All week long we’ve been looking at our staff’s choices for the best albums of 2012 five LPs at a time. Our submissions include all styles of music from bluegrass to jazz, jam to indie, electronica to rap, as well as everything in between. At the end of the day, we’re a music blog. Everyone is encouraged to write about what they like with no motives, no editorial biases, and no strings attached. We hope that comes across in our picks.
We’re in the home stretch, so let’s check out numbers 10 through 6…
Key Tracks: I Will Wait, Lover of the Light, Broken Crown, Ghosts That We Knew
Sounds Like: The Avett Brothers on steroids harmonizing with CSN at an Old Crow Medicine Show hoedown
The Skinny: Marcus Mumford and his boys from London delivered one of the most contagious albums of the year. A non-stop euphoric choke hold to the senses, the punchy Babel unleashes the bluegrass and folk quartet into a hooting and hollering love fest complete with vulnerable and dark lyrics that provide adept imagery into the plight of tormented heartbreak. Lyrics that pull one’s heart strings, strongly influenced by literature, are covered by heavenly harmonies over banjo picking, mandolin strumming and plush piano playing. Mumford’s vocals touch deep into the soul, like a more powerful raspy David Gray, warranting repeated listening to discern meaning in grand scope within the musical adventure.
- Previously On HT: #25 – #21, #20 – #16, #15 – #11
- Spotify Playlist: Hidden Track’s Top 25 Albums Of 2012
Sounds Like: Hero Music
Key Tracks: Sisterly, Make Me, Never Understand, Dooney Rock
The Skinny: Fang Island deserves their own genre. It’s too sophisticated to be considered punk. It’s too accessible to be considered progressive rock. And it’s too organized to be considered jam. It’s wizard rock. It’s dude rock. It’s anthem rock. I remember sending off a text the first day I got the new album to a fellow HT writer that read, “There’s no point in trying to kick ass anymore. Fang Island kicked all the ass that remained.” That pretty much sums up our feeling on these guys. In an era where apathetic shoegazers with too much reverb get the most attention, it’s refreshing to find a band can connect with audiences based on the sheer emotion of their guitars.
- Ryan Dembinsky
Sounds Like: What happens when the shy artistic kid balls up his fist and proclaims his worth to the rest of the world.
Key Tracks: Speak In Rounds, A Simple Answer, Half-Gate
The Skinny: For the past five years, Grizzly Bear have been patiently staking out their claim as Brooklyn’s most critically revered export. As if conjured from the mind of David Lynch, Grizzly Bear excel at presenting idyllic scenes of pastoral bliss over which mysterious and unsettling forces loom elusively out of reach. With Shields, Grizzly Bear no longer sounds like the delicate and fragile band from Yellow House. Rather, they’ve harnessed the magisterial strength of their harmonies, finessed their ability to marry masterful songcraft to haunting, expansive and aurally compelling soundscapes and unleashed drummer Christopher Bear, who propels Shields forward with measured intensity. The ambient has rarely felt this substantive and immediate. Their finest album to date, Shields simply doesn’t feel like an apex for Grizzly Bear and greater work may loom ahead . . . unless their po’mouthin in New York Magazine wasn’t an act.
Sounds Like: Bill Withers or the quieter Jimi Hendrix tunes
Key Tracks: Tell Me a Tale, Home Again, Bones
The Skinny: An album needs not be groundbreaking or revolutionary if it is simply packed with incredible tunes written by a promising new songwriter with a perfect voice to back them up. And start to finish this is what Michael Kiwanuka has accomplished with his critically acclaimed debut LP Home Again. While Kiwanuka thinks the Bill Withers comparison is a bit “weird” – the shoe fits and he wears it well. An absolute must listen for a 2012 retrospective.
Sounds Like: An awkwardly beautiful first date between multi-generational kindred spirits
Key Tracks: Who, I Am An Ape, The One Who Broke Your Heart
The Skinny: On three refreshing solo albums, St. Vincent nee Annie Clark displayed a remarkable penchant for avoiding the stereotypical tropes and signposts for non-mainstream rock. Open mindedness and free thinking aren’t unique approaches; in the late-Seventies and early Eighties, David Byrne and the Talking Heads operated with pretty much the same expansive vision. The 2012 pairing of these iconoclasts from the past and present came with a sense of the inevitable as did the fact that Love This Giant, the resulting collaboration, managed to confound expectations. Rather than find the common ground amongst their musical oeuvres, St. Vincent and Byrne formulated Love This Giant around a marvelous horn section and their shared love of songcraft. In avoiding the allure of making a Talking Heads record featuring Annie Clark or a St. Vincent album starring David Byrne, the results were much greater than the sum of its parts.
With five spots remaining here’s out Top 25 so far…
6. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant
7. Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again
8. Grizzly Bear – Shields
9. Fang Island – Major
10. Mumford & Sons – Babel
11. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
12. Dr. Dog – Be The Void
13. Woods – Bend Beyond
14. Maps & Atlases – Beware & Be Grateful
15. Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts
16. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Wrecking Ball
17. Django Django – Django Django
18. Marco Benevento – TigerFace
19. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself
20. Heartless Bastards – Arrow
21. Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
22. Trampled By Turtles - Stars and Satellites
23. Beachwood Sparks – The Tarnished Gold
24. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
25. Old Crow Medicine Show – Carry Me Back
Check back tomorrow to see what our staff considered the top five albums of the year.