In previous years, we’ve shied away from producing a ‘Best Of’ guide – preferring instead to assemble our writers’, photographers’ and editors’ favourite gigs/moments/live images. Not because we don’t have our annual preferences – simply because we tend to find ‘best of’ lists a little disingenuous. Rather than a list of ‘favourite’ albums or tracks, the majority of these guides tend to feature only the ‘coolest’ bands – a who’s who of the indie-crowd, the most ‘hotly-tipped’, as opposed to the singles or LPs which have been most played during the year.
Now, we may be mistaken: but so often have we been struck by the lack of giddy passion apparent in these compendia, that we decided to carve out our own version of the ‘Best Of’ – a heart-on-sleeve mixture of music journalist predictions, and music-fan nerdery – a list of 25 tracks we’ve listened to over, and over, and over, during 2012. Whether the artist is cool or not – whether they are likely to make it huge in 2013 or not – whether everyone else likes it or not – and those we see big things happening for, those who have made intelligent, noteworthy music.
Enjoy – and we hope you’ve had a great 2012 with the girls are x
25. Cinnamon Girl – ‘Devil In Me’
Released in July as a follow-up to blog-favourite ‘Friends’, Danish-born Cinnamon Girl‘s killer sophomore offering, ‘Devil In Me’, seemed to get lost amidst the fiery onslaught of Summer releases, popping up only briefly on The Guardian website in the same month. A fact we at TGA HQ never really understood: with its meaty synths, 80s sensibilities, and addictive keyboard hook, ‘Devil In Me’ is a little slice of pop heaven.
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24. Hannah Cohen – ‘The Crying Game’
With the release of her debut album Child Bride in April this year, former model and New Yorker Hannah Cohen made the music press sit up and take notice – in large part due to stand-out single ‘The Crying Game’ – a lilting, sophisticated folk-hued lament. Cohen’s delicious, borderline-somnolent vocals are the real treat here.
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23. Sharon Van Etten – ‘Serpents‘
Brooklyn’s Sharon Van Etten released lauded LP Tramp in the opening moments of 2012, and by December the record still sounds as fresh as ever – in particular first single ‘Serpents’, a sibilous, rattling, fury-fuelled exorcism showcasing Van Etten at her gritty best.
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22. Josephine – ‘What A Day’
Another artist-who-deserves-way-more-attention-than-she’s-received: in spite of a veritable army of muso’s keen to work with the 30 year old Mancunian (including Seb Rochford and Jimmy Hogarth), Josephine Oniyama’s particular blend of quirk and British-soul has not yet cast a wide net. Cascading, Smith-esque single ‘What A Day’ has, however, been on TGA HQ’s stereo, daily. Keep your eye on this lass.
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21. Woodpecker Wooliams – ‘Sparrow’
Brightonian Woodpecker Wooliams, aka Gemma Williams, released LP The Bird School of Being Human back in September – and a quiet buzz amongst British blogs began, Wooliams’ eerie vox and scarred, rakish instrumentation proving a gothically delightful alternative to the slew of 90s tinged pop songs which have abounded this year.
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20. The Tuts – ‘I Call You Up’
A prime example of why we decided to compile a ‘best of’ this year – to draw attention to amazing tracks which are guaranteed not to be included in the majority of music best-lists, despite their deserved place. This bouncing, chutzpah-fuelled, attitude-laden, indie-pop treat seems to cast a spell over any listener – an irresistible melody and savvy phrasing cementing the girls’ credentials. We predict big things for The Tuts. Just you wait and see.
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19. Velvet Two Stripes – ‘Cloud Seven’
Another band which we’d be surprised to find on a 2012 best-of – and more’s the pity. Hailing from Switzerland, this trio of noisemakers craft a sound quite their own, fusing the grit and squall of riot grrrl with the 70s hued rock growl of Deap Vally. ‘Cloud Seven’ starts quiet and rhythmic, before tremulous guitars and fuzzed out vocals swing into gear.
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18. Gaggle – ‘Army of Birds’
Now, with a TGA team member occupying one of the coveted spaces in the 21-strong all-women choir, we could be seen to be biased. Except, ‘Army of Birds’ is an incredible track, in its own right. After years of underground grafting, the release of their debut album From the Mouth of the Cave mid 2012 saw Gaggle finally reap the kudos they deserve – their power played out in full in this pop-tastic, nous-tacular, hand-clapping gem.
17. Peter & Kerry – ‘Split for the City’
Tape Club Record staples, and London gig favourites Peter & Kerry finally released their debut album La Trimouille at the end of the Summer – a modest and intelligently crafted Francophile’s dream. We said: “La Trimouille creates plausible and poetic personas with such honesty that makes this boy-girl dynamic quite the power pair.” ‘Split for the City’ is the standout track of the album – wit and perfectly complimentary vocals creating both humour and pathos.
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16. Lianne La Havas – ‘Forget’
Pipped as ‘one to watch’ for 2012, and nominated for The Mercury Prize later in the year, Lianne La Havas has delivered on all fronts with ‘Forget’ – a rousing, left-field pop track, lavished with velvetine vocals and bags of soul. Incidentally, we much preferred the original accompanying video for this track – it capturing her energy and style far more honestly than the underwhelming second version.
15. Angel Haze – ‘New York’
Recently signing to Universal, lightning-tongued Angel Haze is sure to make waves in 2013. Lazy comparisons to Azealia Banks don’t do justice to Haze’s raw power, and ball-busting honesty. Haze is an artist who unapologetically, urgently wants her success – her tripping, directional rhymes backing up her ambition. ‘New York’ perfectly encapsulates the kind of artist Haze is going to be – an important distinction between herself and her peers. She moves forward, fast, never settling.
