HT Staff’s Top 25 Albums Of 2012: #5 – #1

All week long we’ve been counting down our staff’s picks for the best albums of 2012. Today, on one of the last workdays of the year, we reveal the top of our list.

When Hidden Track was started in 2006 there were plenty of sites dedicated to indie rock and a slew of sites devoted to improvisational and classic rock bands, but few blogs (and bands for that matter) bridged the gap between the forms. That’s where we came in and five years later the results of our list shows that’s still where our staff’s interests lie.

Thanks for following along all week. We now present our Top 5 Albums of 2012…

5) Dr. JohnLocked Down

Key Tracks: Locked Down, Ice Age, Eleggua… aw heck, they’re all amazing.

Sounds Like: Dan Auerbach as Marty McFly, Dr John as Marvin Berry; a time-traveling Delorean and one funky-as-hell Enchantment Under the Sea dance.

The Skinny: If you had a time machine, would you go back to save the world from some certain evil? Would you ensure yourself riches beyond your wildest imagination? Or would you use it to get down to history’s greatest musicians in their prime? Dan Auerbach may very well have a time machine because the Dr. John he’s produced on Locked Down is a revelation of past greatness in the here and now. The album is a swampy, dark Dr. John voodoo funk with Auerbach’s greasy fingerprints all over it, an embarrassment of musical riches, each track its own adventure. As throwback as it sounds, what’s remarkable is how modern and relevant it feels – time machine or not, Dr John & Dan Auerbach have delivered an album for the ages.

- Aaron Stein

4) Father John MistyFear Fun

Key Tracks: I’m Writing A Novel, Only Son Of A Ladiesman, Well You Can Do It Without Me

Sounds Like: Laurel Canyon’s psychedelic shaman troubadour

The Skinny: In 2011, J. Tillman did something that may have equaled career suicide for many, by abdicating his spot behind the drumkit for the Fleet Foxes in order to pursue his musical vision full-time. Reborn as Father John Misty, the singer-songwriter proved he didn’t belong in the gloominess of the Pacific Northwest, instead he was meant to embrace the sunshine and weirdness of Los Angeles, offering up a brilliant debut of acid-drenched folk-rock. Produced by Jonathan Wilson, the record layers Tillman’s deep baritone through a dark haze of lush harmonies, drawing influence from Harry Nilsson to Gram Parsons to John Lennon.

- Jeffrey Greenblatt

3) Alabama ShakesBoys & Girls

Key Tracks: Hold On, I Ain’t The Same, Heartbreaker

Sounds Like: The musical love child of Janis Joplin with Big Brother and Otis Redding and the Bar Kays

The Skinny: It’s hard to remember a time before the Alabama Shakes burst into the music world with a level of buzz unseen since Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. However, unlike many other buzz bands, the Shakes gained their reputation based on their sound and not their looks. Their debut album is an all-killer, no-filler affair filled with 11 potent tracks. Save the overdubs and studio wizardry for Radiohead, the raw sound of Boys & Girls is the perfect document to introduce the world to Alabama Shakes’ soul-stirring blues-rock.

- Scott Bernstein

2) Tame ImpalaLonerism

Key Tracks: Apocalypse Dreams, Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, Elephant

Sounds Like: Early Pink Floyd mixed with a small dose of Australian pop…on a deserted island in space.

The Skinny: This impressive sophomore album from Tame Impala is able to nimbly jump from deep psychedelic grooves that remind the listener of early Pink Floyd to fresh dream-pop melodies without anything sounding out of place or trite. Rife with the same melancholy and somber themes of isolation and despair as Innerspeaker (the band’s first album), Lonerism is simultaneously bright and airy. With soaring guitar work, commanding bass lines, brilliant songwriting and a great trippy feel, this is a great album to listen to straight through.

- Parker Harrington

1) Jack WhiteBlunderbuss

Key Tracks: Love Interruption, Missing Pieces, Trash Tongue Talker

Sounds Like: Others sound like Jack White, not vice versa.

The Skinny: Jack White left behind his ex-wife/sister/nanny/test tube pod clone as well as his many other don’t-call-them-side-projects and released Blunderbuss, his first accredited solo album. After spending a decade honing a style that relies greatly on fuzzy, bottom-heavy blues-guitar riffs, deep-toned organ fills and hysterically manic white-boy pseudo-rapping, White stayed true to the vital qualities that make him one of rock’s most intriguing personalities. A glibly verbose font of hipster jive, White’s facility with words allows him to weave complex literary tapestries with strikingly simple, oftentimes quite sweet, expressions. When he proclaims that he wants love to change his friends to enemies on Love Interruption, it’s unclear whether White’s confessing a dark secret or engaging in ironic detachment. At his core though, White is a guitar player and a tremendous one at that. Reinventing blues and rock guitar while remaining respectfully reverent, White continues to find creative ways to move the art forward like the Morse code feedback solo from Weep Themselves To Sleep, which emerges so subtlety that you lose track of White’s prolific inventiveness.

- Dave Schultz

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