BestPLAY 2012 – The Year in Review

Christ, we finally made it to the end of 2012. We thought we wouldn’t get past the break-up of LMFAO or 12 weeks of Christopher Maloney, but here we are with a bucketload of albums and songs that moved us in some way or other.

But first, some other awards we’d like to dispense:

Bell-End of the Year: Rihanna. Another mediocre album, the most preposterous tour in recent memory, and of course a temporary reunion with her violent ex-lover. Bore off, love.

Runner-up: Chris Brown, for encouraging / being the root cause of all of the above. And then being a misogynist again on Twitter. Twat.

Legend of the Year: Nicole Scherzinger. A lesson in how to turn yourself into the nation’s sweetheart, adored so much that not even a bat-shit mental story from Cheryl Cole’s autobiography could do her harm. Two words: shamazing.

Runner-up: Frank Ocean, for proving that not all homosexual males enjoy mincing around to Lady Gaga, and doing for homophobia in hip-hop what RuPaul never could. Salute.

Tragedy of the Year: Tulisa. We actually feel quite sorry her – she had such good intentions with Little Mix and the gang, while her own singles Young and Live It Up were fab. Then comes a sex tape, a snooze-fest stint on the X-Factor, and an album we dubbed The Female Dross, and it’s all over. You know you’ve got to do some serious thinking when even disowns you.

Runner-up: Everyone involved in the London 2012 Closing Ceremony (minus the Spices). The path to hell is paved with good intentions and Emeli Sandé.

Duffest Lyric of the Year: Bruno Mars – Gorilla. “You’ll be banging on my chest // Bang bang gorilla // You and me baby making love like gorillas.” Sorry, is this supposed to be sexy? Making love like hairy primates? Christ, we hope this man never has sexual relations with another human being.

Runner-up: Ciara – Got Me Good. “My back is aching // Ma bra too tight // My booty shakin’ from left to right.” If your back’s aching and your bra’s too tight, then TAKE IT OFF BEFORE YOU DO YOURSELF LASTING DAMAGE, LOVE. Honestly, the things women put themselves through for a bit of attention.

Now that we’ve got that off our chests, here begins our countdown. Let the arguments begin.
The Top 15 Albums of the Year

15. Karima Francis – The Remedy
Yes, it’s a bit of a left-field choice. But not only is Karima Francis a criminally-overlooked young UK talent, her album The Remedy contained an oeuvre that wouldn’t have been out of place on Adele’s 21. Moving, acoustic heartbreak and never over-produced, The Remedy came to us as the most pleasant surprise. To paraphrase a seminal film of our time: that’s why Karima’s hair is so big… it’s full of well-kept secrets. 

Standout track: Forgiven

14. Heathers – Kingdom 

It appears the hip thing to do these days is to form a folk-pop band with your sisters (see also: Haim and Staves, the), and here come the Macnamara twins, aka Heathers. We imagine they braid each others’ hair and talk about boys after every gig. Anyway, poor old Heathers seem to have been left in the shadow of the other two bands, so here we are giving them a bit of their deserved spotlight at #14.
Standout track: Circular Road

13. Angel Haze – Classick
Let’s be upfront here: Azealia Banks has blown it. After being the toast of 2011, the controversial rapper failed to capitalise on any of the goodwill she earned, doing an Uffie and delaying her album so much that we’re now indifferent. Then along comes Angel Haze and reminds us what female rappers can be: daring, intelligent, slick, and vicious. One mixtape in and Classick certainly seems to be the direction this girl is heading.

Standout track: Song Cry 

12. Daniel Rossen – Silent Hour/Golden Mile
We don’t think anyone told Grizzly Bear member Daniel Rossen that the ‘Golden Mile’ is actually on Blackpool Pleasure Beach. That aside, his EP gave a strong indication about the influence he has in his parent band – each of these five beautifully crafted songs would not have been out of place on an album like Veckatimest. If this was Rossen seeking approval before making a full LP, he certainly has ours in droves. 

Standout track: Up on High

11. Charli XCX – Super Ultra
We bleat on about Charli XCX at every opportunity, but can you blame us? The dark goth-pop styling scores every single time; both her EP (You’re the One) and mixtape (Super Ultra) cement her status as the saviour of pop. 2013 should belong to her if there’s any justice in the world… which there probably won’t be.

Standout track: You’re the One

10. Solange – TRUE
Right, we promise this is the last EP/Mixtape we’ll have on the list, but it does go to show how a solid, focused seven-track EP can be miles ahead of commercial-strategy albums full of filler. Sol-Angel well and truly grew up as Losing You brought the blogosphere to orgasm, and the subsequent EP just kept on giving. You can find a more detailed deconstruction in our review here, but we’re expecting even better from a full album.

Standout track: Losing You


9. Beach House – Bloom
Fun fact: if we could marry a voice, it would be that of Victoria Legrand from Beach House. We’re still a bit hung over from the stellar Teen Dream, and it seems so are Beach House – Bloom doesn’t stray too far from the formula that made its predecessor such a landmark, but then as they say if it ain’t broke etc etc (NB. this phrase should not apply to you, Katy Perry, for you are very much broken right now).

