I couldn’t settle on just five from 2012, so I went with eleven instead. Completely makes sense, right? The list is kind of in order, but I am not numbering them because they are somewhat grouped together and a few are interchangeable between their surrounding albums. And don’t worry; I will try to keep my descriptions fairly light to hold as much of your attention for as long as I can.
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Aside from a couple of empty transition tracks and a few filler songs, Channel Orange is quite the combination of soul, hip hop, pop and a little bit of funk. Ocean has a great voice that soars throughout the album, the drums and electronics keep the atmosphere going, and then the bass just drives the whole damn thing home. To top it off, there is the song “Lost,” which is just 4 minutes of aural pleasures that slowly makes its way through your senses over the course of its running time and just begs for you to hit that repeat button when it is about to finish. Just one more time; you know you want to.
GOTYE – Making Mirrors
Pop music with an 80s throwback vibe and excellent vocals has got GOTYE on the right track. If he would have added a couple more full songs and maybe dropped one or two of the short filler tracks, this could have been a modern classic in my eyes and ears. But for now, I will have to settle for it being a slightly missed opportunity that is still heavily on the awesome side. Honestly, it’s hard for me to even try to be mad at GOTYE when he is capable of writing songs like the insanely catchy and upbeat “Eyes Wide Open” and the incredibly somber and atmospheric “Smoke and Mirrors,” but I just have this feeling he is capable of more, and I can’t wait to hear it when he finds the way there.
Icarus the Owl – Love Always, Leviathan
Technical Pop Punk with a progressive side? Sign me up. While the vocals can sound occasionally off and the lead guitar parts get on the slightly repetitive side, the band members are all powerhouses on their respective instruments and have crafted something unique and interesting here. If you ever thought pop punk was the genre musicians turned to that didn’t know how to play their instruments, look no further than Icarus the Owl to show there is always an exception to the norm. And just look at that artwork; it is f**king beautiful.
Killing Joke – MMXII
Dark, brooding, and apocalyptic, MMXII is about our path to the end of life as we know it. The album is damn near sinister as Jaz Coleman sings and growls away at the listener about the different possibilities of our demise while the rest of the band assaults our senses and sinks us further into the darkness and depressing nature that the lyrics beautifully form. Killing Joke has been around for over 30 years and MMXII proves that there is still a light at the end of this very depressing tunnel.
Joe Bonamassa – Driving Towards the Daylight
This has been my first taste of the blues, and I must say I may have started an addiction up. Paired with some good ol’ fashioned hard rock, Daylight has some very engaging guitar parts, some absolutely ridiculous/awesome soloing action, and quite the impressive vocals. If you enjoy guitar noodling at its finest, Bonamassa has all the things you need right here and more.
Submotion Orchestra – Fragments
Electronica? Dubstep? Jazz? Trip hop? I don’t know much about any of these, but I do know one thing: this album is fantastic. The female vocals are lovely and soulful, the instrumentation is top-notch, and the album just grooves from start to finish. If it wasn’t for that one song that kind of, sort of sucks (“Times Strange”), this album would be damn near perfect. The drums and the bass set the tone, and everything else just falls into place. This definitely has a fascinating mix going on, and I urge you to give them a try and see what you think.
Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts
I was never much for female pop acts; they always seemed more focused on their sex appeal than their actual music. One day, late last year, I discovered Norah Jones, who had always slipped under my radar. Not only is she attractive (and not in an “I have to take my clothes off to get people to notice me” kind of way), but she is very talented. With her unique voice and her interesting transitions from album to album over the years, her music has been captivating me ever since that fateful day I decided to give her a try. But Little Broken Hearts is a whole new ball game in the world of Norah Jones. The bass lines are driving, the guitars atmospheric, and then of course, there’s Norah’s voice, which might be enough to carry any song on its own. Norah Jones is one of the most interesting pop stars I have heard, and I am so glad that she finally gained some altitude and caught my attention.
Wolves at the Gate – Captors
Post hardcore and metalcore rolled up into a tightly refined ball has WATG breaking their way through the waves of bands trying out this style and sounding just a little too much like their peers, and they are doing a fine job at it. It’s the best of both worlds, and that’s saying a lot since it seems both genres have been starting to dip with quality bands as of late. Their lyrics may be a bit on the intense side of the Christian persuasion, but they aren’t preachy and aren’t trying to make me feel like a horrible human being, so it doesn’t bother me. With superb vocals from the harsh and clean sides, excellent riffery, and fantastic song writing, WATG is a band to look out for.
Anberlin – Vital
I have been listening to Anberlin since around when their first album was released, and I have been amazed by their consistency. Vital furthers this trend from the band by rocking out harder than they have before and diving into a bit of an electronic style. It shows their heaviest, most experimental, and (in my humble opinion) their best side yet. This is Anberlin in a melancholy and somewhat dark state, which leaves behind the poppy side most of their releases had to offer and might be the beginning of a seasoned band trekking down a new, but hopefully still familiar, path. I can’t wait to see where the journey takes them next, but I will probably be content just as long as those angelic vocals are there to guide the way.
The Classic Crime – Phoenix
Another insanely consistent alternative/rock band with an awesome vocalist, The Classic Crime has been filling my aural senses with goodness since their debut back in 2006. While Phoenix shows the band mellowing out compared to the days of Albatross and The Silver Cord, TCC still brings their excellent song writing abilities and down-to-earth/relatable lyrics to the table. The band does show that they can still rock on songs like “You and Me Both” and “Young Again,” but they really shine on the lighter moments, like “The Precipice,” and even in their darker times, like on “Beautiful Darkside.” 2012 might just be one of my favorite years in music solely because two of my favorite bands not only released new albums in the same year (TCC and Anberlin in case you aren’t following), but also within a mere two months of each other. It was like a big hug with music. Gloriously, glorious musical hugs to my ears…
Jizue – Novel
I’m just going to start out with this: Novel is f**king gorgeous. I don’t know a better way to put it than that. To be honest, I don’t even know if I can properly describe how much I adore this, but I will try and fumble through something with these empty words that won’t do it justice. It has guitars, bass, drums, piano, jazz, post rock, and all of them are intertwined so fantastically that I am still not entirely sure I have comprehended it fully. The transitions are seamless and everybody involved is just so perfectly in sync with each other that it gives me chills. Is this enough hyperbole for you? Maybe you should just go listen to this now and stop reading. I actually might go do the same myself.
Are you still reading this and not listening to Jizue? I may or may not be so disappointed in you right now.