::: MY 10 FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2012 :::
(In no particular hierarchy)
/// PINKUNOIZU - FREE TIME!
This album supplies hallucinatory jams that often overflow with unusual sounds and instrumentation. These stimulating tunes are appropriately supported by blissed-out travels in death, eternity, and love via thought-provoking lyrics. Above all else, it may be the eastern influences tightly interwoven into Pinkunoizu's slow & steady rock n'roll sound that sealed the deal for my ears. I'm a bit of a sucker for this non-traditional approach to western rock. I was definitely pleased to hear an entire album exploring this technique and then some, All while steering very clear of the trappings under the "World Beat" banner. So, if you have some "Free Time!" on your hands, I'd recommend meditating over some Pinkunoizu jams. Gazing at the gorgeous and seemingly pseudo-religious cover art may aid you in meditation.
/// MUSETTE - DRAPE ME IN VELVET
This is a quiet and magical journey of a record. Children jumping on the bed through morning light, late night stargazing, steam rising from an unplowed field, the twinkling lights of a mid-sized city in the valley below… This is some of the hope-filled imagery conjured in my minds eye while listening to this beautiful album. Though the journey is positive over-all, there is the occasional side street to heartbreak and time spent in the dark corners of a wooden home. Which makes the trip all the more worth while. Musette's instrumental approach creates emotion, memory, and meaning while others struggle for a portion of this with the aid of lyrics or spoken word. On top of all this, Drape Me In Velvet is probably my favorite album cover of the year.
/// BEACH HOUSE - BLOOM
If you are familiar with Beach House, once again, they have not brought anything new to the table with their fourth full-length album. However, they have created such an impressive sound, that each exercise in exploring it further is a delight to hear. This is probably their biggest sounding record yet with songs that seem to glow and echo to fill all available space. My love for this album was solidified as I crested a hill on the edge of the Boise Foothills on my bike. At that moment the lush mantra, "It's a strange paradise", in the closing minutes of Irene filled my ear buds. It was dusk and the lights of the city twinkled along with the hazy arrangement. I squinted my eyes abstracting the valley into glowing rods. I felt as if I could have melted into the sandy trail and evaporated into a singular moment. In other words, I liked it a lot.
/// FLYING LOTUS - UNITL THE QUIET COMES
This album appears to catch Flying Lotus in chill mode. It is a nice contrast from his previous album which seemed to take an "everything and the kitchen sink" approach to electronica and hip-hop. Being that I am a visual artist, imagery associated with any given album can have a big impact on me. The short film created in conjunction with Until The Quiet Comes was no exception. It brought the album to a whole new level for me. The submerged imagery throughout the album packaging was yet another added plus. Regardless of these dreamscape visuals, you can enter Flying Lotus's urban nightscape via the beats and reverie alone. This record became my go-to soundtrack for driving through the city after dark.
/// DELTED SCENES - YOUNG PEOPLES CHURCH OF THE AIR
Simply put, this is a really solid indie rock record. I was initially drawn in by a comfortable familiarity. It reminded my of a myriad of enjoyable acts from Slow Reader to The Shins and The Deathray Davies to Memory Tapes. The Deleted Scenes definitely find strength in an eclectic group of tracks. This trail-mix approach is significant in a time when one-note records are becoming the norm. However, the album is held together tightly with a well-crafted, personalized style, making it tough to peg them to any singular influence. Their intensely personal lyrics make for a pretty emotional delivery while managing to not take things over the top. In an age when indie rock is often embraced by the main stream, I am surprised to not see many arms warmly inviting this over-looked band in for big hug.
