Tuesday, 1 January 2013

COMPILATIONS: The Very Best Of 2012 - listen

2012 was a year I'll never forget. To call it an emotional rollercoaster is no exaggeration. It was the year that we lost our beloved Nan, the last of my grandparents and an incredible person who lived through so much. It was the year that Chelsea, the team i've been supporting since I was a young boy, became champions of Europe for the first time, something I never thought i'd see. Something else I dreamed of when I was a kid was seeing my heroes Blur play live, and this year that dream finally came true and was made even more special when we met them afterwards. But a few months after the happiest night of my life came one of the saddest things i've ever had to come to terms with when I said goodbye to my cat Max after 19 years of love and friendship. These are just some of the things I'll remember when I listen to this collection of songs in years to come...

Since 1997 I have been making end-of-year compilations that chronicle the year's best music. In 2010 and 2011 my humble compilation expanded and became THE ESSENTIAL 100, a 5 (or 6) disc collection of the year's 100 best tracks. But 6 CDs and 100 tracks are often a bit too much for most people to take in, so this year I have been very strict with myself and whittled 2012's best music down to a simple 2 CD compilation.

For the sake of diversity I've only featured one track per artist and due to only having two 80 minute CDs to fill, there are plenty of great songs that I didn't have room for. So consider this the cream of the crop, the best of the best songs of the year. This was 2012. Enjoy...

CD 1

1. Richard Hawley - She Brings The Light. Powerful opening track from Hawley's excellent album which stands at number 6 in my Albums Of The Year list. 

2. Muse - Supremacy. Muse's recent album The 2nd Law was a bit too ridiculous for some to take seriously. But this immense opening track provided one of their finest moments yet. Would have made a much better Bond theme than Adele's Skyfall too... 

3. Two Wounded Birds - Together Forever. Wonderful good-time summer vibes from Margate's finest. And incredibly addictive too. 

4. The Cribs - Glitters Like Gold. Ok so I didn't enjoy their latest album as much as the last one, but without Johnny Marr that was bound to be the case. Still, this track is up there with their very best. 

5. The Vaccines - All In Vain. The band everyone was hyping proved they were worth all the fuss with a brilliant second album that deservedly supplied them with a Number One. From it here is this excellent George Harrison-esque bit of magic.

6. Damon Albarn - Apple Carts. Damon's Dr Dee album was amazing in places, but the flow of such beautiful pieces like this was disrupted by some rather Britpop kid-unfriendly opera parts that left many reaching for the skip button. However Apple Carts is far too special to possibly fast forward. 

7. Bell Gardens - Through The Rain. One day I received an email with a link to this song. I loved it so much I decided to take a listen to the album. I'm glad I did. The incredible music Bell Gardens make transports me to a different place, and their debut album Full Sundown Assembly is a classic I will be playing for many years to come. Now surely other people should start taking notice...

8. Green Day - Stray Heart. This year instead of choosing from the best available tracks to make one great album, Green Day decided all the songs they had were so good that they released them all as three albums. With the best tracks spread across all three records, it became apparent that with some quality control, Green Day could have made their best album in years. Stray Heart is very much the perfect pop song: addictive, irresistibly melodic and superbly written. Proof that they are still capable of utter brilliance. 

9. The Maccabees - Pelican. By far the best track from their slightly overrated Given To The Wild album.

10. Mystery Jets - Greatest Hits. Finest moment yet from this lot. With more than a hint of Super Furry Animals to it, this catchy number tells the story of a separated couple dividing their record collection and arguing over what they get to keep. And the icing on the cake? "no way you're having This Nation's Saving Grace, you only listen to it when you're pissed. When you sober up it's always why the fuck are you still listening to Mark E Smith..." 

11. Michael Kiwanuka - Always Waiting. What a voice. What a talent. And what an achingly beautiful moment from the best soul album in many decades.

12. DIIV - Doused.

13. Django Django - Waveforms. All together now: "Catch it make it shake it yeah, take apart and break it yeah, try to rearrange it yeah, couldn't recreate it yeah..."

