Albums of the Year (20-17); Citizens, Band of Skulls, First Aid Kit, We are Augustines, Shearwater, Spector

Today we start our countdown of our top 20 albums of 2012. We gave you our almost but not quite made the top 20 albums the other day – all 31 of them - here if you missed it. One point to note is that I do favour the lesser known over the Springsteen, Dylan, even Muse, who all made very good albums but are also very well known. That’s not to say I would exclude them if I felt they were top 5 say, but if it’s a close call between Muse and some unknown Albanian indie band for the number 20 slot, I tend towards the obscure.

As you will note, there are three joint number 20s. I just couldn’t separate them, so forgive this biut of cheating. So today we’ll have numbers 20 to 17.

Joint 20

Citizens!  with Here We Are

One of many  startlingly good debut albums from a UK “indie” band that we’re going to feature over the next four days.  Bright, shiny electro pop indie with wit and tunes, songs that worm their way into your head and stay there.  Franz Ferdinand and Bowie (China Girl period) are reference points – they can cut it live too, and if their second album has that one key killer track, they will be propelled them into the first division of UK bands.

 

Joint 20

We Are Augustines with Rise Ye Sunken Ships

With some of the other classic US rock, Springsteen-influenced bands like Gaslight Anthem and Hold Steady having less than stellar years, it came down to We are Augustines to release the best straight ahead, passionate, powerful and emotionally charged rock album of the year. Touches of more contemporary indie, as well as classic U2 and the Boss - good live too.  If you like this track, you will like the album, I guarantee.

 

 Joint 20

Band of Skulls  with Sweet Sour

Another pure rock album but from Southampton this time. Their second album, this female fronted, blues and rock influenced trio go heavy on the tunes, with some softer ballads in there as well alongside the exhilarating rock numbers. Excellent harmony vocals from the two singers, strong tunes and good variation – a highly enjoyable album that bears repeated listens.

 No. 19

First Aid Kit - The Lion’s Roar

Probably the only country /folk album from two young Swedish sisters in this countdown, you might reasonably think. And you’d be right. On this, their second album, you get beautiful harmonies, lovely voices, and classic song writing. The Americana of “Emmylou” is lovely, but there’s a darker side to the lyrics at times, and an energy to the vocals, which means it never tips over into MOR schmaltz.

 

No. 18

Spector and Enjoy It While It Lasts

A breakthrough debut album for the London based art-pop-indie rockers. A touch of retro sixties feel gives the catchy tunes a slightly different vibe to many indie bands, although think of the Killers, Strokes and Razorlight and you won’t go far wrong in terms of their positioning. Fred Macpherson is a charismatic front man, and although they perhaps need a little more variation for their second album, this is a very promising start to their career.

No.17

Shearwater and Animal Joy 

The opening track, “Animal Life” was one of the very best songs of the year, (a live version below), and while the whole album doesn’t quite live up to that brilliant first track, it is a very enjoyable, joyous but intelligent, surging but adult indie-rock album. Their name isn’t accidental – there are many references to nature in the poetic lyrics, but don’t let that put you off! The tunes and overall vibe are  great and it hard to think of many indie or indeed classic rock fans who won’t find this a worthwhile album.

And tomorrow- numbers 16 to 11!

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