Search This Blog

Friday, January 4, 2013

Best Albums of 2012

So here it is, the much anticipated end of the year list from us here at the blog. Are your favorites on the list? I don’t know but ours certainly are as we made the list. First is a list of our favorite albums based on a composite score of voting. Afterwards are everyone’s favorite individual votes. Follow your favorite writers! Follow your least favorite writers! Click on a bunch of links!  Be Angry!

10 Until the Quiet Comes by Flying Lotus

3 Lonerism by Tame Impala

Steve’s Picks

9. R.I.P. by Actress

5. Lonerism by Tame Impala

3. Kill for Love by Chromatics
Did people in the 1980’s listen to the Chromatics? No they didn’t. But did they listen to music like the Chromatics? I have no idea, but after listening to Kill For Love it sure seems that way. Good nostalgia evoking albums portray things as they were, but great nostalgia evoking albums portray things as we remember them, and that’s what Kill For Love does. I turn on Kill For Love and suddenly im in sunglasses, it’s the middle of the night and the sky is peppered with neon lights more numerous than the stars. Is that how it really was? Probably not, but who cares.

Fiery wit, heartbreaking vulnerability, and powerful songwriting, The Idler Wheel … is going to be on plenty of end of the year lists, and its not because the records name is so catchy. Certainly deserving of the praise, Fiona Apple comes back from a lengthy hiatus proving once more that she has got the goods, perhaps even more so than before. Her song writing is as strong as it ever was, and her voice as powerful. Mix that together with a singer that is ever the more experienced and you have got yourself a damn good record.

Visions is a terrifying record in ways that don’t make any sense. There is certainly nothing frightening looking about Claire Boucher the mastermind behind Grimes. Sporting a cute haircut and a childish smile she looks like she could easily have been a character on Full House. Her voice isn’t scary either, though admittedly it is a bit strange.  But somewhere out there Claire Boucher is lurking around in the dark, and that terrifies me. Mixing industrial with ambient with pop with techno with hip-hop, Claire’s skill terrifies me. She doesn’t just borrow from these genres, she steals from them, she dances on their graves. And yet somehow Visions maintains its classiness, it mixes all of those genres tactfully into one nuanced and subtly great record.
While it certainly isn’t the most accessible album of the year, accessibility is a bridge that Claire Boucher burns with great delight. Sure, Visions has elements of pop in it, more than a few catchy hooks, but these aren’t for you, not really anyway. These sections of the album are for persons who are trying to blend genres in their own music and need guidance. Where other albums would serve as a roadmap, this one is a GPS, and a pretty damn good GPS at that, not the crappy type that doesn’t have the most updated roads. It’s tough to talk legacy on an album that only came out this year, but it is certain that the future of Visions and Grimes both are promising.

Elliot’s Picks
10. Cobra Juicy by Black Moth Super Rainbow

8. Shields by Grizzly Bear

7. Be the Void by Dr. Dog

6. Celebration Rocks by The Japandroids

4. Bloom by Beach House

3. The Seer by Swans
I first listened to the Seer last week and I instantly knew it would be one of my favorite albums. The absolutely haunting opener, Lunacy, just sent shivers down my spine. Admittedly the album is long winded, to say the least. Clocking in at just around 2 hours, it is not so much an album as it is an adventure. Prone to characteristically long and diffuse segments of tension building instrumentation, The Seer is an album meant to be enjoyed while occupied by something else like driving, riding a train, or in my case, wrapping Christmas Presents. Like Person Pitch, the album builds on itself, making its awesome sections absolutely glorious. Though it is not necessarily better crafted than the previous albums on my list, I am a sucker for its creepy aesthetic, letting it barely squeak past Bloom to the number three spot.

2. Lonerism by Tame Impala
Whenever I put on Lonerism, I turn to whoever is with me and ask them “when was this album released?” Almost everyone answers “late 60s or early 70s?” and are then surprised when I say “nope, this October”. Lonerism is a modern classic rock album. As someone who fell in love with music listening to classic rock, I am obsessed with this album. Anyone who loves classic rock needs to listen to this album. It sounds like a more psychedelic and rocking Beatles. From the panting opener Be Above It to the beautiful melancholic finale Sun’s Coming Up, every song on the album is incredible. The real sensations are the psychedelic pop sensation Feels Like We Only Go Backwards and the thumping rock classic Elephant. Lonerism is second on my list, but only by a hair. It truly deserves to be number one.

