20)Los Campesinos – Allez Les Blues
It’s a little bit sneaky to include this considering that only a select few have heard it, but I couldn't resist. A track only invaluable to their fanbase via their subscription only Heat Rash series, Allez Les Blues shows Los Campesinos at their most capable. Their most conventional of song structures, it’s traditional LC! fare: Gareth’s colloquial vocal, slow building intro and dark but euphoric theme. In their subtle way, they manage to create indie rock that carries homeliness to it, a reassuring, relateable ear rather than calculation for commercial gain. In many ways, more bands would do well to operate as they do: giving back to the people who support them, sharing with their fans the development between records and allowing them to feel part of a club. It’s probably the reason they have lasted as long as they have, and are hopefully on the precipice of getting the attention they deserve.
Key Lyric: 'This lump in my throat/Is the knot that you tied/With a flick of your tongue/And a wink of your eye’
19)Bloc Party – V.A.L.I.S
The return of Bloc Party in 2012 greeted many as a surprise, and for some proved a contentious issue. Following Kele’s affair with all this electro, and the arguable steady dip in quality from their debut Silent Alarm, it was doubtful that they could return to their indie roots successfully. Luckily, Four was the sound of a band coming back together not only in name but in spirit, their fire well and truly ignited For the first time in years, V.A.L.I.S is the sound of vintage Bloc Party, Kele’s slick tongue weaving itself around rapid syllables, yelping in the chorus like an eager puppy glad to be back amongst his playmates. Welcome back boys!
Key Lyric: ‘He's into epiphany/He's into philosophy/He's into methyl amphetamines/He's into science/But he's lost his way’
18)Ellie Goulding – Anything Can Happen
After phenomenal success with Lights, Ellie Goulding formed herself quite a legacy to fulfil on both sides of the Atlantic. Attracting attention for her dalliance with ‘supercool electronic wonderkid’ Skrillex, rumours were rife that her return would be a wub-wub-wubby dubstep affair, a worrying thought in conjunction with her vocal style. Ellie’s very distinctive voice may become a little grating over the course of her second album Halcyon but it was her lead single Anything Can Happen that changed everyone's mind. Put simply, it’s unavoidably huge. Had it been out a little earlier, it would have been the perfect soundtrack to the Olympics in its unrelenting, fist pumping pep and universal message. All together now: ‘ee, ee, ee, eeeeeeeee!’
Key Lyric:'After the war we said we'd fight together/I guess we thought that's just what humans do/letting darkness grow/as if we need it's palette and we need it's colour'
17)Kanye West – White Dress
Being with his new girlfriend Kim Kardashian has clearly put Kanye in a romantic mood. Fresh off the back of his worldwide jaunt with best bro Jay Z, White Dress sees him set about proving himself as the most famous mainstream rapper alive, his words flowing as readily as the drinks in the champagne lifestyle he is singing about. All gimmicks aside, it’s a track that would fit right in with it’s college dropout days, the simple opening sample not detracting from his storytelling. As the soundtrack for Then Man With The Iron Fists, his star is showing no sign of slipping even as he settles into domestic life. Take that Drake.
Key Lyric: 'You like piña coladas, getting caught in the rain/Or rocking flannels all summer like Kurt Cobain/Or that Dolce Gabbana with a few gold chains/And you the type of girl that probably deserve a new last name'
16)M.I.A – Bad Girls
After Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Katy Perry and Jessie J, it appears the universal formula for being a popular popstar is to be outrageous. Whether that’s in the medium of fashion, public announcements or indeed the kind of music you’re releasing, a bit of a ‘rebel without a cause’ vibe can do a females career wonders. And who knows this better than M.I.A? Outcooling all of the above with ease, Bad Girls is my favourite .M.I.A song to date, the perfect package of unique Arabic beats, risqué, strong (some would even say empowering) lyrics and a stunning video. And lets not even get on to those excellent colour clashing fashion choices. The ultimate package from one of our most innovative females.
