Top ten albums of 2012

Playlists, Reviews

Now is the season of top 10 lists and end-of-year reviews. This is my contribution to the interweb’s melting pot of unsought opinion. 2012 has been a year of rock for me. Old names resurfaced with surprising quality while plenty of new blood made great rock records and toured. In no particular order, here’s a rundown of my favourite albums released in 2012 plus a standout track from each album (shared on Spotify).

Band of Horses – Mirage Rock

This is their fourth and best album to date. Polished, assured and consistent, the heavier treatment of country/alt rock conjures the best of Neil Young and The Eagles but with fresh new life. Mirage Rock is an album by a mature band who have perfected their sound. Favourite track: album and live set opener Knock Knock.

Joanne Shaw Taylor – Almost Always Never

Joanne Shaw Taylor is a blues guitarist and singer born in the UK and now based in Detroit. She released her third album this year and it’s much wider in scope than her first two albums, White Sugar and Diamonds in the Dirt, which are guitar-heavy. Joanne is a stunning a blues guitarist with a smoky voice to go with the shredding skills. Still, there’s no shortage of guitar work on Almost Always Never. Opening track Soul Station is over six minutes! However, the songwriting, range of styles, varied pace, intensity and exploration are what shines through. Favourite track: A Hand In Love.

The Darkness – Hot Cakes

Ridiculous, flamboyant, crackers, brilliant! Packed with catchy choruses, classic rock heyday riffs and Justin Hawkins’ theatrics, Hot Cakes is a superb return to form by a band who lost their way mid-2000s. The Darkness toured relentlessly this year and you can hear they’re having fun. The positivity and energy shine in their songs. A cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit (Fade Out) is an unexpected highlight, turning an indie-fringe ballad into something Iron Maiden would be proud of. Favourite track: Everybody Have a Good Time.

Rival Sons – Head Down

Rival Sons have nailed the classic 70s rock sound, rounding this out with groove and a calm, cool attitude. They do this without becoming a nostalgic tribute. Favourite track: Keep On Swinging.

Slash & Myles Kennedy – Apocalyptic Love

Slash’s finest work post Guns N’ Roses, Apocalyptic Love is high-quality hard rock. The riffage is satisfying, both complex and simple in turns, with choruses made for fist-pumping arena audiences. Slash is still a phenomenal guitarist continuing to push himself. The album’s title track and opening riff set the tone immediately. There are 15 tracks on this album, with little filler. Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge’s singer) is great on vocals, a perfect match for Slash’s style. Favourite track: You’re a Lie.

Royal Southern Brotherhood

Royal Southern Brotherhood’s self-titled first album was in my ears for much of the summer. They combine the best of southern rock, blues and soul, all steeped in New Orleans atmosphere, textures and culture. Favourite track: New Horizon.

Cherry Lee Mewis – Heard It Here First

I mentioned Cherry Lee Mewis in my 10 standout blues artists summer 2012 playlist. She has so much sass, style and lyrical quality. Long Distance Lover has a rockabilly backing with a Mediterranean flavour guitar noodle behind Lee Mewis’s vocals. You’ll also hear the lighter end of blues and country. Refreshing. Favourite track: Long Distance Lover.

Black Country Communion – Afterglow

After three years and three albums, it seems we’ve heard the last of this supergroup. Singer, bassist, songwriter and serial band breaker-upper Glenn Hughes can’t work out how to keep the band alive with Joe Bonamassa, the guitar hero. Bonamassa may well be the rising star but Hughes wrote all the songs on this album and it’s the supergroup’s best album of their three. Afterglow is solid, heavy, well-crafted rock. Shame we won’t have the chance to hear it live. Favourite track: Midnight Sun.

Europe – Bag of Bones

Europe. Yes, that Europe. Perm-coiffured Swedish rockers of The Final Countdown fame. They released an album this year and, no joke, it’s bloody good. Favourite track: Doghouse.

Jack White – Blunderbuss

Jack White’s debut solo album was a real surprise. It’s a modern, original approach to pared-down blues and a breath of fresh air. Favourite track: Freedom at 21.

Image: In the crowd at Little Angels, O2 Glasgow (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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