Top five releases of 2012

As cliché as it is, people will always relish the chance at the end of the year to look back, reflect, and discuss what releases of the year really made their year; what made them them, what made them surprised, shocked, tick or simply groove too and enjoy. So here’s my shot at it: my top five records of the year, along with some honourable mentions that deserve attention.

And, as I imagine you’re probably already pre-drinking whilst reading this, eager for the night ahead and whatever shenanigans you have planned, I will do my best to keep this short!

1. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

Lana, a woman after my own heart, released her debut album Born to Die in January, but it was only in the late summer when I decided to give this a real listen, after months of hearing it played on the radio or CD player of friend’s cars. I was severely impressed and left heavily impressed after the first song, and this only progressed as the days went by and the play count increased.

Each track has its own unique glimmer embedded beneath, all different and yet for an album that is increasingly long (which is rare nowadays), you can tell it is not rushed, and it is never dull, or boring – it flows gloriously and eloquently as its singer’s nose. When you get to ‘Carmen’ and ‘Million Dollar Man’, you are still excited, on the edge of your seat and eagerly listening to the words and such beautiful voice with an immense diverse vocal range – this can be heard in ‘Off to the Races’ alone.

Ending with ‘Lucky Ones’ (if you have the bonus songs – which you absolutely must), the record ends with an epic scale of uplifting qualities and truly highlights its glory and grandness, securing the slot so early on for top contender.

Following Born to Die, an extended play/deluxe edition was realised in November, named Paradise, consisting of eight brand new tracks of solemn lust and awe. Starting off with ‘Ride’, Paradise picks up where Born to Die left off, continuing majestic tendencies of all her previous work, capitalising and building Del Rey’s reputation and repertoire. Songs that are profusely stuck in my head; I cannot skip them when they crop up on my iPhone or iTunes; quite possibly the only set of songs I haven’t skipped at all in fact.

This album is diverse, flawless, (very) sexy, magnificently mixed, proud, dominant, filled with lust and creative imagery; a Los Angeles skid row Charles Bukowski reminiscent work, and the real winner of the year. In Layman’s terms, Born to Die is astounding.

2. Tu Amore – Your Love

Peterborough’s very own Tu Amore are ranked highly on my list this year, they have not yet put a foot out of line with powerful performances consistent all year round, only to be topped off with an intense and well-respected debut release, Your Love. The name of the record derives from the English translation of their Italian band name, just FYI; a unique self-titled experiment.

I will find this hard to write about why I love this record so without simply regurgitating previous words of praise seen in my thorough review, published several months back (which became my most successful column according to my stats – so thank you for that!), but I can say that without fail, if there ever was silence in my bedroom, I would put this record on first and embrace its brilliance; always finding something new with each song – appreciating it time and time again, and even live at this year’s Queensgate student lock down and again at the final night of Club Revolution.

I really cannot express how impressed I was when I first heard this record, and how I still am! It was the surprise of the year. I suppose to sum up, I will quite the conclusion of my review: “This record is one I will gloriously treasure, and find myself indulging with time and time again; I enjoy it whole-heartedly and greatly. Not only is this my favourite style of music, so it ‘hits the spot’ perfectly, it humbles me and makes me so proud to call these four gentlemen my friends”.

3. Deaf Havana – Fools and Worthless Liars (Deluxe Edition)

The re-release of 2011’s Fools and Worthless Liars saw Deaf Havana up their game and change how the world saw them yet again, with a very interesting take on their initial songs. The East Anglian four-piece re-recorded the entire album, blending different genres and influences to be, what could be considered, the greatest compilation of covers – better they do it, and do it right, rather than have some fourteen year old ruin a masterpiece with a wimpy voice and several G chords. From piano power ballads to up-beat folk renditions, the deluxe edition sees the band open their doors to a wider audience and a heap load of more possibilities.

Not only was the original release absolutely incredible, but now the re-release compliments and enhances such crackers. The stand out track for me is ‘Things Change, Friends Leave and Life Doesn't Stop for Anybody’; forever with a soft spot for Brand New, this song is next-level-epic. It’s soft and subtle, tingled the ear drums as it creeps and echoes around the skull before the track evolves into a monster that, whilst nodding to its own past, now encompass a sound that embraces elements of fury and Hell. On the opposite side of the scale, ‘Anemophobia’ really displays the gorgeous voice Veck-Gilodi posses; he’s allowed to try something completely new and its as if he isn’t the same person on this record. Those who are not even fans of Deaf Havana would adore this sound.

