Thursday, January 17, 2013

Courtney's Top 12 of 2012

I joined the team relatively late (read: about two weeks before our album reviews), so I was only able to pull together a smaller list ... this time 'round. After having submitted my list, there were a few albums that popped up that I'd have loved to included, but I'll stick to my original guns and will most definitely have a more in-depth list for the next batch.

Without any further ado - my favourite 12 of 2012:

  1. The Joel Plaskett Emergency - Scrappy Happiness
    The finished product of Rock & Roll in Record Time—a songwriting experiment documented by the CBC (ten songs in ten weeks!)—Scrappy Happiness is a warm, good-natured album. Each track showcases Plaskett's chops as a songwriter - each song on the album has a completely different personality than the one before it; nothing recycled here. There's a sense of hometown-Canada back-in-the-day nostalgia threaded through the album, too, that resonates deeply with me.

  2. Me'shell Ndegeocello - Pour une Âme Souveraine
    I like that she's infused her own style and artistic vision into each song; Ndegeocello has evoked the velvety soul of Simone's music without mimicking it. Whether through collaborations with a wide variety of artists, including Sinead O'Connor (Don't Take All Night), Toshi Reagon (House of the Rising Sun), or Lizz Wright (Nobodys Fault But Mine), no song is exactly what you expected it to be - and that's just fine with me. 

  3. Anti-flag - The General StrikeNo 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.

  4. Bahamas - Barchords 
    Fellow Torontonian Afie Jurvanen's sophomore release, Barchords, is one of my most favourite new albums of the year. Exactly what you'd expect from a dude named Bahamas, the album features laid-back, breezy melodies (Lost in the Light); stripped-down vocals and guitar (Never Again, Montreal, Overjoyed); intimate, honest songwriting (Any Other Way), and interesting, sometimes blues-inspired guitar (Time and Time Again, Be My Witness).

  5. Cold Specks - I Predict A Graceful Expulsion
    A quietly intense British-based Canadian artist named Al Spx, Cold Specks' voice is compellingly rich, deep, and emotional. She's somehow reminiscent of Adele, minus the post-breakup angst and with much, much more creative variation in her songwriting. While she describes her sound as "doom soul" (how ominous!), I'd characterize her style instead as one of dramatic, understated restraint. Her songs ebb and flow in all the right places.

  6. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
    Vancouver-based Japandroid's sophomore album is nothing if not aptly named; its guitar fuzz and raw vocals ooze of the best late-night summertime parties. They've got awesomely rowdy energy that's carried throughout the entirety of the album, which is youthful and optimistic without being juvenile or, worse, cliché. I enjoy the fact that they're true to their sound and personality; one website claims that "instead of making the typical pitfall of hiring a renowned producer to “refine” their sophomore record, they brought in original engineer Jesse Gander, who coaxed them to “make this one a little more cruising down the highway, and a little less doing crystal meth on New Year’s.” And that's totally cool with me - there's too many indie bands who go for the New Year's Meth sound anyways.

  7. Propagandhi - Failed States
    After three long years, Canadian punk band Propagandhi has released, IMHO, one of their best albums to date (which is no surprise whatsoever, given that they've always been a consistently solid band). The quality of meticulous drumming and speedy guitarwork are miles beyond many of the other albums that I've come across this year; they've clearly made great use of the time since their last album to leave no remnants of their melodic punk roots.

  8. Gaslight Anthem - HandwrittenOne of my biggest personal draws to Gaslight's previous releases is the stories and characters influenced by all things Americana; while this album is (apparently) a bit of a departure from this approach, the sentiment is most definitely still very present. Or maybe it's the fact that they've been touted as 'heirs to Springsteen's crown'. Either way, I'm interested to see the ways in which their sound continues to grow.

  9. DJ Vadim - Don't Be Scared
    Don't be fooled by DJ Vadim's moniker - there's no house music anywhere to be found around here. Born in St. Peterburg, Russia (then-USSR), Vadim's music combines hip hop, soul, reggae and electronica into a sound that I can only describe as broken beat soul. Over the course of his 17-year career, he's worked with a wide variety of artists including DJ Krush, The Roots, Public Enemy, Stevie Wonder, and a wide variety of lesser-known artists. On this album, Vadim continues to reimagine his focus, mixing in a wider array of samples from world music, spoken word, and even a little bit of dancehall.

  10. The Lumineers - self-titledThe Lumineers evoke simplicity, charm, and soulfulness, with lead vocalist Wesley Schultz' stylings sometimes reminiscent of Bob Dylan (Classy Girls, Flowers in Your Hair). With a good mix of upbeat songs (Big Parade, Stubborn Love), slower, earnest ones (Dead Sea, Slow It Down and Morning Song), and just plain simple, sweet ones (Flapper Girl), their album is an inspired breath of fresh air among the myriad of lesser folk-inspired indie releases of 2012.

  11. Mumford & Sons - BabelI never had the chance to fully check out Mumford & Sons' previous album, so listening to this one in its entirety was a pleasure. While it received lukewarm reviews from critics, I'm still cool with them - likely because I've always been The One Who Appreciates The Person Busting Out The Acoustic Guitar At Parties And Cottages By The Lake. I like their sound, and I love their cover of Simon & Garfunkel's The Boxer.

  12. Keston Cobblers' Club - One, For Words
    Really, I can't help but enjoy this British band's little folksy ukelele and oom-pah sound. I'm normally not one for the overuse of the word delightful, but KCC's music certainly fits the bill. Their sound is innocent, wholesome, and simple without trying too hard. Favourite songs thus far: One, for words (check out their video on Youtube), and You-go. Listening to them is like having a tasty light dessert after a good meal.
Want to hear more? Check out my favourite songs from each album on Rdio.

1 comment:

  1. We're glad you joined our little group, Courtney! It can't be easy being the lone Canadian voice in this gaggle, but you've represented your nation well, and have introduced me to some new tunes.