Best Of 2012: Music
The year of 2012 provided us with a great variety of good music. From jazz to rap, from pop punk to metal, the digital age is widening the scope of what we are exposed to as long as we leave ourselves unrestricted. Hopefully these lists reflect that growing assortment and sufficiently promote the best of what this year has produced. Below are my top ten albums of 2012 and standout songs from other albums. Also, please note that each image is linked to an appropriate recording on youtube.
10 Favorite Albums of 2012
1A. Lonerism-Tame Impala Lonerism is the best Aussie album I’ve ever listened to and is tied for my favorite album in the world right now. Infinitely listenable, it is difficult to recommend specific tracks for fear of detracting from the others. Like a more focused Merriweather Post Pavillion, Lonerism is immediately accessible but continuously flowering into a grander and impactful experience. Frequently and astutely compared to late Beatles or Bowie, this album makes familiar unfamiliar and therefore new again. Lonerism is an uncanny record in the best sense.
1B. The Seer-Swans Choosing between Lonerism and The Seer is like choosing between The White Album and something like Teenage Daydream or Tago Mago. Albums of The Seer’s sort challenge the listener in a variety of ways that may deter the average listener. A 21st century avant-garde rock album, The Seer pushes the boundaries of what an album is without falling into inconsequential posturing. This is not to say that this album is just some music experiment. Depending on one’s exposure period to new music, if given the necessary attention, this album will reward the listener with a truly mind-blowing and singular experience. Once it clicks, you’ll know it, and you’ll probably never forget when or where it happened.
2. The Idler Wheel…-Fiona Apple Only my taste prevents this album from being the best of the year. This intensely personal and uncooked album highlights a realistic, intelligent, and modern idea of femininity. Along with St. Vincent, Fiona stands on the edge of the most innovative and important of female musicians today. The Idler Wheel is the most truly creative and artistic album of the year. It fluctuates from primordial fury and subtle reflection to both startle and embrace the listener in a most masterful measure.
3. good kid m.A.A.d city-Kendrick Lamar I will not deny that rap has been off my radar for quite some time. I thought it on life support. Kendrick Lamar successfully resuscitated the genre for me and likely countless others like me. By modernizing gangster rap, this album does away with showy rap and club beats and gives us an enlightened and authentic voice to that which has been further marginalized. This album’s commentary on difficult subjects such as inequality and materialism will surely be heard for generations to come due to its authenticity and accessibility. While this amazing album does not top my list, it may wind up being the most influential.
4. Swing Lo Magellan-Dirty Projectors The Dirty Projectors use this album to display their imaginative range. From song to song you might hear a resemblance to bands such as Wild Beasts, Wilco, Paul Simon, The Shins, Ours, and this could go on and on. This variety succeeds in keeping fresh an album full of potent hooks. Swing Lo Magellan is an unashamedly fun album that wants your company but not at the expense of its own good time.
5. Koi No Yokan-Deftones The Deftones are back. Their presence is sorely needed in a music environment full of timid sentimentalities. White Pony is a classic and I can say that this album is nearly as good. It may not reach the highs of White Pony, but it is more captivating from front to back. Like Guitar Song or this year’s good kid m.A.A.d city, Koi No Yokan represents another recent resurgence of stagnant or forgotten genres. Some may argue the Deftones never went anywhere, but they won’t argue that this is their best in a long time.
6. Channel ORANGE-Frank Ocean The much-heralded Channel ORANGE requires only a short exposure period. Sweet vocals, immediate lyrics, and slow groove make this the most popular of all albums on my list. While popularity rarely indicates quality, it does comment on Frank Ocean’s ability to use seemingly individual musings and experiences to relate to his disparate audience on a fundamental level. This album serves as a great example of why it is so important for an artist to create his or her own material. His passionate and sincere vocals demonstrate a level of expressiveness that is rare and impossible to artificially manufacture. Plus, Frank Ocean deserves an honorary platinum trophy for beginning his album with the sound of a PlayStation booting up the Street Fighter character select.
7. Self Titled-Django Django Django Django is cunning and irreverent pop rock. Artistic, mischievous, fanciful, and pulsing, this album is like Franz Ferdinand without the tediousness or pretentiousness. Nearly every song catches you and demands favorite status. Eventually you’ll concede that this is a collection of great songs and a mysteriously charming album.
