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BBC Music's Top 25 Albums of 2012

Mike Diver

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Welcome to the top 25 albums of 2012, as voted for by a wide selection of BBC Music critics, DJs, and presenters from Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 1Xtra, 6 Music, BBC Scotland and BBC Ulster.

How was this list compiled?
Each voter was asked to submit their own top five albums of 2012. These could include DJ mix CDs, downloadable/free mixtapes and, of course, brand-new releases; but could not include reissues and deluxe/expanded editions of older albums. Each position in these top fives was worth a points score: first place was awarded 10 points; second, six; third, four; fourth, two; and fifth, one. Once all the votes were in, scores for every album were added together to create an overall top 25.

When votes were tied, the x/10 score awarded to the albums in question by Metacritic (BBC Music page) was used to rank them. When these scores were the same, the tone of each review was assessed by BBC album reviews editor Mike Diver and rankings were established according to how positive the corresponding review was.

Who voted?
The complete list of voters is as follows: Jude Rogers, Marcus J Moore, Luke Turner, Rory Gibb, Mike Davies, Fraser McAlpine, Martin Aston, John Eyles, Natalie Shaw, Alex Deller, David Katz, Wyndham Wallace, David Quantick, Huw Stephens, Kevin Le Gendre, Garry Mulholland, Camilla Pia, Jude Clarke, Semtex, Tom Hocknell, Al Fox, CJ Beatz, Robin Denselow, Mark Radcliffe, Stevie Chick, Daniel Ross, Ian Roullier, Tom Robinson, Vic Galloway, Ricky Ross, Daryl Easlea, Hari Ashurst, Zane Lowe, Chris Hawkins, Paul Clarke, Edith Bowman, Rob da Bank, Gideon Coe, Mike Diver, Kate Hutchinson, Mike Haydock, Paul Whitelaw, Sean Adams, Angus Taylor, Paul Lester, Chris Parkin, Lloyd Bradley, Chris Roberts, Ian Wade, Jen Long, Charlie Sloth, Martin Longley, James Skinner, Daniel Spicer, Ally McCrae, Adam Kennedy, Skream, Raziq Rauf, Jez Nelson, Daniel P Carter, Ben Hewitt, Nick Levine, Alex Denney, Ian Winwood, Mischa Pearlman, Colin Irwin, Darren Loucaides, Jaime Gill, Jamie Cullum, Ele Beattie, Melissa Bradshaw, Louis Pattison, Gilles Peterson, John Doran, Stuart Bailie, Joseph JP Patterson, Bob Harris, Ralph McLean, Annie Mac, MistaJam, Robbo Ranx, Steve Lamacq, Mike Harding, Marc Riley, Tim Westwood, Alyn Shipton, Chris Power, Ninian Dunnett, Jo Whiley, Jeanette Leech & Matthew Bennett.

DJs are linked to their relevant shows. Links to all critics can be found here. Jo Whiley and Mike Harding submitted unranked top fives, so each album was awarded four points.

Righto, that top 25 then...

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Grizzly Bear - Shields
(Warp; released 17 September)

Writes reviewer Wyndham Wallace: "Shields pushes and prods at musical boundaries in a similar way to Talk Talk's 1986 masterpiece, The Colour of Spring. It's an aesthetic rather than musical comparison, but - with songs shifting with casual precision, arrangements that are fluid and brave, and an honest, organic production - there's a sense throughout that Grizzly Bear are on the cusp of a genuine breakthrough. Where they go next may prove even more intriguing."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Yet Again (external link)

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Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream
(RCA; released 12 November)

Writes reviewer Hari Ashurst: "Kaleidoscope Dream continues Miguel's improvement, highlighting an artist in a real purple patch of songwriting. His biggest American hit to date, Adorn, opens, popping with electric melodies and charm. It's one of the most gorgeous pop songs so far this decade, deceptively simple and alluringly confident. Enjoy Kaleidoscope Dream for the rarity that it is: an unerringly consistent, very good pop record."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Adorn (external link)

