Saturday, 22 December 2012
Best Albums of 2012: 1. ANT
Album of the year: The Birds Sing Goodnight To You And Me - ANT (We Were Never Being Boring)
I often remark that I tend to enjoy session versions of tracks recorded for my show, or indeed other Dandelion Radio shows, more than the official versions, so assumed that, after ANT (aka former Hefner drummer Anthony Harding), had produced an amazing session for my show early in 2012, it would outstrip in terms of quality his forthcoming album.
I was wrong. While much of this top ten is made up of albums that, however varied they are, tend to have a certain abrasive harshness about them, the top two are unashamedly melodic inventions and ANT just about edges out the indie pop perfection of Tender Trap but producing an album of such unabashed simplicity that its excellence and originality seem barely feasible.
But in tracks such as 'Hand Me Downs', where ANT takes a straightforward acoustic and minimal harmonic approach to a tale about a lad from an impoverished background whose closest skirmish with sex is to wear his brother's lipstick-stained shirt, medium and message merge to produce a simplicity that is devastating and leaves you wondering how, in such a cynical and weather-beaten world, such bravely uncomplicated balladeering manages to produce something that doesn't turn into unremarkable mush.
Not only that, but the sweep of these songs is breathtaking. 'Lady Grey' has so many gorgeous yet subtle changes beneath its singer-songwriter veneer it boggles the mind, while 'Black Swans On The Water', and 'When The Robin Spreads His Wings And Sings' both manage to drag other-worldly beauty from ornithological conceits at a level not managed since Gene Clark's masterful 'Silver Raven'.
Unlike Clark's masterpiece, ANT doesn't produce sweeping philosophical visions that underly his melodic artfulness; it's a large element of the album's power that these pure lyrical sketches and well-crafted tunes attain a power simply from being themselves. It's this that makes The Birds Sing Goodnight To You And Me stand out from the pack and, in this year of so many magnificent albums, leaves it somehow transcending the achievement of so many other worthy contenders for the accolade of best album of 2012.