Ashley’s Top Albums of 2012: 10-1

23 Dec

Here we go.

The big time.

The top 10.

Are you excited?  I am.

I broke this post up in the first place because I didn’t want this post to be 20 pages long.  But, I am more than ready to wrap this thing up now.

Lets get to it, shall we?

Previous posts:

50-41

40-31

30-21

20-11

10) Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light

Image

What?

Last year I had an awesome day where I listened to nothing but psych/drug rock from the 60s through today.

That was when I first heard Spiritualized.  And, I will confess, until this point, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space was the only album of theirs I had heard.  So, maybe that was a bit of a faux pas on my part, moving right on to their newest album, but I don’t regret it.

Clearly.  Top ten?  I’ll take that every day.

There was, of course, always that fear that I had over-hyped this album for myself.  What really pushed me over the edge of love was making my top music videos list.  It was when I saw the video to “Hey Jane” and fell more in love with that song than I had ever previously felt that I really realized this was one of the best things I’ve heard this year.

When I first turned it on, I was a little afraid.  It almost seemed like this was just a mainstream rock album with none of those little wonky moments expected from the space rockers, but honestly, those fears lasted about 5 minutes total.  Through the 1 minute long intro track (“Huh”) to the mid-point of “Hey Jane” when it turned into a neo-psychadelia solo section.

The greatest thing, of course, is that the end of the album is the best part.  The run from “Mary” through “So Long You Pretty Things” is one of the best stretches of the year.

Best Track:

Other tracks of Note: “Hey Jane”, “Mary”

9) Frankie Rose – Interstellar

InterstellarHow many times this year have I said that a favorite album of mine came way of my husband insisting I listen to it?

Well, I’m about to say it again.

It was one of those nights at work where I needed a lot of music to get me through the shift.  I was also planning on brushing up on my 2012 releases, so Travis says, “Hey, listen to Interstellar by Frankie Rose.  She’s one of the gals from the Dum Dum Girls.”  Well, I usually listen to the albums he suggests, because he turns out to be right most of time.  The problem is, I’m not super familiar with The Dum Dum Girls besides the fact that they’re a bit of a punk band with some Bangles-like moments on occasion.

This is nothing like what Interstellar sounds like, and I think it took me 3 or 4 tracks for my brain to adjust to what I was hearing.

I haven’t heard something that sounds this much like The Cure since, possibly, the last Cure album.

It’s got its dream pop moments, but on tracks like “Know Me” and “Gospel/Grace” some of those riffs seem lifted right out of 80s-Cure numbers.  I love it.

I guess I probably screwed Frankie Rose out of being my Favorite New Artist by arbitrarily deciding that by being in the Dum Dum Girls she was ineligible.

That was dum. HAH!

Best Track:

Other tracks for note: “Gosple/Grace”

8) Shearwater – Animal Joy

shearwater_animal-joy-200x200Shearwater are turning in to one of my favorite bands.  This album and their live show cemented that.

Since Rook, Shearwater has been on constant rotation for me.  Their sprawling epics of what I can only refer to as Chamber Folk, pull you in and shake you with their almost otherworldly power.

Lead single, “Animal Joy” starts quiet, with Meilburg’s falsetto and a guitar dominating, and but as each build, so does the instrumentation until Meilburg is screaming and the guitar is blaring, the drums are pounding and your brain is almost exploding.  I don’t know how you can label these guys as folk, except for the lyrical content.

I was afraid the sound would not translate when I saw them live, as the venue was far too small to contain the sound.  In a sense, it was, but it was not to the music’s detriment, more than just my ears.

Best Track:

Other tracks of note: “Open Your Houses (Basilisk)”

7) Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man

I truly do not like this album cover.

I truly do not like this album cover.

From lead single, “Laura” forward, it was pretty obvious this was not going to be the same album as Two Suns, one of my favorite albums ever.  It was also pretty obvious this was going to be a good album.  No, no, sorry, a great album.

“Laura” didn’t have that mysterious and haunting melody to it that “Daniel” (the lead single from the previous album) had, but it was beautiful in its own way and lyrically was brilliant.  Let’s face it, “Daniel”, an ode to Ralph Macchio’s character in The Karate Kid had some silly source material.

Meanwhile, the rest of the album does contain those heavy beats one expects from a Natasha Khan release.  This is the heaviest dream pop you’re likely to find, more in the realm of synth pop, but still leaving you with that heavy druggie feeling when it’s over.

She even delves into a few new genres with one track having a plunderphonics break-down in the middle of it.

If I had one negative thing to say about this album is that it is lacking the stand-outs of Two Suns.  It has great songs, but it’s missing that song that really just changes your life when you hear it (which, let’s face it, silly lyrics aside, was “Daniel”).   It’s a fantastic album of consistency, with the only sub-par track being “Oh Yeah”.  If sub-par means only good and not great, you’re on to something.

