The votes are in, the maths has been done and here we have it - the two best albums of 2012 as selected by entertainment.ie's crack team of music writers. In a year filled with great music, there was the two albums which we felt stood out among the rest.
#2 is Heathers - Kingdom
Heathers have been getting attention for all the right reasons lately -'Forget Me Knots' racking up thousands of online hits and national radio airplay, an acclaimed performance at Electric Picnic showcasing their new material with a full band, and the small matter of being approached by some dude called David Guetta to write a track to potentially feature on his next collaborative album project. It's all been building up to the release of their second album Kingdom - and they may well get used to this level of attention, for the calibre of the songs within will only further strengthen their reputation as one of Ireland's most revered musical acts.
Lead single 'Forget Me Knots' is by no means the best song on this album -and that isays a lot. Opening track 'Circular Road' is a pacey alt-pop anthem in the same vein, albeit slightly edgier -a likely candidate as a future single. 'Lions, Tigers, Bears' gives the first insight into Heathers' new-found electronic leanings, a pulsing bass beat holding court with keyboards driving the melody. It's fascinating to hear the transformation of songs that have been doing the rounds for some time in their acoustic form -the emphatic refrains of 'Find A Way', the gradual build of the thrilling vocal climax to 'Underground Beneath', but above all else it's 'Waiter' that steals the show with its addition of beats and synths to make it a completely new song -unexpected, but downright brilliant. And then they go and surprise us all over again by ditching the wealth of instrumentation in favour of just piano and strings on the emotive stunner 'We Burn Bridges'.
The production throughout is so sleek and polished -flawless, even -that you can practically hear every tiny tweak that was made to get everything exactly right. It's refreshing to hear Heathers dodging the danger of vocal monotony by embracing their individual voices, too -Ellie's purred tones traversing the lower end of the scale, Louise hitting the high notes with gusto, and both combining in perfect harmony throughout. Kingdom is proof of how allowing time for raw talent to gradually scale the heights of its true potential can be a most magnificent thing -it's been four years in the making, but more than worth the wait.
Words by Elaine Buckley
#1 is Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
The fact that we're naming Alt-J's An Awesome Wave as the best album of 2012 won't come as a shock to many of you. The English band's debut LP has been on the receiving end of a multitude of plaudits since its release in May of this year including, of course, the much-coveted Mercury Music Prize.
Alt-J had been working on the album's material for five years and that careful and measured approach is immediately obvious upon listening to the record. It's filled with dazzling musicianship and intricately constructed songs, beautiful harmonies and all framed around Joe Newman's delightfully obscure and unconventional vocals. An Awesome Wave is the perfect storm of excellent songwriting delivered beautifully. There's not a wasted second on the entire record, which is testament to the sheer amount of work that the Leeds-based fourpiece have put into the album in the year's leading up to its release.
Alt-J have drawn favourable comparisons to Radiohead and, while they're not strictly comparable in a literal sense, it's possible to see the same sort of creativity in Alt-J which has characterised Radiohead throughout their history. It took five years to come out, but was well and truly worth the wait. Awesome indeed.