Another Direction : my 100 top tracks of 2012 from UK artists

7th December 2012

I’m very proud of this list. The key decision was to limit it this year to British artists. This helped me enormously to seek out inspiration in new places rather than leaning on hype and reputations. In this list you’ll find dozens of tracks that were self released or which came out on tiny independent labels, as against just a handful from major labels. Many of the names will be new to you – as indeed a good many of them were to me at the start of the year. But I hope you’ll hang around, and forgive me for leaving out some of your favourite bands, because I believe the quality of these tracks is every bit as good as you’ll find on any other such list. I’ve listened to hundreds of artists over the year, and taken great care in picking out my favourite track from each artist represented.

For each track there is a link to the album or cd from which it’s taken, and the name of the record label. These artists really need your support, so if you like their music you know what to do.

Rules for inclusion are simply that the songs must have been released in the 12 months since my last chart, and that the artists must be British.

100 Bex Marshall – Bite Me (The House Of Mercy, House Of Mercy Records)
Bex not only wrote and sung this song in her powerful blues voice, she also plays mandolin, percussion and guitar. Steve Lockwood is on harmonica.

99 Tash & Beth – My Feet are Made of Fire (My Feet are Made of Fire EP, self released on Rebel Band Records)
Poor recording quality, but the London duo have an excellent rootsy blues sound. Sign them up, somebody !

98 Peter Nardini – As Good As Big Bill Broonzy (Hug, Temple Records)
The first of many Scots in this list, Nardini is a very successful artist with many exhibitions to his name, but he says that his music has always gone hand in hand with his art. This is his fifth album release.

97 King DJ – Uve Gon And Dun It (Cassette EP on Haus of Pins)
King DJ is Mark Vernon, taking leave of absence from Brown Brogues to try his hand at something a bit different.

96 The Ard Ri Band – Jumping Trains (The Ard Ri Band, self released)

Recorded over a year ago in Derry town. A glance at their facebook page shows that the folk/acoustic combo are still gigging regularly, although most of the members also have a foot in other Northern Irish bands.

95 Zoe West – Paint the Windows Black (demo)
“I met an old lady outside Tesco’s, and she promptly started to tell me her life story, which turned out to be an incredibly interesting one… I went away thinking ‘I want to be like that’ and so wrote this song.” Email her for a free copy of her EP – zoe@zoe-west.com.

94 Bos Angeles – Tearing Your Heart Out, One String At A Time (Taking Out The Trash, Tye Die Tapes)
Fuzzy surf rock from Bournemouth.

93 Gav Prentice – Square Mile (The Invisible Hand, Instinctive Racoon Records)
Prentice is one half of the Glasgow band Over The Wall. On this his debut solo album he adopts a nicely observed storytelling style.

Gav Prentice – Square Mile

92 Seas of Mirth – Ly Ly Ladyboy (Self released single)

Landlocked pirate band from the East Midlands. They’ve got another album coming out later this month : they’re playing a launch show in Derby on Sunday 16th Dec at the Hairy Dog.

91 Bill Fay – Be At Peace With Yourself  (Life Is People, Dead Oceans)

The lyrics hover on the edge of mawkishness, but the sound of the piano and the gospel choir elevate the song and make it really moving. There’s quite a story behind the album, released more than 40 years since Bill Fay’s last studio album.

90 Slowcoaches – We’re So Heavy (We’re So Heavy EP, Tye Die Tapes)
Garage punk from Leeds with female vocals.

89 Black Star Dub Collective – Instant Injustice (From Rusholme With Dub by Autonomads / Black Star Dub Collective (split LP), Pumpkin Records)
“Black Star Dub Collective are now taking some time to regroup and create some new material, as well as get down to some grassroots level activism, fighting against the capitalist system that corrupts, oppresses and dominates our society.

From Rusholme With Dub was a statement of intent, our first exploration into dissident dub, but this is just the beginning. We have a new single that is recorded and now in production (heavy dub!!) We are also currently in the process of writing our first album, building and developing our sound. As ever, the music and radical politics stand side by side; wealth, authority and social degradation we will defy…”

88 Mawkin – Harry Rag  (Crow, Good Form Records)

I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know until a few days ago that this was a Ray Davies song. This is the folk group’s first release following their collaboration with singer Jim Causley, and their solution has been to play more instrumentals and to use a couple of guest vocalists on the album.

