Day two of our rundown of Clash's Top 40 Albums of 2012 sees appearances by Micachu And The Shapes, Chromatics, Matthew Dear, Perfume Genius, Shackleton, Jimmy Cliff, Polica, Liars, Swans and Animal Collective.
30. MICACHU AND THE SHAPES ‘Never’ (Rough Trade)
If Micachu’s debut album was a gentle waltz with the ideals of off-kilter pop music, then her second LP grabs them by the waist and thrusts wildly at their backside. Once your ears penetrate the numerous vacuum cleaners, fuzzy melodies, and enter Mica’s world, there is a playground of audible pleasures to be swung on. One song clicks, you embrace the themes, and it all falls into place. Fucked up joy, done best by the British.
BEST BIT: The swaggering hip-hop gait of ‘Low Dogg’ is as danceable as it is unlistenable.
29. CHROMATICS ‘Kill For Love’ (ITALIANS DO IT BETTER)
At one-and-a-half-hours long, opening with a Neil Young cover, Chromatics’ latest is nothing if not ambitious. It is an amalgamation of chilling synths, devastatingly nihilistic love and lust lyrical flourishes and hazy electronic beats and guitar sounds. Both enigmatic and cinematic ‘Kill For Love’ is a postmodern, synth-pop masterpiece.
BEST BIT: A lengthy sonic night drive down a neon soaked ’80s Miami coastline. In a DeLorean.
28. MATTHEW DEAR ‘Beams’ (GHOSTLY INTERNATIONAL)
Slayer of big room techno events. Debutant on Ghostly International. Poster boy of glitchy electronica. Matthew Dear has meant many things to us since his explosion in 1999, however his current singular ploughing of taut, magical dance pop with his band just keeps getting stronger. His stepping out of the shadows of the DJ booth has been slow but steady. Last LP ‘Black City’ took Gotham city blues and turned them into melancholic pop-techno; he surges forward with ‘Beams’ and once more into Clash’s end-of-year eulogies.
BEST BIT: The hopeful, existentialist ditty of ‘Earthforms’ shows going back into rock history can still throw up relevant dance music.
27. PERFUME GENIUS ‘Put Ur Back N 2 It’ (MATADOR)
If this record doesn’t make you cry, your heart is black. Mike Hadreas provides a painful yet intimate album that tackles gay sex, substance abuse, sexual abuse and other things we will never probably go through. “You would never call me baby if you knew me truly” (‘Hood’). Oh God, I’m welling up just thinking about it.
BEST BIT: An album where you actually grow to care about who’s singing, which is rare nowadays. You end with nothing but genuine concern and love for him.
26. SHACKLETON ‘Music For the Quiet Hour’ (WOE TO THE SEPTIC HEART)
A challenging boxset of troubling techno straight from Shackleton’s primordial studio soup. Comprised of two hours of music split over different EPs, Shackleton becomes our Kurtz-like guide through displaced rhythms and haunted dubs. It conjures vivid contrasts of light and air as the producer happily asphyxiates us in clouds of claustrophobic mists before his polyrhythmic breaks cleanse us with delicious space and synaptic overload. A master of twilight techno.
BEST BIT: The whole creaking atmosphere as tangled weeds and creaking hulls become percussion and melody.
25. JIMMY CLIFF ‘Rebirth’ (ISLAND)
Forty years after ‘The Harder They Come’ introduced reggae and Jimmy Cliff to the world, the scene’s talisman returns to complete his message of unity with a reggae and ska LP that’s completely captivating. It’s not a re-release, it’s not an old man going through the motions: it’s the sound of a talented ball of energy going straight back to his roots, and to his culture, to produce yet more unstoppable work.
BEST BIT: ‘One More’, his jaunty Ska floor-filler that’s utterly addicted to life. One more indeed.
24. POLIÇA ‘Give You The Ghost’ (MEMPHIS INDUSTRIES)
The debut album from Minneapolis-based five-piece Poliça is a dark, brooding masterpiece. Right from album opener ‘Amongster’, Channy Leaneagh’s finely auto-tuned vocal straddles Ryan Olson’s R&B influenced sounds. The contrast in sensibilities creates an awesome juxtaposition and through it Poliça have managed to create one of the most stunning records of 2012.
BEST BIT: ‘Dark Star’: an atmospheric, moody number that delivers a masterclass in the art of auto-tune.
23. LIARS ‘WIXIX’ (MUTE)
Liars’ sixth – and best – album, saw the band turn inwards, channeling the internal tumult of their personal lives into a series of often cryptic, always haunting songs. With help from Daniel Miller, wiry electronics replaced the guitars, but the songcraft remained recognisably Liars. Their evolution into the evil Radiohead is complete.
BEST BIT: When Angus pleads with his bandmate to mask some painful truth. “Tell me it’s a lie, Aaron!”
22. SWANS ‘The Seer’ (YOUNG GOD)
Opening with the message, “Your childhood is over”, ‘The Seer’ corrupts the listener with vicious, soul-coring sounds and breathtaking passages. There’s a lot of sex on this record: Oedipal complexes, blowjobs, Karen O, and Gira himself. But as your mind melts midway through the title track and a harmonica sets in, dormant synapses flare.
BEST BIT: Karen O floating like Florence Nightingale over Baghdad.
21. ANIMAL COLLECTIVE ‘Centipede Hz’ (DOMINO)
Animal Collective are brilliant at pushing musical boundaries so when they announced that the follow-up to ‘Merryweather Post Pavilion’ would be based around what an extraterrestrial band might sound like in space, we were bound to get something out of this world. This futuristic return is uncompromisingly experimental but filled with unforgettable hooks.
BEST BIT: It sounds like a distant galaxy where music has evolved further than our Top 40.