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First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
(Wichita; released 23 January)

Writes reviewer Natalie Shaw: "Those already familiar with First Aid Kit may be shocked by the portent in the title of their second album, The Lion's Roar. For a duo so built on understatement, it's a statement of its own volition - words which suggest something bigger, bolder, and stronger. And sat neatly between Laura Marling's trauma and Joni Mitchell's spot-lit thoughts, this album lines them up as the band most likely to cross over into the big time."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Emmylou (external link)

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Emeli Sandé - Our Version of Events
(Virgin; released 13 February)

Writes reviewer Lou Thomas: "Sandé's solo debut single Heaven was arguably the finest British pop song released in 2011. And Our Version of Events is a charming and occasionally moving record full of care and polish, effort and grace. It will be interesting to see whether she embraces a bolder sound, develops her own big ideas or, perhaps, delivers a captivating combination of the two for album two."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: My Kind of Love (external link)

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Tame Impala - Lonerism
(Modular; released 8 October)

Writes reviewer Martin Aston: "Like their brilliant 2010 debut album Innerspeaker, Lonerism is self-produced and mixed by Flaming Lips/Mercury Rev producer David Fridmann. Yet for all the Oz roots and American connection, the album's soul is so very British. Set the controls for the heart of the sun, matey, we're going on a magical mystery tour. And if Tame Impala only turn out to be the Animal Collective of space rock, that's still a great place to arrive."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Elephant (external link)

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Father John Misty - Fear Fun
(Bella Union; released 30 April)

Writes reviewer Martin Aston: "Fear Fun is its own, inspired brew of, indeed, both fear and fun. It's located in a Bermuda Triangle of haunted ballads and wired rockers between Alex Chilton, Neil Young's After the Gold Rush and Fleet Foxes' lonesome-pine beauty, before Tillman stirs in his own twisted DNA, confessing in I'm Writing a Novel, 'I ran down the road, pants down to my knees, screaming.' Whoever Father John Misty is, he's a hell of a find."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Nancy From Now On (external link; contains scenes of a sexual nature)

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Bill Fay - Life Is People
(Dead Oceans; released 20 August)

Writes reviewer Martin Aston: "Arriving 41 years after Fay's last original studio album, Life Is People represents the return of a prodigal son you never knew existed. Its religious symbolism is inspired by Fay's own relationship with faith, the result a stunning, profound, moving and soulful record. It's a miracle that Fay, after so many years, is again making music; another miracle is how brilliant Life Is People is."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Be at Peace With Yourself (external link)

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Chromatics - Kill for Love
(Italians Do It Better; released 4 June)

Writes reviewer Alex Denney: "Kill for Love is little short of breathtaking. With its lonesome, Auto-Tuned vocals poured longingly over a slow disco beat, These Streets Will Never Look the Same sounds like Gaspar Noé's ghostly skycam that stalks the city rooftops in Enter the Void. A subtle transfiguration of Neil Young's Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) continues their run as a fine covers band. One of the finest records to surface this year."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Lady (external link)

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Django Django - Django Django
(Because Music; released 30 January)

Writes reviewer Mike Diver: "Begone, indie-is-dead doom-mongers! As Django Django prove on this thrilling debut long-play platter, there's life in the old dogged-by-disdain genre yet. Clever but never at the expense of a catchy hook, this is 'indie' par excellence: guitars that ring through the mix like a clarion call from the inspired to take up arms against the legions of lad-rockers; buzzing synths that swirl around like a cloud of friendly wasps; lyrics delivered in mantras..."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Default (external link)

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Liars - WIXIW
(Mute; released 4 June)

Writes reviewer John Doran: "WIXIW works best when it has its eyes set on the dancefloor or the radio. Brats is a driving electro number that burrows into your head after just one listen, while A Ring on Every Finger is a slower yet no less insistent bleep'n'bass number. WIXIW is an unqualified success and, now that LCD are no longer with us, its makers are truly are in a field of their own."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Brats (external link)

