Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2012: Album(s) of the Year

As i write this intro, it's hard to not feel a sense of continuation.  I've always been an "album" guy, but this year feels different.  Maybe it's a sign of aging or the fact that I've spent most of the year trying to make the perfect mix-CD.  Whatever the case may be, it's clear that i listen to music differently, i experience music differently, i even discover music differently (r.i.p megaupload).  So clearly, I have a new perspective on music. and i know i know, nobody likes it when someone enforces their musical taste onto others.  But who else is going to make this list?  What does an (adjective) 26 years old listen to?  I don't know, but this is my life.  This is my list.  These are my favorite albums of the year.


25. Allo Darlin' - Europe
What a breeze.  Never heard of them, but i liked the album cover and it actually fits.  It's simple, it won't shift people's taste, but it's enough to win people over.  There's really pop songs, and of course there are the slow sentimental songs.  I've always said that "pop" is my core, but these aren't "fun" pop, it's more like "pop" for the lost late-20 year olds.
Favorite Songs: Neil Armstrong, Tellulah, The Letter

24. Woods - Bend Beyond
For some reason, I thought woods were a generic indie rock band that keeps making records every year. and yes, this bands has quite a long line of albums released, this is my very first listen to them and i really like it.  It gets me.  It sounds a bit low-key like maybe they are a band that already hit their 60s influence peak, but this is the leftovers, but i'm only saying that because every song here sounds good on its own.  I'm not saying it's "single" potential, but overall, this album is a good listen, nonstop. or maybe i'm a sucker for acoustic guitars. oh o whoa o.
Favorite Songs: Cali in a Cup, It Ain't Easy, Wind was the Wine

23. The Menzingers - On The Impossible Past
What a complete record.  At the start of the year, this was one of the highest rated albums on metacritc at a score of 93.  Even thought the reviews weren't by mainstream publications, i gave it a shot and it's one of those records that pulls you in the heart.  So many lines make me want to sing-a-long to them.  It's so standard, yet i'm finding each song on its own while understanding that they all need each other to sound good.
Favorite Songs: The Obituaries, Sun Hotel, Nice Things

22. Freelance Whales - Diluvia
potential?  wait, that's not a good reason.  But that's the thing, they sound done before, like a band from 2008, or a band just starting out.  I'm not sure how to explain, but they sound young and they have that sound quality from the bands i used to listen to.  But i like this album because it's easy on me, but i keep seeing potential.  I wish they could pop out more, i wish they could get more emotional, i wish they could scream or something.  But the way i hear it, it's an album of a band that shows promise.  And i'm not basing this on potential, i'm just saying that's what i feel.  It's a great easy listen for 2012.
Favorite Songs: Land Features, Follow Through, Red Star

21. Kishi Bashi - 151a
My classroom music fix, this guy.  He reminds me a bit of Sufjan and Sigur Ros.  Great music, great melodies, and light voice to go with it. And i haven't seen it, but apparently his song is part of windows 8 promotions.  nice!
Favorite Songs: Intro/Pathos, Pathos, Manchester, Bright Whites

20. Tame Impala - Lonerism
Wait, this is so psychedelic.  I know, at first it sound like a mess, but it's really psychedelic. Maybe it's mood music, but it's really good.  As long as i tell myself to not look for a verse/chorus formula  it's fun to put this on and let it pulse in the back of your mind.
Favorite Songs: Apocalypse Dreams, Mind Mischief, Feels Like We Only Go Backward

19. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
oh shit!  talk about left field.  I'm always curious about music kept locked away.  I've read that these songs were performed live for quite some time, but i never heard of them, so for me, this was entirely new.  and i no longer call myself a fan of the so-called "post-rock" genre, but geez, even i have no acknowledge how amazing this shit is.  fucken "Mladic," what a track.
Favorite Songs: Mladic, We Drift Like Worried Fire

18. Chairlift - Something
dude, she doesn't shave her armpits?  i'm kidding, but this was a major surprise for me.  I first discovered them because of their song, "Bruise," but i couldn't find much value in the rest of their catalog.  And I honestly thought "I Belong in Your Arms" was a standard indie pop track, but the singer sings so light and it makes me smile.  and of course, the melodies.
Favorite Songs: Wrong Opinion, I Belong in Your Arms, Frigid Spring

17. Grizzly Bear - Shields
I feel like i'm going to use this phase a lot, but this is one of those albums that don't push the melodies in your face.  There's no "Two Weeks" here, but they still have the smokey vibe to them.  I still have to go with "Veckatimest," but "Shield" is great on its own.  It's warm and adventurist.  and because it isn't in your face, I always feel rewarded with each listen.
Favorite Songs: Yet Again, A Simple Answer, Half Gate

