My memory is rather hazy but, at the start of 2012 like every year, I had grandiose ideas that I was going to sort myself out and start taking more of an interest in life. Still being in the honeymoon period with my course at university, I had the enthusiasm and money to waste on iTunes and gigs throughout Manchester but, unfortunately nobody to accompany me. I remember many, many times begging my flatmates to come to The Warehouse Project (when it was still in Piccadilly), Deaf Institute and Ruby Lounge, but to no avail. The constant persuading eventually wore me down and made me give up listening to new music because, let’s be honest going to gigs on your own is incredibly boring and awkward. However, with the help of a lovely little festival called Beacons (August 2012), I got my musical mojo back and began going to gigs and downloading albums a’plenty. My Top 5 Albums Of The Year #1: Die Antwoord – Ten$ion Are they a spoof? Are they serious? What’s the true story with Yo!Landi Vi$$er and Ninja? And what the heck is Zefside? In Afrikaan their name means ‘The Answer’ but in reality they are quite the enigma. When I first heard ‘Enter the Ninja’, from their first studio album ‘$0$‘, I was not a fan but, due to incessant publicity from Vice, I caved in and listened to their second album which was released in Janurary. Ignoring the rather incestuous ‘Uncle Jimmy’ skit midway through the album, ‘I Fink Ur Freeky’, ‘Hey Sexy’, and ‘Baby’s On Fire’ are the right combination of crazy and commercial, although I doubt they want to be regarded as commercial because they are ‘Zef, fokkers!’. (I didn’t understand any of this – Die Antwoord-hating Ed) #2: Azari & III – Azari & III ***(I’m counting this as a 2012 album because it was re-relased in Europe in Feb 2012, which is when it was brought to my attention).*** Now, I’m quite an awkward person in most situations but, when I heard ‘Manic’ by these guys I was so caught up in the song I forgot about my crippling awkwardness and my only thought was ‘who are these?!’. The whole album makes you feel like Tron was pulled out of the mainframe and asked to soundtrack your life on a synthesizer, but most importantly, it creates the insatiable need to have a voguing battle with the person next to you. #3: Blacklisters – Blklstrs I had already seen this band perform in 2011 in a tiny upstairs room of a pub but for some unfortunate reason, I completely forgot, only to be reminded when I saw them perform again at Beacons this years. These guys are fantastic, albeit a little scary, with their rumbling, heavy bass riffs, and singer Billy Mason-Wood’s howls, slurs and rather suggestive groans, all of which make Blacklisters’ songs into something far more than an incomprehensible barrage of noise. They try not to take themselves too seriously with song titles such as ‘Clubfoot by Kasabian’, ‘Quiff Richard’ and ‘Swords’, about a man with swords for hands, but this is no way impacts on the quality of the album. #4: Milagres – Glowing Mouth Being from Brooklyn, New York says it all really. This is definitely an album I have found myself using to get away from it all, their style is chilled but not so much that you let the music blend into the background. I imagine ‘Glowing Mouth’ being used as the music of a indie cult film just as the two main characters fall in love or have an epiphany. The almost falsetto parts from Kyle Wilson’s echoing and hypnotic voice make ‘Halfway’ the perfect end to this album, leaving you satisfied and rather tranquil indeed. #5: Alt-J ∆ – An Awesome Wave You can’t have a top 5 albums of 2012 without mentioning Alt-J, winners of the Mercury Music Prize this year. I seem to hone in on bands with interesting and non conventinoal vocals and Joe Newman does not disappoint. Especially in ‘Breezeblocks’ although seemingly nasal Newman’s vocals with numerous comparisons to Radiohead, think ‘Pyramid Song’, pop culture heavy lyrics (taking inspiration from the children’s book ‘Where The Wild Things Are‘) clunky piano chords. ‘An Awesome Wave‘ is overall quite chilling, with a focus on etheral and delicate sounding guitars and tinkling noises, but managing to convey a different tone to each song. My Top 10 Songs Of The Year #1: Collarbones – Teenage Dream Marcus Whale and Travis Cook, better known as Collarbones, are still essentially unknown in the UK (something which I hope changes), but are growing in popularity in their home country of Australia. Starting up in 2007 with help from a government grant, they work from opposite ends of the country mixing broken syncopated electronic beats over-layed with emotive vocals and lyrics. This song is from their second album ‘Die Young’, and while ‘One Day’ and ‘Die Young‘ (featuring HTML Flowers) both sound more commercial, it’s not enough to lose the edge that gives them their iconic sound. #2: Jessie Ware ft. Discloure – Running #3: Azelia Banks – Liquorice #4: Arctic Monkeys – R U Mine? #5: M.I.A – Bad Girls #6: Pulled Apart By Horses – V.E.N.O.M #7: DJ Fresh – Gold Dust #8: Sleigh Bells – Demons #9: Miike Snow – Paddling Out #10: Submotion Orchestra – Blind Spot My Top 5 Gigs Of The Year #1: Juffage – Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 27th May If you know the Soup Kitchen in Manchester its downstairs room is a bit dank, cold and rather empty but Jeff ‘Juffage’ Smith quickly added some warmth with his energy and jolly demeanor. Every show is unintentionally going to be different from the next since something unexpected could happen as he plays around with synth guitar and drum loops when recording them live in front of you. If you’ve ever seen him before though you’ll know the only prerecorded loops he uses are those recked old tape players he distributes around the crowd after ‘Good God Morning’, which always gets the audience smiling and helping him out passing them down throughout song. His masterful looping of his own vocals and instruments would make you think he played with a band, but when you watch him perform he is running around the stage fitting everything together, which is just as enjoying to watch as the songs are to listen to. Furthermore, Juffage is always friendly and welcoming towards the crowd, and before we started he even tried to find a room for the night since he didn’t know anyone in Manchester. He appears to have a kind of sweet innocence about him which is endearing, although I presume this is not the case at all having moved from Chicago to Leeds in 2009 he must have been pretty resilient. He’s constantly touring throughout Europe, so you’ve no excuse to miss him. #2: Japandroids – Beacons Festival, Skipton, 18th August #3: Ghostpoet – Beacons Festival, Skipton, 18th August #4: Frankie & The Heartstrings – Beacons Festival, Skipton, 19th August #5: Submotion Orchestra – Ruby Lounge, Manchester, 16th October Going through my music choices for this piece, I’d like to think that I have quite a broad range of music interests and from what I’ve gleaned, I am indeed a sucker for a good dance hit, and thatmy sobriety is usually questionable when I’m dancing to these. I also like a good rock band (from Leeds), however, I am somewhat biased. It’s certainly a lot easier to find good bands in your local area, they’re not hard to miss really, they’ll be supporting at gigs or just being heavily advertised around the town centre, and you might even bump into them at your local club or pub. I haven’t changed that much musically since I still have all the embarrassing music from the myspace-era on my iPod but, I am trying a little harder to listen to music from this generation too.