Make no mistake; this is by no means a best of 2012 list.
A lot of music came out and saying that there was a single album that stands above the rest is just a recipe for disaster, especially when considering how subjective music actually is. Rather, this is a list of albums that you owe yourself to listen to due to how innovative and unique they are.
(∆) An Awesome Wave by Alt J
An Awesome Wave truly is “an awesome wave,” rich with intense, chilling vocals that are backed by the most rhythmic and diverse instrumental melodies that you’ll ever hear. So much is happening; yet the songs remain eerily simplistic until you break down in your head everything you’re hearing and the very deep symbolism present in their lyrics.
To give an example, Taro, the last track on the album is about two wartime photographers, Taro and Capa, who fall in love during the Indochina wars. Unfortunately Taro’s car gets hit by a tank, killing her, leaving Capa ultimately lost. The song closes as Capa himself dies by stepping on a landmine, but he’s finally free of a life he didn’t want to spend without his love. Heavy stuff indeed.
Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! by Godspeed! You Black Emperor
These guys are responsible for helping to define Post Rock and then disappearing for a solid two years only to come back and push the boundaries even further. Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is a four track album that clocks in at a little more than 50 minutes long.
Two of the tracks are actually almost 20 minutes each! However, within the confines of that 50 minute span is a torrent of the most aggressively emotional instrumental pieces of work. The album is powerful, tension building, and encapsulates the most mournful of thoughts that everyone feels from birth to death.
The Money Store by Death Grips
This was the second album to come out by genre-defying band, Death Grips. Incorporating heavy electronic music played live on synth, with the powerful rhythm of former noise rock drummer, Zach Hill of Hella, they both provide the set drop for MC Ride. On the surface, it’s rap, but it really is so much more than that. The desperation in his voice has this deep, angry sorrow to it that is just the product of a life time of frustration and anger.
Infused with many mind-blowing effects timed in perfect sync with MC Ride, the final package that is delivered is still raw, but that’s also the best part. It evokes emotions that make you want to stand up and beat your chest and just release everything you bottle up. This album is just primal human reaction to anger and it’s carried out wonderfully.
The Idler Wheel by Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple demands your attention right from the get-go. Her cut-throat piano styling and sudden, yet charming vocals scream at you, begging to let her amaze you with her beautifully crafted lyrics and compositions.
Combined with an assortment of drumming and bass placed masterly in sync with the ups and downs of her emotional and at times, tantric singing, the final product is almost a bluesy jazz, yet still charming and cute.
She’s been around for quite some time and is often doubted because of her aging child star ideal, but she still has a lot to offer. She’s emotional enough to express her rashness and distraught lyrics, but she’s also smart enough do it with a quaint level of finesse that carries the album through from start to finish.
Celebration Rock by Japandroids
The Japandroids are a Canadian indie garage-rock band with only two members, both of which are well into their thirties. However, they still have an unrepentant youth and energy that pushes the boundaries of their talents and of the niche genre that they’ve made for themselves.
The hardness and the rashness of vocalist and guitarist, Brian King, is a very deep reflection on a normal man pushing himself to the limits of abnormality. The intensity that they put forward just makes you want to live life on the edge and go wild. It’s refreshing, yet a bit confusing.
As the saying goes, if you’re not liberal in your youth then you don’t have a heart. If you’re not conservative in your old age, you don’t have a brain. Yet still, they did it. They pushed their limits and the outcome is something remarkably energetic and youthful.
Whether this is something that they’ve been born with or worked to achieve has yet to be seen, but this fact is ultimately irrelevant.
To hear a preview of all these bands and more great music, check out the Baron’s YouTube page at youtube.com/thebaronsj