Top 40 albums of 2012: Nos 20-1 plus playlist
Yesterday we gave you the first half of our 2012 top 40 albums. Today we give you the second half – complete with Spotify playlist featuring (almost) all our favourite tracks from the cream of the year.
The list originally appeared in Classic Rock No179, on sale now.
20. Soundgarden: King Animal
Soundgarden erased a 16-year hiatus with their most ambitious effort to date, showcasing subtle texturing, proggy polyrhythms and terrifying walls of riffage.
19. Kiss: Monster
Monster paid homage to Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons’s key influences – The Beatles, the Stones, Zeppelin, Slade, even Hendrix. Naming it Monster, Kiss had to deliver – and did.
18. Anathema: Weather Systems
Anathema reaffirmed their commitment to luxuriant atmospherics. With repeating acoustic patterns, subtle orchestral flourishes and shifting progressive tempos, this mesmerising meditation on life and death generated debate only in regard to its proximity to perfection.
17. Muse: The 2nd Law
For a band who are great at wildly over-the-top histrionics, their sixth album was, by their standards, subdued, yet full of intrigue, imagination and killer guitar.
16. Europe: Bag of Bones
These hair-metal-era superstars were always fans of old-school 70s rock. And on Bag Of Bones, they rock like Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy.
15. Walking Papers: Walking Papers
The debut album from the band featuring Duff McKagan and with a cameo from Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready leans as much towards Tom Waits or the Bad Seeds at it does early Zeppelin. Lyrically, it read like Raymond Chandler on a downer.
14. Van Halen: A Different Kind of Truth
Van Halen’s first album with David Lee Roth since 1984 was the most anticipated of 2012’s many comebacks. And with a core of songs written back in the 70s, the band recreated their classic sound: supercharged, all-American hard rock.
13. The Gaslight Anthem: Handwritten
Once dismissed as a Fisher-Price E Street Band, the impassioned, muscular Handwritten finds TGA no longer standing on the shoulders of giants. Debuting at No.2 in the UK, it crystallised their status as the people’s champions.
12. Slash: Apocalyptic Love
Slash’s first solo album featured an all-star cast and a number of guest vocalists. But this follow-up was a more orthodox group effort, with all the songs sung by Myles Kennedy, Slash’s best foil since you-know-who.
11. Ginger: 100%
His Pledge Music campaign was one of 2012’s success stories. But this condensed version of the fan-only, triple-disc 555% showed that he’s more than just a smart businessman, he’s one of the great British songwriters of the last 20 years.
10. Lynyrd Skynyrd: Last of a Dyin’ Breed
The burden of history and tragedy weighs heavily on Skynyrd. But as guitarist Gary Rossington said of their latest album: “It was the most fun record we’ve ever done.” And with it, the definitive southern rock band delivered their best music since the 70s.
9. Cory Branan: Mutt
Once a fresh-scrubbed troubadour in a dinner suit, Cory Branan re-emerged as a beardy long-hair with a rusted-saw voice and the kind of gorgeously grizzled songs that wouldn’t sound out of place in the songbooks of Ryan Adams or Townes Van Zandt.
8. The Darkness: Hot Cakes
For all their success in the noughties, The Darkness were written off by many people for being a comedy act, rather than a ‘proper’ band. Yet they were, in all seriousness, the best British hard-rock band since Def Leppard. And with this comeback album, The Darkness returned from a six-year absence in grandstanding, ass-kicking style. Mission accomplished.
7. Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking Ball
The Boss came back with his angriest album since The Rising. That record grieved, this raged. The thrumming We Take Care Of Our Own castigates a country that does anything but. Couched in rock bombast and Seeger- like folk rock, Springsteen addressed the state of the nation as only he can.
6. Joe Bonamassa: Driving Towards the Daylight
His seventh release in four years, some felt that the public’s appetite for Mr Blues might have been sated by the time DTTD pulled up in May. They were wrong: this belter ram-raided the mainstream, peaking at a career-best No.2 in the UK. As the bluesman observed: “I may have upgraded from the F-list to E-list…”
5. Jack White: Blunderbuss
Jack White started the year needing a hit, and solo debut Blunderbuss gave it both barrels, justifying the murder of the Stripes and delivering the hooks his rainy-day projects had often lacked. With fingers in endless genres, it hinted at gallons in the tank and brought a fading icon back with a bang.
4. Howlin Rain: The Russian Wilds
If anyone cornered the market in cosmic Americana this year, it was these San Franciscan weirdbeards. The Russian Wilds was a Nixon-era record for an Obama-era world – the perfect backdrop for tuning in, turning on and shutting the real world out.
3. ZZ Top: La Futura
After a lean period lasting longer than most bands’ entire careers, ZZ Top hooked up with producer Rick Rubin to cut their best album since 1983’s Eliminator. La Futura delivered soulful blues and high-octane boogie as only these good ol’ boys know how.
2. Rival Sons: Head Down
Anyone still doubting the relevance of classic guitar music in 2012 needed to look no further than this storming Californian four- piece. Head Down was unreconstructed rock’n’roll in the raw, borne aloft by euphoric Motown grooves and the kind of timeless riffs patented by John Fogerty circa Green River.
1. Rush: Clockwork Angels
In a year that has a special resonance for Rush, promoters offered big money for a tour based on the band’s landmark 70s album 2112. But rather than trade on the past, Rush moved forward with their most ambitious project to date: a first full concept album, and a genuine late-career masterpiece.
Geddy Lee tells Classic Rock: ““I think this album really sounds like Rush, the essence of who we are. One of the things we agreed up early was, ‘Let’s write a trio’s album.’ We wanted to have moments where it was just the three of us playing the way we play onstage.
“We had so many jams on the last tour where we allowed ourselves to freeform a bit. We enjoyed it so much that I said to the guys after the tour, ‘Let’s try to be that band on the next record.’ It feels so essential, and it’s what we’re about.”