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14. The xx – ‘Chained’
With a band as ferociously loved as The xx, expectations for a second album were high – and Coexist didn’t disappoint. We said: “Coexist is the first record on which Romy and Oliver sing each other’s words, just that fact adds an undercurrent to the interplay of The xx’s two leads.” ‘Chained’ is an understated, delicate, sweet, and almost unbearably tender exchange between the pair.
13. Goat – ‘Disco Fever’
Every year, a divisive, ‘experimental’ band release a track which garners as many fans as it does foes. 2012 saw Goat release primal, psych-trip ‘Disco Fever’ – and for every breathless, gushing review they received, an accusation of over-hype appeared. But to relegate Goat to the ranks of weird-for-weird-sakes is a distinctly reductive, simplistic view – and one which misses the genius of this cosmic world-folk-acid romp.
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12. Melody’s Echo Chamber – ‘I Follow You’
Heading the best of the best-of lists of 2012, classically trained Parisian Melody Prochet, aka Melody’s Echo Chamber released her self-titled debut album to wide critical acclaim. Lead track ‘I Follow You’ is a hazy, languid lament, nodding to dream pop sensibilities, basking in its own internal sunshine.
11. Micachu & The Shapes – ‘Low Dogg’
We long-questioned the validity of including this track on this list – as technically, ‘Low Dogg’ was first released in 2011, on low-fi hip-hop masterpiece Chopped and Screwed. However, clearing recognising its genius, Micachu and her chums decided to re-release the dirgy hit on 2012 release Never. ‘Low Dogg’ plays on Levi’s knack for crafting melody, the school-yard calls clashing uneasily with distorted bass and yelping strings.
10. Chvrches – ‘Lies’
How anyone could NOT fall in love with this track is beyond us. Glaswegian trio Chvrches are everything we look for in an indie pop act. Infectious melodies, hooky riffs and beautiful, slightly-odd vocals. Dreamy.
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9. Poliça – ‘Wandering Star’
Superband Gayngs offshoot, Poliça, fronted by the softly-voxed Channy Leanagh, have already garnered themselves a legion of A-list fans including the one and only Jay-Z. Amidst digital beats and densely-layered synths, Leanagh’s sweet, breathy vocals seem juxtaposed – and oh-so-rightly. An alluring journey through the emotional spectrum, ‘Wandering Star’ is at once messy and beautifully whole.
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8. Sleigh Bells – ‘Demons’
Another surprise instalment on this best of list. ‘Demons’ is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the smartest, the most complex, or the most original release of the year. It has however, been something of a party anthem for us during 2012, making its way onto a number of our DJ sets. The stomp and pomp of ‘Demons’ was later re-mixed by Diplo – an remix that seemed to trounce the popularity of the original.
7. M.I.A – ‘Bad Girls’
2012 saw the return of the inimitable M.I.A – and oh how we rejoiced. ‘Bad Girls’ is the whole package: punchy, ferocious vocals layered over dance-hall inspired beats. Never one to miss a trick, M.I.A then produced an era-defining video to accompany the track.
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6. Ms Mr – ‘Hurricane’
NYC duo, and new kids on the block, Ms Mr released ‘Hurricane’ in July this year – and rather than exploding across the blogosphere, seemed to creep, stealthily. Tipped for HUGE things, they’ve not quite hit pay dirt yet – and we can only assume this is down to the vast number of incredible releases we’ve seen this year. Chillwave masters, Ms Mr have the big 3: atmosphere, vocal prowess and a knack for crafting dark, addictive hooks.
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5. Solange – ‘Losing You’
A challenge to Bey’s pop crown you say? From her sister you say? You’re having a laugh… And then you hear Solange Knowles’ ‘Losing You’ – a fine slice of delicious, sophisticated, funk-led pop beauty. Hooky guitars dancing over bubbling, exuberant drums sit underneath Solange‘s heartfelt vocals. A ridiculously good track, which promises a whole heap more in the coming 12 months. Knowles family HOORAY.
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4. Taylor Swift – ‘Never Getting Back Together’
Only recently on Facebook we saw a comment which declared its author’s delighted surprise to find so many feminist friends who loved Taylor Swift. Moreover, friends who unashamedly loved the former country pop princess. We are one of those feminist friends. Although not written solely by Swift, ‘Never Getting Back Together’ is not only a piece of pop genius, but also CLEVER. Clever in its knowingness, it’s hooks, and in its ability to be adored by Every. Single. Person. In. The. World.
3. Savages – ‘Husbands’
Savages are one of THOSE bands – lauded by critics and fans alike, mysterious in their lack of available recorded material, and incredible in their live performances. Released in May, surrounded by a very special brand of buzz, ‘Husbands’ is an intense, repetitive, borderline-orgasmic post-punk triumph.
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2. Grimes – ‘Oblivion’
Taken from the 2012 album Visions, Canadian electro-oddball Grimes released single ‘Oblivion’ in the early part of the year, fusing elements of dance, pop and electro, overlayed with catchy, funky beats and an ethereal vocal. We said: “Visions is one of the most complete and balanced albums to be released so far this year”.
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1. Haim – ‘Forever’
Without a doubt, our favourite track of the year – in as much as this is probably TGA’s most PLAYED track of 2012. Classic r’n’b rhythms and stylings take on an updated modus on ‘Forever’, taken from the EP of the same name. Astoundingly good on their respective instruments, the California sisters make music that connects the listener to their combined voice – they are playful, call on the likes of Fleetwood Mac for melodic and harmonic inspiration and craft dance-floor worthy, beautifully produced pop.