Sunday, December 9, 2012

2012 The Albums - Top 10

So here is is folks, the final and definitive list to close out the year. 2012 has been an astonishing year for music as EDM made its way into the main stream, a hologram Tupac arrived at Coachella, Dave Grohl told musicians and artists around the world that the sound they make should come from their hearts and mind and not from technology. Long after she released 21, Adele still was the biggest name on the charts and Gotye took the world by storm with "Somebody That I Used To Know." It was a year that started off with two exciting reunions from punks that no one thought would ever play again - Refused and At the Drive-in, and of course The Rolling Stones rolled into their 50th year. It was also the year we lost Adam "MCA" Yauch of Beastie Boys and Whitney Houston, while their voices were silenced, their music will always live on. So, while we have a couple weeks before we see if the Mayans were correct about the end of the world, lets take a look at the 10 best albums of the year. 

In Short Form:
10 - Action Bronson & Party Supplies - Blue Chips
9 - Bloc Party - Four
8 - Hot Water Music - Exister
7 - The Heartbreaks - Funtimes
6 - The xx - Coexist
5 - Deftones - Koi No Yokan
4 - Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
3 - Nas - Life is Good
2 - Spiritualized - Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
1 - The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten 

In Long Form With Explanations:

10. Action Bronson & Party Supplies - Blue Chips
Over the last few years we have seen the art of the mixtape evolve as something that producers would assemble to get emcees they were working with more exposure and vice versa. Now, the art of the mixtape has become more of a statement and declaration for an emcee or crew to say "here I am." The thing about mixtapes is that its not scripted, it is raw off the cuff lyrical flow with beats provided by a production wiz. We have seen what mixtapes can do thanks to the success of Odd Future, The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Azealia Banks, and more. However, no one has mastered the art of the mixtape like Action Bronson. The Queens chef-turned-rapper turned heads in 2011 after releasing his brilliant mixtapes Well Done and Bon Appetite...Bitch, where he rapped about food, women, weed, and delivered it in a cadence that took people by surprise since he was not a trained emcee. In 2012 Bronson released two mixtapes, his most recent, a joint venture with The Alchemist called Rare Chandeliers and his earlier tape with Party Supplies called Blue Chips. Bronson and Party Supplies crafted a tape that sounded more like a studio album than freestyles and beats thrown together. While Bronson is set for a big 2013, he has clearly made his mark this year and Blue Chips is one of the reasons.
Key Tracks: Pouches of Tuna feat. Roc Marciano, Steve Wynn

9. Bloc Party - Four
A reunion and record that not many would think could or would happen after the drama that unfolded since Bloc Party's last record in 2009. Like many bands that reach massive success, Bloc Party fell into the gaping void of "What direction do we take this band in," while there was a dividing line among the members of the band, they went on hiatus, did different things, then regrouped and rumors flew that singer Kele Okereke was not involved in the making of a new Bloc Party record. Well, that all changed and Kele and the boys are now back and Four is their declaration saying they are not going anywhere. This record was clearly for the fans, if you were a fan of their guitar driven Britpop or their electro rock or straight electronica sound, Four had it all and showed where they will be going next. A refreshing, fun, and exciting Bloc Party album - which is everything this band stands for.
Key Tracks: So He Begins to Lie, We're Not Good People

8. Hot Water Music - Exister
Since Florida's Hot Water Music regrouped a few years ago and became the touring band we loved them for, all anyone could wonder is if they would ever make a new record again? Well, that thought was answered earlier this year when they released their best album to date - Exister. The abrasive punks returned full throttle and reinvigorated everything about themselves as a band and their fans could not be happier. The band has never sounded this good and still look like they have enough gas in their tank to sustain this excitement for a very long time. 
Key Tracks: State of Grace, Exister 

7. The Heartbreaks - Funtimes
You spoke and we listened - our readers named The Heartbreaks 2012's Best New Artist and anyone who has heard this band before or since will understand why. The Britpop band from northern England has crafted one of the best debuts of the year and the most perfect pop / rock album in years. I dare anyone to find a record this catchy and this organic that was created by a rock and roll band since the The Smiths. Funtimes has it all - a record of love, loss, desperation, yearning, and one night stands thrown over slick guitars, tantalizing vocals, and catchy rhythms. Funtimes is the most fun you will have listening to any record that came out all year.
Key Tracks: Jealous, Don't You Know, Delay, Delay 

