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ALMOST the musical elite of 2012.

Last week I presented to yours truly my musical elite of 2012, and now to finish off the year I present my list of nine albums that came oh so close to making the prestigious final cut for stand out albums of the year. These are all good albums, bordering on great, but that’s the key word – bordering. Something was simply missing on each and every one of these that prevented them from making the final cut, but they are pretty darn fantastic in their own right. Maverick Sabre‘s gorgeously strange voice  – and yes he is a HE despite his near Amy Winehouse sound  – is a unique and enjoyable thing to listen to, and his entire album is pretty strong, but it’s a bit long and wears out it’s welcome by it’s end. But he does hit so many genres of pop music and stamps his own style on them with that voice of his that it’s a winner. Every song is different, and if the rousing number I shared, ‘Let Me Go’, isn’t your style, check out the rest as there’s probably something there for you. The Raveonettes sixth full length starts off a bit weak on it’s first few tracks, but after that it’s stellar. Their 50’s Motown mixed with The Jesus & Marcy Chain style is as strong as ever, but as they seem to have quietly matured recently, the tunes have only become more memorable, and the track below titled ‘She Owns the Streets’ should showcase that well. Wild Nothing‘s second album is a vast improvement from his first from a few years ago, even from still doing the 80’s revivalist thing like so many are into these days. It’s not perfect by any means, but the production is top notch and a few of the songs on the album, including ‘Paradise’ which you can hear below, are so strong it really propels the entire thing beyond it’s faults. It’s a lovely listen through and through, but the lows needed to be elevated somehow to match the very high highs. If anyone understands what I mean when I say ‘Paradise’ sounds like it’s from the Uncle Buck soundtrack, I will give you a cookie some day. Poolside‘s debut is a near perfect summer album. The song below, ‘Slow Down’, does nothing but convey a hot lazy summer’s day with a group of friends sitting by the side of the pool, or ok at the beach will work too, and it’s just a perfect song in it’s mood-enhancing abilities. One of my favorite tracks of the year. And the entire album is quite good – but it’s just wayyy too long. Any album you need to edit yourself obviously has issues, and it’s by full on removing a few dull tracks for sure. But the mood is sustained throughout, and their summer beach “daytime disco” (as they call it) is beyond fun, oozing images of the blinding sun, sweating glasses of lemonade, scantily clad folk, and bright blue waters. An entire day at the beach is not exactly necessary however. The sophomore album from The xx has been long awaited, with everyone wanting to see how they would either expand or double down on their quiet barren pop sound, and they ended up doing both. They’ve added beats, almost a very slight club sound at times, but they also doubled down, as this sounds so similar to their first in tone, pace and mood. So it’s a bit weird people have been a bit cold to this album as the band gave us exactly what everyone wanted. Yet I think I agree, sort of. It’s a great album, but it also isn’t anything special. All I can really say is it really has some beautiful moments, and ‘Swept Away’ is a great example. It’s a really good album, but just needed just a little extra, of something I can’t figure out. Barry Adamson is thankfully still out there recording albums after all these years. I always wonder how people know of him, never mind buy his albums, but I’m certainly thankful he’s still around. He started off solo by recording imaginary soundtracks (check 1996’s Oedipus Schmoedipus for his strongest work), and even doing real soundtrack work for people like David Lynch (Lost Highway) and now his cinematic heart is still strong with his slightly more easy listening/spy music/lounge jazz/Lynch noir sound. This album is a bit weak on the second half, but is very very strong on the top half, including the track I’ve shared called ‘The Power of Suggestion’. It’s a fun classic sounding track and represents the overall mood and beat of the entire album. Ghostly International founder Matthew Dear put out his fifth album this year, and although his music has been good at times, it usually leaves me feeling cold, and sort of sterile. That element is still here at times, but there’s a new found color added to his palette (just look at that album cover) that freshens up his sound and adds something optimistic here for once. I’m not sure if he’s close to perfecting his music with this mood change, but it’s welcome, and with practice he could be onto something really fun, and much less of a downer, as dance-centric as it all is. The debut album from Night Sins, hailing from Philadelphia, may as well be the fourth album from The Sisters of Mercy. Save a few inflections in the voice, this is pretty much a clone of The Sisters (to these ears that’s a very good thing), and with an album as short as this, it doesn’t wear out it’s welcome at all. Just listen to 10 seconds of the lead off track that I’ve shared here, ‘Playing Dead’, and you will be convinced this is an alternate take of the entire Floodland album. For a small band on a tiny Italian label that plays mostly basements and make-shift ‘clubs’, this is a very well written, well produced and perfectly executed album. If you are into the Sisters, you will not be disappointed by a single track on this one. The second album from New Zealand/San Francisco singer/band Tamaryn is a shoegazer’s delight, and it’s akin to a pancake that’s been flattened and evened out. Their first album had very strong melodic peaks, so high and strong they out shined the shortcomings of it’s lifeless tuneless valleys to the point it still made my albums of the year list in 2010. On their second album, the peaks have been flattened, spreading their greatness into the other tracks in the valleys. This create dilution of course, so instead of fantastic songs and “they’re ok I guess” type songs, the album is simply good overall. Their music has consistently evoked images of a vast, sun-drenched, heat saturated desert (check out the song I’ve shared below ‘I’m Gone’), and now because of this flattening and dilution, the entire album feels as such. If you like this style, just waves and waves of loud, perfectly distorted, effects-drenched Slowdive-esque guitars, then you will find much to like here. That’s why this album is great to me, but still isn’t original enough to make the final list.

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maverick sabre | lonely are the brave

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the raveonettes | observator

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wild nothing | nocturne

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poolside | pacific standard time

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the xx | coexist

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barry adamson | i will set you free

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matthew dear | beams

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night sins | new grave

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tamaryn | tender new signs

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Björk : Bastards
Crystal Castles : (III)
The Dandy Warhols : This Machine
Dinosaur Jr. : I Bet On Sky
Grimes : Visions
Hospitality : Hospitality
The Invisible : Rispah
Kimbra : Vows
Ladyhawke : Anxiety
Madonna : MDNA
Niki and The Dove : Instinct
Public Image Ltd. : This is PiL
Raime : Quarter Turns Over A Living Time
Santigold : Master of My Make-Believe
SpaceGhostPurrp : Mysterious Phonk – The Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp
Tame Impala : Lonerism
Toy : Toy
Twin Shadow : Confess

REISSUES OF THE YEAR
V/A:  Personal Space – Electronic Soul 1974-1984
The House of Love : The House of Love  (1988)
My Bloody Valentine : EP’s 1988-1991
My Bloody Valentine : Isn’t Anything (remastered)
My Bloody Valentine : Loveless (remastered)

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