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Swans - The Seer
(Young God Records; released 28 August)

Writes reviewer Chris Power: "The Seer is a masterpiece to be considered alongside Swans' best albums. An often violent experience, its lethal weaponry is intricately patterned. It's this contrast, ultimately, that makes them so potent. The Seer might not be the album you spend most time with this year - it's too emotionally demanding for heavy rotation - but it's one you'll be listening to for years to come."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: The Seer (live concert DVD trailer) (external link)

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Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
(Island; released 2 April)

Writes reviewer Al Fox: "Few artists in Minaj's position would dare to take risks as bold as this, and yet, it doesn't feel as though she even sees it as risky - she's breezily doing her thing. Whatever the supposed role of Nicki Minaj within the hip hop hierarchy, whatever box she's pushed into, she'll have a hard time fitting in. Because, above all else, PF: RR cements her as a truly unique entity."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Pound the Alarm (external link; contains language which may offend)

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Baroness - Yellow & Green
(Relapse; released 16 July)

Writes reviewer Raziq Rauf: "The quality of songwriting and amount of raw passion on show throughout is striking. A shift to what could be perceived as a more commercial sound is a difficult one to achieve; but call a band led by a man as staunch in his artistic rites as frontman John Baizley sell-outs at your peril. This nearly flawless collection is simply the next step in the Baroness saga, and it's a beautiful one."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Take My Bones Away (external link)

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Carter Tutti Void - Transverse
(Mute; released 26 March)

Writes reviewer Luke Turner: "These four tracks feel entirely alive, a spontaneous weld of anxious beats, the odd squirl of guitar and distortion, corrupted vocals and deep, chasmic bass. The motif that recurs throughout is that of pace, propulsive forward movement, the creative interplay between the three artists almost tangible in the listener's ears. It captures a wonderful sonic conversation between like-minded souls."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: V2 (edit) (external link)

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Mala - Mala in Cuba
(Brownswood; released 10 September)

Writes reviewer Paul Clarke: "Heavy as the rhythms are, Mala's deftness of touch means the Cuban contributions are never entirely overwhelmed, and when he pulls more elements into the mix the results are often stunning. You can sense the melancholy longing at the core of both much traditional Cuban music and early dubstep. It reverberates through Mala in Cuba as powerfully as the bass."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Cuba Electronic (external link; contains strobe effects)

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Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
(Rough Trade; released 9 April)

Writes reviewer Martin Aston: "Lyrics are route-one effective throughout, as you'd expect from an album called Boys & Girls, but Alabama Shakes are not one-dimensional. Rather, they're a tightly coiled slice of primal southern soul, the sort usually stamped 'Memphis, Tennessee', but the band's hometown of Athens, Alabama - reached via the legendary town of Muscle Shoals - is spitting distance so far as this music is concerned."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Hold On (external link)

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Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
(Infectious; released 28 May)

Writes reviewer Jen Long: "It's hard to place Alt-J. Originally from Leeds, they spend their time in a Cambridgeshire basement making their own brand of uniquely dubbed "folk-step". However, the noises that An Awesome Wave emits far escape the dull, dark depths such a creative location suggests. Instead, it's a stunning and encompassing affair of both innovative and electrifying musicianship and exemplary song writing."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Tessellate (external link)

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David Byrne and St Vincent - Love This Giant
(4AD; released 10 September)

Writes reviewer Jude Clarke: "Despite having no obvious overarching theme or plot-line, this album nevertheless feels like an integrated conceptual piece. Creating alluring word-images, like The Forest Awakes' perpetual motion, circle-of-life pictures or I Am an Ape's mysterious "statue of the man who won the war", the feeling is generally playful yet profound. Byrne and Clark have managed to not only meet but exceed expectations, and have created one of the year's smartest albums in doing so."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Who (external link)

