Pick of the pops take 2…

My top 20 albums of 2012 [15 –10].

Yesterday I started reviewing some of my favourite albums of 2012, counting down from 20-15. Hopefully you enjoyed looking at that eclectic mix?  Today I’ll be continuing my countdown in reverse order…

15. On the Thirteenth day by Magnum

Magnum are a British rock institution. They might not have been having big chart hits like their contemporaries but they have amassed a fantastic song catalogue and dedicated following. On The Thirteenth Day is their 18th studio album and it’s a cracker. Magnum record melodic, often epic sounding hard rock. There is an underlying percussive rhythm to their music which perfectly backs up Tony Clarkin’s guitar work and songwriting talent. Bob Catley’s vocal range isn’t as clean as it used to be but its current lived in quality adds to the atmosphere of the album (especially on tracks such as Didn’t Like You Anyway and Broken Promises). If you don’t like Magnum then this CD won’t change your mind but if you’d like to hear some good British rock then give it a whirl. Standout track: So Let it Rain

14. Standing at the Sky’s edge by Richard Hawley

I’ve always had a soft spot for Richard from his days in Longpigs and his collaborative work with the likes of Soulsavers (who obviously influence this album’s sound). His rockabilly-tinged solo output was often too twee and a little bit lightweight but there have been standout tracks along the way. Standing at the Sky’s Edge changes all that. This is an altogether edgier album and crackles with distortion-heavy guitar work, partnered by Richard’s melodic vocals. Evidence of this can be found on tracks such as Down in the Woods and closing track Before. Standing does have quieter moments such as opener She Brings the Light and Seek it and these will engage older fans. Basically, Standing is Hawley having his Spinal Tap moment and turning the amp up to 11 and if produces results as good as this, long may it continue! Standout track: Standing At The Sky’s Edge

13. Beyond the Realms of Euphoria by Galahad

2012 has been a year for discovering new bands and a love of the new-wave of British Prog. Galahad have been at the forefront of this revival (even though they’ve been going for 25 years) and released two albums this year. Battle Scars was the first release but Beyond the Realms of Euphoria is the better of the two. It’s a revelation. There are pounding bass lines, speedy percussion (almost as if the drummer is playing a code) and sublime guitar playing. It’s not subtle (Yes can sleep easy), but there are delicate moments – particularly the piano playing on album closer Richelieu’s Prayer. Otherwise this contains all the prog hallmarks – 10-minute long songs (Guardian Angel), two part story movements (openers Salvation I & II) and winding keyboards. It’s indulgent (don’t let the colourful cover or prog moniker put you off) but is without doubt one of the best rock albums you’ll hear all year. Standout track: All in the Name of Progress

12. March of Ghosts by Gazpacho

Moving swiftly from bruising British prog to the more melodic Norwegian variety. Gazpacho’s March of Ghosts is a beautiful, haunting record. Most prog bands deliver melodies via keyboard but these guys have chosen to include a real string section and it really tugs at your heart. Hell Freezes Over is an epic movement spread over four tracks (now that’s prog) and Mary Celeste is a delicate favourite. Black Lily has a memorable chorus and echoes Radiohead but the vocals are softer and the violin brings a warmth that Thom Yorke and company never had. Don’t let the prog label put you off as this is an expertly crafted album that deserves a wider audience. Standout track: What Did I Do?

11. Head Down by Rival Sons

Rival Sons are not subtle. What they do is deliver balls-to-the-wall rock music. with catchy riffs, pounding bass and killer drums. Songs on Head Down are mostly short and sweet, with only four running over six minutes (Manifest Destiny Parts 1 & 2, Jordan and Head Down). There is a swagger to the sound but it does have moments of subtelty and calmness, as found on the track Nava. The band successfully blend great songs with the sounds of 60s and 70s blues rock. There are nostalgic nods to rock legends Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones and even The Byrds but the band remain fresh, happening and in the now. Standout track: Keep on Swinging

So that’s 15-10 done. I’ll upload the next 5 tomorrow where there’ll be some British electronica, A rock supergroup and I might chuck in some prog! Please let me know what you think…


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