16. The Shins - Port of Morrow
It's probably the "safest" album i got this year, but i enjoy the heck out of it.  I honestly thought they reached their peak, but here they are making "indie rock" music and it never feels like they are reaching new heights, but after i got into "Simple Song," the rest of the album came to me.  I'm not sure how old these guys are, but it feels very "Dad Rock" and that makes me adore it.
Favorite Songs: Simple Song, No Way Down, 40 Mark Strasse

15. Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man
<3.  oh Natasha.  I was worried when i saw her standing nude for her album cover.  nothing wrong with sending the message of being naked, but i thought this would turn out to be more of a "image" album than content, but this album works for me.  "Daniel" is still my favorite, but this album has a lot going for it.  I think everybody is in agreement with "Laura," but i love the strings on "Winter Field" and of course that hook on "Marilyn."
Favorite Songs: All Your Gold, Laura, Winter Fields

14. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
Yes Yes Yes.  It's a rock album.  I love the energy and I love the song structures.  Part of me wants to comment at how it's not "new" but at the same time, it's fun to listen to.  They kick me in the face.  let's bro-fist each other.  YeaH!!!
Favorite Songs: Fire's Highway, Evil's Sway, The House That Heaven Built

13. Grimes - Visions
what the fuck is this?  haha, this album shifted my entire taste in music.  She sings like a lolli and the music sounds like some repeated 80s jam....but it's fascinating.  It's an outlet.  It's a new feel.  She grooves into me.
Favorite Songs: Genesis, Oblivion, Symphonia IX (My Wait it U)

12. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes
thank god they didn't try to recapture "round and round" again.  That was the only song that was good, but this album.  oh my, maybe i'll go revisit their past stuff, but this album.  It's so varied.  There are clear "made for single selection" tracks and others that just play off on being an indie rock band.
Favorite Songs: Mature Themes, Only In My Dreams, Live it Up

11. Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream
You know that slow song on the radio, "Adorn."  yeah, that's this guy.  Seriously man, who could have known that this guy would have released this killer album.  Ne-Yo was my only rnb man, but Miguel just killed me with his smoothness.  and I'm not talking a few songs or inside jokes.  It's an interesting listening experience.  All he does is sing, but whoever does the production makes him sound so smooth. So sexy smooth.
Favorite Songs: Adorn, Do You..., Where's The Fun in Forever

10. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...
oh Julian.  Sorry, but i forever associate Fiona with her.  So truthfully, I find her music to be difficult to get into.   You can tell that she's a songwriter, but her voice isn't found on radio so it takes a while to get use to.  When i heard this album, I didn't think it was much different to Extraordinary Machine, but when i don't know what to listen to, i just pop in Idler Wheel in hopes it would grow on me.  and since it's on the list, it grew on me.  But i still have a hard time explaining it.  It's jumpy, it's antsy   She doesn't sound like anyone else and maybe the way some of the songs sound "off" creates this challenging attempt to understand.  sometimes the melodies are beautiful, and other times, they sound dark.
Favorite Songs: Every Single Night, Jonathan, Regret

09. Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE
the best song wasn't the single.  I remember seeing articles about him coming out as "bi" like it was a big deal, but i never cared about that.  and that sadly clouded my judgment on this album because i thought the music media was trying to push him as a revolutionary artist.  So I had to step away from this album and revisit it months later and you know something, what an album.  I heard "Thinking Bout You" when it first leaked, but it sounds too good here. The more i listen, the more i understand.  I love the music, as it doesn't stay confined.  I guess The Roots would be a close comparison. And he has no fears.
Favorite Songs: Thinking Bout You, Pyramids, Lost

08. Taylor Swift - Red
Are all of her songs about a breakup?  Who cares.  As long as she is able to tell a story.  And it's funny because on my first listen, i thought this album was a piece of crap.  Familiar tunes, familiar themes.  But why do i keep coming back to it?  Because she's the voice of a generation.  o please, what a bold statement.  But like i said in my Song list, she writes as a way to release whatever she is feeling.  Just because she's famous doesn't make it mean less.  It sucks for her to find love when in the spotlight.  And who knows, maybe she dates people for song ideas.  Maybe she has a darker side.  But as Swift grows up, i feel like she's part of my life.  Even if i can't relate fully, I understand what she is saying.  and by doing so, i feel like i'm understanding myself.
Favorite Songs: All Too Well, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, The Lucky One