87 Yusuf Azak – Lay Me Down  (Go Native, Song, by Toad)

Sounds like nothing else released this year : the lush slightly discordant instrumentation, the Nick Drakey vocals … it’s weird and wonderful.

86 Stealing Sheep – Circles (Into The Diamond Sun, Heavenly Recordings)
They’re a three-piece girl group from Liverpool but don’t worry, we’re not talking Atomic Kitten. Their music has been described as psychedelic folk. This track shows off their beautiful harmonies. Following the success of their debut album last month they were named band of the year at the Liverpool Music Awards.

85 Jess Morgan – Well Dressed Fellas (Aye Me, self released)

Second album from the likeable and engaging singer songwriter from Norwich.

84 Eliza Shaddad – A Good Man (January – March EP, self released)
This video of a trip by train to Sweden and Norway was recorded and edited from a mobile phone – love the snowy scenes ! She’s a singer songwriter of Scottish and Sudanese descent.

83 Dub Phizix & Skeptical – Run It Like The President (feat T-Man)  (Single on Samurai Music)
The promo’s almost as classy as the track : “Run It Like The President is a stepping slab of menace that T Man laces with his unique monotone delivery, a tune that is already spawning bootlegs like a virus before any release was in sight. Half Man takes slices of Dancehall, Hip Hop, Drum N Bass, covers them with an infectious Sparkz rhyme and churns them out over a staggering triplet rhythm set to confuse DJs but ignite dancefloors. ”

Dub Phizix & Skeptical – Run It Like The President

82 Jim Lockey & the Solemn Sun – Our Fathers (Death, Xtra Mile Recordings)

Self-described as “Four-Piece Anarcho-Anglo Folkcore from Cheltenham, UK”.

Jim Lockey & the Solemn Sun – Our Fathers

81 Rachel Sermanni – Sleep (Under Mountains, Middle Of Nowhere)

Hailing from the highland town of Carrbridge the 20 year old singer songwriter released her eagerly anticipated debut album in October.

80 The Bordellos – Bring me the head of Justin Bieber (Bring me the head of Justin Bieber  EP, Small Bear Records)

“hello nick
brian from the st helens based band the bordellos here[don’t hold that against us] , i was just wondering would you consider featuring the bordellos in your excellent blog , we have just released a five track ep via small bear records , it is available as a pay what you like download so please download for free ..
it is both a rally cry against the current crop of mobilephone pop we are bombarded with on the radio at the moment and a tribute to the sound of the jamc..”
To be honest Brian, with a title like that, I don’t need any encouragement ! Hilarious video lads.

79 Jack Mcneill & Charlie Heys – Something in the Telling (Two Fine Days, Fellside Recordings)
With Jack McNeill on guitar, Charlie Heys on violin, Hannah Phillips on Scottish harp, Sean Law on double bass and Tom Chapman on percussion. But what makes the album stand out is Jack McNeill’s rich imaginative and thoughtful lyrics.

Jack Mcneill & Charlie Heys – Something In the Telling

78 Halls – Funeral (Ark, No Pain In Pop)
Burial meets Thom Yorke : the dark, moody, atmospheric sound of 21 year old south London musician Sam Howard.

77 The Cubical – Loved But One Woman (Arise Conglomerate, Halfpenny Records)
Growly swamp blues from Liverpool. The Cubical clocked in at #47 in my 2009 list.

The Cubical – Loved But One Woman

76 Sharon King and the Reckless Angels – Avalon (Nothing=Everything, self released) 
A hint of Nashville there, but the band are from Edinburgh. Lovely harmonies and instrumentation.

75 The Eyes – Harder (Single on Estate Records)

Collaboration between Manchester producer Chimpo and mic man Fox. They’re a versatile duo, but on this track we have reggae vocals and a soulful acoustic guitar beat.

74 Sam Carter – The No Testament (The No Testament, Captain Records)
The winner of the BBC Folk Award for best newcomer in 2010 has been listening to a lot of American spiritual and gospel music. The concept behind his new album is “expressing belief from a humanitarian rather than a religious perspective”. I’m not sure how well the theme works, but it makes for some interesting songs.

73 The Bell Peppers – Drapes ‘N’ Squares (Saved By The Bell Peppers free download EP, self released)
Formed in the summer of 2011 in Manchester they describe their sound as “melodic, raw, sassy rhythm & blues with twangy, surf guitar and smooth haunted diner doo-wop”.

