Best Albums of 2012

10) The Lumineers- The Lumineers

The truth is that this album was an impulse buy, after a night out, in a lonely hotel room in Providence, after watching the album’s hit single “Hey Ho” in a cell phone commercial. Too embarrassed by my purchase, I let it sit for a while. The songs, however, kept coming up on my randomly selected playlists, and I couldn’t help but to fall for it. Its folk rock plus group harmonies, tender lyrics, and interesting themes. It’s nothing too deep. Nothing too complicated. Just some lovely, mellow, gushy, folky music.

I like this song, “Submarines,” because who besides the Beatles ever sings about submarines? And who has sung about them seriously? not many people. In fact I can’t think of any. This is an upbeat little tune.

9) Jack White- Blunderbuss

I have had a thing for Jack White since the White Stripe’s self titled album all those years ago. Blunderbuss is so very Jack White. In the best way possible. It’s his first solo album (loved the Raconteurs too)- and he’s definitely working through some sh!t in this album. It feels like part confessional, part celebration, part rage attack.

My favorite song on the album is “Sixteen Candles” its funky, and kind of strange. And it rocks pretty hard.

8) Of Monsters and Men- My Head is an Animal

Iceland gave us Bjork and Sigur Ros. Now it has given us of Monsters and Men. I like mixed gendered vocalists (like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros). I really do. It makes me feel like I am listening into a couple’s most private conversations. (Is that a creepy thing to say?) “Little Talks” kept coming up in my Pandora station, and I would say WHAT IS THAT. Revel in its beauty for a minute, and then promptly forget about it. The female singer’s whispery voice is haunting though, and so are the big breakdowns.

7) Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

What can I say. I love everything about Lana. Her aesthetic is mind bogglingly beautiful and bizarre.Lana is a “Lolita lost in the hood” and I really began to understand her, after visiting LA for the first time this year. Stylized, over the top, melodramatic, perfect. It’s “Hollywood Sadcore” at its finest.

When I’m in a bad mood, and don’t want to get out of it, this is what I listen too. My favorite part of the album might be during the song “This is What Makes us Girls” when she says: “Remember how we used to party up all night/ Sneaking out and looking for a taste of real life/ Drinking in the small town firelight,” and then quietly whispers  “Pabst Blue Ribbon on ice.” Pure. Genius.

My only regret is that I don’t know her personally, so that I can drink cheap beers in the back of a borrowed pick up truck with her in the Hollywood Hills.

This song is also perfect in its melodrama. “Summertime Sadness” encompasses all the sweaty sad summer afternoons I’ve ever felt.

6)  Kendrick Lamar—Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City

I didn’t drink the Kendrick Lamar kool-aid as quickly as everyone else. It took a few times listening to “Poetic Justice”  to get into his debut album. In Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Lamar tells a story of a different Compton. Not the 2Pac kind of Compton that boasts of gun violence, but a more insecure perception of the same dangerous town. I like the subtleness of the beats, I can easily play it in the background and catch little gems and interesting hooks when I look up. The skits that separate the songs provide depth to the narrative style of the album.

While I tend to avoid the bit$h word, this song has a great tune. It could be the new YOLO.

5) Passion Pit- Gossamer

I didn’t get as into Passion Pit’s second album, even though I was always partial to the band, until I saw them at one of my favorite venues, the 9:30 club. If I had been in a bad mood going to the show, I would have done a 180 the moment these guys started playing. There is something so lighthearted and uplifting about such well executed electropop.

Ian Cohen from Pitchfork described it as “an overwhelming album about being overwhelmed, a bold and ultimately stunning torrent of maximalist musical ideas, repressed anger, and unchecked anxiety.”  And it might be true, maybe it is all a bit much. But sometimes, that is exactly what you need. Maybe this is why I can relate. There is something about the few first beats of “Take a Walk”  (which is what they also opened with in DC) that just makes you smile. And while most of my music is depressing, I will give you this one. Pure, unadulterated, happy, synthpop.

4) Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros- Here

I have a sweet spot for big group numbers, preferably with lots of clapping and transcendent harmonies. Oh yeah, and hippie love vibes. No really, there is something to be said about the idealism that Edward Sharpe and co. convey. Its like I’m in church, and they are the church choir. I can’t get enough.

I don’t think I can say it better than the Rolling Stones: “There’s gospel country, spaced-out chorales and back-to-the-land jamming; it’s a cosmic campfire singalong, broadcasting live from a magical place where the Age of Aquarius never ended and every Jesus beard in the house is completely unironic.” I’m sorry I’m not sorry for loving this so much. Also, the band is based on a fictional messiah (invented by the lead singer) named Edward Sharpe who “was sent down to Earth to kinda heal and save mankind…but he kept getting distracted by girls and falling in love.” Which is effing bonkers, and I love it.

Man on Fire is the first song on the album. The video is unbelievable. and life affirming. what else do you want?

3) Frank Ocean- Channel Orange

He’s come a long way from OFWGKTA. His debut album, Channel Orange, is a sweet reflection on life, love, longing, heart break, and youth. Jon Caramanica, from the New York Times compared the music to “lovers who tantalize but remain at arm’s length.” Ocean, more so than any other young hip hop artist, manages to transcend all of our  per-conceived notions about sex, race, gender, and even genre.

Call it neo-soul. Call it electro-funk.  I call it my go to for this year, to get me amped up and to wind down.

2) Miguel- Kaleidoscope Dream

Oh Miguel and your baby making music. This album came out of nowhere and now I can’t stop listening to it. This album is funky and weird, and transcends genre’s like Ocean’s Channel Orange does. This album is thick, and sexy, and a little psychedelic. What can I say, I love that synth. Miguel, who is half Mexican and half African American knows how to bridge genres. and make a girl feel real special. Put it on when you have company, or you know, when you’re all alone. I dare you to not start dancing to it. Double dog dare you. Its impossible.

Especially this song. drool. swoon.

1) Fiona Apple- The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

I was really looking forward to this one, and what can I say? She did not disappoint. The first time I listened to it I thought, this is the perfect break up album, full of raw, unedited, at times crazy, at times sad, at times triumphant lyrics and melodies.

Besides each song individually, the songs together, in the particular order that they are in, tell an amazing story. Its as if every time I start off the journey with “Every Single Night,” a bizarre, melody rich tune, I become captivated, and MUST listen to the whole album. “Valentine” tells of a fresh new love (an insecure love at that), while “Werewolf,” analyzes who is to blame for the pain and heartache  (“I can liken you to a werewolf the way you left me for dead, but then again I provided the full moon”) , to “Periphery” which reminds me of the bi-polar emotional roller coaster, conversations you have with yourself , when you try to convince yourself that he is a dipshit: “You let me down I don’t even like you anymore at all,” fades in into a quiet proclamation “Cause I don’t appreciate/ People who/ Don’t appreciate.”

No song on the album, however, comes close to the closing number. “Hot Knife,” the pièce de résistance proudly proclaims, as Fiona  must have done a million times to herself, and all the rest of us do while  singing along quietly in our little office cubicles: sometimes you’re the butter, sometimes you’re the hot knife, but no matter what:  you still got it girl.

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