Monday, December 17, 2012

2012: The Year in Music

This has been quite the good year for music! The funny thing about this year is that I went into it expecting it to be underwhelmed. Generally when I have a year filled with awesome albums being released by lots of my favorite artists, the next year just generally tends to be not as good. But I should know by now to throw that rule out of the window because there are always fantastic new musicians to be discovered and always surprises to be had when it comes to old favorites pumping out new albums. I've tried twice to do posts highlighting individual albums, but it just hasn't worked. So I've decided to just do a top ten post here highlighting my ten favorite albums of the year. If you're looking for something to treat yourself to, I HIGHLY recommend all of these albums. They're all fantastic from beginning to end ;) Warning: Long post ahead.

#10 - Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror: It's rare that I love an artists second album better than their first, but I love Sleigh Bells' new album SO MUCH!! And I think they've grown so much from their first album and their first album was amazing. Their sound is instantly identifiable as them. Seemingly simple guitar and drum machines that create much more complex songs. With Reign of Terror, they show us a little bit more of a range than they did with their first album, Treats, which while was really good was a bit monotone. This one though...not monotone at all. Head on over to Stereogum to read their review of the album, watch a video and click some links in the article for free MP3s!

#9 - Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra - Theatre is Evil: God, I could write a whole post on this album but I'll try to keep it short. The post wouldn't even be all about the music, it would be about how the album was created. I'm sure you've all heard that she left her label and this album was 100% funded by her fans through kickstarter where she raised over 1 million dollars. And her fans definitely got what they paid for! I got an AMAZING vinyl edition of the album for my support and it's one hell of an album. It's always interesting to hear an artist talk about the album they're working on as they're working on never know what to expect when it's actually released. I'm always scared actually that it won't live up to it's expectation but dayum this album is good! It's like all of the good post punk rock of the 80's was written today...that's the best way to describe this album. And then there are songs like Trout Heart Replica that come out of nowhere and just pierce you and bring tears to your eyes. Such an amazing album. And in traditional AFP fashion, the album is available for download on her website for whatever you want to pay for it.

#8 - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes - Here: I don't know if this album would've made the top ten if I wouldn't have seen them live this year. But I did. And it was one of the most amazing shows I've ever seen. These people live music. They embody it. And they share their gift with everyone. They produce some of the most beautiful harmonies and some of the most soulful music out there today. You can feel yourself transported back to the late 60's/early 70's when you're listening to it and that's a time that I wasn't even living through. Another case of loving the second album even better than their first. Here's their Myspace page with plenty of songs to listen to! Wow..didn't know myspace was still out there :p

#7 - Anais Mitchell - Young Man in America: Wow. How had I never heard of Anais Mitchell before this year? I actually discovered her through Songpop which is a music trivia game app for the iphone...and other phones I'm guessing. But when I first heard her voice, I knew I needed more. So I downloaded a song. And then this whole album. And haven't stopped listening to it. I don't even know how to describe it. It's this beautiful, complex, haunting folk music. And her voice is so magical and unique. Without hearing it for yourself, the best way I can describe it is being in the vein of Joanna Newsom? Though I hate making comparisons like that. But seriously beautiful stuff here. Hear her by clicking here to get to an NPR page where she's compared to Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Gillian Welch :)

#6 - Lana Del Rey - Born To Die: I have MAJOR problems with Lana's new album, Paradise, but I'm going to ignore that album right now because seriously I don't know what the fuck she's doing because her first album was so goddamn incredible. Born to Die was easily one of my favorite albums of the year. I love her beautiful voice, her unique new take on songs..the way she bridges pop and hip hop with a throw back to an era long past. I got pissed off at all of the criticism that she got. That she relied too much on her looks when she obviously has talent. And then she went and released Paradise which is a move I just don't understand...BUT I'm just going to focus on Born To Die right now. Because honestly, I wish she would've just stopped there if she was going to do what she's doing with her career now. Here...listen how good the first album is!!

#5 - The XX - Coexist: Oh this album. another one that I just want to say SO GOOD! The XX creates this wonderful down tempo, laid back trip hop music that is just the perfect chill out music. I could almost say the exact same thing I said about the Sleigh Bells album even though they sound NOTHING like Sleigh Bells. Their music is deceptively simple seemingly mostly consisting of drum machines and guitars with gorgeous vocals and harmonies laid on top, but there's nothing simple about it. Trust me, not just anyone with a drum machine and a guitar can create something as special as this album. Here's a link where you can stream the album and there are some more links there to MP3s.