Best Track:

Other tracks of Note: “Laura”, “Marilyn”, “Deep Sea Diver” “Rest Your Head”

6) Japandroids – Celebration Rock

Celebration RockThis year, The Gaslight Anthem got beat at their own game.  Part of the reason why I was so disappointed by Handwritten was because I was too busy being taken with this album.

Japandroids are definitely a harder band than The Gaslight Anthem, but that punk sound is still there, maybe not traditional punk, there are definitely rock songs on here and it’s more structural in nature than what you’d expect from punk, but it’s a very freeing album to hear.  Those songs of youth that build into escape numbers.  Springsteen.  You know.

As the fireworks sound on opener “The Nights of Wine and Roses” until the fireworks end on closer “Continuous Thunder” you’re taken on a non-stop journey of blindingly powerful music.  Lyrically, instrumentation-wise, these songs pull you through the already short run-time at break-neck speed.

Best Track (there’s absolutely no question, this is probably the best song released this year):

Other tracks of note: “The Night of Wine and Roses”, “Younger Us”, “Continuous Thunder”, “Fire’s Highway” (jeez, that only leaves three other songs)

5) Chairlift – Something

SomethingThis is a band of almost didn’t happen right here.  First impressions, are of course, a hell of a thing.  My first impression of Chairlift was their iPod song.  I hate that song.  I’m not even going to dignify it with the three seconds it would take me to go see what the name of it is.

Meanwhile, I decided to listen to this album anyways, because it was getting good reviews.  First impression here, “Sidewalk Safari” also almost kept me away.  I’ve come around to the song since, but it was that cutsey little jangly music I had been expecting Something to sound like, and I just wasn’t in the mood.

Thankfully, I left the album on for one more song and that was all it took.

There have been so many moments this year where Chairlift has done something to keep me in love.

First there was their live show, my last moment of Lollapalooza at an after-show in a bar (the same bar I saw Diiv and Shearwater in, it’s an awesome bar).

Then there was the Japanese version of “I Belong in Your Arms”, already my favorite song by them, but I found that video too cute for words, with its basic Japanese and subtitles my 5-year-old Nihongo skills could read.

But, of course, the biggest thing they did was the “Met Before” video, which, I have already lauded with praise as my favorite video of the year.

The only problem with this LP is that it’s an album where the highs are higher than most anything released this year, marred by almost as many lows.  I mentioned earlier in a different part of this list that the majority of the time I would take a consistently good album over an album with high peaks.  I was thinking of this album when I said that, as the exception to the rule.

Best Track:

Other Tracks of Note: “Wrong Opinion”, “Met Before”

4) Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

bruce-springsteen-wrecking-ballI don’t know if this is really a great album, or if I’m just so in love with Bruce Springsteen that he can’t do anything wrong in my eyes.

I know that’s not true because Human Touch and Working on a Dream exist. So, I desperately hope that it’s the former and I love this album on its own merits.

There are a great many.  There are some lyrical clunkers here, like opener “We Take Care of Our Own” and the album doesn’t start too strongly, but once it gets going on “Death to My Hometown” it never stops.  This is an arena rock album, an americana album and most importantly, a Bruce Sprinsteen album and it is worthy of that title.

The ballads are probably as strong as the rockers, if not more so.  “This Depression” is one of my favorite songs this year, as well as mostly derided “Rocky Ground” (my favorite song on the album).

Of course, I can’t mention live shows for other artists and not mention Springsteen.  Seeing him live this year was one of the most disappointing moments of my year, but it was not his fault, it was mine.  I didn’t buy tickets early enough, so I ended up in seats at Wrigley Field.  My first concert at Wrigley, and without GA tickets, it will certainly be my last.  The sound was horrendous and I felt like I was watching a party from the outside looking in.  And yet!  The show was still amazing.  Tom Morello showed up, as well as Eddie Vedder, it was awesome.  It’s just a testament to how good Springsteen is live.

Best Track:

Other tracks of note: “This Depression”, “Wrecking Ball”, “Land of Hope and Dreams”, “We Are Alive”

3) Metric – Synthetica

syntheticaAt this point, I’m taking it on blind faith alone for the reason that I am apparently the only person who likes this album.

There isn’t one song on it I don’t like.  Not a single song.  That’s saying a lot.

I find every track to be just as powerful and stadium rock goodness as on the last album.

It’s one of the funnest albums I’ve heard all year, and I’m always happy to hear a traditionally rock album in this era of dream pop, synth pop, post-punk, post-rock, jangle pop, doom-gaze.

Then, of course, you have the addition of Lou Reed.  I am a sucker for almost anything featuring Lou Reed, except, of course, an entire album featuring Lou Reed and Metallica.  You can take that ludicrous idea and shove it somewhere, I think you know where.

And of course, they were excellent live :).

