Friday 14 December 2012

The Metaphorical Boat's Albums of 2012 - 10-6

After all the fun and hijinks of looking at our favourite songs of 2012, it is time to look at the ten albums that most shaped The Metaphorical Boat's listening habits over the past twelve months.

As always, it is usually much harder to decide on an order for best albums than it is for best songs. For single tracks, it goes in order of which songs I'd be happy enough to hear again and again in descending order. For albums on the other hand, there are a lot more variables involved. Should an album with lots of decent tracks receive a better placing than an album with two of the greatest songs of the year and much more filler? Should an album that works well as a complete work be given preference to an album with better songs, but with more variety and a poorer flow? 

It's for reasons like this that I have great respect for one music blogger, who decides his best-of list based on a complex mathematical formula. It's a good system, but whilst maths might be useful in some areas of music (e.g. ensuring your drummer can count to four is a necessity for any good rock band), when it comes to choosing favourites, going with your heart and gut is probably the best option.

So here is the first half of The Metaphorical Boat's top albums of 2012:

10. Lucy Rose - Like I Used To


The release of the debut album by Lucy Rose was the moment when she stopped being defined by her relationship with Bombay Bicycle Club and became a fully fledged artist in her own right. "Like I Used To" is a wonderful album full of acoustic charm and soothing vocals from Ms  Rose.

9. Tribes - Baby


I think that we can all agree that the best album of 2013 is likely to be Suede's long awaited sixth studio album. But until we await their second coming, there are plenty of bands that have attempted to keep the Britpop sound alive. But whilst many bands failed miserably in their quest (Viva Brother, anyone?), there was one that managed to stand head and shoulder above the rest - London group Tribes.

Their debut album, "Baby" was compared favorably to Suede's "Coming Up", an understandable comparison, even if it isn't entirely true. Their debut album contains such wonderful nuggets as "Corner Of An English Field", the existential angst of "Sappho", and the wonderfully anthemic "We Were Children". The album might not have soared to the heights that their major label backing might have hoped for, but at the very least "Baby" has gifted them a second album, which in today's musical climate is something of an achievement.

8. Django Django - Django Django

(Because Music)

I have found it hard to correctly categorize the self-titled debut album by everybody's favourite band epizeuxis Django Django. The received wisdom is to describe it as art-rock, because the band members went to art school (?), but even that would be too narrow a description. The band even seem to have acknowledged the difficulty of categorizing themselves, seeing as the linear notes to "Django Django" list approximately 1000 different artists and writers who proved influential in making the record.

Once you listen to the album in its entirety, you begin to realise just how wonderfully unpigeonholable the album is, mixing the organic and the artificial superbly, and treading the fine line between accessible and self-indulgent with aplomb. Maybe in the future, Django Django might itself become a genre onto itself?

7. Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg


Nottingham teenager Jake Bugg surprised many pundits and guitar is dead naysayers by taking his self-titled debut album to number one in October. The only people who weren't surprised of course were those who actually took the time to listen to the album in question.

One of the greatest charms of the album  the feeling of being more like a demo tape than a fully fledged album ("Lightning Bolt" has no bassline), its lo-fi feeling helping to separate him from another major number 1 selling singer/songwriter,the over-polished Ed Sheeran.

Much of the album has been co-written and performed by Iain Archer, who's most famous for co-writing "Run" by Snow Patrol, and as such has steered Mr Bugg in the direction of guitar anthemics. Yet some of the album's solo moments reveal a more tender side to the singer. "Someone Told Me" is a wonderful tune, with some exquisite finger-picked guitar work that really strikes a chord.

6. Shonen Knife - Pop Tune


Thirty years into their career, Japanese pop-punk trio Shonen Knife show no signs of slowing down. “Pop Tune”, their 18th studio effort, is a great album from a band that is very much a one-of-a-kind act. After all, how many other bands can get away with songs about eating lots of food ("All You Can Eat"), a song sung from the perspective of a piece of office stationary ("Paper Clip"), or going to them parks ("Ghost Train")? 

While there are a few more mellow moments to the album than one would expect from Shonen Knife, on the whole it is a fantastically bonkers, energetic, and above all, fun album from the trio.

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