72 Negative Pegasus – Psychic Energy (Single on Smalltown America)

From their promo : “The tracks on debut album Looming weave between primordial bone-shakers, stretched-out growls and ethereal retro-pop nuggets. Recorded over a period of 17 hours in an empty warehouse space in Sussex with producer Steffan Eliades, the end-result is equally joyous and disturbing.”

71 Temple Songs – I Could Kill You Any Time (Magick With A ‘K’ free download single, self released)

Lo fi production with a jangly pop hook. The Manchester band name the Beach Boys as their main influence.

70 Shinies – Ennui (Single on Dirty Bingo Records)
Upcoming Manchester band Shinies managed to grab tabloid headlines with this video, which shows former radio and TV presenter Pat Sharp (who acted himself) being kidnapped, beaten up and burned alive. The director’s take on the meaning of the song seems rather at odds with its upbeat joyful sound.

69 The Coal Porters – Paint It, Black (Find The One, Prima Records)

London based bluegrass band formed by the American Sid Griffin of Long Ryders fame.

The Coal Porters – Paint It, Black

68 Visionist – Come In (Keysound Allstars, Keysound)

Elements of UK garage and grime in this number from the south London producer.

67 Jo Mango – The Freedom Of Seamonsters (Murmuration, Olive Grove Records)

The music and the words are full of mystery and wonder. It’s taken 6 years for the Glasgow band to follow up their debut album. In that time Jo has completed her doctorate in musicology.

Jo Mango – The Freedom of Seamonsters

66 Our Morals – The Blacksmith (…And Theirs, self released)
Excellent folk trio who perfomed at my 50th birthday bash earlier in the year, and who run the Radical Liverpool folk night.

Our Morals – The Blacksmith

65 Jake Cogan – Parcel of Rogues (Parcel Of Rogues, Wrong Note Records)

Originally a poem by Robert Burns decrying the treachery of those who signed the Act of Union with England in 1707, this became a popular folk song among those of a certain persuasion after the lyrics were put to music. Jake Cogan succeeds in putting her own stamp on it.

64 James Findlay – Henry Martin (Another Day Another Story, Fellside Recordings)

Winner of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards 2010. The new album is traditional folk, with lovely stripped back arrangements. The songs are mostly linked to his native West Country.

63 The Wirral Ukelele Orchestra – Maggie May (Various Artists – Across the Western Ocean : Songs of Liverpool and the Sea)
I have the cd right here, but I’m afraid there’s nowhere you can buy it online. It’s a charity compilation cd put together with the aim of raising £3,000 for the RNLI station in Hoylake. The band are a group of thirty amateur uke enthusiasts. A real feel good song.

62 Nadine Shah – Aching Bones (Aching Bones EP, Label Fandango)

The songs on her EP were written 3 years ago, but have gone though a lot of changes in that time. The result : a dark menacing sound reminiscent of PJ Harvey.

61 The Louche – Salt  (Free download from Sways Records) 
Yet another killer track from the excellent Sways records, released this summer as a free download. As The Louche F.C. they were #86 in my 2011 list.

60 Pulled Apart By Horses – V.E.N.O.M  (Tough Love, Co-operative Music) 

Tongue in cheek horror vid by the Black Sabbath influenced Leeds hardcore band.

59 The Tuts – I Call You Up  (S/T EP 2012, self released)

The Tuts are Harriet, Nadia and Beverley from Hayes (just west of London). The song’s an infectious piece of indie pop which just breezes along.

58 Crowns – Boscastle Breakdown (Stitches in the Flag, Ship Wreckords)

“Wearing their influences on their sleeve Crowns sound emerges from early years playing in punk bands, and attending St Piran’s sessions, where punters sing and play traditional Cornish music to celebrate the country’s patron saint.”
I can’t confirm or deny whether there is a Cornish tradition of dancing on gravestones, but the band clearly take a lot of pride in their Cornish heritage. Not all the songs on their debut album are as fast and frenetic as this, but if you’ve heard it then it should come as no surprise to you that they’re going to be touring the UK with the Dropkick Murphys in January.

Crowns – Boscastle Breakdown

57 Honeyblood – No Spare Key (Thrift Shop single on CATH Records)

Love the combination of the massively fuzzed up guitars with the understated female vocals. Honeyblood are only half Scottish – one of the two girls is a Kiwi – but they’re based in Glasgow, so I guess they count as a British band.

