We were lucky this year. We’ve been fortunate to receive music from great artists – some of which are new to the mainstream-sold-on-iTunes audience. But some are old pros who have been providing us with music for decades. These aren’t in any specific order as some are listed as I thought of them and others are listed as I went through my iTunes library to check out what I bought this year.
Channel Orange by Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean released an album that, for me, is both sparse and lush. Channel Orange is both emotionally raw and beautiful. Frank Ocean lays bare his emotional experiences that provide a depth and emotional connection to the music. I’m really still taking this album in and I think I will be for a very long time, but this is definitely a top pick for me in 2012.
Blunderbuss by Jack White
There isn’t a lot I can say about Jack White that hasn’t already been said. A guy from Fun. described him as our generation’s Tom Waits which I think is fairly accurate (even though Tom Waits is still releasing great music – see last year’s Bad As Me). Jack White has an aesthetic. We are guaranteed that music will be impeccably produced but not overbearing. His explorations of heartbreak on this record help provide great lyrical content to a fantastic music.
El Camino by The Black Keys
The Black Keys did it again. This concise record that references their deep influences in classic rock and blues rocks hard and with a yearning that has been present in their music since Rubber Factory. They collaborated with Danger Mouse again and explored some different sonic areas just check out the synthesizers in Gold on the Ceiling to see what I mean.
Some Nights by Fun.
Undoubtably helped out by Glee, Fun. established themselves as a genre blending rock band with massive melodic hooks that everyone wants to sing along to. They’re clearly influenced by Queen as they sweep through different movements within a single song. The whole album is catchy – except for It Gets Better, which is annoying and repetitive.
Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen
Bruce came back this year angry about the way working people have been treated by big banks and industry. He wrote about that anger and incorporated some new sonic experiments some from recent-ish records like the Pete Seeger Sessions and others that haven’t been used before (drum machines and -gasp- a rap verse). All in all it’s a solid album that updates Bruce’s magic formula with new tools.
Blak and Blu by Gary Clark Jr.
The newest bluesman on the block releases a full album of songs. I first learned about Gary Clark Jr. through his EP last year, The Bright Lights. Gary Clark Jr. blends old school approaches to playing blues guitar (including great, rich guitar tone) with some hip-hop and R&B influences to create something fresh and new.
An Omen by How to Destroy Angels
As I am a Trent Reznor fan, this was bound to make this list. But this EP has How to Destory Angels coming together as a band with a cohesive sound. The band blends sonic elements with creativity and some new melodies come from Mariqueen Maandig. Check out Ice Age to witness a different approach to acoustic elements and a great vocal melody.
Food And Liquor 2 by Lupe Fiasco
Despite the drama around Lasers I still enjoyed it, but clearly Lupe Fiasco was just waiting to make this album. He’s woven his critical eye of society throughout the album and sounds ecstatic to be recording the music he wants to record. Around my Way is a catchy hip hop track with some old school influences and is critical of the treatment of the Lakota people in Pine Ridge in the first few lines.
Babel by Mumford and Sons
Mumford and Sons did not switch up much here and it’s all still successful. Acoustic instruments and lush harmonies abound on a well written album that jumped out at me when I first listened to it.
This means that I haven’t had a chance to listen to these albums yet, but most likely they’d be included in this list if I had gotten my musical purchasing together to buy them.
I haven’t gotten the Green Day yet, but everything else has been purchased (thanks to an iTunes sale) and awaits my first listen.