14. Breton - Jostle. I love this. Mainly because the synth line reminds me of 90's dance classic Show Me Love by Robin S. Always a good thing... 

15. Public Image Ltd - Lollipop Opera. Probably the most insane moment on this year's compilation, this song has been described as a "celebration of multicultural London". As far as I can make out, the lyrics seem to concern "a very nice room", "a very nice broom" and John Lydon's "very nice shroom". Bizarre. This song is made even more mental by the fact that it (and the rest of the This Is PIL album) was made possible by the funds that Lydon raised from appearing in the Country Life butter adverts. You really couldn't make it up.

16. Nick Burbridge And Tim Cotterell - After The Deluge. Stunning track taken from the Brighton based Folk veteran's superb recent album, one of the year's hidden treasures. When will this amazing musician ever get the recognition he deserves?

17. First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar.

18. The Crookes - Where Did Our Love Go?

1. Soccer 96 - Call To Arms. Exciting, refreshing new sounds from this brilliant duo, who play analogue synths and live drums. No pro tools or samples used either. I think you will all agree that this is fantastic.

2. Beak - Mono. When Portishead's Geoff Barrow voiced his opinion on the late Amy Winehouse, calling her "Whiny Shitehouse", the NME suddenly started paying the man some attention. Shame they couldn't have paid as much attention to this awesome non-album single from Barrow's three piece Beak...

3. Orbital - Straight Sun. The dance track of the year from the best dance album in many years. To say they've "still got it" is an understatement.

4. Errors - Pleasure Palaces

5. Tom Williams And The Boat - Too Young. Just listen to that guitar hook. That simple but effective melody. The straight forward, instinctive brilliance of that chorus. In a world with justice this would have been a MASSIVE hit.

6. Mumford And Sons - I Will Wait.

7. Spiritualized - Little Girl. Don't expect any big surprises from the latest Spiritualized album. But do expect plenty of wonderfully arranged songs, this big heartstring puller being the best.

8. Graham Coxon - What'll It Take. This makes me want to jump around and shout. A lot. Still one of the coolest guys on the face of the planet...

9. Allah La's - Tell Me (What's On Your Mind)

10. Jake Bugg - Lightning Bolt

11. Paul Weller - Kling I Klang

12. Levellers - We Are All Gunmen. English folk rock legends with a track that imagines a better world where "Constable paints awesome skies instead of macing suspects eyes" and "banker's pay is justified and all nations come in peace". Simply their best moment in years.

13. Ultrasound - Beautiful Sadness. When most bands return after 13 years away, they usually don't come back with incredible albums. Ultrasound did. And the magnificent Play For Today found them sounding better than ever. What a triumph.

14. Cast - See That Girl

15. Martin Rossiter - Drop Anchor

16. Gaz Coombes - Hot Fruit

17. Blur - Under The Westway. I was thrilled to hear Blur were going to release a new single, and I was even more thrilled when I managed to get tickets to FINALLY see them live. A childhood dream came true as I witnessed the most incredible gig of my life. But nothing prepared me for what happened afterwards, when we were lucky enough to meet my idols, this band who changed the course of my whole life. What a night. And when this majestic tearjerker was played at the band's massive Hyde Park, it all made perfect sense. PLEASE boys, let's have some more.

18. Dodgy - Raggedstone Hill. Ah Dodgy. The cheeky bunch of stoners who brought sunshine to all the festivals and soundtracked our Britpop-era summers. After 16 years they returned with a new album, and this magnificent epic showed just how far the boys had come since those golden days. Raggedstone Hill comes from an ancient folk tale set in the Malvern hills, where a monk falls in love with a local maid. Back in those days a monk falling to such temptation was seen as a terrible sin, and after their affair is discovered, the monk is punished by being made to climb up and down the Raggedstone Hill every day until his death. Thought provoking, poignant and very powerful indeed.

19. The Beach Boys - Summer's Gone. The final track from what is very likely to be the final Beach Boys album. This one always makes me emotional. Imagine 70 year old Brian sat watching the waves, remembering his two departed brothers Dennis and Carl and the golden days of his spent with old friends. Even the coldest heart couldn't fail to be melted by it.

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