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Busy Signal - Reggae Music Again
(VP Records; released 23 April)

Writes reviewer Lloyd Bradley: "With Reggae Music Again Busy Signal builds on all the clever musicality of 2010's D.O.B. to produce an album that, appropriately for the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence, immerses itself in reggae music heritage. This is far more than what it seems to be billed as, namely 'Busy Signal changes style'. It's an important evolution of dancehall, connecting it to the timeline of Jamaican music, then pushing forwards into the 21st century."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Come Over (Missing You) (external link)

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Death Grips - The Money Store
(Epic; released 23 April)

Writes reviewer Paul Lester: "On The Money Store, Death Grips achieve the density and intensity of several Bomb Squads, Public Enemy's famous production wing. This may be their first recording since signing to Sony, but it hardly betrays signs of softening before their new paymasters. If anything, what they lose in sonic impact you gain in range: they seem to invent new rhythms and textures on each track. Bring the noise? It's already here."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Get Got (external link; contains language which may offend)

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Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Trouble
(Polydor; released 11 June)

Writes reviewer Ele Beattie: "A long time in the making, Trouble was brewed slowly due to a fixation with crafting an electronic album that would stand the test of time. Being born to a choir master and raised on his big brother's jungle and DnB, TEED's well-honed approach to rhythms - plus an unexpected twist of including his own fragile, imperfect vocals - has already separated him from the throng. Add to that his costumes and desire to stir the muddy waters of electronic music and he's not just a 21st century entertainer, but also a bit of a radical."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Your Love (external link)

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Jessie Ware - Devotion
(Island; released 20 August)

Writes reviewer Mike Diver: "Whilst she passed by several tipsters at the turn of the year, Clapham-raised Jessie Ware has been steadily growing into south London's own Sade-in-waiting ever since her 2010 emergence. And her early successes have been built upon brilliantly: Devotion is the sort of sophisticated, soulful pop record that comes along all too rarely, a collection that never hides the heart on its sleeve. There's nothing 'next' about Ware: she's here, now, and superb."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: 110% (external link)

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Dexys - One Day I'm Going to Soar
(BMG; released 4 June)

Writes reviewer Chris Roberts: "Kevin Rowland sought a level of purity and intensity in his earlier music that, while a triumph to those who embraced it, scared the herd mentality of the music press. He lost his path and confidence for a while. Now, more relaxed, showing the sense of humour that was always there but was oft-misunderstood, he's created an album that's equal parts confessional soul and theatrical music hall, and wholly sincere and spectacular. Dexys are back with wisdom and wings. Some of us never doubted."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Incapable of Love (external link)

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Frank Ocean - Channel ORANGE
(Mercury; released 23 July)

Writes reviewer Marcus J Moore: "Given its hype, some may be expecting the second coming of Thriller. Instead, channel ORANGE is a meditative voyage through Ocean's innermost thoughts, no matter how intangible the topics. In the end it's a direct reflection of its maker. There are moments of assured clarity, juxtaposed with flashes of childlike shyness. What remains is a solid collection of pop-soul renderings through which Ocean tries to find himself. We get to watch his maturation, growing pains and all."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Pyramids (external link; contains scenes of nudity, strobe effects, and language which may offend)

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Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d. city
(Polydor; released 23 October)

Writes reviewer Marcus J Moore: "Lamar is a proud California native, but this major label debut harbours more Southern ethos than West Coast gloss. As it plays, it's clear that Lamar wants to fill the pondering void once occupied by OutKast rapper André 3000, whose philosophical rhymes made him one of hip hop's most admired MCs. This voluminous album is driven by wandering rumination and layered compositions, resembling OutKast's landmark Aquemini album. Come good kid's conclusion, Lamar's transformation is apparent: he's still growing up and ready to take his place among the hip hop elite."

Read the full BBC review
On YouTube: Swimming Pools (Drank) (external link)

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So that's the BBC Music top 25 albums of 2012 - what have been your favourites of the year?

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