6. The xx - Coexist 
Who would have thought that the follow-up to The xx's acclaimed 2009 debut would be just as good, if not better? The xx have managed to make a career doing very little with sound but also doing so much. If their debut was the awkward moment when you realize you have fallen in love with your best friend, Coexist is the next step on what you do with that crush and affection. It is a much more intimate, dynamic, and sonically beautiful record that will lead young lovers to acting on their emotions.
Key Tracks: Sunset, Tides

5. Deftones- Koi No Yokan
Koi No Yokan, which translates from Japanese to “the sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall into love,” clings to its meaning. After its first listen, Koi No Yokan is without a doubt one of the best albums of the Sacramento, California post-hardcore legends career. As we mentioned when the band returned in 2010 with the phenomenal Diamond Eyes, a record about bassist Chi Cheng, who has been in a coma since 2008 following a devastating car accident, the band have taken their tragedy and channeled it into some of the greatest music and sounds of their career. This album continues that path and as we all hope and pray for Cheng to recover, the Deftones will continue their musical path of destruction in the absense of their brothers wake.
Key Tracks: Poltergeist, Tempest 

4. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
Nobody had a better year than Frank Ocean. Plain and simple. The Odd Future crooner's solo debut was one of the most anticipated of the year and after bravely coming out of the closet, Channel Orange was embraced by everyone that heard it and took Ocean's profile to another level. From a headlining slot at Lollapalooza to in demand performances to being nominated for a slew of Grammy's, Frank Ocean is showing that he is more than just hype or a headline, he is as real and as talented as they come. A voice that has not been this impressive from a young man or filled with this much soul since D'Angelo bursted on the scene, at the rate he is going, Ocean could reach legendary status like Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross before he is even 30 - but we are trying not to get ahead of ourselves, we just hope for the best, but the possibilities with this guy seem to be endless and deserving.
Key Tracks: Pyramids, Bad Religion

3. Nas - Life is Good
Last year, Jay-Z & Kanye West released Watch the Throne, as two of the hottest emcee’s in hip-hop, it was safe to say the “Throne” was theirs, however, thanks to Nas’ latest, it is time for Jay & ‘Ye rewatch the throne as Queens' finest came out swinging and proved to be a strong contender. In one of the greatest comeback albums of all time and the best hip-hop record of the year and of his career, Nas hits on every verse and track for the first time since his 90’s prime. Mixing styles heard today in most contemporary artists in the genre, his own blend of lyrical power and a return to form that made him a household name two decades ago, Nas spits on everything from social issues, his public break-up with Kelis (even showing off her wedding dress on the front cover), being a father, battling record labels and most of all, showing and proving he still has got it.
Key Tracks: A Queens Story, The Don

2. Spiritualized - Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
Spiritualized has always loved to remain mysterious and a musical enigma. Very little is known about the records J. Pierce or J. Spaceman (depending on his mood) makes or if he is even making them. So, in a day and age when social media exploits everyones minutes and seconds, it tends to be refreshing when a project arrives from an artist that you know little about. Sweet Heart, Sweet Light is Spiritualized's latest serving of a psychedelic rock opera that proved to be his best since 1997's epic, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Outer Space. Originally to be titled, Huh? - hence the album cover, Spiritualized later changed it to a line from the song "Hey Jane," which says "Sweet Heart, Sweet Light," yet, still managed to keep the confusing molecule logo as the albums sleeve. Whatever the story may be behind the albums title, it is a sure fire sonic adventure into the musical odyssey thanks to one of Britians most reclusive and brilliant musicians.
Key Tracks: Hey Jane, Get What You Deserve 

1. The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten
It is almost poetic that in the year that Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast of America, the years best record comes from a rock and roll band from the Jersey Shore. With roots in Jersey punk and influence from classic rock and grunge, The Gaslight Anthem took everything inside and poured it out in the best rock and roll album of the year and a record that will manage to give a listener chills at every listen. This is a band that have never been afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeve and express their love of classic cars, pin-up girls, vintage art, and the American dream. These are blue collar guys from blue collar backgrounds who had enough luck and courage to get to where they are today and Handwritten is a testament to their hard work. With four albums under their belt now and love from their heroes like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, and Metallica, The Gaslight Anthem are making their way for a successful and very long career. Praised as one of the best live bands around and one of the most passionate, they took the excitement of their live gigs and channeled it into steamrolling rock and roll album...with every word handwritten.
Key Tracks: Handwritten, National Anthem

So that is it folks, the 2012's 10 Best. See you next year, in the meantime take a look at the other awards we gave out for our annual end of the year music lists:

2012 Best New Artist
2012 Honorable Mentions
2012 League of Their Own