/// ANIMAL COLLECTIVE - CENTIPEDE Hz
It feels like Centipede Hz is only for long-time AC fans like myself. If the wider appeal of their pervious effort, Merriweather Post Pavilion, couldn't reel you into their strange world, this album will probably have you running for the hills. It is messy, noisy, loud, and in your face. They pile the layers on so thick in many tracks, that they can only be unpacked through multiple and sometimes labored listens. After the first several spins on Spotify with my small computer speakers, I came away thinking, "I don't know about this one?". Then I actually purchased the album and cranked it up on my stereo system. The layers began to peel back and pull me in. It is a pretty psychedelic trip via outer space transmissions and as with most AC albums, there is a heavy emphasis on "trip". Centipede Hz feels like an audio version of other unorthodox experimentations such as MK-ULTRA.
/// HUNDRED WATERS - HUNDRED WATERS
When I usually find this album filed under the "electronica" category, I feel it is doing this band a bit of a disservice. I love electronica music however, I'm labeling this as my favorite folk album of the year. The delicate voices, trickling streams, madrigal choirs, and woodland settings of this album are far from the machine-world oft associated with electronica. Hundred Waters finally came together for me as I listened to it while exploring an abandoned factory in a small Idaho town. The reintroduction of gnarled tress with snaking roots into the man-made structures, seemed acutely appropriate for the chosen soundtrack. Whether it be electronica or folk, I feel Hundred Waters have brought something quite refreshing to both genres. Perhaps the term folktronica is in order?
/// THE HELIO SEQUENCE - NEGOTIATIONS
This album was released right when I needed it. Summer had ended, fall was in full swing, and I was struggling to find any music that was fully engaging my ears. Negotiations is the most accessible Helio Sequence record to date, it goes down extremely smooth. Though it is their most quiet record to date, it fills extremely large spaces from skyscraper canyons to Northwest mountain tops. They oft speak sympathetically in broad terms concerning our troubled times, which makes it all the more comforting. Many of the tracks eventually build to huge crash-boom finales that still manage to melt softly in your ears due to the plush production. The Helio Sequence has been one of my comfort foods for over a decade now.
/// THE SHINS - PORT OF MORROW
I was glad to have James Mercer back at the helm of The Shins this year. Many have already dismissed this album due to over-production and more accessible lyrics. I much rather prefer my favorite bands trying new approaches than simply giving me the same serving at every meal. So, Port of Morrow was a welcome treat to my ears in 2012. Is it my favorite Shins album? No. But, is it another awesome Shins album? Yes! I love how they always slip a strange and more experimental song in the line-up. The title track fit that bill on Port of Morrow. This was one of my favorite album package designs of the year to boot! Other than that, what else can I say about The Shins? They will continue to earn their spot in rock history.
/// MONSTER RALLY & RUMTUM - COASTING
My love for this album mostly stems from feelings of nostalgia. Coasting quickly takes me back to the jazzy, lounge beats of mix masters and beat makers of the 1990's, not unlike A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, and The Beastie Boys. However MR & RT do manage to slip a little new school flavor in the mix keeping it from being a complete throw back record. It also didn't hurt that I really enjoyed catching them live at the expectation-exceeding Treefort Music Festival last spring. Bass, guitar, a table full of pedals, knobs, and buttons created the duo's infectious live set. This one is basically guaranteed to get your body moving.
::: HONORABLE MENTIONS :::
Hiatus Kaiyote - Tawk Tomahawk
This has been filling my contemporary jazz, soul, and R&B fix, big time!
Purity Ring - Shrines
New, dark, futuristic, electric, gruesome, pop music… which equals a bright future in this duo's case.
Melody's Echo Chamber - Melody's Echo Chamber
A really groovy debut record with delicious French seasonings!
Elephant & Castle - Transitions
There is so much DJ/electronica music out there these days and this one stood out from the pack for me.
Grizzly Bear - Shields
Another solid and critically acclaimed effort by one of my personal favorites.
Mac Demarco - 2
This is a lazy, laid-back record that is great for a sunny afternoon spin.
The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet
Probably their most accessible album to date and one of the few heavy hitting albums I spent real time with in 2012.
Radiation City - Cool Nightmare
This haunting EP definitely peaked my interest in anticipation for what they may offer us in the future.