Nine Best Albums of 2012
As my colleague the musicSLOB as recently posted a list of the top ten best albums of this past year, in addition to top ten lists being the norm in terms of music lists, I wish to step out on a limb and offer you a collection of the top NINE albums of 2012, Musicsnob approved.
1. Miniature Tigers Mia Pharaoh
In the midst of the almost overwhelming flow of new independent music onto the scene this year, Mia Pharaoh was a veritable diamond in the rough. In their first albums, FORTRESS and Tell it to the Volcano, Miniature tigers demonstrated a relatively run-of-the-mill, monochromatic semi-acoustic style. However, in Mia Pharaoh, Miniature Tigers underwent a significant metamorphosis and sound like a completely different band making a very original statement. Mia Pharaoh presents an unexpectedly catchy and very original blend of cheesy, 80′s pop synth lines with falsetto vocals, and driving, bass-laden rhythm. Imagine the beginning of every bad comedy movie you have ever seen from the 80′s and the bad synths playing when the title of the movie flashes up on the screen. That is how Mia Pharaoh begins with the start of the first track: ‘Sex on the Regular.’ If it were not for the blaring sexual innuendo in the lyrics sung in falsetto, I would not have appreciated Miniature Tigers’ ironic tribute to 80′s pop. In addition to my appreciation of this irony, I must admit, that Miniature Tigers’ modernization and refinement of 80′s pop stylistically, is quite catchy. Therefore, because Miniature made me enjoy 80′s pop AND falsettos, they get the spot as number one album of 2012.
2. Beck I Just Started Hating Some People Today
Beck has been one of my personal favorite artists since he released his first album Mellow Gold in 1994. Beck has explored a number of styles ranging from lurid, low-fi blues to psychedelic distorted rock, to upbeat and disorienting tunes. Although I Just Started Hating Some People Today is a two-song single, it documents Beck revisiting the sound and feel of his first few albums of the nineties after his newer, slightly more upbeat albums of the 2000′s including Guero, the Information, and Modern Guilt. Specifically, the track on I Just Started Hating Some People Today by the same name resembles the psychedelic blues of Stereopathetic Soul Manure and the second track on this album, ‘Blue Randy,’ resembles a revisited feel of the floating and engrossing melodies of Sea Change. The fact that I Just Started Hating Some People Today demonstrates the revival of one of my personal favorite musicians revisiting his roots makes it my second favorite album of this past year. As a corollary, if you have not yet listened to Beck, I highly recommend that you do so, and start at the beginning.
3. Geographer Myth
After listening to Geographer’s first EP, Animal Shapes released in 2010, I was enthralled with the flowing melodies and driving rhythms. Although I felt that Animal Shapes did everything right that an independent, mainly synthesizer and vocals-driven album could hope to do, the album did not reach any sort of resolution and left me wanting more. Thus, when Geographer released his first full-length LP this year, Myth, I got the resolution I had wanted. The fact that Myth even featured certain tracks off of Animal Shapes in addition to new tracks, I managed to get the same sense of wonder at Geographer’s music while getting the sense of resolution I had wanted. Therefore, Myth ranks as third in terms of my favorite albums of this year because it gave me my cake, and let me eat it too.
4. Best Coast The Only Place
After Best Coast’s first album, Crazy for You (2010), I began to suspect that Best Coast had officially refined the Nor-Cal sound. Once they released The Only Place, it was official, Best Coast had come up with the Nor-Cal state anthem. Thus, The Only Place is one of this year’s top albums: nuff said.
5. Madchild Dope Sick
So, because my rating an underground hip-hop album as the fifth best album of the year may detract from my ‘snobiness,’ I must justify the snob-worthiness of this album by stating that it is in fact underground hip-hop and incredibly fresh underground hip-hop at that. Since Madchild got off Percocet recently, his rhymes ‘shine’ more than ever before and his flow is buttery. Although I generally find rappers with high voices to lack flow, Madchild manages to be buttery and trebly at the same time, while incorporating surprisingly witty rhymes, despite their lurid subject matter.
6. K. Flay Eyes Shut
Yes, okay, this is another hip-hop album, but it is must more obviously snobby because K.Flay went to Stanford and engages in mild nerd-core hip-hop by rhyming about calculus and calculators. I tend to strongly dislike nerd-core because it tends to be novelty music with no actual rap skill presented. However, K. Flay has insane flow, and when coupled with her nerdiness, Eyes Shut definitely ranks in the top nine albums of this year
7. Matt & Kim Lightning
See this link, that should explain why this album ranks in the top nine of this past year.
8. Silversun Pickups Neck of the Woods
In their first albums, Silversun Pickups seemed to be searching for inspiration in all the wrong places. They were either too upbeat and poppy or excessively and cheaply depressing. However, with Neck of the Woods, they found themselves: they are a progressive rock noise band making music for surfers. The opening track, ‘Skin Graph’ pretty much captures it all. It begins with flanged guitars, jumps into breaks with siren-like distorted synths, bleeds into choruses with fast paced drums and lazy vocals, then culminates in refrains of screaming vocals, distortion, and fast drums. This is only one example of the innovation of this album, but it captures the feel of the whole record.
9. The New Mastersounds Out on the Faultline
The New Mastersounds are hands down the best new funk band on the scene in the past ten years. Anything and everything they produce is golden. They not only make their music have the same feel as hey-day funk of the 70′s, but they incorporate modern jazz style and technique to give this classic music a new flare of innovation.