2012 album of the year

A great year for new music! Almost a struggle to choose a favourite.

If there’s one thing which has characterised the music scene in 2012, it’s plurality.

If one new band emerged with a new look and sound, it was quickly wrapped up and packaged along with vaguely similar bands and given a name. Whereas previous years have been characterised with a push into one or two genres, the past twelve months has had wave after wave of genuinely interesting and discrete little sub-genres emerge, gain a bit of attention, then subside again.

One might call this novelty, or an example of just how efficient the Internet has become at bringing the obscure to the attention of those who are interested. You could make a convincing argument about the need for continued innovation, of a fickle marketplace, of listeners who just want to hear the Next Big Thing rather than the latest album in a long-standing artist’s increasingly ponderous catalogue.

The argument I’d like to propose, however, is that the music scene is incredibly rich right now. So many artists are practising such disparate methods and approaches that there’s a continual sense of newness, excitement, a thirst for more more MORE. The discerning listener can’t help but be thrilled with the release of an ethereal electronic masterpiece one week followed by a total refinement of what folk should mean in this day and age the next. Even bands that have been around a while now are reinventing themselves and knocking out stunning examples of their craft.

Naturally, electing a single album of the year is a tricky proposition. How can anyone choose a single album as nominally ‘the best’ when so many releases in so many different genres have been released?

Actually, it’s not been too difficult. Not really. As great as Plumb and The Lion’s Roar and so on have been, they’ve tended to fade away as the rolling current of new curiosities keeps going. There’s been one album that I’ve listened to over and over this year, and one which I still listen to on a near-daily basis.

That album is Django Django’s self-titled debut.

This was something I thought would be a novelty until the Alt-J album - a much-discussed and much anticipated colossus - was released. But while that album was heaped in (entirely deserved) acclaim, Django Django was pushed out of the limelight somewhat, seen by many as a less interesting, less deserving companion to An Awesome Wave.

An entirely unfair notion. The comparisons between the two are obvious, but Django Django has a flow that Alt-J’s album does not, a sense of progression and expansion and improvement which An Awesome Wave sorely lacks.

And though Django Django has that charming, slightly eccentric, definitely ‘new’ sound, it feels like an old classic. It doesn’t shy away from having (gasp!) verses and choruses, nor of having a guitar line, a drum line, and a bass line despite having twiddly, glitchy electronic sounds over the top. Nor does it omit the odd catchy hook when it feels it’s appropriate.

Ultimately, that’s why I’ve returned to Django Django again and again. It is definitely from 2012, but it is firmly rooted in what has gone before. It’s not a mess of bleeping electronics and it’s not a dainty strum of the guitar. It’s a happy medium, and it’s that certainty and solidity which gives it such charm and appeal.

If you let this one pass you by, have a listen to Storm and Default then dive into the album proper. It really is stunning.

But having said that, if you’ve yet to dig through some other delights released this year, you really should do so. It’s been such a diverse and interesting year that you’re bound to find something you love.

(Bit weird that no-one’s talking about Alabama Shakes any more, isn’t it?)