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ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

2012's definitive list of long-players

It's hard to think of another year in recent memory so chockfull of future classics. Debuts aplenty from the stars of tomorrow, the DJ/producers/artists who'll be making a mark for a long time to come. Career-best corkers from established dons upping their game. Quietly brilliant long-players from mavericks that shun the limelight; they're all here.

The most remarkable aspect of these albums is their breadth and scope. Far more than just genre exercises, each of these records runs the gamut of every style under the sun. Pluralism is truly the name of the game as the year draws to a close ― do genres really mean anything anymore in the digital age?

With our Top 10 albums, we've looked back at our reviews of the albums in question, and offered an up-to-date view on how the album sounds now ― and what its legacy might be. Read on... and if you think we've missed anything, leave a comment below and tell us what we should have included...


  

01. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinasaurs 'Trouble' (Polydor) 

How it sounded then:

"A beautifully crafted album jammed to the rafters with delicious dance music, crossing house music new and old, electro and bass. It’s engaging throughout, reeling with the irresistible pop sensibility he carved on his debut single. Proof that signature to a major label does not automatically come with a swapping of the proverbial soul."

How it sounds now:

A collection of proper songs, 'Trouble' is so much more than just a bunch of faceless tracks. Carefully taking the pulse of dance music today, touching on the various mutations of electro and bass music while not beholden to them, Orlando Higginbottom's debut is imbued with plenty of originality and a playful sense of fun. It's increased his standing as a cult concern, while his live shows are an increasingly hot ticket. Hopefully a springboard to even greater things.


  

02. Nina Kraviz 'Nina Kraviz' (Rekids)

How it sounded then:

"[Nina is] dance music's latest femme fatale: sassy, sophisticated and most of all subversive. In-keeping with the ghostly malaise that originally made her name, she... flirts with the austere faux-classicism of Nicolas Jaar, throwing in jazzy keys over organ chords on 'Aus'; digitally doctors her soulful Erykah Badu vocals on 'Taxi Talk'; even lobs in some juke-inspired beats on 'Ghetto Kraviz'. But it's an eerie sense of half-remembered romance that plumes most. Moody, sexy, classy… and much more.”

How it sounds now:

Nina's become a big star in the last year, but her debut album is a record that will be remembered and listened to far beyond 2012 for its mystique, charm and unique personality. From spacey sketches to raw techno to soulful, self-sung hip-hop-laced cuts, it's a world to lose yourself in.  


  

03. Justin Martin ' Ghettos & Gardens' (Dirtybird)

How it sounded then:

Naysayers may have questioned the need for such deliberation over a collection of booty bass bangers designed purely to jiggle eyeballs out of house heads' sockets. But this is no slapdash arrangement of bottom-heavy party tunes. It's a smirking (but fastidious) attempt to cobble together various, alternative ― at times opposing ― electronic ideas into a single ease-you-along package, and actually make it work. Which it does, with bells on.”

How it sounds now:

The bass-powered house of 'Ghettos And Gardens' seems to get better with each listen, its dancefloor highlights like 'Ruff Stuff' and 'Molokini' still doing massive damage all over the shop. Worth the wait, it's also won Justin a whole load of new fans and he seems to be gigging more than ever.  


  

04. John Talabot 'Fin' (Permanent Vacation)

How it sounded then:

If Arthur Russell were still alive today, he'd probably sound like John Talabot; Barcelona's bedroom alchemist who chews up folk, disco and house into a sound so woozy, so ecstatic that it's actually stomach-churning. 'Fin' is absurdly multidimensional, saturated with colour throughout. Simply captivating.”

How it sounds now:

Catching the attention of dance fans and indie bods alike, Talabot cast a spell over us all with his bewitching melodies, dark synths and raw basslines. Album highlight 'So Will Be Now' was a word-of-mouth dancefloor garage monster. The start of something very special.  


  

05. Scuba 'Personality (Hotflush)

How it sounded then: 

“While he came to the fore with a dubstep sound unafraid to nick bits and pieces of techno and other styles, and his label Hotflush has gradually grown into the go-to label for exciting, genre-straddling bass music, Scuba has already transcended these achievements. Put simply, he just refuses to stand still for one minute. ‘Personality’ is brilliant, sounds huge, and deserves to be huge.”

How it sounds now:

Clearly the most important piece in Scuba's world domination jigsaw puzzle so far, 'Personality' truly did mark the transitional moment when Scuba stopped being a niche concern and added a new accessibility to his sound. Touching on electro, drum & bass and breakbeat, with plenty of dancefloor showstoppers, its a cohesive beast of a record that sounds like the work of a stadium filler of tomorrow.   


  

06. Teengirl Fantasy 'Tracer' (R&S)

How it sounded then:

If their first, '7am' ― a clever pastiche of all things Chicago, Detroit and '80s pop ― set their stall out as an exceptional off-beat dance duo, then 'Tracer' has landed a shopping centre the size of Westfield. On a seamless album where nebulous abstraction hangs in perfect balance with unashamed, heart-bleeding moments of pure pop, TF make their playful modus operandi perfectly clear.”

How it sounds now:

'Tracer' has pushed Teengirl Fantasy into the limelight, and with it the burgeoning electronic music hub of Brooklyn, NYC. Melodic, possessed by the ghosts of rave music and R&B, while nodding to avant-garde pop in collabos with Laurel Halo and Panda Bear, it's the best example yet of the lo-fi indie/noise and dance worlds colliding. 


  

07. Actress 'RIP' (Honest John's)

How it sounded then:

Known to the taxman as Darren Cunningham, the Werk Discs boss is one who's excavated his own hidden, very private oubliette for what we'd best describe as bass-inspired ambient techno ― but that's only part of it. Erring more towards soundscapes than the trudging four-to-the-floor forms of his previous two full-length opuses, 'R.I.P' marks itself as a dark, mythological concept album from the outset. Like Zomby's 'Dedication' before it, it's best appreciated within headphones. Its metamorphosing, fragmented and off-beat dealings with mood, melody and far-out digital frequencies ― while often bewildering ― make for a challenging-yet-enthralling listen throughout.”

How it sounds now:

Happy to be an iconoclast, Actress seems to revel in his contrariness and refusal to conform. Sticking to his principles and continuing to create next level, futuristic techno, on the basis of 'RIP', the rest of the world are coming round to his way of thinking.  


  

08. Rusko 'Songs' (Mad Decent)

How it sounded then:

Rusko's role in the US dubstep explosion shouldn't be played down,” said Adam Saville. “So it's with relief that his sophomore album, 'Songs', is not designed to solely tap into the trance-step tidal wave in search of the US dollar. There may be the odd collaboration with a Rihanna-style vocalist ('Dirty Sexy') and some solar synths fit for a Tiësto set ('Opium'), sure, but even these are imbued with the vibrant Toy Town sense of humour not only characteristic of his sound, but his personality too... fun, frenzied and fantastic, 'Songs' is a reminder that dubstep does not start and end with Skrillex these days.”

How it sounds now:

Stomping all over the US like a brontosaurus on benzedrine, 'Songs' has rightfully catapulted Leeds lad Rusko into the American big leagues. Luckily, his take on dubstep has a little more flavour and tongue-in-cheek humour than some, and is already making a significant dent on the impressionable minds of the next generation. 


  

09. Guy Gerber 'fabric 64' (fabric)


How it sounded then:

At the helm of the 64th instalment of the eminent Fabric series, Supplement Facts boss Guy Gerber veers off with 16 brand-new tracks produced and mixed especially for the occasion. The result is a hypnotic journey through lush drawn-out chords, shimmery pads and reverbed vocals... the main man proves to all and sundry that he is a true pro, as he steers his way through a subtle mix of atmosphere, rhythm and dub in equal measures.”

How it sounds now:

Another coup for the techno and house renaissance man, 'Fabric 64' has upped Gerber's standing to vertiginous heights. Predictably huge and yet remarkably subtle, too.  


  

10.Hot Chip 'In Our Heads' (Domino)

How it sounded then:

After four albums, umpteen solo projects and a move to an independent label, the latest offering from Hot Chip proves the boys still have a spring in their step... it’s not just [their] seemingly limitless imagination... that makes this one of their best albums to date. The fact is, Hot Chip are dripping in great songs.”

How it sounds now:

Whether pumping out of the radio, at live shows, or at DJ gigs, Hot Chip's latest batch of tunes sounds fresh, catchy and probably their clubbiest music to date. Infectious, fun, but with a seam of lyrical depth buried in the bright synthscapes, 'In Our Heads' is the sound of Hot Chip at their peak.

 

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