25 January 2013

Albums of 2012 - the TopFlight List

Yes, having promised this list some time ago, I decided to leave you all in a state of panting excitement.

Rather than actually list them in any order, there's the best, and the rest of the top10.

Crippled Black Phoenix - (Mankind) The Crafty Ape. You like post-rock? and don't have CBP The Crafty Ape? Shame. Shame on you. It's superb, doesn't feel like a 2CD set which is always a good sign (hell, listening to Transatlantic, which aren't [technically] 2CD albums, feels like a triple...). It's grungy, dark, tuneful, and addictive.

Ian Anderson - Thick as a Brick 2 (I'm linking to Burning Shed rather than j-tull). Really, I thought this would be rubbish, there's so many examples of bands coming back to their masterpiece and failing (Queensryche, Meatloaf, etc) that expectations were low. But this was great, nice tribute themes to TaaB1, while exploring what could have happened in the intervening years.

John K Samson - Provincial. The first solo album from the lead singer of the Weakerthans was a lovely piece, more delicate and personal than the Weakerthans material. And very addictive. The same quirky, engaging lyrics, but a more personal delivery.

Scott Walker - Bish Bosch. Not the most prolific of musicians since his avante garde switch (road to damascus moment?), this is the third album in what are, at least thematically, a trilogy of experimental, challenging, and always interesting albums. It's confusing, intense, dark, twisted, at times funny, and quite overwhelming. And exactly what I wanted from SW.

Mark Knopfler - Privateering. He's been solo for a number of years now, with consistently good - and sometimes great - albums. But this one, a double, is coming close to his best. MK is playing more blues, and the synergy between his voice (always sounding prematurely aged during the Dire Straits days), the lyrics, and the music is sublime. I'm really looking forward to the gig in May.

Marillion - Sounds That Can't Be Made. It was actually quite a close run thing if this made the top10. To some extent the flow of the album is poor, and that's the result of the opening epic Gaza - clocking in at 17mins, which may be the best piece of music Marillion have recorded. The rest of the album is very good (standouts including Power and Sounds That Can't Be Made), but it's a game of two halves. The more I've spun it, the more I thought it should be in the top10.

Swans - The Seer. Described variously as post-punk or post-rock, I 'found' the Swans this year. Another double album. Another dark, impenetrable, twisted, disturbing listen (is that three this year?), it's either utterly brilliant or completely pointless. The more I spin it, the more I'm leaning to brilliant. It's certainly challenging.

Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion. Well it wouldn't be a yearly best of without some Steve Wilson input...this one is his collaboration with Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. Both Opeth and Wilson have been getting more and more experimental (infact the Opeth gig this year was, effectively, jazz metal funk), this album has it's roots in 70s dark rock, ambient? I dunno. I like it.

Gazpacho/The Enid - March of Ghosts/Invictus. Yes I'm cheating and having two. But you can see a bit of a link between the two. Invictus was a surprise, it's the Enid, but far more orchestral than the recent albums. Essentially it's a classical album, by that weird prog-classical-rock band. Gazpacho can, as usual, do no wrong. March of Ghosts is moving, dreamy, dark, absorbing, and draining.

And the best?
Paul Buchanan - Mid Air. Most bands get more complex over the years, Paul Buchanan (the Blue Nile) has got simpler. There is nothing here. Fragments of music coalesce into songs, drifting in and out - and yet perfectly formed. It's a short album (36mins), made up of 14 tracks. And it leaves you floating, happy, and yet slightly melancholic. Meh, I dunno how he does it. But it is perfection.