big one for them I am sure.

BandofSkulls9. Band of Skulls – Sweet Sour

Southampton’s Band of Skulls are a band who blew me away this year when I finally got to see them live. Their album evokes everything about the performance in one handy, easy to hold package. With elements of the White Stripes, Black Sabbath, Radiohead and Nirvana what you have here is not necessarily anything original but it is most certainly a pleasure to listen to.

Proper, balls-out rock, sweet ballads, clever ditties and everything in between exist here on their second album. On first listen there was something I loved about it, though I couldn’t explain what. Perhaps it was the feeling of having heard it before? However whatever it was made me want to listen again and again, then the songs started to really shine and stand out on their own.

I am very much looking forward to seeing what Band of Skulls do next, and this album sets them up nicely for that next move.

Battle Born8. The Killers – Battle Born

When Nevada’s The Killers came onto the scene I loved them. Hot Fuss is definitely one of my favourite albums of all time. When Sam’s Town was released I was disappointed it wasn’t Hot Fuss 2. However over time that album grew until I almost loved it as much as Hot Fuss.

Day & Age produced the same negative feelings at first, as did Battle Born. This probably sounds as if I don’t like The Killers, but I really do. I just think their albums move style slightly each time, and not always in a direction which I’d expect or prefer. Then it takes me time to get into them.

It must be said that when Battle Born came out I was extremely underwhelmed. I already had tickets to see them on the album tour so of course went along. It wouldn’t be the first time an album needs to be heard live to best appreciate it. The Killers were really good, but not as much as previous shows. The album didn’t seem to stand up for me and that is what I thought the difference was. Ironically since seeing it live the album has just seeped into my subconscious and sounds better now than ever before.

‘Runaways’, the gorgeous ‘Here With Me’ and ‘From Here On Out’ are brilliant songs and those I haven’t mentioned are almost just as good. With this standard of album still being created by the band four albums in then I’d expect they will continue to be one of the biggest bands in the world for years to come.

Alabama Shakes7. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

Alabama Shakes should be massive. They will be massive if there is any justice in the world. This album is almost all the evidence as to why, and their live performances seal the justification completely.

Leader of the band, Brittany Howard has a voice like Aretha Franklin while playing guitar like Chuck Berry. The band which support her are a group of musicians who are perfectly suited to the job of living up to the talent which oozes from Brittany. The songs seem so simple on first listen, yet exude a depth which is revealed with further listens. The blues of ‘Hold On’ and ‘I Found You’ or the perfect soul of ‘Heartbreaker’ are perfect examples of what Alabama Shakes have to offer.

This is one album which has had a lot of repeat plays on my stereo.

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Last of a Dyin' Breed6. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Last of a Dyin’ Breed

Skynyrd are one of two bands in this year’s list who seem to have found a second life, albeit Skynyrd has succeeded after a much more dramatic end to the first chapter.

Last of a Dyin’ Breed is an excellent album, mature without sounding dated, rocking without sounding one-dimensional. My original review covers the album in more detail so I’ll say little more about it here.

However tracks such as the title track, ‘One Day at a Time’, ‘Homegrown’ and ‘Ready To Fly’ are as good as anything released in the 1970s and keep the legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd alive and relevant.

Halcyon5. Ellie Goulding – Halcyon

Ellie is a bit of a strange one for me. I’ve always loved her music (first album Bright Lights is great) and have seen her live a few times. She used to be more than a little bit pop – including TV advert territory – but after dating Skrillex her music seemed to take on more of an edge.

Sure it’s still poppy, but the indie vibe and dance elements (not dubstep sorry) definitely shine through on 2012’s Halcyon. Her voice is amazing and when singing tracks such as ‘Anything Can Happen’ and ‘Figure 8’ which shine with enough pop-hooks and dance beats to keep everyone happy. Halcyon is a new collection of Ellie songs which I find myself putting on again and again.

Another one of 2013s big stars I reckon.

Aerosmith - MFAD4. Aerosmith – Music from Another Dimension

Followers of musicscramble on Twitter will know that I struggled with this album on its release.

I am a huge Aerosmith fan, and the anticipation of their first album since 2001 really was growing to unrealistic proportions. That is, what I wanted it to be was probably so unrealistic that by the time it was released it couldn’t possibly be that good. I’ve lived with the album for a few months now, and although I still think it is two or three tracks too long (just because a CD allows 79 minutes doesn’t mean it should use them) however the album has bedded down nicely in my collection.

The mix of supposed “back to the 70s sound” rock tracks and just a few too many 90s style ballads doesn’t sit as comfortably the band perhaps hoped but ‘Luv XXX’, ‘Beautiful’, ‘Legendary Child’ and the wonderful ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’ with Carrie Underwood are worth the price alone. For me though the real proof in the pudding for how good an Aerosmith album Music from Another Dimension is, is simply that when a track from this album comes on the radio or during “shuffle” it sounds like a classic Aerosmith song you’ve loved for years.

There are some brilliant tracks here.

The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow3. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

The fantastic duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White remind us that you don’t need a huge band, electric guitars and lots of distortion to truly rock out.

Barton Hollow is a bit of a slow burner, but it is worth the effort of taking the time to listen a few times. The talent is there in abundance and as a result this album soon shines through rewarding you with something new, evocative and positively thrilling each time you listen.

With such a great album and then after the bizarre and confusing “splitting up” at the end of the year are we are still supposed to expect more from them next year!? Or was this their one and only moment they have left us with?

Fingers crossed it’s the former.

Europe -Bag of Bones2. Europe – Bag of Bones

Europe are back in a big way. Their last few albums are definitely the best they have ever released. A band with a revived sense of purpose and out performing fantastic shows to support these albums, Europe are definitely a force to be reckoned.

Bag of Bones is a perfect embodiment of Europe 2012; at the forefront of modern contemporary rock and little hairspray or spandex in sight! You only need listen to ‘Riches to Rags’, ‘Firebox’ and (almost) track of the year ‘Not Supposed to Sing The Blues’ to fully understand how brilliant Europe have become in this new incarnation.

Bag of Bones isn’t the first album to introduce us to the new Europe, it’s actually the fourth. Though in my opinion it is the best. Given it is also their most recent then they seem to be going from strength to strength! Rather than repeat myself however you should take a look at my original review of the album here,


1. Muse – The 2nd Law

What can I say about this album which I didn’t in my original review? Not much else needs be said really, what we have here is another piece of genius from Muse which has only gotten better with the repeated listens since that review was written.

Of course, it is a slight change in direction (or a cynical one if you ask some), but that doesn’t mean the album doesn’t stand up to their previous releases. The 2nd Law is a brilliant listen which absolutely deserves to be top of my list for 2012. If you have heard it and thought “meh” then you owe it to yourself to give it one more spin. If you haven’t heard it then you really must!

So there you have it, my list of top 2012 albums. What I did find interesting is that when I look back at my 2011 Top Ten list those albums I included aren’t 100% those which I would pick today. Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto is missing from that list for instance. So why wasn’t it included at the time?

My thought is that it came out at the end of October 2011 leaving not enough time for it to really make an impact before the list was compiled. So with that in mind here are a few close-runs from this year which may well have made it on the list had I been able to listen to them more (be it because of release date or just not given the time they may deserve).

Garbage with Not My Kind of People, Slash and Apocalyptic Love, The Lumineers self-titled debut, Bruce Springsteen‘s Wrecking Ball, and Rihanna’s Unapologetic. These albums are all worthy of picking up and giving a “spin”.

Here’s to the releases of 2013!

Gareth Fraser
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