The record does highly, noted through the words sung and sometimes odd change of lyrics, that the rock style they are known for is the correct path for them to walk down; but it is so refreshing to know they have the ability and talent to stray if they wish – and as the material would be new, it would be exceptional.

I would highly recommend watching the trailer video that the band made in conjunction with the release of this record; it gives a wonderful insight to the way it was made, previews to the songs, along with a general understanding of the band, why the record was remade, etc., etc. To view it on their official YouTube channel: click here.

4. Alexisonfire – Death Letter

In December an EP entitled Death Letter was released, featuring new interpretations of songs spanning the band's previous three albums, in a sombre, mellow, emotional expression, interestingly mostly composed and performed by Green and MacNeil; the two that can be considered the catalyst for the demise of the only band ever. The result was something beautiful, and really can be seen as the pinnacle and ultimate tribute/wave goodbye to Alexisonfire.

Pettit once said that he wanted to be part of the movement that doesn’t save screamo, but in fact kills scream – stabbing the knife right through its heart, and I would like to think that the band all agreed that this final release was that act in motion with these final six songs.

Green’s other musical project, City & Colour, released a live album several years back, and on it was a gorgeous rendition of ‘Happiness by the Kilowatt’; one man and a finely tuned piano captivating a tremendous audience, depicting the tale of suicide and a flurry of emotions. It really is worth listening too, as it is more stripped down than the version on this record, but no doubt it was what started this craft and idea off to create this concept extended play.

I could say the word ‘beautiful’ again and again, but it would not do the record justice – it needs to be listened to in total appreciation; it is a wonderful compilation of music and a work of art in its own right.

5. Acres – Acres

Voted number one release of the year by music fans and reviewers collectively on Sputnik Music is enough to grab the attention of even the most jaded and stubborn music listener. This self-titled debut release by a young and eager Portsmouth based quintet really projected the drive, determination and passion still thriving through the veins of British teenagers, hungering to explore music and break through the traitorous and unforgiving underground music scene, which is proving harsher and harsher to make waves in anymore due to the culture change to our generation in recent years.

The beauty of this record is that the band approached the post-hardcore sound in a different way, and superior light, than the majority of bands that get air play or a host of shows. I can say this quite confidentially knowing guitarist Freeman well; we met due to a love and understanding of the American post-hardcore underground scene (for example, Lower Definition, Oceana, Agraceful, early Emarosa, Chiodos, Dance Gavin Dance, etc.) which Freeman stated influenced his writing style and helped shape and mould their sound, to be blended with a British context. This release was a break-through, and it is the future of the underground.

Again, having reviewed and discussed the band and record in depth previous times this year, it is hard to conjure up with something new to say, but I will say that the record has be regarded as a turning point in post-hardcore for the English scene, and must be respected. How can it not be? Acres is a remarkable and trend-setting release for 2012, no doubt about it.

Honourable mentions:
- Anthony Green – Beautiful Things
- Architects – Daybreaker
- Basement – Colourmeinkindness
- Cancer Bats – Dead Set on Living
- Childish Gambino – Royally
- Circa Survive – Violent Waves
- Decade – Decade
- Keaton Henson – The Lucky
- Keaton Henson – Sweetheart, What Have You Done to Us
- Right Away, Great Captain! – The Church of the Good Thief
- While She Sleeps – This is the Six

Decade just missed out on a top spot for me; whilst being utterly fantastic, I felt it wasn’t strong enough to secure a space in my top five despite thoroughly enjoying it and playing it on repeat (I would’ve scored it a four out of five if I were to review it properly); I’ve discussed it enough to instigate that alone, along with the other mentions here. All have their quirks and deserve recognition.

My most played artist this year was (according to my Last.FM account/iTunes anyway!) Morrissey, believe it or not, at a landslide. The man whose first name is my middle – sadly not named after, but nonetheless it was the likes of Bona Drag and Viva Hate that I had playing on repeat to flooded my bedroom with melancholy, inspiration, literature, culture and whit up to the ankles; he let me drink him in as he dampened my feet. In second place was surprisingly the American, Jack-of-all-trades, Childish Gambino. I really enjoyed listening to Camp and Royalty both this year; last year I found it hard to get into Camp, but I think I didn’t quite ‘get’ Glover back then. Then, followed swiftly by my favourite band, Brand New, (now) my favourite woman, Lana Del Rey, and the usual suspects that I’ve spoke of highly and often this year.

