Looking back at 2012

It’s been a lively year, hasn’t it? Here are some highlights…

January

Le Voyage dans la Lune turned up with an outstanding new score by Air.

February

The Brit Awards came and went, as they always do…

March

Gotye got to number 1 with Somebody That I Used to Know, and never really left the chart…

April

Coachella 2012! We got rained on, just like at a proper music festival (OK, it rained very gently for one day).

May

Saint Etienne finally released their long-awaited eighth studio album Words and Music by Saint Etienne.

June

Hot Chip turned up with their latest offering In Our Heads.

July

… was the month when Music for stowaways began. We’ll see how much longer it goes on for!

August

Britain suddenly became a very friendly and tolerant place, with the hosting of the Olympics, followed by the Paralympics.

September

… saw the release of ElysiumPet Shop Boys‘ quite breathtaking new album.

October

I Monster finally turned up with their Rare and Remixed compilations.

November

We celebrated sixty years of the UK chart!

December

That’s it for 2012. Play safely tonight!

Top Tracks of 2012 – Hot Chip

Hot Chip were unlucky enough to miss out on the limelight in this blog somewhat, having released their album a little too early this year. But number six on our countdown of top tracks of 2012 is my favourite track from their latest album In Our Heads. Here’s Look at Where We Are, accompanied by a really rather excellent video:

We’ll pick this chart up again in the New Year.

Top Tracks of 2012 – Apollo 440

One of the more colourful comebacks of this year was that of nineties drum and bass-rock fusion act Apollo 440 with their lastest album The Future’s What it Used to Be. Number seven on our top ten tracks of 2012 is the wonderfully creative Odessa Dubstep. No video for this one unfortunately, but here’s some artwork:

Top Tracks of 2012 – Gotye

I think it’s fair to say that it’s been difficult to escape Gotye this year, particularly with his excellent cover version of Baa Baa Black Sheep. But I fancied picking one of the less well known tracks, so number eight on our countdown of the top tracks of 2012 is the wonderful State of the Art:

Top Tracks of 2012 – Gemma Ray

Gemma Ray was one of my surprise discoveries this year, and this was entirely thanks to her collaboration with Sparks on her Gemma Ray Sings Sparks double a-side. Most astonishing, and number nine on our countdown, was the track where she outdoes Sparks at their own game on Eaten by the Monster of Love. In her infinite wisdom, she hasn’t shared a video, so here’s a Spotify link.

And here’s a video for another track:

Top Tracks of 2012 – Air

It’s time for the chart of our top ten tracks of 2012. Every day we’ll reveal one of the tracks in the countdown, and first up are Air.

They are the first of two French acts on our chart, and their new album Le Voyage dans la Lune is worthy of a special celebration, not just because it’s excellent, but also because of the truly breathtaking film which it accompanies. Here’s the main single Seven Stars, and I picked the video that has some excerpts from the film to go with it:

A Christmas Countdown – Saint Etienne

Saint Etienne clearly really, really like Christmas. Every couple of years going way back when, they have sent out special fan club freebies containing musical tidings of the season.

Some of them are really quite exceptional. Through the Winter and 21st Century Christmas (both from 2006) are wonderful. Their 1995 cover of Driving Home for Christmas is equally special, as is 1998’s I Don’t Intend to Spend Christmas Without You.

But of course the best of the bunch is this one. I don’t see how anything else could have beaten it. Number one on our Christmas countdown is I Was Born on Christmas Day:

Merry Christmas for stowaways!

A Christmas Countdown – Pet Shop Boys

Trust Pet Shop Boys to do Christmas with style. Originally recorded in 1997, this Christmas single perfectly captures the mood and flavour of a British midwinter.

In fact, if they did anything wrong, it was failing to release it as a single. It was only ever released as a promo and special fan club single. It got absolutely loads of radio play in 1997 and 1998. They performed it live on TV in 2000. And then they waited till 2009 to release it properly, and then it didn’t do very well. Things like that make me angry.

So, before I do anything violent… number two on our Christmas countdown: It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas.

A Christmas Countdown – Erasure

As we’ve established already, by 1988, Erasure clearly knew what they were doing. After the abysmal failure of Wonderland (1986), they had entered the charts with style in 1987 with The Circus, and recorded their first pop masterpiece in 1988 with The Innocents.

So on the run up to Christmas, they released a special EP, Crackers International. If you ignore the lead track, a frankly pretty poor song called Stop! you still get four good tracks, including The Hardest Part, which probably should have been the first track, and Knocking on Your Door, which is fun if forgettable.

Then come the proper Christmas songs. A brilliantly evocative song about loneliness and adulthood called She Won’t Be Home, and, hidden away on the limited edition second 12″, this truly haunting version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, at number three on our Christmas countdown:

A Christmas Countdown – Röyksopp

Here’s a quick reminder of the Christmas countdown so far:

10. John Shuttleworth – The Christmas Orphan
9. Camouflage – Winter
8. Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody
7. Wham! – Last Christmas
6. Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?
5. Dusted (feat. Dido) – Winter

Christmas songs do not, as I think we’ve already established, have to be all gaudy and full of baubles and choirs of children. Far from it. As further proof, just outside of the top three on our countdown is Röyksopp‘s 2010 freebie Le Cantique de Noël: