Monday, December 31, 2012

Shanies: Album of the Year

2012 was never expected to be some incredible year for music, but taking the time to look back, it sure as hell ended up that way. Interestingly, this was a year that saw me escaping my norms more than usual and venturing into new musical styles and artists. That said, we can't all be winners, so keep reading below to see which 10 artists I felt produced the best material this year.  It wasn't an easy decision, however, I assure you that I am correct and the list below is infallible.

10. Band of Skulls - Sweet Sour
Just making the cut was the sophomore release from Band of Skulls. After their first album drew me in, the release of Sweet Sour was precisely what I needed to drive home this band as a force of rock n roll. While the title track and The Devil Takes Care of His Own got high rotation on my ears, the album plays well from start to finish.

9. Every Time I Die - Ex Lives
I mean, at this point, you should really just expect that whenever ETID puts out a new album, it is going to make my top 10. Ex Lives was no different and showed the band's ongoing evolution, housing both insanity-gripped driving songs such as Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space as well as dark, drawn out tracks like Revival Mode.

8. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - The Heist
In addition to having the most incredible video of the year, this entire album stands up exceptionally well. From songs about baseball to exceptionally heart-on-sleeve tracks about Mack's battles with substance abuse, this 18 track epic blends the two artists perfectly: Lewis painting incredible backdrops for Macklemore to spit his naked lyrics overtop.

7. Jack White - Blunderbuss
What should be surprising about Blunderbuss is the fact that it only lives at #7 on my list. White has now proven that he can survive under just about any musical configuration after conquering the solo hill. The antics and gimmics surrounding this album were innovative and awe-inspiring and while I fell in love with a number of tracks, this album left me a little unsatisfied & wanting more from Jack.

6. Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again
Already being heralded as a soul revival after only a couple of EPs, Kiwanuka had set big expectations for his debut LP and would not disappoint. Pouring his heart out with genuine, human words that told simple yet powerful stories, this entire album simultaneously transforms the listener back to the 70s, while pulling your forward to remind you that the future still has some hope too.

5. Quakers - Quakers
For a rock-head like me, it's rare that two hip hop albums would crack my list, however, if you take the time to listen to Quakers 41-track self-titled debut, you'll understand and appreciate that this album is much more than hip hop. Pulling together a team of over 30 DJs, MCs, producers and instrumentalists, this disc feels more like a dope-beat all-star game than an album.

4. DZ Deathrays - Bloodstreams
5 years ago, I may have hated this band, however, my tastes have evolved and this Brisbane two-piece has found an incredible way of meshing hard rock, dance, electronica, blues and hardcore. Truly a unique sound, Bloodstreams stands as an incredible step forward not just for DZ, but for music.

3. Rival Sons - Head Down
If you know anything about me, than you should have expected that at least one straight-up rock album would sneak into my list. For 2012, this was as good as it gets. After 3 full albums together, the Sons just keep getting tighter and more sure of themselves and their sound. Head Down seems to be a reminder to the band that as their popularity continues to grow, they must maintain their humility and never loose sight of the roots that make their blaring rock n roll sound so incredible.

2. Indian Handcrafts - Civil Disobedience for Losers
I'll never forget the first time I stumbled into an IH show at the Elmo. I was skeptical given how idiotic their name sounded, but quickly shut my mouth and listened the awesome noise emanating from two of the most intense musicians I'd ever seen live. If you like riffs, intensity and loud fucking music, buy this album already.

1. Kid Koala - 12 Bit Blues
Let it go down in the history books: for the first time, probably ever, my album of the year is not a rock album, but something pieced together by an absolute genius on the turntables. While the Kid's Slew project made me fall in love with him, it was ultimately the merger of the blues with electronic beats and samples that would create one of the most unique, enjoyable albums I've had the opportunity to lose myself to in years.

Each track on 12-Bit tells, or should I say re-tells, a story of the blues through a different lens. Still, the album flows from track to track so seamlessly that this is the perfect album to drop on and just experience. I'm not sure if this formula could be repeated with the same success, but for Kid Koala, he managed to find in this album one of the most innovative concepts for an album that I've seen - and better yet, it sounds incredible.

And that's it.  2012 has been a fun and amazing year of music and I only hope 2013 can live up! If you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions for the blog in the new year - take the time to tell me now. I'm feeling festive and jolly, so tell me quickly before I go back to being a totalitarian asshole in the New Year.

-I'm not raising hell, going to tame it, and give hell to someone else