56 Babajack – The Money’s All Gone (Rooster, KrossBorder Rekords)

Great upbeat harmonica driven blues.

55 The Wind-Up Birds – Cross Country (The Land, Sturdy Records)
“The Wind-Up Birds are from Leeds. The Wind-Up Birds are not from Leeds (as in, United, Harvey Nics and Moyles). The Wind-Up Birds are from Leeds (as in, David Peace, Alan Bennett, The Wedding Present and Gang of Four). They are named after a book by Haruki Murakami. They write songs about car parks, and songs about pubs, and songs about work, and songs about escape … Cross Country is taken from The Land, an album about Englishness, communication, isolation and community.” – Rhythm & Booze

54 Matt Bentley – Life in Reverse (Something to Find, EmuBands)

According to the Leeds based singer songwriter, this upbeat number is about “losing your muse, settling down and becoming a boring bastard”.

53 The Young’uns – The Battle of Stockton (When Our Grandfathers Said No, Navigator Records)

I’ve seen the folk trio live a couple of times this year, and they’re very funny and entertaining. The song’s a homage to the town of Stockton-on-Tees, and it’s a masterful song, but I’m not sure about the historical reference. The world’s first public railway in 1825 was Stockton & Darlington, and Stephenson did build the locomotive, but this was the Locomotion no 1, not the Rocket. Stephenson’s Rocket served on the Liverpool & Manchester railway a few years later.

52 Emily Levy – The Joy Of Living (Lost And Found,  self released)

The only cover version on her debut album, but what a cover version. Written by Ewan MacColl, it’s an aging hiker’s impassioned farewell to the mountains that (s)he’ll never climb again.

51 Lobster Boy (aka Redlight) – Mosquito (Vinyl single on Lobster Boy) 
The guy who appears to be behind this goes usually by the name of Redlight, but he has a lot of tattoos and a lot of aliases. Quirky funky jungly sound.

50 Sicknote – Benefit Cheat (Benefit Cheat EP, self released)
“The wages are lousy but the hours are great”. The five losers from Cardiff are Doghouse, Flaspandwich, The Filth, Johnny No Cash and Dr Conker. At least, I think those are their names.

49 Three Sheets T’Wind – Johnny’s Army  (Break from Tradition EP, self released on own label)

Yorkshire folk punk band best known for “high energy traditional material played with reckless abandon”, but in Break From Tradition (their new EP) they treat us to some original material.

Three Sheets T’Wind – Johnny’s Army

48 Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker – Lily Of The West Homemade Heartache (The Seas Are Deep,  Hatfish Music)

Their first album as a duo is entirely made up of covers of traditional folk tunes. Ben plays most of the instruments including guitar and mandolin, but what really carries the album is Josienne’s voice which rings out clearly in every song.

47 Revenge of the Psychotronic Man – Clint Eastwood, The Man With No Name (Shattered Dreams Parkway, TNSrecords)
Third full length album from the hardcore punk rockers from Manchester, but when I say full length we ain’t talking Dark Side Of The Moon here. The 15 tracks are played at breakneck speed and clock in around 20 minutes.

46 Hummingbirds – The Ballad of John Doe (Doesn’t Really Matter EP, self released)

Five lads from Liverpool with a knack of writing catchy songs, who seem to be going from strength to strength.

45 The Unthanks – The King Of Rome (The Unthanks with Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band, (Diversions, Vol 2), RabbleRouser Music)

Dave Sudbury’s telling of the true tale of a pigeon racer from Derby and his champion pigeon has become a minor folk classic. The Unthank sisters and the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band have rearranged it and the result is a triumph.

44 Shambles Miller – Confessions (Single, self released)
Imagine if you will a humorous but grounded take on relationship breakups, in an indie folk style and a Glaswegian accent. According to him, “the world doesn’t need another break-up song.” I beg to differ.

43 Serious Sam Barrett – Kerosene (Serious Sam Barrett, YaDig? Records)
“Yorkshirecana is the word everyone is using to describe Sam’s country/roots sound” or so he tells us. He also says that this is the saddest song that he’s ever written.

42 The Girobabies – Overheard in the Westend (Bus Stop Apocalypse,  self released)

They’re from Glasgow, they’ve got a big snarling chip on their shoulder, and they’re my August 2011 band of the month. A couple more EPs are said to be in the works.