#4 Sigur Ros - Valtari: This is what I was talking about when I was talking about artists surprising you. I was NOT expecting a new Sigur Ros album this year! Jonsi (the singer for Sigur Ros) released an amazing solo album last year and did an extensive tour. And then came back with Sigur Ros and released and absolutely BEAUTIFUL album here. It's very classic Sigur Ros. Filled with rich, noisy, beautiful melodies and haunting vocals. And they've added an incredible fan based film project to this album. You can see all of the beautiful films here. I love the art for this album so much. When the album was released I ordered a package that got me the vinyl, a print of the album cover that I have framed in my living room and a tshirt :) Go listen to all of the Sigur Ros you can...because everyone should have Sigur Ros in their life! My best suggestion for listening to them is to click on the video link above, because Sigur Ros with visuals is just the best :)

#3 - Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It: I don't know how he smells but the genius part is about right. I stumbled across Perfume Genius on one of the music blogs one day and haven't looked back since. Perfume Genius is the brainchild of Mike Hadreas, an openly gay musician who creates some of the most beautiful music I've heard to tear worthy beautiful. Ana, you'd appreciate the opening line to NPR's article on his album "Perfume Genius' new album, Put Your Back N 2 It, reminded me of Sharon Van Etten's epic." This album is gorgeous modern folk and he writes music with so much soul and passion and it's an album where he just lays himself completely bare. If Nick Drake were still around and making music today, I could totally see him touring with him. I totally think he should team up with Owen Pallett and come play my dream concert in New Orleans. You know, the National could join in too if they wanted to. Go click on that NPR article to hear more of this gorgeous music!

#2 - Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...: Fiona Apple came back this year and she came back with one of her best albums to date. She came back with something that no one else is doing. Seriously this is an album that only she could write. It's dark, it's quirky at times, it's beautiful, it's everything a perfect Fiona Apple album should be. It's like a giant piece of poetry really. And I finally got to see her in concert this year! Something I've been wanting since the 90's! And it was everything I could hope for and so so so much more. I've rarely seen an artist leave so much of themselves on the stage like she does. She puts all of herself into her music and that's why her music is as amazing as it is. And this album is most certainly amazing!! Hope we don't have to wait years again for another album, but I gladly will if it's anything like this one. Look at that, she has a myspace page too with music to listen to for free!

#1 - Grimes - Visions: I have worn this CD OUT! But I'm so not even close to sick of it yet. I discovered Claire Boucher's music project, Grimes at the beginning of this year and I have been obsessed with her ever since. She makes the most amazing music I've heard in a long time. It's refreshing, it's new, and it's unlike anything else out there. It's literally her, a drum machine, and a keyboard and she makes the most intricate sounding songs you can imagine. And her voice is so gorgeous and unique. I can't get enough of it. On top of all of this magic, she's just an incredibly awesome person too. Ana linked to an incredible interview with her that Spin did in Lady Business' last Sidetracks post. I highly suggest you read it to understand this incredible musician just a bit more. For me, it was instant love with Grimes, but I like stuff with a bit of an electronic beat to begin with anyway...if it's not your thing at first...keep listening. I suspect she'll grow on you. I hope she never stops putting out music. I'll never stop listening. Here's her page with lots of awesome videos.

And with that I am fucking exhausted!!! This post took so long to do, lol. I hope I introduced at least ONE person to ONE artist that they may fall in love with. It'll all be worth it if that happened. And if not, well at least I now have a record of my 10 favorite albums of 2012. And now I'll go give my bleeding eyeballs a rest. What are some of your favorite albums of 2012? Anything you're looking forward to in 2013?


Becca Lostinbooks said...

I have only heard of 2 of these artists. I am going to look the others up on you tube pronto! Each one is described with such enthusiasm!

Vasilly said...

Lana Del Rey's latest is awful?! That sucks but I'm glad that I didn't start listening to it. Born to Die is one of my family's favorite albums.

Bookfool said...

I am such a musically boring person. Apart from a few artists my sons have introduced me to in recent years, I am pretty much stuck in a time warp -- just listening to the same music I listened to when I was your age.

Chris Howard said...

Becca, Hope you find some new stuff that you fall in love with!

Vasilly, Her voice is still gorgeous and the music is probably better than the first album, but the lyrics...omg the lyrics are just so damn unfortunate. I don't know what the hell she's doing. She's selling herself as a sex object is what she's doing it, and to the point of just embarrassment. Go google the lyrics to her song "cola"...its sad.

Nancy, I have times where I listen to the same stuff over and over again too :p I didn't listen to as much new stuff this year as I have in the past, but the new stuff I listened to I loved! There's nothing wrong with sticking to what you know you love :)

Literacy-chic said...

I hope you are doing well this week leading up to the holidays. I read your music post, and I have a couple of discoveries to share. The first is Bakelite 78. I found them on a site that listed "steampunk music," and they range from lounge lizard to kind of a jazzy swing, but their lyrics are fairly morbid, so you get this weird juxtaposition of the upbeat and twisted which is nice.

The second is a thrash band that has produced a Christmas album. I can't get into the regular stuff--the death metal vocals are offputting to me. But the Christmas album is pretty cool.

And finally, I have fallen in love with a Celtic band called Serious Kitchen and its individual members. Take a listen to the song "The Blacksmith" and see if you don't absolutely fall in love with Nick Henessey's voice!!

The other members, Vicki Swan and Johnny Dyer, have a fabulous album called The Stones on the Ground that features amazing vocals as well as great instrumentation. Have you ever heard of a nyckelharpa? That's the instrument Vicki Swan plays. I swear it sounds like a hand-held folk-cello. Look for the song "Broken Token."

Enjoy and have a great week!

Literacy-chic said...

Oops! Sorry for the stunning lack of hyperlinks. :(

Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf said...

Well, I can see a couple of albums being downloaded soon...