Key Lyrics: ‘Had a handle on it/My life, I broke it/When I get to where I'm going, gonna have you saying it/Live Fast Die Young/Bad Girls do it well’
15)Django Django – Default
In a classic example of a band who may have peaked too early, ‘Default’ defined Django Django’s debut album. Others may disagree, but it really didn’t catch me as a full record, a case of too many cooks as they attempted to meld far too many influences together. Default couldn't be more different, a straightforward dancefloor contender in the geeky dancepop vein of Hot Chip or LCD Soundsystem. A catchy robotic intro ebbs and flows over nervous, jittery vocals before descending into a full on wig out that simply doesn't translate any other way but on record. Perhaps not quite the band that many of 2012’s critics have made them out to be, but a brilliant single nonetheless.
Key Lyric: 'Take one for the team/You're a cog in the machine/It's like a default’
14)Cloud Nothings – No Future/No Past
I passed my noise rock, skater phase long ago, but sometimes you see a band that take you straight back to a musical phase you thought you’d long forgotten. In 2012, Ohio’s Cloud Nothings were that band – live, they rendered me speechless for a good half hour after, due to the sheer ferocity of their performance, and they still blow my head off now. Lead by Dylan Baldi, a visionary who is the same age as me but from a completely different world, Cloud Nothings delivered an album with No Future/No Past and Wasted Days as its centrepiece, anthems for slacker punks everywhere but with their eyes firmly planted on something bigger. If he can make music like this at 19, who knows where Baldi will end up?
Key Lyric: ‘Give Up/ Come To/We’re Through/No Future/No Past’
13)Alt J – Tessellate
Much like Django Django, the triangle band were on every tastemakers lips this year. Put in the same bracket as Wild Beasts in terms of making beguiling art pop, I found myself almost predisposed to liking them, and after finding them charming and refreshingly honest to interview, I’m quite the fan. It’s a hard choice to pick one single track from An Awesome Wave, but I have picked Tessellate, majestic in its sleek and subtle intimacy, leaving as simply as it starts. Headlining the NME tent at Reading And Leeds next summer, I am almost certain that like a fragile child held back in school, they are simply too delicate to be ready, but I will certain enjoy watching them give it a good go.
Key Lyric: ‘Triangles are my favourite shape/Three points where two lines meet/Toe to toe, back to back, let's go/My love it's very late/'Til morning comes, let's tessellate’
12)Kendrick Lamar- Swimming Pools (Drank)
In the epic journey I took upon myself to reconnect with my black roots in RnB and Hip Hop, I was luckily enough to stumble upon Kendrick Lamar. Championed by the likes of Zane Lowe and Dre Dre, the 25 year old from Compton signed to his first major label Interscope this year, bringing with him a low key production style and the harsh reality of life growing up in Compton. Lead single Swimming Pools is a tale of a man with a devil and an angel on his shoulder, contemplating a road which seems to lead to traditional hip hop decadence of alcohol and money, letting Lamar explore different voices in the same way Eminem used to. It carries the same sense of consciousness and morality popularised in rap music by Drake, but with a lot more authority considering the places he has lived and the things he must have seen. Cutting the line between decadence and loneliness, one would imagine that there is far more to Lamar than sex, drugs and rock n roll, and I can’t wait to hear it.
Key Lyric: 'All I have in life is my new appetite for failure/And I got hunger pain that grow insane/Tell me do that sound familiar/If it do then you're like me/Making excuse that your relief/Is in the bottom of the bottle’
11)Foals – Inhaler
One of my favourite bands on the planet, the unveiling of Foals comeback single, their first in two years, came as something of an event. Settling myself in front of the radio, I anticipated a natural progression from the likes of Spanish Sahara: gentle, slow burning, maybe vaguely Balearic in approach. What I got was entirely different, but in the best possible way. Inhaler, put simply, is Foals gone loud and proud, Yannis using his voice in a way he never has before, unabashed and unrestrained. With abstract lyrics that could indicate the sort of extraccuricular lyrics the band may have been getting up to in between recording, what's most exciting about it is that its entirely different still to follow up single My Number, making upcoming album Holy Fire impossible to predict.
Key Lyric: 'How'd you feel now?/how'd you feel now in a war?/what stands out in you?/throw your fortune away/and I cant get enough space’