Hello, and welcome to Day 6 of Listmas, where we’re still trucking strong! Today’s the most traditional day on the list: my favorite albums of the year. I’d call 2012 a great year for music, and if they aren’t strictly speaking the “best” albums of the year, here are the 5 albums that I listened to more than the rest. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for the year’s odds and ends!
5. Amanda Palmer (and the Grand Theft Orchestra) – Theatre is Evil
I’ve gone up and down all year on what’s most likely going to be Amanda Palmer’s magnum opus, but either way, I’ve kept listening since it’s September release. And, well, it grew on me. Theatre is Evil is an exhilarating and exhausting tour de personality of an album that seldom stops to catch its breath. Palmer tries a bit of everything, and when Theatre is Evil is on, it has some of the most energetic, vibrant music of the year (“Smile”, “Want It Back”, “Melody Dean”). Even slower moments like heartbreaking “The Bed Song” or everything-but-the-kitchen sink “Berlin” are engaging and stuffed to the gills. Like I said, it’s exhausting, but some of the best parties are.
4. Jack White – Blunderbuss
After over a decade in the music world, and five years after The White Stripes’ last album, Jack White finally released his solo debut. And, while Blunderbuss in ways sounds very much like you’d expect a Jack White album to sound, it’s also more vulnerable and less aloof than rock’s mystery man has shown before. You’ll have to give Blunderbuss a couple listens to fully catch that, though, as it’s easy to get swept up in the album’s bombast (“Sixteen Saltines”, “Weep Themselves to Sleep”) and craft (“Love Interruption”) on the first few spins. Jack White might be making music alone for the first time, but he’s having a blast while he’s at it.
3. Titus Andronicus – Local Business
Even before writing what would become Local Buisness, Titus Andronicus faced a tough question: how do you follow-up a record like The Monitor? That album, the band’s 2010 all-or-nothing breakout that married the Civil War to frontman Patrick Stickles’ recent break-up and its aftermath, was an instant high-concept classic. Local Buisness doesn’t up the ante, and is instead comfortable being a string of 10 really good songs (I think of it like this: in relation to Modest Mouse, if The Monitor is TA’s The Moon & Antarctica, then Local Buisness is their Good News For People Who Love Bad News). That’s not to say that Local Business is a lightweight by any means: half the songs clock in between 5 and 10 minutes, and the album’s centerpiece is an 8 minute epic called “My Eating Disorder”. TA’s formula of scrappy, stadium punk is still great here, and even if Local Business isn’t the life changer that The Monitor was, it’s more dependable.
2. Frank Ocean – Channel ORANGE
Smarter people than I have already written about how great 2012 was for Frank Ocean: the string of great TV performances, the history leading up to Channel ORANGE‘s release, his sexuality and what that means for hip-hop…the guy’s done a lot this year. As for me, I’m just content to revel in what a goddamn great album Channel ORANGE is. The album’s been routinely topping year-end lists for weeks, and for plenty of good reasons: the production values are rich, Ocean’s voice and range are phenomenal, and the lyrics are genuinely touching. There’s nary a misfire to be found, and the high points are some of the best music of the year, particularly the album’s heart, “Pyramids”. Channel ORANGE was the album this year that reached past genres, and made a fan out of just about everyone. It’s worth checking out, no matter what you like.
1. The Menzingers – On the Impossible Past
With On the Impossible Past, Pennsylvania punk band The Menzingers have crafted one of finest albums I’ve heard in awhile. It focuses on small town, Midwestern life, but reaches for universal themes: self-doubt, loneliness, and yearning are all over the album. Of course, there’s plenty more to it than that; few artists could write something as wryly sharp as “Burn After Reading”, or as miserable as “Gates”–go look up some of the lyrics, and you’ll find something that clicks with you. And the music, all powerful riffs, melodic leads, and gorgeous texture, only strengthens the album. Better yet, On the Impossible Past is infused with a wintery chill, so why not give it a listen in the coming months?
Listmas concludes tomorrow with my odds and ends (including favorite songs) of the year!
Ranting About Music Listmas Schedule
Dec. 16th: Worst Hits (10-6)
Dec. 17th: Worst Hits (5-1)
Dec. 18th: Best Hits (10-6)
Dec. 19th: Best Hits (5-1)
Dec. 20th: Best New Music
Dec. 21st: Best Albums
Dec. 22nd: Odds ‘n Ends