Best Track:

Other Tracks of Note: “Clone”, “Artificial Nocturne”, “Breathing Underwater”, “Synthetica”

2) The Killers – Battle Born

battlebornThis is the first time since I have started making lists (in 2008) that The Killers/Brandon Flowers did not take the number one spot.  It’s not Battle Born‘s fault, #1 is just that good.

The Killers are one of my favorite things to have ever happened to music, if I may be hyperbolic for a moment. It’s strange how, the band (along with the Strokes) that ushered in the synth-pop era is now a bastion of Arena rock, but they still know how to work the synthesizer, as they proved on this album, several times.  It’s not Hot Fuss and it never will be again, but songs like “Runaways” and “The Way It Was” give us a glimmer of that old sound, and it’s a nice little nod.

This album, however, does live in the power of its rock songs.  Again, “Runaways”, “Matter of Time” (a song I spent most of the year calling “The Meat Loaf song”) and “Miss Atomic Bomb” the strongest contenders here.

What pushed The Killers into the #2 spot was that live boost, which catapulted the album from 4 to 2, so maybe I’m being a little unfair, but I doubt it, I love this band and I always will.  4/4 albums now that I consider favorites of all time have more than cemented that.

Best Song:

Other Songs of Note: “Flesh and Bone”, “Runaways”, “Miss Atomic Bomb”, “The Rising Tide” (Ironic, I know, if you read my review of the concert), “Battle Born”

Alright, that’s all for today, it’s been fun, I’ll see you all in the future with some album reviews, I’m done with lists for quite a whil–what?

I forgot something?

*looks over list*

I don’t think I did.

Anyways, as I was saying, I’m ready to go back to posting review and news and no– What are you talking about I didn’t post my #1 album?  Of course I did.

*looks*

Oh…I guess you’re right.

Ah well, it’s not that important.

Ok OK! If you insist:

1) Wild Nothing – Nocturne

NocturneIn 2010 I came across Wild Nothing all on my lonesome.  I was so proud, I don’t often get to point my husband in the direction of artists, but this time I was the winner.

As the year came to a close, Gemini ended up at #8.

My how things have changed.  As the years passed by, I listened to the album again…and again…and again.  Eventually culminating in this: I made a list of my top 100 albums earlier this year and Gemini ended up at #23.  That’s higher than Transformer by Lou Reed, The Bends by Radiohead and Abbey Road by The Beatles.

To say that I was excited for their next album was an understatement (I feel like I’ve said this at least three times already about albums this year).  For the first time, hype that high was met with something far exceeding my expectations.

Nocturne took that beautiful dreaminess from the last album and improved it into full songs, music and lyrics (something he has struggled with just a little).

Nocturne has some of the greatest songs on it I have ever heard.  My heart swells to the point of bursting when I listen to “Through the Grass”.  I want to drive around and listen to “Paradise” on repeat until I’m stranded in the middle of nowhere because I was so distracted I forgot to get gas.  The title track is gorgeous, “Shadow” was a deceptively rocking lead single, “Only Heather” is a beautiful ballad, I could go on and on and on.

Please, just listen to the album, it’s all I can say, really.

And then of course, there was live.  I saw them live on the last album’s tour, and they were not good.  The music  was, but lead singer (and only real member of the band) Jack Tatum is a bit of a shy fellow and didn’t do well with the crowd, but he’s improved on this exponentially.  The DIIV/Wild Nothing double-billing I saw this year was one of the best (besides Prince and The Killers) and it was at that same bar, The Empty Bottle, that I saw so many wonderful shows at.

Best Track:

Other Tracks of Note: “Shadow”, “Nocturne”, “Only Heather”, “This Chain Won’t Break”, “Paradise”, “Counting Days”

2012 was a year of music for me.  I saw more shows than I ever have before, I heard more good music than I ever have before.  It has been one of the best years of my life, if you can believe it.  Just a lot of pure bliss all around.

I’m so glad the world didn’t end so that I can enjoy what’s coming in the future.  This is my list of upcoming releases for 2013 so far:

The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law

Lady Gaga – Artpop

Common – TBA

Charli XCX – TBA

Black Sabbath

Pearl Jam – TBA

Free Energy – Lovesign

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – //

Foals – Holy Fire

Snoop Dogg – Reincarnated

Eels – Wonderful, Glorious

Local Natives – Hummingbird

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – We the Common

Nick Cave – Push the Sky Away

Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

Shout Out Louds – OPTICA

Low – The Invisible Way

Mark Kozelek – Like Rats

Mark Kozelek and Jimmy LaValle

Arcade Fire – TBA

FIDLAR – FIDLAR (Leaked)

Iamiwhoami – bounty

Iceage – You’re Nothing

Earl Sweatshirt – Doris

Foxygen – We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

Darwin Deez – Songs for Imaginative People

Wavves – TBA

With Yo La Tengo and Toro y Moi already releasing favorites, it’s shaping up to be a good one.

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