| Adam’s World’s Top Ten Albums of 2012
| Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Putting together this year’s top ten list became a challenge in early December, as even listening to as many albums as I do in a year I was racing to get even more heard before my self-imposed deadline (hey, I gotta write the article eventually, right?). As I filled up my CD player, and Spotify playlist, a few late listens found their way onto my list, while others, I felt, at least deserved a mention.
As per norm, my Top Ten is only for full length efforts. I love EPs, but the challenge of creating a full length album is much greater than that of creating an EP. So starting with the honorable mentions (which are in alphabetical order), here are my picks for the best albums of 2012.
A Fine Frenzy - Pines: Intentionally moving at a relaxed pace, this adult contemporary album once again shows Alison Sudol’s voice to be one of the most beautiful in the business.
Anthony David - Love Out Loud: This album, plus a bottle of something nice, plus your favorite special someone, could very well lead to baby making.
CookBook - The Smell Of Success: LA Symphony’s CookBook hits listeners with a strikingly honest album about life, faith, and everything in-between, with a few party songs thrown in for good measure.
Klokwize - Hood Hippie: Good hip-hop bands are hard to find, which is why Klokwize, with his gravelly vocals, and his talented group of musicians, was a nice highlight of 2012.
Kreayshawn - Somethin Bout Kreay: Hip-Hop with pop sensibilities, and a wicked sense of humor thrown into the majority of songs, make this a great party album.
Stef Lang - Self: Stef Lang showed us Lights isn’t the only synth-pop/dubstep queen in Canada. The Vancouver native capped off a great year with this pulsating pop effort.
The Top Ten Albums of 2012
10) Foxy Shazam - The Church of Rock and Roll
Foxy Shazam is the closest thing I’ve heard to Queen since Queen. When I first hit play I was blown away by how grandiose, and theatrical, the music on The Church of Rock and Roll is, and how amazing lead singer Eric Sean Nally’s vocals are. Right from the initial song Foxy Shazam are looking to knock you on your ass with some real rock and roll, and they succeed to the point where you’re playing air guitar within the first few minutes. The Church of Rock and Roll is a short sermon, clocking in at just over 36 minutes, but it’s not a collection of singles, it’s a complete piece of work, and with the blistering pace of the music you’d be completely exhausted if it was any longer.
Check out: Holy Touch, I Like It
9) Ke$ha - Warrior
I’ve done a complete 180 when it comes to Ke$ha. This comes with Ke$ha doing a 180 of her own. She’s still making party music, but there’s much more to it now than simply brushing her teeth with whiskey. When “Blow” hit radio I noted that I felt she was covertly making generation defining music. Now, with songs like “Warrior,” and the Fergie-like “Crazy Kids,” she’s overtly making generationally defining music, and it’s pretty amazing. In addition to the party tunes, Warrior has a bit of a rock vibe at times, and there are a few surprisingly good ballads on the album, as well. With lyrics about being different, and wildly individualistic, Warrior is going to speak most to outcasts, and with damned near everyone qualifying as one in some way, shape, or form, everyone’s gonna relate to at least one song on this.
Listen to: Warrior, Dirty Love
8) Vinnie Scullo - Velcro
“You oughtta quit being such a friggin Abercrombie-Aeropostale-Ed Hardy-Hollister zombie” is how Vinnie Scullo opens the song “Grizzind,” and the line is a perfect illustration of Vinnie’s feelings regarding what has become of our increasingly name brand label obsessed society. As per norm, Vinnie pulls no punches on Velcro, but what longtime fans will notice about this album that’s a little bit different from his previous releases is that musically he’s meandering, and I’m sure this is intentional, into some waters previously charted by only the most daring of artists. His production is, at times, completely undefinable in a way that is slowly moving him towards being the Frank Zappa of hip-hop. This one’s tough to find, but worth the effort.
Check out: Grizzind, Jay Obi
7) Homeboy Sandman - First of a Living Breed
Homeboy Sandman’s first full length Stones Throw release is exactly what those of us who’ve followed his career expected - one of the best hip-hop albums of the year. Normally I’m not a fan of artists working with an extensive list of producers for an album, but Sandman makes it work as his voice ties everything together nicely. While Sandman has his usual array of spirited songs that will get anyone hyped up, one of the coolest efforts on First of a Living Breed is “Not Really,” a slow song about how he views his life as not being all that different than it was before the world tours. Everything Homeboy Sandman says is dope, and intelligent, and listening to him is like having a conversation with a really good, really smart, friend.
