Each December, the team at CMU sit down to decide who their ten favourite artists of the year have been – taking into account not just album releases, but everything those acts have done in the previous twelve months. In fact, this year one of our chosen acts has never released an album at all.
CMU Editor Andy Malt says of this year’s ten: “I really like focussing on what artists do as a whole for our end-of-year round up, because it always throws up surprises. There are artists whose albums I have played to death this year who I thought would be on this list, but who were just beaten at the final stage by someone who we felt had really gone that extra yard in other areas in 2012″.
He continues: “As ever, it was really tough to get down to the final ten, and the list changed several times before we finally agreed on it. But I think what we’ve come up with really reflects what we’ve been most excited about here at CMU this year, as well as celebrating a broad cross-section of music and the music industry in 2012″.
01 Ty Segall – I Bought My Eyes
“What has Ty Segall done this year? And who is he?”, you may ask. Well, to start with the basics: SoCal lo-fi thrasher Segall has released a mercurial triple-set of LPs this year, promoted each via non-stop touring, incited an apparent “garage renaissance”, and set a new, very loud standard for live guests on Chicago’s ‘WGN Morning News’. That’s all.
02 Junkie XL – Off The Dancefloor (Trippple Nippples Remix)
Our introduction to Tokyo-based trio Trippple Nippples came in the form of ambient pop track ‘Goldenroad’, which ensured maximum impact at the moment we discovered just how unrepresentative of their sound it was. More typical tracks, such as ‘LSD’, show off a kind of frantic, tribal pop – a description that matches their unforgettable live shows.
03 Frank Ocean – Thinkin Bout You
Frank Ocean first appeared above the hip hop parapet as a member of rap posse (and one of CMU’s Artists Of 2011) Odd Future. With a muted persona in contrast to the crew’s other brasher characters, Ocean played (slightly) elder sibling and R&B foil to the likes of Tyler, The Creator et al, while also stashing solo singles.
04 Julia Holter – Goddess Eyes II
Julia Holter’s early work, much of it recorded while studying at the California Institute Of The Arts, is almost a trip through the thought processes leading up to this year’s ‘Ekstasis’ album. Elements of each of the earlier releases can be heard in the new record, resulting in an album more accessible than all of them, but with all of their charm and depth remaining intact.
05 Azealia Banks – 212
Ah, Azealia Banks. It’s been over a year since her first CMU mention, and what a year-plus. In varying ways. A teen alumnus of Manhattan’s LaGuardia arts school, Harlem-based Banks began acting the rap artiste in 2009. Her overnight infamy came via last year’s ’212′, a heathen hymn to NYC club culture and Banks’ own (bi)sexuality.
06 Susanne Sundfør – White Foxes
This year, Susanne Sundfør released her third album proper, ‘The Silicone Veil’, her first to receive an official release in the UK. Its first single, ‘White Foxes’, picks up where previous album ‘The Brothel’ left off, and then pushes the possibilities within her sound, a blend of electronic and classical influences, yet further.
07 Lana Del Rey – National Anthem
The duality and uncertainty of Lana Del Rey makes the still-animated conversation about her such an object of fascination, and that lends an extra sweet-sour piquancy to tracks like ‘National Anthem’, an exemplary pop single by any standards. The Lana Del Rey myth well may be just that, but even if it isn’t true, it’s a beautiful lie nevertheless.
08 Plan B – Ill Manors
When Plan B was named Artist of The Year at this year’s Artist & Manager Awards he thanked his label, Warner/Atlantic for “believing in” him. Fairly standard, but he pointed out that he was one of the few artists kept on after its purchase of 679 Records, when, as far as he was concerned, he was “just some rapper with an album that didn’t sell very well”.
09 Grimes – Oblivion
Pop’s grey post-Guetta colour-scheme was given a neon do-over this year by one Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, whose third LP ‘Visions’ was one of the annum’s most notable releases. A manic mechanism of preset beats, starlight synths and Boucher’s doll-like vox, it’s a peerless pop record that plays straight to the pleasure centre.
10 The Smiths – How Soon Is Now?
Right, now you might be thinking that making The Smiths one of our Artists Of The Year makes a mockery of the whole system. But it doesn’t, so be quiet. The Smiths hold their position here precisely because they have done absolutely nothing. Well, except one thing: deny rumours that they are reuniting.