As the great American holiday of Black Friday draws to a close, it behooves us here at mattneric to engage in some reflection. It’s late November, which means it’s almost December, which means it’s almost the end of the year, which means Eric and I have reviewed a heckuvalotta albums in the fine year of Anno Domini 2012. We’ve listened to far more than we’ve reviewed, and there have easily been about ten mediocre, boring, or outright horrible albums for every good one out there. Which underlines not only the hyperabundance of talentless hacks out there, but also the great difficulty of creating a truly great album. More than just collections of good songs, great albums are worth more than the sum of their parts; bound together by themes, flows, or intangible “x-factors” (SPOILER ALERT I AM DOWN WITH THE NEW ONE DIRECTION ALBUM). I’ve tried to highlight my favorite albums of the year in my weekly reviews, and Eric has done the same, but naturally there were some that slipped through the cracks. In some instances they were overshadowed by other superstar releases from the same week; in others, they’ve just grown on us more and more as the year has progressed.
I’ve put together a top-10 list for albums not reviewed by Eric or myself this year, and I’m unashamedly in love with all of them. Here is the first half of that list.
Beacon picks up right where 2010’s phenomenal Tourist History left off. Two Door are master craftsmen of dangerously contagious dance-pop, and their latest is no exception. Blistering guitar falsettos and skittish drums meet hypnotic vocals and groovy bass lines straight out of the ’70s. If songs like “Wake Up,” “Someday,” and “Sleep Alone” don’t provoke a significant response from your adrenal gland, you should probably get yourself checked out.
Skip this album if you don’t like: “Wake Up”
There’s something to be said for a pop album that completely accomplishes its purposes. Sure, if you’re generally against radio-friendly pop music, you probably wrote off One Direction (and boy bands on principle) long ago. But Take Me Home, the young lads’ second release of 2012 already, is a perfect pop album. Granted, it’s perfect in the sense that In-n-Out or Whataburger is perfect food. But you know what you’re getting into and sometimes it’s exactly what you want. Throw away your shame and enjoy.
Skip this album if you don’t like: “I Would”
Cut from the mold of acoustic specialists like Jack Johnson and Ray LaMontagne, Howard graces his music with a special brand of gravitas that is at once poignant, enjoyable, and mesmerizing. Juxtapose a beach with impending thunderstorms and you have a pretty decent feel for Howard’s music. Every Kingdom is as good a debut as any in 2012.
Skip this album if you don’t like: “Only Love”
Shrines is freaking cool. It’s hard to believe such sternum-rattling ominous music can be created by a couple of young Canadians, but there you have it. Megan James’ tiny, delicate voice commandeers a menacing pirate ship of sound that features trippy hip-hop beats and somber electronics. It’s cute and scary all at the same time.
Skip this album if you don’t like: “Obedear”
What do you get when you throw synths, noisy guitars, world beats, and Satomi Matsuzaki all together?
Bleep bloop CLANG BOMP FWOORT. Deerhoof!
Skip this album if you don’t like: “The Trouble With Candyhands”