There were some great albums to come out of 2012. Bruce Springsteen recorded his best record in years, Frank Ocean announced his arrival with the brilliant Channel Orange, and Jessie Ware emerged as a future star. But there was plenty of music that flew under the radar, failing to make a dent in the charts; much of which is well worth going back to. Here are three albums you may have missed in 2012 that are absolutely worth your time:
Chairlift’s second full-length album, Something, mines the decidedly uncool corners of 80s pop for inspiration while fashioning bold, joyful melodies that juxtapose Caroline Polacheck’s deadpan vocal style and crude, emotionally potent lyrics. Chairlift revel in the same crisp, elegant, electronic pop that the band Haim are set to make popular in the back half of 2013. This is modern indie music that reeks of Fleetwood Mac and Duran Duran.
Something’s success is at least partly owing to the heart-on-sleeve emphasis it places on relationships and their emotional spillage. Whereas their debut album felt self-conscious with its songs too often filtered through ironic detachment and awkward conceit; Something benefits from a directness that imbues its songs with charm and grace. Nowhere is this more evident than on album highlight, “I Belong In Your Arms”.
Kill For Love
Chromatic’s Kill For Love came five years after their Night Drive album and a year after the Drive soundtrack that was so heavily informed by that album‘s aesthetic. The collection of songs that appeared in the Nicolas Winding Refn film served for many as an introduction to the Italo-disco sub-genre for which Chromatics have been anointed ambassadors. Despite the Drive soundtrack’s success, it’s not analogue-fetishising, dreamy dance-pop that kicks off Kill For Love, but a hauntingly beautiful, bare-bones cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My (Into The Black).
From there, the 90-minute album moves into more familiar territory with the sophisticated, post-punk-as-dance-pop earworm, “Back From The Grave”, while “These Streets Will Never Look The Same” takes the palm-muted chug of Stevie Nicks’ “Edge Of Seventeen” and stretches it out into eight minutes of torpid build and release. Title track, “Kill For Love” finds the band at their peak, with Ruth Radelet’s mournful vocals coursing through the smoky ambience of Johnny Jewel’s decadent production.
Nocturne builds on the off-kilter, home-made charm of 2010’s Gemini, taking Jack Tatum’s shimmering, synth-draped dream-pop out of the bedroom and into the studio. The result is an album that sounds fuller and more richly textured than its predecessor, with live drums and meticulous, subtle production greatly benefiting Tatum’s lovelorn atmospherics and new-wave romanticism.
Album-opener “Shadow” is melodic indie-pop with swooning strings and insistently strummed guitar; title track “Nocturne” weaves shimmying guitar lines in and out of its synth-laden tapestry; and “Paradise” seduces with its jangly guitars, velvet-smooth bass line, and watery-blue glimmer. The album is brimming with slick, catchy pop songs and is a definite highlight of 2012.