Where the fuck did this last year go? It seems like just 12 months ago, I was writing up my best of album list for 2011… oh wait.
This year was a great year in music and one that I didn’t think could come close to what great music came out in 2011. But there was some solid albums that easily made my list after just a few listens. And of course, others that I wished had grew on me better. And with that, here’s my picks for what I liked, tried to like and tried to keep playing in 2012.
- Neon Trees “Picture Show”
With their sophomore effort having almost twice the number of songs their debut album “Habits” had, this hybrid California/Utah band had come back and shown everyone they are not just riding their laurels on one hit/album. This release has one of my favorite songs “Trust”, along with “Hooray For Hollywood” and the big giant radio hit “Everybody Talks.” It might not be everyone’s taste, but I like it – for it’s pure pop pleasure. And since I reviewed it earlier this year, it’s held up and stayed on my ever changing playlist.
- Miniature Tigers “Mia Pharaoh”
Back in 2010, this indie band released a great album that ended up on my best of list for that year. In what I would call a complete upgrade in sound, this year’s release is stunning. The music on this album is so, so good. Songs like “Female Doctor”, “Sex On the Regular” and “Easy As All That” have the hooks that keep me playing them over and over again.
- Walk The Moon “Walk The Moon”
This quartet from Cincinnati, Ohio came on strong with their major label debut and the hit song “Anna Sun”, which I admit to getting tired of hearing. Good thing the rest of the album like “Jenny”, “Tightrope” and “I Can Lift A Car” excel in so many musical motions and directions. My daughter has seen them live before and they are actually playing a sold-out show tonight in Salt Lake City [unfortunately, I can’t go due to work commitments]. Except to hear more from these guys in the future.
- Amanda Palmer “Theatre Is Evil”
The former/current member of the duo Dresden Dolls has branched out on her own and this latest release is a grand experiment that took the Kickstarter project to new funding heights, bringing Amanda and her band over $1.1 million. And they put all that money to good use with this wonderful album of 15 songs that touch on eclectic and symphony. I really can’t hear enough of “Want It Back”, “Smile” and “The Bed Song.” So much good here.
- Japandroids “Celebration Rock”
Two guys. A guitarist and a drummer. Creating a sound bigger than you are expecting. While some of their songs start out with similar notes, the creative process gets larger as the songs play on. Their hit “The House That Heaven Built” is strong and works on so many levels. Other tracks like “Adrenaline Nightshift” and “Fire’s Highway” are solid rock songs that you can’t help but want to keep listening to.
- The Shins “Port Of Morrow”
I was not an early adopter of The Shins music until their 2007 album “Wincing The Night Away” came out. Then I was hooked on their brilliant sound. Fast forward 5 years and the band’s leader James Mercer is here, but accompanied by an all new backing section. Does it stil work? With a resounding YES, it stil works. The album opener “The Rifle’s Spiral” starts things off. The big hit here “Simple Song” doesn’t get old. And even when things slow down for “It’s Only Life” it’s just proof this album of 10 songs can be diverse as creative without flaws.
- Of Monsters And Men “My Head Is An Animal”
Yet further proof that great music comes out of Iceland, this new group piles on the 12 great tracks in their debut. While the Icelandic people got to hear this album in 2011, it didn’t reach the states until spring of 2012. The opener is “Dirty Paws” and it’s very anthem-like build takes you into other gems like “Your Bones” and the alternative hit “Little Talks.” Horns, guitars and vocals make this band take a collaboration model similar to what made Arcade Fire a great band. And the same will be true of this band of Monsters and Men.
- Marilyn Manson “Born Villain”
I am a huge fan of this dark metal rock star’s music and have been since pretty much the beginning. His last couple of albums have lacked in sound and creativity. Not to fear since this eighth’s studio release kicks serious ass. My favorites here are “No Reflection”, “Slo-Mo-Tion” and “The Gardener.” Twiggy Rameriez is back on double duty playing bass and guitar and is pretty much the only other long time member of this band. The lyrics and thundering beats are music to my dark-loving ears.
- Slash “Apocalyptic Love”
Once I finally grasped onto the brilliance that is “Appetite For Destruction”, I’ve deemed Slash as one of my favorite guitarists ever. And while a reunion of the classic GnR is always a wish for us fans, it’s probably never going to happen. But who the fuck cares! Slash is at the top of his game with this year’s album release. Songs like “Standing in the Sun”, “No More Heroes” and “We Will Roam” are just the tip of the iceberg. Not a single track is a downer of the 13 that are included.
But coming in second place on my list doesn’t mean this second studio release by this hard rock guitar legend is second rate. As with the Foo Fighter’s “Wasting Light” from last year, this is the best rock album of this year. I was never a fan of Alter Bridge, the band that Myles Kennedy fronts. But his vocals here are stellar and a great match for the rest of the band backing him. But the top hat prize here is Slash, who gets better with each year. And this album showcases his guitar brilliance status.
