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666 ABC Canberra
By Genevieve Jacobs
2012 was a year of diverse music on 666 afternoons - some of it raucous, some of it lyrical, some of it puzzling and some of it bad. It's not unknown for Marcus Kelson and Genevieve to disagree, occasionally profoundly, about the music they review on Friday afternoons, but as we looked at the past year, there was an outbreak of positive conviviality. The common theme was storytelling, emerging through music that was often reflective too.
We started with The Decemberists, whose album The King is Dead was a return to form for the North West US indie band after a wandering excursion into overblown folk opera last time round. From the album, Rox in the Box exemplified straightforward sounds with great rhythm delivered in Colin Meloy's characterically flat style.
The only Australian band that made the cut this afternon was also one of the most spectacular to debut a full album this year. The Jezabels have made a huge impact through their EPs and exposure on Triple J. Prisoner is an astonishingly confident piece of work, and we played Trycolour, a smashing bit of goth rock.
Genevieve's pick for album of the year was the quirky, urgent, reckless sound of The Mountain Goats. John Darnielle pours his heart and soul into lyrical words about dark times and places. All Eternals Deck is named for an imaginary pack of tarot cards and we heard Beautiful Gas Mask.
Canadian singer Leslie Feist's album Metals confirmed her remarkable ability to sell well, receive mainstream airplay and retain her musical credibility. The album is filled with liquid layerings of sound, beautifully pieced together, and Graveyard shimmers with that skill.
Afternoons' great discovery of the year was English singer Bobby Long, whose album A Winter Tale slipped by almost unnoticed. A Stranger Song shows Wiltshire born Long at his best - a heartfelt chronicler of quiet emotions.
Laura Marling's album A Creature I Don't Know is her third, and it demonstrates her growing power as a songwriter. We played The Beast, which builds from a slow beginning into an urgent, dark song about dangerous sexuality.
After a long absence from recording, Gillian Welch made a triumphant return with The Harrow and the Harvest. The unmatched beauty of her voice, at its best in The Way It Will Be, soars in glorious arrangements that take the heritage of folk music, pay it due reverence and then make it absolutely fresh.
But the year's best for Marcus came last, and was one of the most difficult albums we played all year. PJ Harvey's Let England Shake is fractured, brave, agonising stuff. The enormous idea of examining how a nation goes to war is turned over and picked apart in a way that is never simplistically critical or sentimental. In Dark Places resonates with the power of Harvey's voice, creativity and fierce determination to be heard.