It’s been a great year for music, particularly when it comes to singer/songwriters – both new and established.
Veterans like Richard Hawley, Paul Weller, Mark Lanegan, Tim Burgess, Beth Orton, Mark Eitzel, Dr Robert & Bob Dylan all turned in some of their strongest albums, while more recent artists such as Crybaby, John Murry, Quiet Loner, Ian Webber and James Levy and the Blood Red Rose delivered the goods, too.
Psychedelic sounds were also very popular, with Tame Impala, Ian Skelly, Alpha 9, The See See and The Sunchymes just some of the artists who looked back at the ’60s for their inspiration.
And when it came to vintage garage and rock & roll, both the Allah-Las and The Long Insiders cranked up the guitars for some no-nonsense, retro thrills.
However, my favourite album of 2012 is The Defenestration of St Martin by the former Gene frontman Martin Rossiter.
For his first solo record, Rossiter came up with a brutally honest, stripped-down collection of torch songs for piano and vocals – a brave move that made for one of the most heartrending, yet beautiful, albums I’ve heard in a long time.
Opening track, Three Points On A Compass, in which Rossiter lays bare his relationship with his father, can reduce me to tears…
A special mention must also go to John Murry, whose debut solo album, The Graceless Age, has hardly left my hi-fi since it came out.
A deeply personal work that deals with the darker side of life, including drug addiction, loss and loneliness, it’s one of those records that’s meant to be listened to on headphones, alone, late at night, as it draws you in with its lush orchestration, gorgeous, spiralling melodies and twisted tales. Misery seldom sounded so sublime.
Here are my Top 40 albums of 2012. I’ve also included a Spotify playlist of tracks taken from the first 20.
Next year’s got a lot to live up to…
1) Martin Rossiter – The Defenestration of St Martin
2) John Murry – The Graceless Age
3) Richard Hawley – Standing At The Sky’s Edge
4) James Levy and The Blood Red Rose – Pray To Be Free
5) Crybaby – Crybaby
6) Paul Weller – Sonik Kicks
7) Bill Fay – Life Is People
8) Quiet Loner – Greedy Magicians
9) Tim Burgess – Oh No, I Love You
10) Mark Lanegan – Blues Funeral
11) Soulsavers – The Light The Dead See
12) Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
13) Last Harbour – Your Heart, It Carries The Sound
14) The Long Insiders – The Sound of Cat Gut & Engine Oil
15) Lee Ranaldo – Between The Times and the Tides
16) Gallon Drunk – The Road Gets Darker From Here
17) Two Wounded Birds – Two Wounded Birds
18) Allah-Las – Allah Las
19) Beth Orton – Sugaring Season
20) Bob Dylan – Tempest
21) Redd Kross – Researching The Blues
22) John DeRosa – A Wolf In Preacher’s Clothing
23) The See See – Fountayne Mountain
24) Explorers Club – Grand Hotel
25) Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
26) Boz Boorer – Sum of the Parts
27) Ian Webber – Blanket Covered Morning
28) Tame Impala – Lonerism
29) The Sunchymes – Let Your Free Flag Fly
30) Alpha 9: Gone To Ground
31) The Moons – Fables of History
32) Ian Skelly – Cut From A Star
33) Dr John – Locked Down
34) The Sand Band – Love Will Save Us, I Hope
35) Father John Misty – Fear Fun
36) Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
37) Damon Albarn – Dr Dee
38) The Red Inspectors – Are We The Red Inspectors?
39) Mark Eitzel – Don’t Be A Stranger
40) Dr Robert – Flutes and Bones