41 Keaton Henson – To Your Health (Lucky EP, Oak Ten Records)

He recorded the album in his bedroom, and the raw, tender, fragile and personal songs would probably have remained the property of a select few had Zane Lowe not played one of the songs on Radio 1. Things kinda snowballed from there, and the album was given a proper rerelease this year. But Henson is no ordinary musician : his shyness and his panic attacks prevent him at this time from doing any interviews or performing onstage.

40 PINS – Luvu4lyf (Luvu4lyf EP, Bella Union)
Four girls from Manchester who are one of the hottest new acts in 2012 and here’s why. A great heavy percussive sound with the fuzzed out guitars.

39 The Vaccines – No Hope (Come Of Age, Columbia)

Britain’s answer to The Strokes.

38 Ruth Angell & Sid Peacock – Vagabond’s Lullaby (Love Forgiven, self released on Peacock Angell Records)
In their first album together as a duo they mainly cover traditional folk songs. The arrangements are a delight and the vocals shine through.

Ruth Angell & Sid Peacock – Vagabonds’ Lullaby

37 Lizzie Nunnery – Poverty Knocks (Black Hound Howling, RedThread)
Already an award winning playwright, Lizzie Nunnery’s reputation is growing in the folk world with this the release of her second album. The Liverpool Socialist Singers provide backing vocals on this track.

36 Leonie Evans – Blood Thirsty Blues ). (Gradually By Degrees, self released) 
Cover of a murder ballad by Victoria Spivey, which is more than enough to get my attention. Leonie has played in various bands, but this delightful jazzy EP is the Londoner’s first solo release.

35 Randolph’s Leap – Weatherman (As Fast As A Man, Peenko Records)
Though they’re based in Glasgow, front man Adam Ross hails from the highland town of Nairn. He’s now built the band up to a group of 8. The mini-album this song is taken from doesn’t feature the whole band : Ross recorded it in his living room accompanied by violinist Heather Thiker. Meanwhile the band had been signed up to Fence Records on which they’ve already brought out a mini-EP, with a full album in the works.

34 Attila The Stockbroker’s Barnstormer – Only Football (Bankers and Looters, Townsend Records)

I doubt if any angrier or more articulate protest song has been released this year. He’s writing about two subjects he’s very passionate about – politics and football. He’s been poet in residence at Brighton & Hove Albion FC since 2000.

Attila The Stockbroker – Only Football

33 Dave Arcari – Duncan & Brady (Nobody’s Fool, Dixiefrog)
The Scottish Seasick Steve.

Dave Arcari – Duncan & Brady

32 Grace Petrie – Maggie Thatcher’s Dream (Mark My Words, self released)
Young Leicester songstress who was politicised by the 2010 election and began writing a batch of politically inspired songs. Now she’s a star of the Anti Capitalist Roadshow, and can count Billy Bragg among her fans.

31 Ma Polaine’s Great Decline – Devil’s Touch (Ma Polaine’s Great Decline EP, self released)

Old time music infused by jazz, blues and country. Vocalist Beth Packer provided the words and music and a bit of harmonica, and I believe there’s some guitar, bass, sax and accordion in there.

30 Young Fathers – Deadline (Free download single on Anticon)
Kayus, Alloysious and Graham are three immigrant kids who grew up together in Edinburgh and started rapping. Earlier this year they released their Tape One EP. Though recorded on a shoestring in a Leith basement, it showed off the unique sound they had developed. In a big breakthrough, they signed up to US underground hiphop label Anticon, who are about to rerelease the EP.

29 Idles – Two Tone (Welcome EP, Fear Of Fiction)
One to watch in 2013 : they’re a five piece band from Bristol with guitars and post-punk attitude aplenty. Says one reviewer, “Two Tone is like having a bucket of iced water thrown in your face; crisp, refreshing and probably likely to make you scream a bit.”

28 Spirit Of John – Carnivores (Rats, Gin House Records)

We’re told that “this raucous, ragged debut from S.O.J. is a collection of tunes recorded almost entirely live and independently, and released by Gin House Records”. It’s what this list is all about : a great album, made in the heart of west Yorkshire, which seems to have escaped the attention of all the reviewers and music bloggers. A second album, Snakes, is due out February 2013.

27 Duncan Chisholm – Unknown Air (Affric, Copperfish Records)

Heartrendingly beautiful instrumental by the Scottish fiddler.

