I love end of year music reviews, especially finding out other people's top albums and podcasts. As a result, summing up my own annual listening consumption is always a thoroughly enjoyable task; it's the perfect time to revisit all the new music I've added to my library in the last year and listen again to what piqued my interest.
What makes a great release?
For me, the sign of a great album / podcast / single / EP / compilation is when I have difficulty choosing which track to include in my next compilation (just because they're all so good). There was a few albums like that this year, like Traces by Delta Funktionen, Nina Kraviz's eponymous début album and In Time by Amirali.
The first track of an album also has an influence on how I feel about playing an album again, especially from an artist new to me. Transsektoral from Barker & Baumecker and Beams from Matthew Dear have great opening tracks which make me want to play them again and again. Equally so for closing tracks: Reform Club by Claro Intellecto, Every Soul Needs A Guide by Vince Watson and Levon Vincent's Fabric 63 mix all end on a high note.
There's other elements I take into consideration, like track sequence, how fresh or derivative it sounds and how many times I've listened to it.
I wrote a loose theory a few years back about the number of times I thought an album should be listened to before I should criticise it. In short: five listens as a minimum. All releases in my list have clocked up more than five listens. Some have even exceeded the magical 25 listens, which I consider a marker for determining if an album is truly great or not.
Number of Listens vs Date of Release
Because end-of-year polls look back from a fixed point in time, opinions of albums and songs released throughout the year are invariably affected. For example, albums released late on in the year can suffer from having had less time for repeat listens and full appreciation, like Legowelt's The Paranormal Soul, which was only released in November. Whereas albums released almost a year ago, like On Your Own Again by Cubenx can become overplayed, resulting in an element of boredom.
After ten listens, each of these releases sounded like a contender for best album of the year, but after 25 listens I can safely say On Your Own Again is not my favourite album of the year. Who knows how I'll feel about The Paranormal Soul in nine months time.
Looking back at my LastFM statistics I see that Severant by Kuedo was my fourth most listened to album (in terms of Scrobbles). But, like releases from Dominic Eulberg, John Maus and The Caretaker, because it didn't officially come out in 2012 it's not getting included.
Ironically, the album I've definitely played the most this year lies in eleventh position in my LastFM Scrobbles list. It is Visions by Grimes. The reason it's not number 1? It was one of the rapidly diminishing number of CDs I bought this year, so it got plenty of repeat listens on the kitchen CD player!
A Great Year for Techno
I'd say I've developed a greater appreciation of Techno this year, and that is reflected in my lists, with top quality releases from stalwarts Shed, Redshape and Claro Intelecto, alongside newcomers Barker & Baumecker, Andre Lodemann and Juju & Jordash.
New Artists Rule? Just!
Of my top 27 albums, 15 were from artists new to me.
Music Overload = I've Definitely Missed Some
Even though I'm regularly listening to music up to twelve hours a day it's still not possible to listen to everything I'd like. So if your favourite release is missing from my list, it's probably because I never bought/heard it, or am planning to get round to it soon. Honestly, I've got a list as long as my arm of albums I'd like to listen to more, like Out of Sync by ASC, Personality by Scuba and Quarantine by Laurel Halo.
Hype and Disappointment
There were a few album releases this year that didn't live up to the hype. I'm talking about Shackleton, Actress and Voices From The Lake feat. Donato Dozzy & Neel. Don't get me wrong, they're all pretty good albums, they just don't appear in my list of the best of 2012.
So here we go:
- Erased Tapes Collection IV
- Body Language Vol. 11 by Nôze
- Ben Klock – Fabric 66
- Levon Vincent – Fabric 63
- Maya Jane Coles – DJ-Kicks
- Modeselektion Vol. 02
Singles / EPs
- Burial - Kindred
- Disclosure – The Face
- Last Magpie – No More Stories
- Beaumont – Never Love Me
- oOoOO - Our Loving Is Hurting Us
- Erich Schall – Direction
- Debukas - Pleasure Patterns
- Textural Being – Paix
- Todd Terje – It's The Arps
- Jennifer Cardini – Get The Curse
- EOD – MNMLSSG
- Shed – Wax Treatment
- youandewan – teshcast
- Tomas Barfod - Little White Earbuds
- Acid Test (Resident Advisor Label of the Month) mixed by Eddie Richards
- James Fox – Stop Making Sense
- Clare Intelecto - FACT
- Electric Deluxe Podcast : 065 : Phonaut
- Electric Deluxe Podcast : 071 : Joel Alter
- James Zabiela – Resident Advisor
- New York Transit Authority - FACT
- DJ Tennis - fabric promo mix
- The Sight Below – Resident Advisor
- Delta Funktionen – Traces
- Nina Kraviz – Nina Kraviz
- Amirali – In Time
- The Caretaker – Patience (After Sebald)
- Fort Romeau – Kingdoms
- John Talabot – Fin
- Grimes – Visions
- Matthew Dear – Beams
- Barker & Baumecker – Transsektoral
- Guy Gerber – Fabric 64
- Legowelt – The Paranormal Soul
- Michael Mayer – Mantasy
- Christian Löffler – A Forest
- Wolf + Lamb – Versus
- Shed – The Killer
- Benjamin Damage & Doc Daneeka – They Live!
- Juju & Jordash – Techno Primitivism
- Recondite – On Acid
- Chord – Year as a Ghost
- Tin Man – Neo Neo Acid
- Andre Lodemann – Fragments
- Daphni – Jiaolong
- DFRNT – Fading
- Justin Martin - Ghettos & Gardens
- Redshape – Square
- Cubenx - On Your Own Again
- Claro Intelecto – Reform Club
Let me know your favourites via Twitter. Use the hashtag #the-letter-best-music-2012.