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Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Top 10 Albums of 2012

Yes. It is that time again. The calendar year is winding down, the entire country is in a frenzy over Christmas, and that means it is time for me to reveal my 10 favorite albums of 2012. Now before I begin, I need to say a few things about music in 2012. Overall the year was filled with a lot of disappointments and a lot of surprises. However, overall I was really entertained by the music that was put out by various artists this year.

Also I would like to openly state. THESE ALBUMS ARE MY FAVORITES NOT YOURS. IF YOU DISAGREE PLEASE COMMENT WHY. There are a few albums that I wanted to enjoy this year, but simply could not because they were so bad. These include Kanye West's "Good Music Cruel Summer" and "Battleborn" from the Killers. I'm really sorry, but both of these sucked even though I really love both artists a lot. So let's get started.

10.  Good Kid, M.A.A.D City - Kendrick Lamar

This was hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar's second full length album. The first one was "Section.80" which I have honestly never listened to. I did however listen to this album, and I thought that the whole thing was very well put together. I immediately noticed how it told a fantastic story of Kendrick's life. My favorite part was how he embodied different personalities throughout the entire album of generic hip hop artists in the business today. It almost seems like he is poking fun at these douchebags. But the times when Kendrick actually raps as himself, he proves to be really intriguing and boasts some pretty strong lyricism. "Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City" was easily the best hip hop album of the year and it was a really nice surprise to me, since I was not expecting it at all.

9.  The 2nd Law - Muse

I've been a Muse fan for a long time, and the reason is because they are some of the greatest musicians when it comes to reinventing themselves. What started a small three-piece from England that almost mimic early Radiohead days with their heavy riffs, and screeching vocals has turned into an absolute global phenomenon. This record in particular boasts some of the most eccentric Muse work to date. I love songs like "Survival" and "Follow Me" because they are so powerful and bombastic. But I love songs like "Madness" and "Animals" because they show a side of Muse that maybe not everyone has seen yet. Overall this album was very good in my view. I thought the final four tracks were very poor however. First of all, Chris Wolstenholme, the bassist, cannot sing as well as Matt Bellamy, and the final two tracks were just very cheesy from the orchestral scores to the dubstep grinding. Had Muse worked a little more on the album's end, it may have been a lot better. But I still really enjoyed it.

8.  Handwritten - The Gaslight Anthem

Being a native of the state of New Jersey, naturally I may have heard of the Gaslight Anthem a bit more than some of you have. Well let me first start off by saying that these guys are very talented and they wear their influences right on their sleeve. It's clear that they mix the styles of local hero Bruce Springsteen with folksy-americana and punk style. I thought this album was great, but my one problem was that they turned down the punk aspect. It's a lot more laid back than "The 59' Sound" was a few years ago. Some of the tracks are a bit softer, but that doesn't detract from the fact that this is a nice little album. For example, "45" is one of my favorite songs of the year and I almost bent over backwards when I heard the Nirvana cover, "Sliver". Plus, Brian Fallon displays some FANTASTIC vocals and it really drives this band. Overall, I feel like this was good year for the band to release their breakout album. I really enjoyed it.

7. Tre! - Green Day

I was convinced at the start of 2012 that this would be the year for Green Day. They boasted about returning to their roots and giving us a 3 three great albums, but in reality this was a bit of disappointment. It turns out that the return to the punk roots that started this band got really boring really quickly on Uno! Dos was much worse in my opinon, but I really thought Tre was the standout. This is because the album not only has some of the best songs on the trilogy here but also because it is a more varied selection of music. Green Day puts out the Punk songs like Amanda, Missing You, and Sex Drugs and Violence but they also put out some really complete songs like X-Kid and Dirty Rotten Bastards. Although the trilogy overall was a bit of a let down, Tre was a nice surprise to me as an old Green Day fan. This band proves their resiliency once again after coming back when all of the critics had written them off.

6. Night Visions - Imagine Dragons

What a nice little surprise these guys were. Imagine Dragons broke onto the scene immediately with the amazingly catchy "It's Time" and I still think that it is the best song to be released this year. After hearing it, I was naturally really excited to hear some of the more creative music that these guys made. So when Night Visions released, I was a bit disappointed when I did not find the creativity of "It's Time". I did however discover a band that could tread a multitude of genres and make them sound good. The vocals are fantastic in songs like "radioactive" and "demons", and they really show the unique and fresh style of music that Imagine Dragons are all about. 