Duncan Chisholm – Unknown Air

26 Mala – Como Como feat Dreiser & Sexto Centido (Mala in Cuba, Brownswood Recordings)

Mala’s a pioneer of dubstep. The BBC’s Gilles Peterson challenged him to leave his comfort zone, and go to Havana, where he checked out lots of music and worked with local musicians, and left with a hard drive full of samples which he wound into an album. Judge for yourself how successful the experiment was.

25 Sleepin’ Giantz – Raving Bully (Sleepin’ Giantz, Tru Thoughts)
“Forging links between hip hop, grime and dubstep” according to their promo.

Sleepin’ Giantz – Raving Bully

24 King Of Cats – Recorded in the damp in New Orleans (America, self released)

This is the work of a guy from Oxford who took time out to travel round America with an acoustic guitar and a four track, recording his impressions in song. The presence of background noises adds to the sense of intimacy.

23 O’Hooley & Tidow – A Daytrip (The Fragile, No Masters)

According to Mojo magazine, the Yorkshire folk duo’s latest album “veers unnervingly from idiosyncratic to classic”. I’d say this one is deliciously idiosyncratic.

O’Hooley & Tidow – A Daytrip

22 Mark Wynn – One For Me Gran (‘It Hasn’t Got A Title Yet But When It Doe’s I’ll Let You Know’ the album, self released)
The DIY wordsmith from York has released 4 albums this year “which means either I am doing my job properly or I need some quality control”. He’s also pretty honest about his output to date : “I used to play only blues stuff but that didn’t fit. Then I got into Americana songwritery stuff but that didn’t really fit either. Then I started doing wordy songs about stuff around me which sort of fit… so basically I’m still looking for something that will fit… hope that never happens… it’s, more fun this way.” My October 2012 band of the month.

21 Frightened Rabbit – State Hospital (State Hospital EP, Atlantic Records)
Scottish indie rockers #17 in my list for 2008, now signed up with a major label and still sounding good.

20 Rolling Stones – Doom and Gloom (Grrr! Greatest Gits – 3 Volume Set, Polydor)

No apologies for including this : the Stones show they still know how to make a proper rock & roll song, and it’s an excellent reminder to all up and coming rock bands that here in the UK we set our standards high.

19 The Mountain Firework Company – The Lonesome Losing Blues (The Lonesome Losing Blues, Fretwork Union)
Folk / bluegrass band from Brighton who were #38 in my 2008 list but have since really raised their game.

18 The Scratch – (She’s Got) Wag Potential (Great Adventure, self released) 
Killer pop-punk number from unsigned band land. They’re from St Albans, but don’t let that put you off. No Wags were hurt in the making of this video.

17 Julian Gaskell – Out of tune G (Kind Words From Home, self released)
Describes himself as “the Cornwall king of the garage klezmer surfbilly jazz sound”.

16 Plan B – Drug Dealer (Ill Manors, Atlantic Records)
Ill Manors is a full length feature film written and directed by Plan B, set in his native stomping ground of the east end of London and by the sound of it shot with gritty realism. Naturally he also made the hip hop soundtrack, which is equally uncompromising.

15 Skinny Lister – If The Gaff Don’t Let Us Down (Forge & Flagon, Sunday Best)
Folk punk outfit who played so many festivals in 2011 that they were named “Hardest Working Band in UK”. In the new year they’ll be supporting Flogging Molly on their US tour.

14 Speyside Sessions – Charlie Is My Darlin’ (The Speyside Sessions, EmuBands)
Grey’s Anatomy star Kevin McKidd returned to his native Scotland and assembled a group of local musicians in a house on the banks of the river Spey where they recorded this charity album of folk music, from which this is the standout track.

13 Savages – Husbands (Single on Pop Noire)

Husbands, the B-side of the first single by Savages, makes us dream of what it must have been like to have been around to hear, in real time, the debut releases by Public Image Ltd, Magazine, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division, to feel, as those incredible records hit the shops, that unearthly power and sense of a transmission from a satellite reality. They are an all-girl four-piece, barely together for a year with their debut gig as recent as January 2012, who remind you of that post-punk moment when a new kind of female musician emerged, a reminder of the feral energy and cerebral vigour that we first experienced via Siouxsie, the Slits et al” – Paul Lester, The Guardian 

12 Sam Lee – The Tan Yard Side (Ground Of Its Own, The Nest Collective)
In this list I’ve largely avoided the 2012 Mercury Music Prize nominees (generally disappointing) and the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominees (too trad for my taste). Here’s the prime exception. Londoner Sam Lee’s extraordinary debut album was on the Mercury shortlist and is up for several Folk Awards.