Standout track: Myth

8. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die (Paradise Edition)
So we know that by the end of a Lana Del Rey song most of you will have tightened a noose. And yes, we’re aware that live on stage she sounds a bit like a mating hippo, but Lana’s first studio album was so electric it matters little. And we’ve gone for the Paradise version purely because of the audacity of the line “my pussy tastes like Pepsi Cola”. You might wanna get that checked out, love.

Standout track: National Anthem

7. Tame Impala – Lonerism
Granted, most of the posts on this site might indicate that we wouldn’t be fans of Tame Impala, but love them we do (at the very least for redeeming Australian music in our eyes after we had to suffer that God-awful Gotye). A lot of bands would do well to follow Tame Impala’s lead and look to 60s psychedelia for inspiration – hell, you know you’re definitely churning out quality if you’re being covered by the PS22 Chorus. Respect.

Standout track: Feels Like We Only Go Backwards

6. Jessie Ware – Devotion
We’re yet to meet a person who isn’t a fan of Devotion. Celebrated London Semite Jessie Ware (not to be confused with sexually-confused walking catsuit Jessie J) absolutely smashed into the scene with her smooth soul-pop and hints of Sade. Songs like 110% – a pox on thee Big Pun for denying this lovely girl your sample – garnered enough attention for a Mercury Prize, but to be honest, Jessie? You had us at Running.

Standout track: Wildest Moments

5. Grizzly Bear – Shields
I’m sure we’ve all established now that this Grizzly Bear isn’t the ‘raar’ kind, or the over-enthusiastic older gentleman you might find on Grindr. Enjoying commercial success has clearly been a boon for the band, as Shields continues their trajectory as one of the finest acts this decade has to offer. Lilting melodies combined with Ed Droste’s delicate vocals, it certainly is more of the same but by the Christ, it’s good. Keep ’em coming, lads.

Standout track: Yet Again

4. Twin Shadow – Confess
OK, so George Lewis Jr is clearly going for the budget rent-boy look on the cover, but the album is anything but low-rent. Right from the punchy opener Golden Light, we know we’re in for a heady melange of Prince meets Arcade Fire by way of Genesis. Lewis produces an album hard to define but one that is utterly, utterly beguiling. One of the finest genre-straddling LPs we’ve heard this decade. 

Standout track: Golden Light 

3. Grimes – Visions
If you heard the word ‘Grimes’ before 2012, you’d be forgiven for thinking it should precede the words ‘Wiley and Tinie Tempah, blud’. This year Claire Boucher broke out on the mainstream the way acne should have on Justin Bieber; despite grafting for years under the name of Grimes, the industry finally ‘got’ her brand of experimental (stress on ‘mental’) pop. Bonkers, and all the better for it.

Standout track: Be A Body

2. Frank Ocean – Channel ORANGE
Like Grimes above, until last year Frank Ocean was to just a few of us that dude who nailed R&B with the little-heard Nostalgia, Ultra. Then he drops Channel ORANGE, indirectly comes out as gay, and is suddenly swept up in the arms of the hipster mafia. And for once we won’t argue with that, given that the songs are so raw, moving, and deserving of as wide an audience as possible. Stunning.

Standout track: Thinking About You

1. How to Dress Well – Total Loss
We here at PressPLAY certainly don’t need fashion tips, but we’d definitely take on board anything Tom Krell says. After completely changing the landscape of modern R&B with his seminal Love Remains (we challenge you not to be moved by Suicide Dream 2), Krell continues his assault with songs of loss  in a form that cannot be described as anything other than art. Devastating, and a deserving Album of the Year.

Standout track: Cold Nites


The Top 20 Tracks of the Year
AKA the best of the rest. Tracks from albums that didn’t make the Top 15… otherwise you might as well just repeat the above. DUH.

20. Patrick Watson – Lighthouse
You’ll remember Patrick Watson from that eminent Cinematic Orchestra collaboration, soundtracking any emo TV moment for the past six years. Lighthouse echoes the beautiful piano-tinkling of its counterpart, with Watson’s vocals so fragile you daren’t breathe for fear of breaking the peace… till that almighty crescendo does it for you.

19. First Aid Kit – New Year’s Eve

Weird how these Scandi-lasses started off as a YouTube cover band, but if the result is an album like this then we encourage more of you to do it. New Year’s Eve is a soft, mournful ode, hardly owt to do with the celebratory title. We’re guessing they won’t be snogging anyone at the stroke of midnight.

18. Beacon – Feeling’s Gone
Dark dance/house outfit Beacon released a robust EP this year, out of which Feeling’s Gone proved to be a star. The perfect soundtrack to the moments at the end of the night when you’re not quite sure where your pals have gone but you still want to have one more moment of fuck-it-all euphoria.

17. The Staves – Songbird

Irish sisters the Staves have done what not many people can: improve a Fleetwood Mac song. Issued as a tribute to Rumours by Mojo magazine, this one-off just goes to show how tight the girls are (as in harmonies, you filthy lot). Their own stuff is dynamite too, as the Motherlode testifies.


