Thursday, December 13, 2012
2012: The Top 30 Best Albums: Part II
11. Ava Luna Ice Level:
not many bands tackle several genres simultaneously but Ava Luna never got the memo so Ice Level mixes punk, rock, blues, R&B and soul into one tight setting. Carlos Hernandez grew up in a home where music was diverse and it shows in his pairing with Becca Kauffman. These songs sport huge riffs but just like THEESatisfaction there is heavenly poetry involved. Other musicians and ideas filter through this debut LP but buoyed by Hernandez’s steady hand at craft, it never gets too crazy or goes overboard.
12. Bryan Scary Daffy’s Elixir:
Bryan Scary is a huge throwback to the mid 70s where big-hair rock was emerging across America and everyone was experimenting with drugs to get high. Daffy’s Elixir sounds like genres crossed in some grand flower power scheme. One hears early Bowie and Freddy Mercury in between the musical parts. Songs like Cable Through Your Heart rotate endlessly, as if on ice skates. Ziegfield Station is even better with its fey vocals and power riffs. Elsewhere, Scary lays the guitars on thickly with exquisite fashion, teaching old masters like Bill Corgan new ideas. Diamonds proves that he can rest on his soaring voice alone while Another Ace In The Hole proves he’s no wuss either.
13. Twin Shadow Confess:
inspired after a bike crash three years ago, Forget continues the stunning rise of George Lewis Jr. That means he’s still a great Hispanic Bowie with the synths and 80s new wave riffs. The main difference between this as his 2010 debut (Forget) is the booming effect of melody and reverb. Songs like When The Movie’s Over and The One go for days because of this new confidence. No synopsis of the album can be complete without addressing the brilliance of Five Seconds, a TV On The Radio-esque rave, full of pop/rock references.
14. Killer Mike R.A.P Music:
Killer Mike hooks up with El-P and presents the best protest rap music of the year. It’s pretty unimpeachable and flows seamlessly from style to style and, because everyone wants to know, it’s short for Rebellious African People. That ideal spreads a political message, no more than Reagan, which lambasts the former US president while linking him to everyone since. It’s also an impressive document on the African-American experience, one that the internet age will ignore for Kendrick Lamar but will realize that both reference the same era, both personal and cultural.
15. Sam Sparro Return To Paradise:
it takes a while to warm up (the first three tracks are deceptive) but after that a slow disco fever takes hold of Sparro and never deserts him. This is 1980s club music, conjuring up images of George Michael and Terence Trent D’arby, which is a retro lover’s wet dream. Sparro has modernized these concepts---note the Prince-like riffs that dominate the blissful Yellow Orange Rays and the dirty funk of We Could Fly. Though most critics have already labeled him as a one-hit wonder, Sparro may yet prove them wrong.
16. Mac Demarco 2/ Rock & Roll Night Club:
a pair of debut albums from the Canadian who shift-shapes into so many different categories. If Rock & Roll Night Club is the thrilling one-night stand, then 2 is the after event cup of surprise coffee. On the surface this doesn’t seem capable from the same artist, who, after all, is trying on his girl’s lipstick in one instance and donning his dad’s shirt the next. That’s the crazy cool thing about Demarco though—that sense of not taking himself too seriously. His jangle pop is so convincing that it’ll bring a lot of Bradford Cox comparisons.
17. Of Montreal Paralytic Stalks:
Kevin Barnes and his gang return with the usual bag of tricks and though they’ve done this brand of neo-pop better before, the songs on Paralytic Stalks are no less charming for that fact. The sheer dizziness of the first four songs alone sets a stride that never relents…exposing us to Barnes’ full array of genius. As with everything Barnes touches, the highs are very high and the not so high, well, those tracks are highly experimental. Through his constant questioning of identity though, Barnes never fails to connect to this weird, cool space and titles (Authentic Pyrrhic Remission).
18. Grizzly Bear Shields:
the band that can do no wrong for critics returns with more sweeping, theatrical gestures that only prove how much in the zone they’ve become since Veckatimest three years ago. In Daniel Rossen, the band has a voice that poignantly wades through many different emotions. At times this is stark yet eerily beautiful (the last two closing tracks) and jazzy (Gun-Shy). Rossen, who does work in Department Of Eagles, is a master technician in these moments…a man on a mission to wrap the entire world in melody until there’s nothing else left but its immensity.
19. Amanda Palmer Theatre is Evil:
the eccentric Palmer returns with a glorious pop model, steady tunes and whip-smart grooves. It wouldn’t be an Amanda Palmer project without fanfare: the former Dresden Dolls singer took to the internet to raise a million dollars for the project. A few fellow artists raised alarms but the outcome is a feminist document of her experiences throughout the period. This is pure pop/rock done right; the type Pink has forgotten how to make and Palmer has now perfected.
20. Alabama Shakes Boys & Girls:
after building incredible hype the past two years, the trio finally releases the debut that showcases the brilliant bluesy vocals of Brittany Howard and her good intentions posing as lyrics and therapy relief. It’s a group effort but Howard is easily the star, her voice striking so many moods and impressions. She’s found a balance between genres and her band-mates wisely keep to the background. Boys & Girls thus is a tease—like the neophyte invited to sing in front of potential agents and wowing them enough to see the inevitable down the road.