Well, it's December and you know what that means? End of year lists! We here at entertainment.ie/music figured now is as good a time as any to roll out our Best Albums of 2012 list, so between now and Christmas we'll be counting down our top ten. This year's judging panel was overseen by our Music Editor John Balfe and entertainment.ie contributors. We'll be honest, the list threw up a few surprises but the one thing that all of the albums have in common is that they're all absolute stonkers. Some of these may have flown distinctly under-the-radar but we feel that every one of these crackers deserves to be highlighted as the cream of the crop from 2012. Now, let us begin..
#10 is Django Django - Django Django
Released in January of this year, Django Django's self-titled debut LP was one of the most satisfying records of the entire year. The band have been on the periphery of many musical radars since 2009 when songs like 'Storm' and 'Love's Dart' found their way onto the internet, showcasing the sort of promise which saw utterances like "ones to watch" and "keep an eye on these guys" hurled their way. The Scots/Irish four-piece, named after one of Belgian guitar virtuoso Django Reinhardt's teachers who, unfortunately for him, was afflicted with a debilitating stutter, are neither Belgian and nor do they play anything even resembling jazz. Instead, Django Django's self-titled debut is a curious patchwork of its undoubted influences and a fresh, intricately crafted pop sensibility. It's also the first really satisfying record of 2012.
To compare Django Django to The Beta Band is an easy one to make. Both bands posses(ed) a rainbow of similar traits, everything from song structure to pacing to composition and more. It's hardly surprising, then, to learn that drummer David MacLean's older brother John was in The Beta Band.
Almost every song on the album is appealing, perhaps none more than lead single 'Default' with its effect-laden vocals and pounding beat deserving of repeat listens. The aforementioned (and slightly tweaked) 'Storm' and 'Love's Dart' show face in the collection too. Elsewhere, 'Life's A Beach' and 'Hail Bop' are also standouts.
With their debut, Django Django have seamlessly stepped into the position once occupied by The Beta Band. That's not to say that the album is pastiche or a facsimile of something that's come before, originality is fundamentally at the core of everything on the record. You can bet the big brother would be proud though.
#9 is Jack White - Blunderbuss
Jack White has long been one of music's most intriguing characters. He is one of the few musicians capable of garnering equal plaudits from the blogosphere, all the while raking in mainstream chart success - a most uncommon duality. Once the White Stripes' divorce became final last year questions were raised as to White's next moves. After all, he's still in two other bands (The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs) but neither are a singular voice for White's artisanship as The White Stripes were. Fans of the White Stripes, just like any other children of divorce, needed something to fill the gap and Blunderbuss is just that.
Notably, this is the first time that White has had a completely blank canvas to work with while also distancing himself from any expectations that would have come had the words 'Stripes' and 'White' appeared in tandem at the top of the record. In fact, comparisons with anything from White's previous repertoire are few and far between throughout the record. The voice remains but gone is the primitive feel which characterised a lot of White's back catalogue replaced with a more polished deliberate style. Jack being who he is though, numerous songs on the album are framed around the hard-edged blues which earned him his reputation in the first place. 'Sixteen Saltlines' would sound at home on a White Stripes record, while the gorgeous 'Love Interruption' ranks up there with any of White's acoustic ballads.
Blunderbuss is a great record. It goes without saying that any fan of White's will devour this record with glee, but the yet-to-be-converted could do worse than make this record their introduction to all things White.