After the standard office to-ing and fro-ing, argy bargy and general smackdowns (no news editor, Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don’t is in no way top 20 material) we’ve arrived at what we feel is a wholly representative conclusion to an incredibly diverse year in music.
The breadth of musical range present in this list is emblematic of a music scene Crack is proud to be pushing with every sinew of our worn out little brains. In a year where you digest that much music, there are going to be victims who didn’t make the cut (give Lana Del Rey another listen, go on). However, after that much democratic debate, we can only have the utmost most confidence in a list we’ve poured the whole of our 2012s in to. Here is the much debated Top 10.
The Seer is a transcendent masterpiece, in turns both grotesque and beautiful, yet always maintaining a simmering sense of threat. Michael Gira’s exercises in cathartic repetition and pounding noise are the inevitable main draw here, but there’s equal enjoyment to be taken in his restrained forays into lilting gothic-country and coruscating aural landscapes. Despite a fractured lifespan of twenty years, 2012 will likely be remembered as the year that Swans really arrived. Heavy.
SWANS – LUNACY
Although we were endeared by Ital’s Theme last year, we could never have imagined that Daniel Martin McCormick’s art-damaged dance project would become this engrossing. Ital proved he could lock into a sturdy pulse on Hive Mind and at his off-the-wall live sets. But Dream On is the culmination of his vision. Emotive house and techno related beats form the canvass on which he splashes his unconventional fragments of noise, resulting in a record that drives physical impulses while causing the mind to implode. David Reed
ITAL – BOI
Punk is rarely fierce and fiery enough for us these days. Toronto three-piece METZ came along and filled the void with electrifying jams that satisfied, and then some. Their ferocious self-titled debut made it clear that Sub Pop’s new boys are not fucking about and the intense live shows cemented their cause. These boys mean it. Live fast but don’t die young METZ. We want a few more albums like this. Lucie Grace
METZ – WET BLANKET
7. FLYING LOTUS
UNTIL THE QUIET COMES
“People don’t want me to do what they want me to do, they want me to do what I want to do”. That’s how Flying Lotus defined his approach to Until The Quiet Comes earlier this year. His fourth studio album is a frankly remarkable exercise in everything which has made FlyLo the titanic figure he stands as today. A hopelessly involving collage of ideas, it strode out of the shadow of 2010’s freeform opus Cosmogramma and into bolder territory still. From the dragging glitch-hop of Putty Boy Strut to the crushing physicality of Sultan’s Request and the divine, jazz-inflected Phantasm, deeply memorable contributions from Thundercat, Erykah Badu and Thom Yorke failed to pull focus from the sparkling, prodigiously creative production at the record’s core. It all served simply to stretch Stephen Ellison’s lead at the front of the pack. Geraint Davies
FLYING LOTUS FEAT. ERYKAH BADU – SEE THRU TO U
6. FRANK OCEAN
Now that the intoxicating hype has faded, we’re even more certain that Channel Orange is pretty much flawless. As one of the most talented singers in recent memory, Frank’s voice radiates a golden glimmer throughout the album’s gorgeous sonic palette of neo-soul. Lyrically, the Channel Orange is celebratory yet unafraid to zoom into life’s unglamorous corners, and the tales of unrequited love are so universally relatable that all the controversy about the pronouns was eclipsed. 2012’s definitive summer record. David Reed
FRANK OCEAN – CRACK ROCK
5. KENDRICK LAMAR
GOOD KID. M.AA.D CITY
We had seriously high expectations, and good Kid, m.A.A.d city surpassed them all, cementing Kendrick Lamar’s status as one of rap’s great raconteurs. With Compton as the backdrop, Dre as the executive director and Lamar’s immensely technical rhymes forming the semi-autobiographical script, the cinematic quality of this record is deeply fulfilling. But due to the perfection of each beat and Lamar’s ability to pen unforgettable hooks, the album comes off as addictive rather than challenging. Comparisons to classics are usually unfair, but even next to Illmatic, 2001 or Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Good Kid, m.A.A.d city still stands tall. David Reed
KENDRICK LAMAR – SHERANE A.K.A MASTER SPINTER’S DAUGHTER
4. THE MEN
OPEN YOUR HEART
As if they were using half a can of Lynx Africa and a chipped B&H silver behind their ear to attract a mate, The Men strode assuredly into 2012 with a record of unmatched precision and veracity. Open Your Heart is proof, if ever proof was needed, that the right way to do guitar music is just to turn all the amps to 11, open up the garage door, pick up your guitar and smash it through the postman’s teeth hole. Do all that whilst being profound, coherent and intrinsically well designed and you might be halfway to out-cooling The Men. Billy Black
THE MEN – OPEN YOUR HEART
3. PORTICO QUARTET
Jazz-techno anyone? If there was a glorious success in changing direction this year, the stars of Crack’s third birthday bash were your men. Self-titled, self-assured and layered with swathes of sonic experimentation it stood out a mile. Less focused on the hang-drum that defined previous releases, the minimal sparse approach and killer production quality left an indelible mark on our listening. The most contemporary record of the year if not the most intricate the electronic change of direction heralded infinite new possibilities for one of the UK’s most distinctive acts. Thomas Frost
PORTICO QUARTET – LACKER BOO
2. TAME IMPALA
With their debut album, Tame Impala established themselves as the neo-psychedelic stoners of the day: a warm and groove-ridden collection of pop songs marked by deep, heady chords, Lennon-esque vocals and sprawling guitar wiggery. 2012’s follow-up, Lonerism, though, multiplied and perfected those key attributes, infusing them with analogue synths and samples of Parisian ambience, ending up as an album that feels utterly complete. A mixture of lush pop hooks and experimental jams are linked together by a sedated, summery haze that creates an irresistible flow, and with such euphoric tunes as Apocalypse Dreams, there really is no denying the untouchable talent behind this sublime effort. James Balmont
TAME IMPALA – APOCALYPSE DREAMS
1. JOHN TALABOT
2009’s dancefloor-ready anthem Sunshine, a carefree morsel of bass heft and hooky melody, saw John Talabot become a name to drop. Yet it wasn’t until we heard his stunning remix of Teengirl Fantasy’s Cheaters that we began to suspect what the Barcelona-based producer and DJ might be capable of over the space a full-length album.
His debut saw a turn towards the organic, eking sheer, buzzing emotion from hardware. ƒin is an album to make you dance and break your heart. From found samples to spectral slivers of morphing voices and subtle timbral shifts, the album comes steeped in the ubiquity of an absorbing Balearic haze. Whilst its relationship to house music stands firm, this album is worlds from being esoteric. It is inclusive, powerful and relatable on a fundamental level. As a liminal, somewhat evasive figure – though his gold-shrouded persona soon petered out as demand grew – it’s remarkable that the listener is able to emote so freely. While vocal contributions, notably from Pional, provide tangible narrative waves, the volumes spoken wordlessly are equally resonant. In flutters and snaps, warps and swells, Talabot communicates seamlessly, producing songs which are at turns sinister and tempting, an enticing coo or an icy murmur.
From the intoxicating chord flows of Oro y Sangre and Missing You, to Last Land, where hypnotic rhythms and vocal samples extend and merge into sonorous snare snaps, it all leads to the album’s mesmeric climax, So Will Be Now. A masterful and touching piece which gathers textures as it progresses, it is the encapsulation of the album as a truly edifying, rewarding experience. John Talabot’s ƒin stood alone as a beacon of ambition, vision and execution in 2012. Geraint Davies
JOHN TALABOT FEAT. PIONAL – SO WILL BE NOW…