Saturday, December 22, 2012

Best albums of 2012: 50-41

The results are in, our lists are compiled, and we are ready to present to you our picks for our 50 favorite albums of 2011.

First, a bit about methodology. How did this list come about?

First, we each compiled our own individual lists, then combined those lists and ranked our favorites and assigning a point value for each. Each of us submitted our choices for a minimum of 10 albums and a maximum of 50.

Each number-one pick received 50 points, number two received 49, number three got 48, and so on down the line. Among our 16 judges this year, no album received votes from all 16, but 18 of the top 50 albums made the list of four or more judges. And three albums made the list of eight or more judges.

Here are albums 50-41. The rest will come a bit later.

P.S. - A partial Spotify playlist of tunes from these albums is linked at the bottom.

50. Rush - Clockwork Angels

Yet another truly solid effort from a band that's somehow managed to continuously evolve their sound without losing the elements that make them truly unique. This album brings it with it a slightly darker and heavier sound than we've heard from Rush in a while, while also hearkening back to some of what made them so classic to begin with. - CG

As I write this on the 21st day of the 12th month, I'm reminded that Rush's greatest album ever, in my opinion, is 2112. And now that the threat of Mayan-calendar apocalypse has passed, I should take the time to listen to this album in 2013. - AC

49. Macklemore/Ryan Lewis - The Heist

This album kind of came out of nowhere for me, through the brilliance that is the video for Thrift Shop—I'll readily admit that I watch it at least once a week. As for the rest of the album, Macklemore has a fresh delivery, clever rhymes, and his featured artists are all great. Ryan Lewis produces some incredible backing tracks, ranging from jazzy samples to lush piano compositions. To be perfectly honest, I'd probably listen to an instrumental version of the album pretty often if it were available. - GR

We in Seattle all thought when someone from the Northwest hip-hop scene finally broke through, it'd be Blue Scholars. But Macklemore doing it instead doesn't fill us with dread, if only because he's been a full and active member of the local scene, having come back from drug addiction to produce the most confessional rap this side of Drake. Some of his stuff is... just don't listen to "Irish Celebration," ever. But when he's on, when everything is firing, you don't question his game. - DW

I'd wanted to check The Heist out in more detail but just didn't have the time. But I stinkin love Thrift Shop. - CM

48. The Darkness - Hot Cakes

I know I shouldn’t like The Darkness or this album as much as I do. But I can’t help myself. Hot Cakes rocks my face off. It reminds me at times of early Queen, when Queen was a true rock'n'roll band (think “Brighton Rock” and you get the idea), and Eric Carmen’s “Go All the Way” Raspberries, with a dash of theatrical KISS thrown in. The Darkness are up to their usual silliness with tunes like "Love Is Not the Answer" (Love will make you stupid/love will make you lame") and the not-so-subtly-suggestive opening track, "Every Inch of You." At times lead singer Justin Hawkins channels a young Robert Plant (and even gives a nod to Led Zep in the opening track). This album is a throwback, and a fun one at that. - AC

I've never been quite sure if The Darkness is more parody than real. In the end, it doesn't matter as long as it rocks, although I certainly liked "Permission to Land" much better. - TN

I'm unabashedly a big Darkness fan. I was gutted when they broke up, but then the Stone Gods record (the Darkness minus singer Justin Hawkins) was AMAZING. So I didn't know what to expect here; I really, really wanted it to be great, but wasn't sure if they still had the magic. Turns out, they did. - CD

47. Grizzly Bear - Shields

Grizzly Bear's consumate musicianship shines through once again. This album didn't blow me out of the water, but it's still a very worthy addition to the catalogue of indie royalty. - GR

This wasn't their best album, but it was certainly their most accessible. - DW

46. Anti-Flag - The General Strike

No list of mine would be complete without a little bit of punk; with that, I'm throwing The General Strike into my Best-of 2012 List. The album, claims vocalist/guitarist Justin Sane, "celebrates [...] people who stand for workers' rights, human rights, a just representative political system, and a new mode of doing business where sustainability is the norm not the exception.” With the album run-time totaling just under 30 minutes, their message stays clear, gritty, and to-the-point (us vs them! down with capitalism!) without being too American Idiot about it. Kudos, guys. A solid album. - CM

This album is one of Anti-Flag's "let's do what we did on the last album" type of albums (they go through cycles back and forth), but it's still a very solid effort.This album, like many of their previous efforts, is heavily reliant on driving basslines and catchy, aggressive hooks. - CG

Sorry I missed this one. It's now on my "to listen to" list. - AC

45. Tanlines - Mixed Emotions

Here is your poppy electronic dance jam of the year. I first heard “Real Life” a couple of years ago, when it appeared on the Brooklyn duo’s debut EP, and I’m pleased to see that their full-length debut reflects growth toward even more solid musicianship. Synthy washes, upbeat tempos, catchy melodies and even a faint whiff of the islands will have you chairdancing away. - GC

44. Ellie Goulding - Halcyon

Tracks from Halcyon continue to pop up in movie trailers, remix compilations, soundtracks... Ellie Goulding has a haunting voice that feels more like instrumentation than anything else. The lyrical content of the album is smartly written with hooks that are striking, but not out of place, in a mostly electronic record. Moody and fun, put this record on while you're working or driving around in the rain. Goulding has talent to spare, and that makes this album great. -JG

I hope Ellie sticks around for a while; she's a far more interesting element in the pop landscape than nearly any other voice out there at the moment. - GR

43. Punch Brothers - Who's Feeling Young Now?

Well, no one else has written anything about this album, so I guess it falls to me. This is Chris Thile's new project post-Nickel Creek. A nice step forward for Thile, coming into his own as a bridge artist between traditional bluegrass and modern folk. - DW

42. Now, Now - Threads

I'm almost certain that Alaina alerted me to this album and it's easily one of my favorites of 2012. It's a bit dour, but it's just so good. It's perfect winter listening music that you can play from start to finish pretty much.  - RB

RB has it right with this one. Top to bottom, every track is solid. I love when I can just queue up an album—rather than a mix—and be engaged at every moment. - GR

41. A Boy & His Kite - A Boy & His Kite

I found A Boy & His Kite late this year through our colleague Ron Bronson. Listening through the record it's hard to believe that all instrumentation, vocals and production were done by one guy in Colorado. It's remarkable, really. The quality of the recording alone sounds mildy gritty in a refined, "he knows what he's doing" sort of way. Then there are the songs. Lyrically intelligent and beautiful with hooks that don't annoy you. Hints of Sunny Day Real Estate and Fionn Regan come through in the vocal treatments while the music goes from stripped down synths to full-on orchestral instrumentation incorporating moving guitar lines reminiscent of a prettier Death Cab for Cutie in their earlier days... or perhaps closer to Saxon Shore. This is an album that gets me excited for music in ways I rarely get. It's a certain feeling I used to get when finding a new great album in college. This record has that something in spades. -JG

I can't really add anything more clear than what Joel said about it. I stumbled across this late in 2012, enjoyed it a few times through but it wasn't anything I'd spent nearly enough time with, mostly because I listen to music in waves and this is a bit too slow for my tastes right now. It's no doubt brilliant though and an absolute add to your list. - RB

1 comment:

  1. So I only missed out on nine of these this year. I definitely want to hear more of the Rush album, Anti-Flag, Tanlines and A Boy & His Kite. Once again, fellow higher ed music critics, you school me.