The year is finally wrapping up and I, like many others donning ugly sweater after ugly sweater for festivities sake, are anxious for a break. Yes indeed, we are reaching that part of the year where folks in the office begin that extra special kind of slacking that can only be topped by the students who've asked for a second extension on their final paper. It's the same kind of mentality that drove sitcom writers in the 90's to compile those kitschy flashback clip-shows.
Whether you're calculating the probability of being on the naughty list or compiling a list of grievances to air to your family before pinning the head of the household down, the holiday season is ripe with reflection. So let's take a glance back at some of this year's best albums, shall we?
TOP FIVE ALBUMS OF THE YEAR (in order of release)
Visions by Grimes
January 31, 2012
Montreal's Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes, has been entrancing audiences with her experimental dream pop since the release of her first album in 2010. Her sound has matured into something much darker and complex in Visions. Grimes' ethereal vocal melodies float over driving drum machines/synthbass beats to create some of the most addictive hooks you'll hear all year. This is the kind of stuff that will drive you to dance wildly at the bus stop, alienating your fellow commuters. Tread lightly, friends. Visions is a slippery slope to a euphoria that realizes itself in wild dancing and hugging strangers for too long.
Let's take a couple listens to this track:
It's hard to believe that this entire album was conceived and created in a mere 3 weeks. It's even harder to believe that Grimes recorded this mofo ON FUCKING GARAGE BAND.
All I want for Christmas, is for Grimes to actually come to Winnipeg.
Adventures in Your Own Back Yard by Patrick Watson
Secret City Records
April 16, 2012
Have you ever fallen asleep and found yourself in an intricately beautiful dream that is full of narrative and deep personal meaning? You know, the kind of dream that, until it is ripped away by a shitty alarm clock, feels like a life well lived. Well guess what, Patrick Watson's Adventures in Your Own Backyard IS that dream. Bonus: you get to listen to it over and over again.
This 13 track album compels today's listeners to do something that seemed to have vanished with cassette mixtapes and vinyl records: listen to the album in its entirety. Gorgeously crafted melodies capture your imagination, drawing your ear to the delicately rich textures in Watson's arrangements. Haunting piano lines juxtaposed with joyful woodwind and brass gestures evoke a broad spectrum of emotion from the listener. The lyrics are incredibly memorable, so be wary of ear worms. I had the track 'Into Giants' stuck in my melon for over a week. This is probably my favourite album of the year. Don't even get me started on the performance his band did for CBC.
channel ORANGE by Frank Ocean
July 10, 2012
Since I first heard the single for this album, 'Thinkin Bout You', I've had a really strange lesbian boner for Frank Ocean. This figurative boner is further complicated by Frank's queerness (score another for team rainbow!). I've got to come clean to you guys, I'm totally into those slow R&B boner-jams... the kind of music that makes your upper lip curl and urges you to grind your shit off. Can't relate? Listen to this album and prepare to bump and grind your bad self into the new year.
Having penned songs for the likes of John Legend, Brandy, and Beyonce Knowles, Frank Ocean is a master lyricist. There is a definite stylistic difference between Frank Ocean's brand of R&B and today's modern R&B. Lyrically, the focus broadens from the standard theme of sex and love to include the vulnerability of the protagonist, alternative philosophies, and addiction. The lyrics are darker with layers of subtlety that are mirrored by the electronic backing them. The blend of influences from the indie and electronica streams have led critics to dub this emerging sound as PBR&B or sometimes R-neg-B. Fat beats and tasteful synths keep channel ORANGE sounding so fresh and so clean. So what are you waiting for? Download this mother.
ps. there's a bonus track
Gossamer by Passion Pit
July 20, 2012
The first listen of Gossamer was like trying dark chocolate for the first time and realizing that it was WAY better than milk chocolate. Since the release of Manners in 2009, I had been anxiously waiting for Michael Angelakos and the gang to churn out another happy-go-lucky synthpop masterpiece. The tracks on this album retain the upbeat personality that is signature to Passion Pit but also begin to explore some darker themes, lyrically. Songs on this album touch on sombre subjects such as unrequited love, alcoholism and regret. This dark timbre lends itself well to Angelakos' expressive voice.
A stand out track for me is 'Constant Conversations'. It has one of the fattest bass lines on the album. If this track doesn't get you moving and singing, you're clearly a soulless robot. Some speculate that the darker themes that are explored in this album stem from Angelakos' own struggles with depression. Either way, this album is definitely worth a couple spins.
Coexist by The xx
September 3, 2012
The opening track of this album is fucking perfect. Romy Madley-Croft's rich voice is hypnotic (double-swoon!). The simple three chord progression is sublimely voiced. How is it possible that something so simple can carry so much weight and hold so much depth? The lyrics are emotive and seductive and are executed as such. This simple but thoughtful aesthetic is carried on throughout the album. Take a listen:
This album is absolutely intoxicating. Here's a holiday activity: Scotch and The xx
Guys, it's hard to pick favourites when so many great albums are released every month. Here are a few albums that didn't quite make my top 5 but came damn close. Click to listen:
America - Dan Deacon
Shields - Grizzly Bear
good kid, m.A.A.d city - Kendrick Lamar
Total Loss - How to Dress Well
Goat Rodeo Sessions - Yo Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, and Stuart Duncan
About to Die - Dirty Projectors
Black Radio - The Robert Glasper Experiment
Hopefully these albums will help ya'll through the excruciating last week of school/work. Now tell me, what were YOUR favourite albums of 2012? Don't be shy. And if you're feeling shy, a couple stiff eggnogs will do the trick.
Happy Holidays, everyone!