Monday, January 7, 2013

The Best Albums of 2012: Honorable Mentions

These are the albums that are notable from 2012, but not exactly "best of" material; not everything can be the best. A punk legend stripping down his sound; some of the oddest, darkest pop I have ever heard; and an Odd Future member are included, here, for their originality and skilled musicianship. These are mostly grower albums, or saccharine morsels of pop with atypical substance. If you think you have exhausted the lot of great albums that came out in 2012, here are some more to enjoy.

Tindersticks - The Something Rain 

"Shit. I was never a 'breast man' anyway," ends the opening track "Chocolate", a song about a man falling for a transvestite, and the ensuing embarrassment. This is the song that inspired the British band's ninth studio album, a short story written by David Boulter, the band's keyboardist. If you can make it through the nine minute opener, then you should have no trouble with the rest of The Something Rain. A well-composed, artfully pretty album, Tindersticks prove that over a decade into their career, they still have something to sing about, be it transvestites or whatever.

Loma Prieta - I.V. 

I thought Loma Prieta had achieved the benchmark of the new age of Screamo with 2009's Dark Mountain, and though I don't think I.V. is better than the aforementioned record, I do believe Loma Prieta are one of the most consistently good Screamo bands to date. Constantly innovating a tired genre - although 2012 saw an influx of increasingly excellent, original Screamo releases - Loam Prieta hits hard and efficiently, knowing exactly when to pull the punches, too. This obviously isn't a record for everyone, but for Screamo and Hardcore lovers, it would be a huge mistake to sleep on this one.

The Evens - The Odds 

This is punk stripped down to two instruments and two singers. It's simple. Ian MacKaye, yet again, finds a way to make a genre struggling to be taken seriously sound fresh, reborn. Amy Farina, MacKaye's life partner, provides the drumming for the band - not overly difficult drum-work yet not Meg White simple, a perfect addition to MacKaye's baritone guitar. The lyrics are clever, the music is simple, the product is excellent. Although there isn't much variation in the songs, this is a proven formula and The Odds is certainly worth your time.

Bob Mould - Silver Age 

Bob Mould is still pissed off, but he knows some of it is his fault, and he's taking steps to forgive himself. Throughout Silver Age, it feels like Mould is taking on more and more blame, until "First Time Joy" finally acknowledges the aging indie legend's accomplishments. Hüsker Dü is dead, Sugar just reissued a bunch of their material, and Bob Mould is still making great rock records. "The Descent" is a self-deprecating victory lap, an anchor of a solid album from a man who has given music lovers three decades of excellent material.

Hospitality - Hospitality 

With thoughtful composition, on-point pop sensibility, and a cutesy edge, Hospitality made one of the smartest, cleanest albums of 2012. Hospitality is a carefree romp through life in New York. "Friend of Friends" features a bouncing horn section weaving in and out of its chorus with minimal effort; "The Right Profession" runs much like Vampire Weekend's "Cousins", but a few paces slower; and "Argonauts" is a confidently arranged, sweet piece of chamber pop. There is a lot of range on Hospitality, making it pretty easy to forget that this if their first full-length as a band, a mature debut.

Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits 

An indie super group comprised of members from Spoon and Wolf Parade: How could it fail to be anything less than the sum of its parts? It doesn't, and A Thing Called Divine Fits would have been the best album to come out in the early 80s. Calling on sounds of The Human League and Psychedelic Furs, Divine Fits string together eleven excellent tracks. Although I do prefer the Dan Boeckner songs over Britt Daniel's - I may be in the minority here - both singers proudly represent themselves, offering a dual-headed reckoning of New Wave and Brit-Pop. It's unclear as to whether Divine Fits will continue as a full-time band, so we'll just have to pray A Thing Called Divine Fits isn't the collaboration's only release.

Alt-J - An Awesome Wave 

Alt-J is a band as frustrating as it is good. An Awesome Wave has excellent songs on it, but also some not so excellent interludes. For fans of Math Rock, there are plenty of syncopated drums and deft guitar riffs to keep you happy; and lead singer Joe Newman's voice sounds a bit like Maps & Atlases' Dave Davidson but more refined and clearer. These are glistening art pieces with the guises of songs, bright and shiny trinkets soft, out of focus. If you do enjoy An Awesome Wave, make sure you check out the band's music videos, as they are as artful as the music - even if you don't like this album, definitely don't miss the video for "Breezeblocks".

Hodgy Beats - Untitled EP 
[Odd Future Records]

I want Odd Future to succeed, not on a platform of misogyny and violence, but originality and unbridled youth. Hodgy Beats breaks from the now-stale, pigeonholing production of Left Brain to work with Flying Lotus, The Alchemist, and Juicy J, an unexpected move that pays off more and more with each listen. This is the human Hodgy Beats, not the false idol teenagers worship. With Hodgy taking more of a spotlight on this release - the EP has no other rappers - his voice sounds much more playful, and a lot like an edgy Childish Gambino. I would like to see more and more producers brought into the Odd Future catalog, so the Untitled EP is a welcomed breath of fresh air, in a discography full of harsh synths and choppy, bulky drums.

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