16. The xx – Angels
The xx did give themselves a tough act to follow, and while second album Coexist was wonderful it didn’t quite have the remarkability of its predecessor. Still, Angels showed them at their best, most prominently with Romy’s repeated refrain: “they would be as in love with you as I am”. Pretty.

15. Young Colossus – Impressionist
While Orlando Weeks’ other band, the Maccabees, continue to make the best of a bad genre (Unknow is particularly excellent), it’s his Young Colossus outfit that really made us sit up in surprise. A six-track companion to Weeks’ children’s book, it has the air of playful wonder that makes the whole affair altogether quite magical. We want to live in this world.

14. London Grammar – Hey Now
Nothing to do with dropping your ‘h’s, mysterious UK outfit London Grammar’s debut track is a late entry, but so solid it’s already lodged in our brains. Lush vocals and minimal production, London Grammar ended up doing the xx better than the xx themselves. Perfect for a wintry night.

13. Wynter Gordon – Waiting
This entry should really read ‘Wynter Gordon in general’ – it’s hard to pick something from this girl’s free EP, Doleo, seeing as though 90% of it is bloody good R&B/pop. We’ve opted for the borderline cheese of Waiting, a little bit Alanis, a wee bit Genesis, but still unique to Gordon. This one has melted our cold, dead hearts and made us believe in cheesy romance again.

12. Glen Hansard – Bird of Sorrow
If we had some sort of Poet Laureate for heartbreak, then Glen Hansard is your man in all his guises. Whether he’s in the Frames, the (very swell) Swell Season, or doing his first solo album as he did this year, this Irish troubadour proves that he fully deserved that Oscar for Falling Slowly. Bird of Sorrow has one of the most naked, heartbreakingly raw endings you’ll ever hear in a song. Someone give this man a hug (and then give us one too).

11. Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
It had to go in somewhere, didn’t it? The earworm of the year that we absolutely detested when we first heard it, until earnest little Carly Rae nestled her way into our subconscious. That video doesn’t half help her case, either.

10. Azealia Banks – Fuck Up the Fun 
Before delaying her album, starting beef with anyone and everyone, and generally being a bit of a yawn, erstwhile hipster darling and notorious potty-mouth Azealia Banks leaked this cracking Diplo-produced track. Three minutes of carnival drumbeats + inimitable machine-gun rapping = what should be the soundtrack to every Notting Hill summer. When she nails it, she properly nails it.

9. Florence + the Machine vs Calvin Harris – Spectrum
We can usually take or leave flame-haired banshee Florence and Scottish grumpasaurus Calvin, but this remix made us uncontrollably wet. As a dance-pop song, there is literally nothing wrong with it, all the more remarkable given how laborious the original is. Songs like this are the reason we get out of bed in the mornings.

8. Rustie ft AlunaGeorge – After Light
Another example of how an added layer can totally transform a song. Sure, Rustie released this beat in 2011, but the remix featuring blogger-bumchums AlunaGeorge adds that little summink-summink every song needs (we believe the technical term is a ”donk’). Grotty dancefloor heaven.  

7. Kindness – House
Feelgood, your other name is Kindness. A glorious soundtrack for lazy summer afternoons in a park, you can practically feel the happiness in this. Who says men with long hair can’t be trusted? (We do, actually. There’s one third of the PressPLAY team you really shouldn’t be left alone with… just ask the original Sugababes.)

6. Cheryl – Call My Name
We all take the piss out of her, but she only bloody went and did one of the best songs of the year, didn’t she? It hasn’t been a bad year for our Chezza (besides having wind blown up her gusset for the video below) – the absolute banger that is Call My Name took over the nation, the album A Million Lights shows that she can handle a gorgeous ballad, and the Girls Aloud reunion was nothing short of spectacular. G’waan lass. (And yes, thank you once again Calvin Harris.) 

5. Haim – Better Off
They Haim, they saw, they conquered. See what we did there? Brilliant, just like this lot. It’s R&B, it’s folk, it’s blood well brilliant is what it is. We’re practically creaming in anticipation for a full album.

4. MS MR – Hurricane
It’s no secret that we’re fans of dark doo-wop duo MS MR. Hurricane is a profound paean to depression masquerading as an enchanting pop song. The vocals, the macabre production, none of it can be faulted – proof that no one should ever get away with lazy songwriting.

3. AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It
There’s a reason this lot were the most blogged about act of 2012, and are now our top ‘George’ along with Georges ‘Monbiot’ and ‘Sharkey &’ (much higher than Georges Galloway and ‘by ASDA’). Foot-tapping and inventive, the London twosome take R&B/pop to places so exceptional you wonder why it hasn’t been done already. Massive for 2013, guaranteed.

2. Aaliyah ft Drake – Enough Said
This is how it’s done. Even from beyond the grave Aaliyah is still paving the way, this time with a sultry Drake-produced R&B hit that deserves to be released mainstream. Blows all those basic bitches so far out of the water they’d have to trek deserts for eons to dip so much as a toe back in.

1. Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together 
Dear Taylor Swift,
There is no indie record much cooler than yours.