Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Favorite Albums of 2012 (# 5-1)

Okay, time for my top five...

5. Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls

Boys and Girls is a tasteful throwback to 1960s blues rock.  Sure, I could tell you how it's filled rugged guitar hooks and proficient musicianship (which it is), but what really blows this album away is Brittany Howard's soulful vocals.  She's been called "the next Janis Joplin" by several reviewers, and after listening to Boys and Girls, it's very hard to argue with that statement.

4. Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits

Oh there anything they can't do?  Britt Daniel of Spoon and Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade teamed up to create this surprise of an album.  Gritty garage rock peppered with hints of new wave?  Um, yeah...enough said.

3. The Lumineers - The Lumineers

The Lumineers' self-titled debut combines everything I love about folk rock - down-to-earth lyrics, sing-along choruses, and just overall country charm.  However, the album rarely takes itself too seriously, and as a result, it's very easy to listen to on a regular basis.  I'm looking forward to see what else this band has in store.

2. Tame Impala - Lonerism

If John Lennon and Paul McCartney had a child with Strawberry Alarm Clock, and that child was adopted by Animal Collective, the result would be Tame Impala.  While Boys and Girls brought back the bluesy side of the 1960s, Lonerism takes us back to the magical land of psychedelia. Textured with synthesized undertones and melodic vocal hooks, this record is about as mind-bending as it gets; and I wouldn't want it any other way.

1. Beach House - Bloom

When I first heard Bloom in March, I knew it would be very difficult to top.  Beach House has been the only band in recent history to consistently amaze me with each release.  I'm not even going to talk about the music itself.  Instead, just listen to the album - it's incredible.  Dream pop? Alternative rock? Psychedelia?  It doesn't matter.  To me, it's just good music.

Honorable Mentions

  • Wild Nothing - Nocturne
  • Fun - Some Nights
  • Animal Collective - Centipede Hz
  • Passion Pit - Gossamer
  • Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Here
  • Hot Chip - In Our Heads
  • First Aid Kit - The Lions Roar
  • The Beach Boys - That's Why God Made the Radio
  • Bob Dylan - Tempest

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Favorite Albums of 2012 (# 10-6)

If you read my blog this time last year, you'll remember that I wrote a post about my top ten favorite songs of the year.  Well, this year I thought I'd write about my favorite albums instead.  Please keep in mind that I haven't had a chance to listen to everything I wanted to this year.  As a result, this list is subject to change.

10. Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal

Okay, technically this record was released in 2011, but that was only in Iceland.  North Americans couldn't get their hands on a copy until April 2012.  And yes, it was worth the wait!  Strong folk melodies and compelling vocal harmonies make this band's debut an instant classic.

9. Shearwater - Animal Joy

Shearwater's seventh studio album may feel a bit more accessible than their previous work, but it still stays true to their signature operatic style.  With heart-pounding rhythms and majestic vocals, Animal Joy is a record that takes you on a journey that you'll not soon forget.

8. The Walkmen - Heaven

Heaven sounds a bit generic at first, but that's all part of its charm.  The Walkmen's "back to basics" mentality is in full stride on this record, and Heaven is an excellent example of how rock music can still sound fresh without being groundbreaking.

7. Menomena - Moms

To tell you the truth, I'm not too familiar with Menomena.  However, after listening to Moms, I feel like I need to rectify that right away.  This record is filled with intimate lyrics, clever compositions, and downright bizarre undertones which are all based on the theme of mothers.  It's a bit experimental, but it's also accessible enough to be enjoyed casually.

6. Grizzly Bear - Shields

I have a soft spot for Grizzly Bear's 2006 album Yellow House, as it was one of the first albums that got me interested in indie rock.  Unfortunately, it's 2009 follow-up Veckatimest didn't really do much for me.  Shields, however, completely restored my faith in the band.  Placing a greater emphasis on pulsating rhythms and concise lyricism, the band sounds less secluded, and more personal than ever before. far, so good...right?  Stay tuned next week for #5-1!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Beirut - The Rip Tide (2011)

"Soon the waves and I found the rolling tide..."

Imagery is one of the most difficult things to achieve in music.  Skilled lyricists such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and more recently, Conor Oberst can use their words to illustrated a particular scenario.   However, there are very few musicians who can successfully paint an image using just music alone.  For example, if you took out the lyrics to say, "Like a Rolling Stone," would you be able to figure out the song's context by just listening to the music?  Probably not.

Beirut's "The Rip Tide," the titular track off their 2011 album, is a prime example of how music alone can influence the senses.  Lyrically, the song is actually quite simple.  It's only comprised of two verses and one chorus.  That's it.  Furthermore, there's really nothing too deep about the lyrics themselves.  The narrator is alone in a vast ocean - the end.

That said, "The Rip Tide" is one of the most gorgeous pieces of music I've heard in years.  After a very brief and subtle piano interlude, the song sets sail with a fascinating string and brass melody.  Good...GOD!  Now this is why I love music!  This melody is so moving that when I first heard it, I nearly shed a tear.  If you close your eyes, you can literally feel yourself sailing through the desolate sea.  As a result, you start to feel isolation, and you sympathize with the person at sea.  Yes - the music alone makes you feel sorry for the narrator.  It's almost unimaginable.

I'm not really sure if I got my point across.  After all, "The Rip Tide" really does need to be heard in order to understand exactly what I'm saying.  Lyrics are important, without a doubt; but the beauty of music is that it can illustrate different moods simply through composition and instrumentation.  In the past few years, I can't think of a better song that has managed to accomplish this so effortlessly.