Tips for 2012 – One Year On (Part One)

In 2011 I had a fantastic year with a number of my "tips" producing albums which ended up amongst my favourites of the year (as well as a couple that split up and a few that were "tipped" too soon and albums that didn't materialise). I think it was safe to say I was going to struggle to match those results this time around, so now twelve months on from my picks for 2012, I'll revisit the year of my picks and find out if my Mystic Meg career has come to an end before it's even started... Below is part one, with parts two and three following over the weekend. My 13 "Tips for 2013" will start on Monday (and my favourite releases of 2012 posts the week after for any of your curious).

Battlekat - Facebook

Battlekat, perhaps still known to a few of you as Just A Number 05272011 (the date they announced their real name), failed to immediately build on a strong EP and stunning London live debut in 2011 which led to their inclusion in my Tips post, in fact, it's been as good as silent from the Danish quartet until just a few weeks ago when a new track entitled "Rituals That Make The Rain Fall" was released...

After a 2012 spent predominately recording new material "Rituals..." hints at bigger things for Battlekat in 2013, the track, a seven minute tour-de-force of all things electronic music combining hypnotic, tribal beats with warbling synths and distorted vocal yowls. To date no future releases have been announced. So whilst 2012 hasn't exactly fulfilled any prophecies of Battlekat taking The Knife's crown, it's definitely too soon to write that of, 2013 might just be the year. What this space...

Carousels - Facebook

On my review/post of the Carousels EP a few weeks back I half mentioned the way this post was heading (in it's fact very similar to Battlekat above). When Carousels started they were a duo of Nick Benton and Lucy Wilson, after amassing an incredible amount of buzz in late summer 2011 with two demos "Here to Me" & "Sleep" and playing a few shows in the autumn (which combined to result in my "tipping" nod), it was a brave move to discard almost everything they'd done over their initial six months and form a 'real' band with new material.

After a six month period of recording and road testing while playing the odd gig Carousels released the exhilarating "Stay With Me" to much acclaim from shoegaze poppers around the world, I said it "instantly penetrating your brain with a huge wall of sound from swathes of droning, spiralling guitars and a punishing drum beat, which fully intoxicates when interwoven with Nick and Lucy's dual, melodic vocals", then came an autumn tour with Peace and an EP perfectly titled POP released just a couple of weeks back, highlight "Sweet Honey" the perfect juxtaposition of fuzzy carnage and dreamy, drifting vocals wrapped up within three minutes of pop bliss, Carousels have well and truly announced themselves as a band to play loud and see live. I'm looking forward to seeing what 2013 brings.

Cold Specks - Facebook

Cold Specks (aka Al Spx) debut I Predict A Graceful Expulsion came out in May via Mute and delivered on the promise of its earlier tracks and a spine-tingling Jolls Holland performance, difficult to accurately pigeon-hole, a combination of gospel, folk and 'doom-soul' combine with Al's unique vocals to deliver a powerful, thought provoking full-length that deserved the praise it received upon release (8/10 from DiS, 7.7 Pitchfork, 4 stars The Independent)

The only minor quibbles could be that it's so emotive it's hard to swallow in one go and the tracks we already knew are arguably the best on the album, previews "Holland" and "Winter Solstice" remain as powerful and poignant now as they did a year ago, the former gathers weight slowly around guitar plucks, sweeping strings and a repetitive drum beat to a raw, empowering finale while the latter "Winter Solstice" deeply haunting, spiritual and beautiful. Those endless adjectives are the least Cold Specks deserve, as atmospheric and poetic release as any this year, I'm interested to see where this project turns next.

Daughter - Facebook

I almost picked Daughter in my 2011 tips, I did include them in my tips for 2012 list, when in-so-fact it's going to be 2013 when Daughter becomes a household name. Sure 2012 hasn't been exactly quiet for Elena Tonra and co (they've just finished their debut US headlining tour and playing in Europe too) but with just one single to their name (the incredible "Smother", their first for new label 4AD) 2013 appears to be the year when we'll finally hear the first Daughter LP and see the trio build upon two incredible EP releases.

With "Smother" you realise it's just a matter of time, Elena's intimate lyrics are arguably amongst the finest of this generation and amongst swelling instrumentation her ethereal tones are as heart-felt and beautiful as anything you'll hear this year and next. Daughter's debut is definitely on the (premature) short-list for the top albums of 2013. Are you watching those on the Mercury Prize panel...

Echo Lake - Facebook

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 Wild Peace.

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. "Even the Blind" starts 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.

I had to miss the re-scheduled album launch show last month, to make amends I'll be trying my utmost to attend a Christmas Show which Echo Lake headline alongside to other acts featured here before, Novella and SPC ECO - Thursday December 20th at the Water Rats - full details.