As we approach the business end of our Albums of 2012 countdown it's beginning to become a little more obvious as to what will or, conversely, won't be making our list. As with all listicles of this fashion the end result that we came up with here at entertainment.ie (after a democratic vote, might I add) is completely subjective and might be cause for debate but the one thing that unites all these releases is they're bloody good pieces of work! Now, on to numbers six and five...
#6 is Grizzly Bear - Shields
Brooklyn quartet Grizzly Bear can justifiably lay claim to the title 'hippest band on the planet' right now. Since the release of their critically acclaimed third album Veckatimest in 2009, they have been celebrated far and wide, gaining the endorsement of everyone from Radiohead to (shock horror!) Beyoncé. Their music has featured on a TV advertisement for one of the world's biggest car manufacturers, a sure-fire sign that levels of hipness have reached critical mass.
Words by Paul Page
#5 is Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man
One of the most enigmatic musical performers of the modern era, Bat For Lashes – a.k.a Natasha Khan - is an artist in every sense of the word. Khan creates sonic masterpieces to portray the depth and range of her influences to whoever is willing to embrace it – and she can count such recording artist royalty as Thom Yorke, Bjork, Beck and Debbie Harry amongst her dedicated fans. A multi-instrumentalist, her voice is pure and her philosophy unique – she is a musician and composer of the highest order. Bat For Lashes first dazzled back in 2006 with Fur and Gold, and universally stunned with the magnificent 2009 follow-up Two Suns – both receiving Mercury Prize nominations in their respective years of release.
From the offset, ‘Lillies’ sets the bar, booming bass and synthesised strings permeate the melodic tones of Khan; subsequently the almost sinister-sounding lead riff of latest single ‘All Your Gold’ compliments her delicate purrings to perfection before a massive chorus kicks in. ‘Winter Fields’ is deceptive in its introductory passage – moody panpipes and swirling orchestration paint a picture of a dramatic ballad, but instead what we end up with is a beat-laden percussive delight. ‘Horses of the Sun’ is another percussive powerhouse of a song – it’s the drums that take the lead alongside Khan’s vocals, accompanied by the plucking of a single guitar string unwavering in note, before a minor to major shift for the chorus sheds some light on the dark undertones of the track. The militant percussion which accompanies the ghostly chanting breakdown on the album’s title track ‘The Haunted Man’, building towards a thrilling climatic chorus, is too worthy of praise. ‘A Wall’ picks up where ‘Daniel’ left off in the vein of anthemic dance-pop – although perhaps not possessing the Ivor Novello plaudit potential as its predecessor.
The Haunted Man should mightily please the Bat For Lashes faithful, opening up new avenues of discovery in her sonic landscape. A further advancement of the creative prowess of the ever-captivating Natasha Khan, it’s a brilliantly compelling body of work, and definitely one of the more interesting albums you’ll listen to this year.
Words by Elaine Buckley