5. King Animal - Soundgarden

Anytime a band releases an album this solid 18 years after their previous album, you give them some motherfuckin' respect. I was never a huge Soundgarden fan, but I always enjoyed their stuff in the 1990's because they were a grunge band in every single way. Obviously Chris Cornell's POWERING vocals are a huge strength on King Animal, but I love the simplicity of this. Out of all of the albums released in 2012, this could be the only one that would suffice as a quintessential ROCK record. The single "Been Away Too Long" had me excited immediately, but I thought that Soundgarden really delivered in that they made a really complete album that is almost an hour long. Usually when bands that have been around this long still release music, people only stick around because of the previous work. With Soundgarden, this isn't the case. King Animal is a solid piece of work and the band has shown their resiliency which should excite fans of Rock n' Roll everywhere.

4. Celebration Rock - Japandroids

I love it when bands like this become popular. The White Stripes, the Black Keys, and now Japandroids have all proven that you don't need any elaborate plans in order to make a good rock record. This Vancouver two-piece utilizes some really upbeat rock music that can appeal to essentially anyone. The old time rock fans will love the fact these guys basically only use guitars and drums, and the newer-wave alternative fans will love how quirky Japandroids are: especially vocally. My favorite was Adrenaline Nightshift because of how happy and catchy it is. At the same time, it is rock music which is so difficult to find these days. These two men have absolute raw talent and they are able to capture that in a very personable way on this album. It almost speaks to me every time I hear it because of how relatable this music is. Japandroids are the breakout rock act of the year, which is why it is damn near impossible to catch these guys live now. This success will continue as long as they remain true to themselves as artists.

3. Koi No Yokan - Deftones

I've listened to Koi No Yokan about 20 times since it released in November of this year, and the raw yet sensitive emotion on this work is never lost on me. Chino Moreno's vocals differ from that of a typical "metal" singer in that his screams sound fantastic to me. Deftones are one of the realest, most genuine, and powerful groups on the scene right now. Even though they have been around for more than a decade, they are yet to experience their prime success. It shows on Koi No Yokan with the fantastic sounds on songs like "Swerve City", "Leathers", "Entombed" and "Rosemary" just to name a few. Deftones let the emotion bleed straight through here and they do not hold back. It's hard to find music like this, but I get really excited when I do. People don't give this album nearly enough credit as it is considerably better than anything else released this year.

2. Channel Orange - Frank Ocean

Yes, there is an R&B album at number 2 and no I am not fucking crazy, this album just happens to be one of the most groundbreaking releases in the genre's storied history. Frank Ocean transforms himself from the maturest member of the childish group, Odd Future, into a truly unbelievable artist. It's enough that Frank's voice sounds absolutely fantastic on just about every song (especially when he really reaches up for those high notes) but this album is also produced SO well. That itself may be an understatement. The sounds on here are so intoxicating; "Thinkin' Bout You", "Sweet Life" and "Pink Matter" (which features Andre 3000) are some of the many examples that make this a contender for album of the year. The thing about music is that it is  always at its best when it transcends the music itself. Frank Ocean exhibits an incredible amount of courage and integrity by embracing his sexuality and his personality not only as a musician, but as a human being. This is why I think Frank Ocean is artist of the year. He went from being some punk kid, to one of my favorite men in the industry. I admire what Frank Ocean is about, and I really enjoyed his music.

1. Blunderbuss - Jack White

I was speechless when this album first came out, and I still don't really know what to say. I can say that it is the most ambitious undertaking that anyone has ever taken in modern rock and roll. Jack White not only recorded to tape, but worked with two different session bands. In addition, the music on Blunderbuss is so strong and so varied that it satisfies everyone. There are times where Jack embraces his roots with the White Stripes via smashing guitars and scorching vocal on "Sixteen Saltines" and "I'm Shakin". But the beauty of this album is that it showcases a side of Jack White that no one has seen. This is the soulful, Nashville-blues energy that comes forward in "Freedom at 21" and "Moving Pieces". Jack White goes from a talented musician to a pure musical genius in the way he writes some of the melodies on these songs. For example, "Love Interruption" features a wonder vocal harmony (which is even more incredible live by the way). However, it has this intoxicating woodwind background that just completes the song and makes the sound so much more melancholy. It perfectly fits the track, and that is what Jack White is best at. There is a reason why Jack is one of the greatest musicians of our generation and that is because he LOVES what he does so much, and he has shown before that he does not give two shits about the fame, or what anyone thinks.