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Friday, April 12, 2013

Albums of the Year 2012 (part I)

 I wrote this during December and January and I thought I published it. I didn't actually. Mostly written in airports, so you can blame the clunky writing to jetlag. As always, I follow music reviews a lot cause that's the only way I can find most of these bands (that and soundtracks) so the sample is not free of bias. Although the ranking is. And I'm pretty sure if Jai Paul released an entire album of 'Jasmine'-esque quality, it'd take the #1 spot. Maybe next year

10. Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas

Why: I'm still listening to this album while typing this. Classic Cohen with the themes of depression, longing, love and faith. The tones of religious seriousness intertwine with the usual sarcastic humor, with Cohen starting to sound more later-years and nostalgic. Cohen fans will love it. Actually, everyone will.

9. Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Why: Punk classic style for the teenage wasteland with lyrical absolutes of good and evil. High intensity  but it's really all about the classic style lyrics of coming-of-age with love, revenge and growing up. In a sense it's like Post-Nothing (the debut album) grew up.

8. Bobby Womack - The Bravest Man in The Universe

Why: I thought Bobby Womack was dead (not ironically in a career sense, I assumed he'd actually passed away). Still alive and progressing, soul music with electronic, post-dubstep beats is as innovative and unusual as can be. Womack's scratchy voice is the familiar in this album that music fans of multiple generations and genres should take to.

7. Grimes - Visions

Why: Grimes is weird. But cool weird. Electronic music is always weird, but Grimes is actually becoming more accessible with each album although still hazy, multilayered and inventive. It's a very much an album you can get lost in, one which is sensory. Full of catchy hooks, which usually isn't what you expect from innovative records.

6.   Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball

Why: I like Springsteen, as everyone knows. And he continues to put out some of the best political and confrontational music of his career with this album. It's a high energy album, seeming to be an outpouring of genuine and correct anger at the state of affairs. A much darker album than a lot of his earlier work although still steeped in musical traditions. Less musically innovative than earlier records but the lyrical content more than makes up.

5. Kendrick Lamar- good kid, m.A.A.d city

Why: A much more low-production album than usual these days which puts the focus on the lyrics than the beats. And that's good because the lyrics are brilliant in their portrayal of Compton, in the voices of several different characters and flows. Kendrick weaves a story in this album of dilemmas and troubles avoided in the inner city with a scope that seems more country or rock album, at times. Yet for all the depth it is still immensely listenable with the kind of enjoyment attainable from either superficial or in-depth listening. 

4. Tame Impala -Lonerism

why: The most psychedelic album since Pink Floyd but pop-ish too. It's like The Raptures doing the background music while Britney Spears sings, but in a good way not a clash. The melodies (which are the strength of the album) are less like the music to wallow in of Innerspeaker and more like running while people throw water balloons at you. It's more direct.

3. Mumford and Sons- Babel

why: Grammy for Album of the Year went to a deserving pick (unusual). The lyrics are pretty standard and close to the last album. it's really about the quiet to loud thing the band does with their music to deliver catchy tunes with music just loud enough to border on noise. As close to a pop record as any folk record can be.

2. Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream

why: An album of the finest bedroom music since Marvin Gaye and Barry White. Brilliant lyrics of love, sex and eroticism with just enough detail to paint a picture and still leave lots to imagination. The melodies are also enough to induce a dreamscape (of the kaleidoscopic kind the album name suggests). R&B is back and back strongly, but there's no one else doing music like Miguel, who has the ability to create something completely new but cloak it in a sense of familiarity.

1. Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE

why: R&B and soul is back. But this album is a multitude of genres including funk, electro, pop and psychedelic all of which Frank Ocean has the vocal range to accompany.  The lyrics are a strange mix of the usual drugs, sex and love as well as the unconventional of metaphors, surreal images (including Cleopatra and Forrest Gump) and conversations. It's a mindtrip mix of experience and imagination fused together in a mosaic reminiscent of your mind in the moments just before you fall asleep.