- Bob Mould “Silver Age”
If you’ve been reading my non-stop love and praise of Bob’s music back in September, you won’t be surprised to see this album end up at the top of my best albums for 2012. This is a continuation of the great rock sound that Bob mastered with his time in Sugar with “Copper Blue” and “File Under: Easy Listening.”
Each one of these 10 songs excels in guitar, drums and bass with tracks like “Fugue State”, “The Descent” and “Keep Believing” And Bob’s vocals haven’t waned at all over the years, even if some of those high notes get harder to hit with age. From the title track to the album ender “First Time Joy”, this is what a long time musician can make after years of rough and ready riffs.
Reaching For The Top
Nada Surf “The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy”
I hadn’t heard Nada Surf in years… like 6-7 years. So when I heard this album, I really thought it was fresh sounding, like a grown-up emo band finding it’s next musical path, but keeping their familiar sound. Guitar and vocals are a great mix and an easy choice to make it one of this year’s sleepers.
Rush “Clockwork Angels”
A great return to rock for this Canadian trio as they celebrated 40 years together – a great milestone that culminated in this new album. The songs are very strong. The vocals and bass hold up quite nicely, as Geddy Lee makes his double mark on “Headlong Flight” and “BU2B” – mixing the guitar and drum magic of Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart, respectfully.
How To Destroy Angels “An Omen EP”
Is this the beginning to the return of Nine Inch Nails? Perhaps, as Trent has recently hinted at, but this “family” project with his wife Mariqueen and fellow soundtrack partner Atticus Ross, there are some similarities with both sides of Trent’s creative avenue. The songs are very deep, dark and in the vocal arrangements, light and calm. With two EPs out, we now just need a full album in 2013.
No Doubt “Push And Shove”
Nothing like taking 11 years to make another album, but a lot happened in those years. And the songs on the new release show that time doesn’t hamper the songs of this Anaheim, CA based ska band. Gwen’s vocals never sounded better. I really like “One More Summer” as a stand out track.
Hot Chip “In Our Heads”
Damn, this band has a catchy sound. Hailing from London, their sound has a Kraftwork-esque vibe to it. But with more of a pop beat. Not a single song is bad and it’s easy to track the entire album while working out or driving. I hadn’t heard much of their previous four albums before this latest release, but I think I now need to go back through their catalog and look for those sound gems. Makes me wish I would have gone to see them when they came to Salt Lake City in October 2010.
I reviewed this album when it came out this summer and it grabbed me and took me down that familiar Metric path from a couple years ago. Their big hit here is “Youth Without Youth” and it doesn’t get old with multiple plays.
Reissued and Remastered
Peter Gabriel “So”
I already blogged about this great album from Peter Gabriel, so I won’t wax more poetic musings other than to say this is easily the best remastered album to come out this year. Even if you have an older copy of it, this is worth the re-purchase.
I really didn’t hate these albums. Honest. But there was something about the album as a whole that didn’t scream “I’m great!”. And with the exception of some tracks, they fell off my often played lists quicker than I thought they might have.
Mumford & Sons “Babel”
This album might have been too long and many of the songs had a similar sound, but the only tracks that really grabbed me were “I Will Wait” and the title track. The rest, while good, got skipped a lot.
Jack White “Blunderbuss”
This album had a return to the classic White Stripes sound, but like the Mumford & Sons above, it was too long and not enough of the songs kept my interest. I did play “Sixteen Saltines” an awful lot and wished for a reunion with Meg White.
The Killers “Battle Born”
Brandon Flowers’ vocals are as strong as ever on this fourth album by the Nephi, UT native and his Las Vegas co-horts. I ended up really liking “Flesh And Bone” and “The Way It Was” as my favorites, at the same time expecting it to be much stronger after many plays.
Smashing Pumpkins “Oceania”
Billy Corgan is back. Hurray! But it might have been too late for some of us that fell in love with the original line up and the first three albums of greatness. I had a wish that the songs “Panopticon” and “The Celestials” would have become huge radio hits.
Local H “Hallelujah! I’m a Bum”
Another Chicago band that I love and adore their minimalistic yet big sound of guitar and drums. I admit to holding their earlier albums in much higher regard, but I also played “Night Flight To Paris” a good 20-30 times since this album came out in mid-September.
So what say you, readers of this annual collage of the year’s best musical musings? Any albums I left off and didn’t mention? Any of my top picks similar to your top picks?
Top Albums – Previous Years
Top Albums for 2011
Top Albums for 2010
Top Albums for 2009
I didn’t do a Top Albums list for 2008