1. Swing Lo Magellan by Dirty Projectors
I was excited for this album when I first listened to Bitte Orca last spring. How could the follow up to such an incredible album not be amazing? So when July 9th rolled around, I was so excited that I listened to Swing Lo 3 times in a row the second it came out. Sometimes, such anticipation can sully how good the album is (just look at Centipede Hz, I thought it was going to be a guaranteed number 1 and it is only number 5). However, Swing Lo Magellan did not disappoint.
Swing Lo is almost nothing like Bitte Orca. While the earlier album is baroque and alien, this new album is simple and down to earth. For a long time I debated which was better to no effect. Then I realized that the albums aren’t really comparable, they are complimentary. The two albums fit so well as counterpoints that both are made even better. Yet Swing Lo’s relationship to its predecessor makes it a great Dirty Projector’s album, its music makes it my favorite album of 2012.
Swing Lo is a rich album filled with tracks that would stand out on any other album. Yet together they become something so much more. The simple guitar serenade Swing Lo Magellan compliments the complex beats of Gun Has No Trigger. The intense opener, About to Die, stands opposite the quiet finish Irresponsible Tune. Yet despite the contrasts in the album, every song meshed perfectly together to form an album with beautiful mood and style. Swing Lo Magellan stands out to me as the best collection of songs AND the best complete album of 2012, and for that I give it my number one spot.

Mark’s Picks

I think it would be kind of daunting to try and go from “The Fleet Foxes’ drummer” to solo artist.  The whole hipster world comes to a stand still when they drop an album.  Obviously the best thing you can do is make the kind of music that feels real to you.  J. Tillman has a number of solo albums before this endeavor, but they neither sound like this nor are as powerful. 
Calling every one of these songs folk is selling their diversity a little short.  There are great folk tracks, but some more into other territories.  The one thing they all share is Tillman’s fantastic knack for songwriting.  They are clever, sad, biting, witty, or whatever else he needs them to be.  They are all supposed to be based around things that happened to him while making the album, and he certainly puts enough personality into them that either that’s true or he’s a unbelievable liar.  

Before this EP I was a bit skeptical of these guys.  They could make an amazing single, but their albums lacked a certain cohesion that made them harder to take seriously.  From the first trebling note I heard off of this EP I knew there wouldn’t be much more doubt coming from me.
Every track is just a pop song, but it manages to have just as much meaning as any other track you’d find on this list.  “Trees and Flowers” personifies anguish and “Lord Knows” holds more regret then words along could.  That’s very pretty and all, but this album also hold as much hazy guitar, heavy drums, and beautiful vocals that these girls are known for.  I wish there were more girl pop bands like this one.  I’m sure there are, but until I find them I’ll stick with these guys.

It’s funny to think that you love a piece of music.  That is implying a lot.  Love isn’t something you should take lightly; because it’ll lose its meaning if you just throw it around.  Something you truly love changes your view on everything else and brings you to a higher level of understanding.  To say I love this album wouldn’t be doing it justice.
Everything about this album is done right.  The opening track slowly materializes in just in time to introduce its presence and vanishes.  Each track is exactly as long as they need to be, and are saturated with enough sound to keep you exploring for quite a while.  The songs are so catchy without getting stuck in your head like bubblegum.  Every song belongs to the album in the same way as limbs to a body.
One of the coolest things about this album is its attitude.  You can tell these guys love their music, but in no way making it out to be anything more then it is.  They’d rather you just listen then talk about it.  It’s so primarily pure, music because of music. 
I have listened to this album a number of times since I first posted the article about it a few months ago, and every time I do I find there’s something crucial I should have included.  I could keep going back, but that would be stupid, so I’m just going to say listen, and hope that you get something even remotely close to what I got out of this album.

Eric’s Picks

9. Until the Quiet Comes by Flying Lotus

I’ve been a longtime champion of Soap&Skin ever since I heard of her earlier this year. Anja is the dream of every angsty teen girl – she’s pretty, extremely talented, and super famous. Well, super famous in Europe, but it’s something. She’s dark and sad, but not in any annoying way like the 8 million emo bands out there. She doesn’t rely on traditional images of hearts and blackness and tears and scars; she writes high-level poetry that would make a Walt Whitman fan proud. If that wasn’t enough, she has the voice of an angel and the ability to put the so much emotion, and right amount of emotion, into every syllable. She also writes/sings in English and German, and can sing in French. And let’s not forget her compositions – she’s an amazing pianist, and can also work with electronic music and choirs. It’s just amazing how talented she is, and this album displays all of that talent so well.