Tu Amore’s Your Love turned out to be my most played record of the year. From first listen, to second and third, to constant plays to make sure I wrote the perfect review, to simply being there to spur me on whilst working-out or cooking dinner, Your Love was dominant. As expected, I knew this would be an album I would find moreish – unable to get enough of it, hungering to listen again. In my top ten were also a lot of rekindling hardcore love featuring Background Music by Give Up the Ghost, Dungeness by November Coming Fire and The Legacy’s Beyond Hurt, Beyond Hell.

Most played songs also reflected on my playlist: the songs consisted mostly of Tu Amore and Decade, Childish Gambino’s ‘Heartbeat’ (I’ll explain why this one is so high up later in the year, no doubt), and a spot of ‘Suedehead’ by Morrissey. However, my top two tracks were singles released by a band I haven’t mentioned yet; who only released one song in 2012, mid year: We Are Fiction. ‘Earth Medicine’, a gritty, rock anthem of aspiration and non-conformity took underground music radio stations by storm, and helped solidify a strong year for the band – quite remarkable considering the amount of shows and tours they embarked on having produced very little, gaining an even stronger fan base and shouts outs on Twitter from the likes of JLS (Bassist Chambers is the cousin of Ashton Merrygold). Trending #TeamWeAreFiction, the band make it their duty to unite all; they want to create a powerful family to support one another and bring hope and happiness into their music and surroundings. ‘My Dreamed Are Haunted’, released late-2011 to a mass of critical applause, stayed a constant on my playlist also – of love-lost and wanderlust. I cannot wait to discuss these songs in greater depth, but will save it for when I review their debut album in a couple of months. But, to sum up: ‘Earth Medicine’ is my song of the year.

I can’t really say I’ve been the best for new music, and I’ll admit I didn’t really open my doors to many new artists, so this list could be incredibly different if I had the radio on consistently, or opened my doors more; if I had more time on my hands, or had music recommended/suggested to me, especially to sorts that I rarely listen too. Even with ne releases, I gave very few the time of day to really listen to them, if at all – shamefully, most became background music as I pottered about with my everyday life and household chores.

2012 seemed a tricky year for me to discuss music; most of the records I found myself playing were from 2010 and 2011 – more rekindling or still in love with those than discovering anything new, and I began to stray from music blogs and gave up trying out new music as in previous attempts over the few months, my attempts would come up short and with whatever band I did give my time of day too, I felt let down; it was all very lacklustre – be it poor recording, lyrics, vocal work or generic power chords, I simply was not impressed. I found myself more drawn to the party side of music: what worked well in clubs and what actually had fun encrusted into it where passion (regardless of how) was portrayed expertly; a song you wanted to become part of.

So, I divulged into a lot of compilations, for example Annie Mac’s, and aimed for more commercial and radio played music to bring me up to speed and shine a light on the current media and to widen my knowledge and appreciation – hoping to find something new that’d really strike a chord with me and captivate a new chapter of the Gavin chronicles.

Even then, there was little new music I discovered; 2012 was a lazy year for me. Almost a subdued filler. Perhaps, I have found myself merely awaiting 2013, fully aware of what is scheduled, anticipating releases from the likes of This is Hell, Letlive, We Are Fiction, Cody B. Ware, Stray from the Path, A$AP Rocky, Kid Cudi, Pure Love and there has already been hints at a new Brand New record in the mix too, which indicate that 2013 will see a very, very formidable and exciting year ahead of us.

Readers and friends, I wish you a prosperous new year.


  1. Some really good choices here! The Death Letter EP is probably my favourite EP release of the year! Pretty sweet seeing Acres up there as well, being that I'm from Portsmouth. Hope you had a good NYE :)


    1. Hey Tamsyn,

      Firstly, thank you so much for being the first person to comment on my blog! Haha, very touched!

      It's incredibly impressive, it has to be recognised as a top release and a fantastic tombstone; much better than an unoriginal 'Best of'!

      That's really cool - small world. You know the guys at all?

      Happy new year to you too!

      PS. Props to you on your blog; checked it out a few times now. Real easy to read and flow with. Big fan.