Listen to: Not Really, Whatchu Want From Me
6) Taylor Swift - Red
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who writes pop music better than Taylor Swift right now, and with Red she’s created her most adult work to date. Yes, Swift writes extensively about her relationships, but that’s what makes her so relatable. One of the album’s highlights is “I Knew You Were Trouble,” which, musically, goes from a country intro and pre-chorus, and builds up to a synth-pop, borderline dubstep, chorus section. I used to refer to Taylor Swift as America’s favorite little sister, but with Red she’s become our girl next door who we’ve suddenly noticed is (almost) all grown up. She’s the Winnie Cooper of the current pop scene, and we all loved Winnie Cooper.
Check out: I Knew You Were Trouble, Red
5) P.O.S. - We Don’t Even Live Here
P.O.S. has always been a hip-hop artist with punk rock sensibilities. In recent years he’s been leaning even more to the punk rock side of things and the results have been in-your-face classics that swing knockout blows, taking on everything from the current state of society, politics, and consumerism, to issues we deal with on a more personal level. We Don’t Even Live Here might be P.O.S.’ most caustic release to date with songs like “Fuck Your Stuff,” and “Lock-picks, Knives, Bricks and Bats,” and it positions him as a rare modern day artist that could have easily been at home on the CBGBs stage back in punk’s heyday. This album is yet another standout in P.O.S.’ impressive catalog.
Check out: Fuck Your Stuff, Wanted/Wasted
4) Tonight Alive - What Are You So Scared Of?
I’m a sucker for great female fronted pop punk bands. Raw emotion, lyrics filled with teen angst, mosh-able musical qualities, Tonight Alive has it all, and then some. The irony regarding how I discovered Tonight Alive is that I first heard them doing an acoustic set, as there’s also an acoustic version of What Are You So Scared Of?, and the songs work equally as well BOTH ways. I consider this a clear indication of a great band, and great songwriting. Both versions of What Are You So Scared Of? stayed in heavy rotation in my CD player for quite a while as it quickly became one, or I guess technically two, of my go-to rock albums.
Check out: Breaking & Entering, To Die For (Acoustic)
3) Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - The Heist
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in hip-hop that made a bigger impact than Macklemore and Ryan Lewis did this year. Coming from out of nowhere (OK, Seattle, but that’s pretty close), this duo set the world on fire with songs about everything from same sex marriage, and Macklemore’s early questioning of his own sexuality, to battles with drug and alcohol addiction, to ballin out at thrift stores, and it was all done in such a way as to make you want to listen to it all. “Thrift Shop” has impacted Top 40 radio, and if you don’t get the same feeling from this as you did when Eminem hit Top 40 radio with “My Name Is,” you’re crazy. The Heist has gone where few have gone before, making it a must hear.
Check out: Same Love, Thrift Shop
2) Toussaint Morrison - Toussaint Morrison Is Not My Boyfriend
Toussaint Morrison, the owner of last year’s #1 album (Toussaint Morrison Is Not My Homeboy), clocks in at #2 with his latest release, Toussaint Morrison Is Not My Boyfriend. What makes this album so great is the way Morrison embraced Motown soul, and seamlessly blended it with his open, honest, pop/fringe culture reference filled, brand of hip-hop. There’s significantly more singing on this release than his previous albums, but he can really pull it off, and just when you start to wonder if this guy was born in the wrong era, he drops a verse of rhymes that make you realize, yes, he’s both a dope singer AND a dope emcee. Toussaint Morrison may not be your boyfriend, but he should be one of your favorite artists.
Check out: Can’t Relive The Party, The Girl From The Liquor Store
1) Amanda Mair - Amanda Mair
The first time I heard Swedish chanteuse Amanda Mair’s eponymous debut I was so completely in awe of the beauty, and occasional frailty, of her voice, the lyrics, and the music, that I immediately played the entire album a second time, and then a third time. She’s drawn comparisons to Kate Bush, but there’s more of a youthful element to Mair’s work, which shouldn’t be surprising being that she’s still a teenager. The word that I keep coming back to whenever I describe this album is “beautiful.” It’s an affecting piece of work that draws you in and makes you fall in love with it. Amanda Mair’s music sticks with you, there’s really nothing else like it out today, and her album gets my vote as the best of 2012.
Check out: Sense, Doubt
Labels: Music Reviews
|posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM