15. Golden Fable - Star Map
An album which has criminally managed to stay off many peoples radar this year, perhaps due to the self-released nature of the album, still with support slots alongside Field Music and Wave Machines to come next year word is slowly getting out there about this wonderful duo.
is genuinely the most beautiful album on this list, the understated ethereal grace which carries the album throughout is one to truly immerse yourself in, a real natural beauty, "Always Golden" perfectly highlights Rebecca Palin's unique, haunting vocal, it's at the forefront throughout with the shimmering electronic beats and delicate key strokes
"Crossfire" is another likely to bring goosebumps to many, for those easily turned on, Star Map should carry a warning sticker, such an effecting beauty, spread the word.
14. Rachel Sermanni - Under Mountains
With her captivating presence and exceptional song craft, in my humble opinion, Rachel Sermanni is one of the few who stands out above the current crowd of singer/songwriters, after a couple of EP's highlighting her talent I was delighted that her debut full-length
fulfilled all my hearts desires and more.
"Waltz" slowly introduces a full band to accompany Rachel's guitar and sweet vocal tones, the combination creates intoxicating arrangements and strong melodies that stands true for much of
. The command and attention to detail throughout the album is exceptional, Rachel in complete control of the flowing vocals and her depth of prose belie her youth.
The dark defiance of "The Fog" and the gorgeous, soothing tones of "Sleep" are all personal favourites too, offering a dozen finely crafted tracks in which Rachel's mesmerising voice resonates above genteel instrumentation and stirring full band sections,
is bathed in heartfelt emotion and stunning harmonies, one of the years finest, of that there is no doubt..
13. I Like Trains - The Shallows
By now you think you know what you are getting with I Like Trains, or at least you thought you did. The Leeds based post-rock band have changed things up with their latest album
, the predominant mood of their previous releases was, shall we say, glum, slow burning, emotive soundscapes with little room for light or hope, sure there were moments in their last "He Who Saw The Deep" where all was not grey but nothing quite like moments on
For how do you say it, "Mnemosyne" sees I Like Trains go disco, not a word that we've come to associate with them but "Mnemosyne" is most definitely funky. Sparse synth lines combine with a bass-line Hot Space era Queen would have been proud of, don't let it scare you off, the signature I Like Trains dynamic is similarly evident, at at their brooding best on "Reykjavik" with Dave Martin's impeccable baritone vocals, shimmering guitars and Simon Fogal's commanding drums and reflective on "Water/Sand" which finds their beautifully thought-out prose at its finest.
"Beacons" is another which glistens with twinkling synths hooks and chiming guitars, it works, I never thought it would but it does, sullen post-rock with a flamboyant electro edge, I like it.
finds the new I Like Trains as absorbing as ever.
12. The Staves - Dead & Born & Grown
A long time coming some may say, The Staves debut album
Dead & Born & Grown
is a perfect summation of the girls journey so far, with older tracks "Mexico" and "Facing West" as exquisite as ever, sitting perfectly alongside tracks from the earlier
and newer songs too, much will be said about the sisters rich harmonies and genteel melodies (with good reason), which slowly and luxuriously linger in your brain like a Sunday afternoon with a glass of fine malt whisky.
Highlights are throughout, the a cappella "Wise and slowly" is hymnal perfection, the tender "Pay Us No Mind", like so much of the album, is just beautiful while "Tongue Behind My Teeth" sees the sister take some Americana influences with a kick-drum beat propelling jangling guitar and dusty melodies which sweep and stomp like the outlaw video that accompanies the track. The Staves blend their heavenly harmonies together as well as any I've previously heard and
Dead & Born & Grown
is the perfect for the winter months, completely irresistible, don't miss out.
11. Echo Lake - Wild Peace
[Previously posted on my Tips of 2012: One Year On post]
Echo Lake have had a year of ups and downs, the tragic news of the death of their drummer Pete Hayes overshadowed everything else but the subsequent empowerment of the band, including fundraisers and emotional tributes only highlighted the togetherness and closeness of the group who earlier in the year released their delightful debut full length
. As beautiful a listen as any album this year, Wild Peace seamlessly fizzes with immersive, shimmering bliss.
Track after track of intoxicating, beyond-luscious melodies in which we find Linda Jarvis' reverberating vocals floating around, highlights are aplenty, from the re-imagining of earlier single "Another Day", the only pure pop tune on display with chiming chords to the rockier "Young Silence" and swirling "In Dreams" (both again reworked from their 2011 EP appearances, starting with a soft tapestry of sounds before rising in intensity to an explosive finale while the gorgeous "Swimmers" is the hazy, dreamy come-down. Though that's a paragraph that fails to mention the closing track "Just Kids", a seven minute course on how to generate the perfect atmospheric of slowly building wonder or the title track, equally worthy of praise.
Amongst the reasons for my support of the band over the last year is the beautiful, progressive arrangements of their tracks, "Even the Blind" is like a journey in itself, from its dreamy, luxurious outset where Linda's beautiful ethereal coo's, chiming guitars and a metronomic beat purposely lead towards its foot-stomping tempo switch, the drumbeat sees the main shift in intensity in the songs second quarter, hard-hitting and stadium sized they suddenly drop leaving the shimmering textures on a cliff-edge before the track again gathers pace and surges towards its euphoric climax. To sum up, "Even the Blind" is basically a five minute roller-coaster that's exhilarating, soothing and absolutely wonderful, wild and peaceful, yeah I get that title.