8. Fear Fun-Father John Misty An example of 21st century humanistic spirituality. Father John Misty differs from his previous work with Fleet Foxes by replacing their philosophies and macro societal ideas with a much more personal journey of living in the spirit and enjoying it. Father John’s simple and reflective style exemplifies the future of a modern folk music that is inexorably linked to an American sensibility. Although Fear Fun may not exceed the heights achieved by Father John’s previous band, it does singlehandedly justify his departure.
9. Heaven-The Walkmen While this album may not match classic status of You & Me, it is another great album by a band that has become one of the most consistent producers of laudable music today. While still often using typical loud soft dynamics, it is the most muted of all Walkmen albums. This makes the album less than instantly exciting or gratifying. While initially underwhelming, Heaven grows into one of the most nourishing listening experiences of the year. It also showcases Hamilton Leithauser’s most interesting and variating vocal performance to date.
10. Celebration Rock-Japandroids Just a blast. What can one say about such a flippant record? Celebration Rock is a refreshingly straightforward album that is the musical equivalent of a drunken adventure that lasts all night but ends too soon and will never be forgotten. With little regard for responsibility, gravity or pretense, this stupor of an album only cares about meaningful interactions and experiences with true people and beautiful things in a given moment.
10 Great Songs From Other Albums
Open Your Heart-The Men This song feels a bit like being at a rock concert. Fun, crowded and loud. Mark Perro’s voice struggles to break through the music and quickly gets swallowed by a tidal wave of wild music. This is parallel to the song’s implication that we should allow love and life to seize us and we need only enjoy the ride. Maybe life is a bit more complex but Open Your Heart is incredibly easy to enjoy.
Come Healing-Leonard Cohen Once again Leonard Cohen has created a beautiful religious song touched with modern motive and sensibility. This hymn would not seem out of place at many churches were it not for his old and broken gravelly voice. While some prefer a more traditional voice, Cohen’s voice stands in wonderful juxtaposition to a pure, beautiful female voice. Come Healing features an inquisitive and weary man who sings alongside angels but is never himself angelic. Regardless of how this song is interpreted, there is little doubt that this is another timeless masterpiece from the Old Ideas of Leonard Cohen.
Be Good (Lion’s Song)-Gregory Porter You know the first time you hear Be Good that you are listening to an instant classic. A combination of innocent and endearing lyrics, excellent vocals, and graceful jazz accompaniment complete one of the most memorable songs of the year.
Gates-The Menzingers Gates is a 21st century hybridization of turn of the century popular punk like Alkaline Trio or Blink 182 and the stories of our youth often told by the Hold Steady. The triumph of this nostalgic coming of age story is that it is honest and thoughtful without sacrificing its youthful boisterousness.
Drop Anchor-Martin Rossiter This is a lovely song of weariness and the need to settle down. An eloquent piano is played throughout the album but suits this song particularly well. It helps to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and isolation while also highlighting the underlying sweetness of soul in Martin Rossiter.
L’Enfant Sauvage-Gojira Like any heavy metal worth listening to, L’Enfant Sauvage channels raw hostility into a rousing and visceral listening experience. Gojira’s song stands out by attacking conformity and docility with magnificent poignancy and technical bedazzlement.
Gun Shy-Grizzly Bear This steady groove stands out on what is already a very good album. Its beat pushes us inexorably though a song of uncertainty, insecurity, and rejection. As this song marches through time, one can’t help but be swept away by it’s infectious pulse and cryptic lyrics.
Duquesne Whistle-Bob Dylan The institution known as Bob Dylan has done it again. Dusquesne Whistle blends the poetry of Dylan with a splash of charming americana. His album the Tempest just missed my top ten but I cannot allow it to be completely overlooked. Great album. Great song. Hardly surprising is the quality of the old master.
Five Seconds-Twin Shadow In a hybridization of modern electronica combined with a blatant 80′s style, Twin Shadow have created a good time on a disc that appeals to the nostalgic. Easily the best song on an album which is custom built for a nighttime drive through an urban landscape. Cool, frenetic, and stirring.
Love Interruption-Jack White As one who rarely gives enough credit to Jack White, let me try to change that by recommending a great song. Love interruption is a song about resisting the seemingly innate need to love and be loved. Jack negotiates this skillfully in a concise and exhilarating song.
Thank you for reading! I encourage you to comment on what I got right or what I may have missed.