07. First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
I didn't know these girls were a legit band.  I'm sure like most people, I first heard them cover Fleet Foxes and that was suppose to be it.  So with talks of "Emmylou" being a song of the year contender, it open my eyes that they are really really good at being..well, folksy.  and of course, cutesy.  I like the old timely feel to them and even if the lyrics are fictional (i dont know), they feel personal and it warms my heart.
Favorite Songs: Emmylou, This Old Routine, To a Poet

06. Driver Friendly - Bury A Dream
Clearly I've listen to this album, but how long will it last?  That's a personal issue.  but maybe that's why i heart this album so much.  It makes me feel young and dumb. It sounds like a standard pop punk album, yet I'm connecting to the sounds and the words and the feel.  It's ridiculously catchy and the parts that are most catchy contains a meaningful "line" to hold on to.  I don't know how they can top themselves, but i'm looking forward to it.  But i guess what makes this album sound so special is because it feels like they've given it their all.  "Messidona" was suppose to be the star, but it was only there to hook me in.  The way this album disguise itself as a regular album only to dig deeper into my skin.
Favorite Songs: Messidona, Harsh, Harsh, Harsh, You're A Legend, Sir

05. Jessie Ware - Devotion
I shouldn't bring up Adele, but i have to.  See, I loved Adele last year, but so did everyone else.  She was untouchable, nobody could "insult" her because that girl could sing.  but because of that, i grew to hate all British singers.  but thank you Jessie Ware for entering my life.  She has the accent, but she's a powerhouse in her own right.  and dare i say it, i think her voice is sexier.  I can hear a bit of 80s pop and she's able to get me to dance in my head.
Favorite Songs: Wildest Moments, Night Light, Taking in Water

04. Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid M.A.A.D. City
aww, if only i had section.80 on my list last year to prove to people i'm not a phony.  I'm really happy for the positive reviews, and yeah, maybe that positive reinforcement helped push it higher on my list.  but i can't deny at how complete these songs are.  the production is top-notch and every song is good.  no joke.  I love his use of a Beach House sample and because i don't dive too deep in the hip hop world, i can't explain this, but something about his voice makes me want to listen.  Like, i feel like he has something important to say so i pay attention to the actually "words."  And i don't know if "catchy" is the right term, but literally each song has a memorable hook.
Favorite Songs: Backstreet Freestyle, Money Trees, Swimming Pools (Drank)

03. Beach House - Bloom
The progression between Devotion and Teen Dream was clear.  and i wondered, what else could they do?  and i was expecting them to give me the same comforting sound with a few misses, but wow, Bloom was a refinement of what they did on Teen Dream and then some.  Nearly every album this year, it took time to grow on me.  Bloom wasn't one of them.  I loved it on first listen.  Maybe because i was being safe, but back-to-back songs with their awe-escape sound.  yeah, it's hard to not get drifted away.  And of course, the vocals.  Victoria, your voice is so raspy, but i love it.  This band is mesmerizing.
Favorite Songs: Myth, The Hours, On The Sea

02. Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellian
The harmonies.  It doesn't matter, male + female harmonies are my weakness.  I actually didn't think too much about this album on the first listen because it wasn't challenging enough.  It wasn't catchy enough, but once it hit me, this album stayed with me.  Yeah, i can see why this would put people off, they are weird, but those small burst of spontaneity make me laugh.  They aren't traditional singers, but on this album, I'm able to identify with the lyrics more than their past work.  and even thought my first impressions were because it wasn't challenging enough, in the end, my favorite songs are the ones they kept it simple.  "i need ya and you're always on my mind."
Favorite Songs: About to Die, Dance for You, Impregnable Question

01. Twin Shadow - Confess
It's an interesting feeling when an artist takes elements of the past and really makes it their own.  Wasn't the new wave revival 10 years ago?  anyhow, even thought the 80s were my least favorite decade in music, i do remember seeing those "best of the 80s" infomercial so the way this album seemingly unwraps before my ears in full force while i can hear the influence of Prince, The Cure, Morrissey and maybe Phil Collins, it hits me.  And because of my lifestyle, it helps with my cardio.  The way it flows, the way it dances.  and even when some of the lesser stand out tracks, the hooks really grab me.  I love the honesty.  I can mouth off every word he said when i run.  I might not believe every single word he sings, but i believe his intention are genuine.   And i suppose that's all i need, something true to themselves.  This is the present.
Favorite Songs: Five Seconds, Run My Heart, I Don't Care

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