Tuesday, December 4, 2012

10 Awesome Albums of 2012

As another calendar year nears its end, it’s that time once again to reflect back on an endless heaping of new music that blessed us with its presence in 2012.

In today’s modern era, music comes across so fast and furious that it’s practically a full time job keeping up with everything that passes by giving a fair assessment before we’re already on to the next. Oh, the major stresses of a music nerd. With that being said, here’s a short list of a few albums in no particular order that stood out this year.

Father John MistyFear Fun
Folk singer/songwriter Joshua Tillman having already released a slew of recordings since 2005 under the name J. Tillman, and most recently having departed the drum stool of the already critically successful Fleet Foxes, to record for the first time under the moniker of Father John Misty. The perfect blend of infectious melody and melancholy arrangements at its best. Key tracks: Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings; Only Son of the Ladiesman 

SoundgardenKing Animal
When a band breaks up and decides to record an album of brand new material after a 15 year hiatus, generally expectations of anything decent to appear are usually beyond low. But somehow, Soundgarden has beaten those odds with King Animal with this collection of songs that has seamlessly picked up from where 1996’s Down On The Upside left off. The year’s biggest pleasant surprise, bar none. Key tracks: Non-State Actor; Eyelids Mouth

Alabama ShakesBoys & Girls
Debut album from this southern rockabilly quartet lead by the already distinguishable big-voiced talent of Brittany Howard and co. - it offers a bluesy blend of roots rock and soul that has already drawn comparisons to the Black Keys and Sharon Jones. Having accomplished both critical and commercial success in such a short amount of time and arenas getting larger with each continuing tour, only one can imagine bigger things are yet to come. Key tracks: Hold On, I Ain’t The Same

Richard HawleyStanding At The Sky’s Edge
Having mostly a strong UK following, Hawley’s highly textured seventh studio album is distinctively guitar heavy opposed to his rather known softer overtones on recent albums. Hawley’s trademark melodic baritone accompanied by prominent soaring arrangements, not to mention his 1950’s greaser guise, can only leave one wondering why this one-time Pulp and Longpigs band member hasn’t really caught on State side. A diamond in the rough to say the least.
Key Tracks: Leave Your Body Behind You; Don’t Stare At The Sun

Band Of HorsesMirage Rock
Fourth album from this very bearded tandem, produced by legendary UK producer Glyn Johns (Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Clash), doesn’t stray too far off the familiar harmonic path that BOH are mostly known for, but a definite and more polished vintage CSNY and early Eagles influence is noticeable opposed to the band’s trademark indie overtone. Fans of the band’s first two albums may have jumped ship due to the departure and slight tweak in BOH’s familiar sound this time out, but credit should undoubtedly be given for a fine effort here. Key Tracks: Slow Cruel Hands Of Time; Dumpster World

Bat For Lashes The Haunted Man
Natasha Khan, AKA, Bat For Lashes, not only got naked for the album cover, she definitely sets the tone right from the get-go of opening track, Lilies, straight thru to the end. For this dark third full length, Khan’s moody charisma and powerful vocals once again heavily draws on Kate Bush shivery comparisons. A definite haunting, yet captivating collection of songs here. Plus, I defy anyone to find a more mesmerizing and spellbinding track than Laura this year. Anyone? 
Key tracks: Laura; Rest Your Head

Jack WhiteBlunderbuss
Jack’s debut solo album came with huge expectations after it was announced this would be his first official release without having one of his many band names attached to it (White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather). For some, this album just never really caught on right away, even after multiple listens. But if you had the opportunity to actually see White perform these songs live with one or both of his two backing bands, The Peacocks and The Buzzards respectively, it brought an entire new life to the album. Jack White is one of the most prolific musicians in recent history. Really – is there anything he can’t do at this point? Key tracks: Sixteen Saltines; Freedom At 21

Neil Young Psychedelic Pill
Easily the most prolific aging rocker from his generation, Neil Young consistently releases some sort of new material on average every year and a half, releasing two separate albums this year alone (Americana earlier this year) with his (sometimes) band, Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse is a notoriously sloppy outfit, and by far from a tight ensemble by any means, but show me a more beloved garage rock band that just released their best album in over two decades. Key tracks: Walk Like A Giant; Born In Ontario

Japandroids Celebration Rock
This Vancouver, BC duo’s sophomore album is an explosion of fist-pumping hyper-activity that caught on to the masses this year in droves. The albums has been described as the perfect mix of punk and classic rock, and has even drawn comparisons to the likes of The Replacements, The Who, and The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. If ever in need of a pick-me-up, get your team jacked before a big game, or to even get a party riled – look no further than right here.
Key tracks: The House That Heaven Built; The Nights of Wine and Roses

Sigur Rós Valtari
After a long hiatus and singer Jonsi having done the solo thing for a while, Sigur Rós returned this year with their six studio album, Valtari. Nothing strays too far off the path of what fans would expect of the Icelandic quartet, but to find a more soothing – more graceful and atmospheric set of songs accompanied by such gorgeous melodies and Jonsi’s angelic croon - it's beyond comprehensible.
Key tracks: Ég anda; Ekki Múkk

Bonus Guilty Pleasure 
Lana Del ReyBorn To Die
Sure she’s easy on the eyes, has femme fatal sex appeal, and has appeared on more than enough magazine covers to last a life time, but this smoky voiced beauty queen has taken her fair share of flack regarding her questionable talent as a singer outside of a four-walled studio (just search out her Saturday Night Live appearance without cringing) and the sometimes unflattering banter that comes out of her mouth.
But at the end of the day, if anything is undeniable - Lana Del Rey released a very good album this year front to back. Besides, who doesn’t like Video Games? Whether you’re actually willing to admit it - that's another thing.

Other honourable mentions:
Spiritualized Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Tame Impala Lonerism
Nada Surf The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy
Best Coast The Only Place
Beach House - Bloom

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