Monday, December 3, 2012

Justin's Top 5 Albums of 2012

It's officially December which means the world will once again feign wistfulness over a fairly unremarkable year dominated by another round of American political chicanery.

It also means it's time for countless year end lists to conveniently organize our subjective tastes into neatly numbered order.

I listen to a lot of music and in attempting to make my own such list, I realized I didn't entertain many new releases this year. It wasn't intentional, but I certainly didn't check the collective music pulse very often in 2012.

None the less, I offer you my personal highlights from another go around to pass the time until absolutely nothing happens with the end of the Mayan calendar. If something did happen though, you should have these albums in your zombie-proof bunker.

I secretly hope something goes down, otherwise I'll have to make New Years plans.

Jack White- Blunderbuss

Jack White's first solo effort has received loads of praise and rightfully so. It has vintage Jack White guitar aggression mixed with thoughtful, albeit sometimes puzzling lyrics. White really stretches out on this album and shows off his chops, playing not only guitar but piano, bass, drums and he even banged on his guitar case when called for. All in the name of beautiful noise.

Ben Folds Five- The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind

Here's another album that I've praised before and I don't plan to stop anytime soon. Ben Folds Five reunited to make an album that completely captures the spirit of their previous work while showing the maturity that comes with getting older. "Do It Anyway" is the feel good lead single that can't possibly leave you feeling blue, but I've grown to think the strongest song on the album is the title track. Ben Folds Five is criminally underrated, and this album is proof positive.

Fiona Apple- The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

As are most Fiona Apple albums, this one is beautiful, strange and decidedly awesome. What some may consider a drawback—the inconsistent flow and stylistic changes song to song—are one of my favorite parts of the album. Fiona Album doesn't care what anybody thinks and makes music that pleases her first and foremost. She doesn't worry how accessible the tunes are, so long as they're good. Also, she made a delightfully weird music video for stand-out track "Every Single Night".

Tenacious D- Rize of the Fenix

I know, I know. You either agree with their self-applied, "Greatest band in the world" label or you think it's childish drivel. I tend to view Tenacious D as a combination of both. The lyrics are often silly and offensive, but their musical skills are unquestioned. They'll never truly be able to top their eponymous debut album, but this one comes a little closer than Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. Jack Black's vocal gymnastics never get old just as Kyle Gass' guitar work and Dave Grohl's drumming never cease to drive the show.  

Honorable Mentions

I realize that was only four albums, but as I said my intake of new releases was somewhat small this year. As a compromise I give you several albums that were very solid, but didn't find a place on my list. 

The Shins-Ports of Morrow

Some really good songs on here propped up by lots of fluff. I really wish frontman James Mercer hadn't completely changed his band bringing in all new members.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse-Americana

It's truly amazing that these guys still rock the way they do. It's also a really cool idea to rework a bunch of American standards like "Oh Susanna" and turn them into searing jams. 

Benjamin Gibbard-Former Lives

This album would probably make my list at number five, but it was released recently enough that I haven't had a chance to give all the songs their due yet. "Teardrop Windows" is a nice jam featuring a very funny music video.

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