As you can see if you looked ahead (cheater), Death Grips makes this list twice. Yes, they are that good. Yes, I rescind a lot of my comments from my review of NO LOVE DEEP WEB. That said, NLDW wasn’t as good as The Money Store – they lost that rawness that I loved, and put the focus on MC Ride, which left very sparse and open beats. But it was still good. But TMS is a revelation, both now, and when it came out. It was raw, it was aggressive, it was rap, it was hardcore, it was punk. It shook walls, and made me feel alive and angry. It was new and exciting and different for rap, and something I hadn’t seen done this well. And it was awesome.  It just missed out being #1 because it’s just a little too out there, and has lost a touch of that edge it once had so many moons ago.

If you don’t think this will be considered our Illmatic, our Blueprint, then you don’t know music and need to leave. This album is a monumental achievement for not only Kendrick, not only rap, but for music as a whole. You want flow? I’ve talked about Kendrick’s flow in the past, and it’s just as on point, if not more so, here. You want braggadocio? “Backseat Freestyle” has some of the best and most ridiculous brags ever.  You want beats? Dr. Dre, Hit-Boy, and Just Blaze all lend their talents to this album. You want realness? You want storytelling? This is a concept album detailing a bad day in Compton that Kendrick may or may not have had. But it’s painted with such clarity, such emotion, such cogency, that you don’t know how much is made up. This is simply the best release you’ll hear all year, hands down, in just about any genre. You may not get it on the first listen, or even the second, or even on the 10th, but there’s something compelling about the album that makes you want to go back and listen to it again. And each time, you’ll get something new out of it; something will reveal itself, or you’ll think of it in a new way, or something that will change what the album means to you. It’s like the movie Dazed and Confused – it’s written so subtly, that you don’t even realize how perfect it is. That’s how you know it’s perfect.

John’s Picks

10. Blunderbuss by Jack White

8. Kaleidoscope Dream by Miquel

7.  Shields by Grizzly Bear

6. Lonerism by Tame Impala

4. Until the Quiet Comes by Flying Lotus

If you can top Flying Lotus, you’re really saying something in my book. That’s what Kendrick Lamar was able to do with “Good Kid, m.A.A.d City”. It’s probably not fair to say that an album “feels” like a classic, but you can hear that Lamar is on to something from the get go. Think “Illmatic”, but more personal and paranoid. Even if you’re not following the overall narrative of Lamar’s experiences in the streets, the dark and tough beats represent his struggle masterfully. Then Lamar truly lets down his guard on “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst”, and the elegant strings lift his personal plight into the stratosphere.

I thought that the next Dirty Projectors record would be good, but I never dreamed that it would make me completely forget about “Bitte Orca” for a while. And I was stunned when it made me question why they would even make “Bitte Orca” when they can make “Swing Lo Magellan”. The album is still messy Dirty Projectors, but it’s a lot more accessible than years past. A tasteful guitar solo on “Dance For You”, the poignant “Just From Chevron” and the minimal/maximal “Gun Has No Trigger”; these are the amazing benefits of a great band doing more with less.

I’m the “R&B guy” of the blog, in case you didn’t know. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Prince, D’Angelo and Parliament/Funkadelic are my cup of tea. No question that Channel Orange played into my tendencies. I know it’s an album that I would probably like, regardless of how “artistic” it is. But let’s be real here. Channel Orange is arguably the most complete and poignant statement by any artist this year, period. The buzz that initially surrounded this record was that “Thinking About You” was about how his first love was a man. That’s an extremely courageous confession from a bisexual artist working in a staunchly heterosexual genre. The tension from coping with this first love—“unrequited,” as stated in “Bad Religion”—is palpable on certain key moments of the record. The rest of the time, Ocean is frank (pun intended) and observant, but seems emotionally numb himself. He describes the “Sweet Life” and the multi-part odyssey that is “Pyramids,” but lets the chips fall where they may. That attitude is in stark contrast to the very emotive music behind him, creating songs both powerful and strangely beautiful. Ocean may sound bored, but he’s far from a boring singer. His melodies, no matter how subtle or muted, contribute heavily to the raw emotion that permeates this record. Skip right to “If it brings me to my knees” on “Bad Religion” and you’ll know what I mean. Frank Ocean has said that he might not make another album. I would actually content with that, given that he has likely made the statement of his life—and of 2012—with this sweeping masterpiece

Like the blog on facebook!

No comments:

Post a Comment