[sic] Magazine

Tim Clarke’s Favourite Albums of 2012

Twenty-twelve has been the year in which I have struggled, perhaps naively, to continue to absorb albums as a whole. I blame Spotify’s recent introduction in Australia. When you can dip into most stuff pretty much as it comes to mind, it’s difficult to devote even 35 minutes to a single record without bring distracted by the possibility of something else being better suited to that particular moment in your life. (Tellingly, my ideal album length has contracted from 45 minutes to 30 minutes. My musical attention span is, on average, 50% of what it was.)

Another thing seems to have happened. Having instant access to so much music means I’m less devoted to certain bands. This year has seen new albums by long-standing favourites Dinosaur Jr , Deerhoof and The Sea and Cake , but I’ve given each of their albums a couple of spins at most. There’s just so much other stuff out there to discover.

Anyway, my top ten. I get into a weird space at the end of the year, furtively scouring other writers’ lists, particularly on sites I read devotedly (such as Dusted), searching for gems I’ve overlooked (I’ve already found one in Shearwater’s Animal Joy – thanks Dusted’s Jennifer Kelly). So, to stop myself from interminably revising this list, I decided to just stick with all the records that reflect my listening this year, then ranked them. I’m extremely fond of them all, of course, but I’ve also spent a lot more time with each of them, for whatever reason, than other records I’ve heard that might conceivably be better.

10. Golden RetrieverLight Cones (Root Strata)
I don’t normally listen to much of this improvised cosmic mulch, then when I do, I find two absolute gems (see no. 9). In the case of Golden Retriever (try Googling that!) you get lots of wobbly modular synth and heavily effected bass clarinet, casting fingers of jellied light towards the farthest reaches of the universe before coalescing into a glistening pool of gorgeousness that might just contain all the socks that have disappeared from your washing machine all these years. Imagine that.

9. Motion Sickness of Time TravelMotion Sickness of Time Travel (Spectrum Spools)
While Golden Retriever is all about spontaneous sound weaving between two dudes, MSoTT is all about one woman alone with her gear, her voice, and an uncanny ear for texture. This album goes on for aeons, hovering, swooping, swooing and soaring, and it shits on Swans’ The Seer (I still don’t understand all the fuss about that one…).

8. Mount EerieOcean Roar (PW Elverum & Sun)
I think this album’s received a raw deal because it’s inferior to Clear Moon – but then most albums this year, if not all, are inferior to that masterpiece. To these ears, Ocean Roar has its own particular sprawling, fuzzy magic, raw and bracing that make it almost as essential.

7. OrcasOrcas (Morr Music)
What do you get when you combine The Sight Below’s Rafael Anton Irisarri and Benoît Pioulard? A gorgeous, low-key listen, which includes a cover of Broadcast’s fantastic ‘Until Then’.

6. I Like TrainsThe Shallows (ILR)
Discovered these guys thanks to The Quietus. (Editor: Thanks to me, I think you mean Tim?) Very English, very mannered and very beautiful.

5. Field MusicPlumb (Memphis Industries)
The Brewis brothers have done it again. While their last album Measure sprawled across two discs, Plumb is like a mini-epic, infusing prog and funk into their tightly orchestrated and impeccably recorded guitar pop.

4. Grizzly BearShields (Warp)
The Grizzlies were responsible for my live highlight of the year. Listening to ‘The Sun in Your Eyes’ close their set at Harvest festival was just sublime. I still don’t think Shields quite nails what makes Grizzly Bear’s best moments compelling – the band seem too anally retentive to create their masterpiece – but there’s lots to explore and admire in this feast of swoony chamber-pop.

3. Greg HainesDigressions (Preservation)
This album just destroys me. I think I’ve broken down crying more often to this album, and particularly ‘Azure’, than any other album this year.

2. Lower DensNootropics (Ribbon Music)
It took a dozen listens or so before Nootropics’ inscrutable exterior began to melt away and reveal a desperately sad yet tightly honed series of songs. Nod along to their motorik propulsion, then start listening to Jana Hunter’s lyrics and feel the pain!


1. Mount EerieClear Moon (PW Elverum & Sun)
This album is just majestic. Liquid shimmering thrums, terrifying oceanic crashes and droning organs, from within which Phil coos his sad, existentialist poetry. Twenty-thirteen is going to be the year I finally buy a turntable, and Clear Moon is going to be the first album I play on it.