11 Deadbeat Decendant – Save the Middle Classes (Calibrate Now! Self released)
Nothing from The Fall in this year’s list, but here’s the next best thing. This Brighton band are named after a Fall song and clearly influenced by Mark E Smith and sound none the worse for it. Listen out for the memorable line “We care about Rwanda and the plight of the panda”.

10 Tom McRae – Lately’s All I Know (The Lowlands, self released)
To help create the intimate feel of his latest album, McRae moved to a farm in the lowlands of Somerset and created a studio there.

9 Meursault – Hole (Something for the Weakened, Song, by Toad Records)
On their third album the Edinburgh band junked the electronics and added some strings. Neil Pennycook : “I think we all wanted to move towards something which had a more human element to it. And my macbook broke.”

Meursault – Hole

8 Jake Bugg – Someone Told Me (Jake Bugg, Mercury Records)
Being my September 2012 band of the month hasn’t done this teenager any harm : since then he’s had a number one album, bunches of four star reviews, he’s been touring with an idol of his Noel Gallagher, and he’s been getting swamped by messages from new fans all over the world.

7 The Levellers – Our Forgotten Towns (Static On The Airwaves, On The Fiddle Recordings)
Great return to form by the veteran folk rockers.

6 Wiley – I’m Skanking (Evolve Or Be Extinct, Big Dada)
A song about dancing on your own in your room, from the Godfather of Grime.

5 Seamus Cater & Viljam Nybacka – Greenland Bound (The Anecdotes, self released on Anecdotal Records)
Traditional whaling ballad given a novel interpretation by my August 2012 band of the month.

4 Lucy Ward – For The Dead Men (Single on Navigator Records)
The blue haired songstress from Derby is such a bundle of fun it was a bit of a surprise when she released this heavyweight political song. And I think she’s been surprised by some of the reaction to it. Billy Bragg posted it on Twitter, calling it inspirational. As a result of the tweet, film maker Kim Hopkins heard the single, and got in touch. “Initially Kim asked if she could use the For The Dead Men and Fairy Boy in her latest documentary. We met over a brew and the largest meringue you’ve ever seen, and really hit it off, many emails followed and to cut an even longer story slightly shorter, I ended up recording the sound track for the film, which comprises of original songs and some cheeky covers.”

3 The Leg – Twitching Stick (Song, by Toad Records 2012 Sampler (free download)
There’s no middle ground : you’re either going to think this is the best thing ever, or total garbage. The Herald described the Edinburgh band’s sound as “terrific, unhinged chamber-punk”.

2 David Broad – Never Can Tell (Never Can Tell, self released)
He drove over from Leeds last month with Serious Sam Barrett (who guests on his album) to perform at the Wallasey Folk & Acoustic Club. And I can report that as well as the tunes on the album he does some mean covers. On his website he explains the Woody Guthrie covers : he knows a great many Woody songs, and once successfully auditioned for a touring show about Woody’s life.

1 Aaron Shanley – Sometimes People Just Fall Out Of Love  (Please Tell Me The Clocks Are Lying, American Cadence Records)
Pure class. It just gets better every time I listen. Aaron (who was also #12 in my 2011 list) is a 22 year old singer songwriter from Northern Ireland, Allie Bradley provides the backing vocals.



  1. […] sort of widespread awareness to appear on any list but this one. In the neatly economical words of Music to Die For: “There’s no middle ground : you’re either going to think this is the best thing ever, or […]

  2. Delighted to find we have been included on your list of top 100 tracks for 2012. Thanks very much indeed for the support. All the very best to you for the year ahead. Sharon. x

  3. […] which you can listen to right here, no foolin’. At the end of 2012 I was also included in this blog’s list of top tracks of the year. […]

  4. Hi, I found your top 100 of 2012 through searching for ‘Boscastle Breakdown’ which turns out to be #58 on your countdown. Since you enjoyed that I’m sure there’ll be other songs here I’ll dig, so will give at least a few of the others a listen…

    I also put together a top 100 tracks of 2012; though I didn’t limit it to British artists being British myself there are quite a few on there. I did it in the form of 4 YouTube videos with 30sec clips of each song. Here is the first one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1HYILHdQU0.

    Don’t be put off by the first track! It isn’t representative of the main genres in the countdown.

  5. nice one, your support is much appreciated !

    cheers !

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