It’s a new year again and that means tons of great (and not so great) music, new albums, new bands, new concerts to enjoy. But before we go forward unto 2013, let’s take a quick look back at my favorite albums of last year. I can’t believe this is the third time I am doing this, but here goes. (Click to see 2010 and 2011.) Kevin Collier and The Stereo Lounge.com proudly present:
My Favorite Albums of 2012
7. El Javi Trio - Self Portrait
Yes, that’s right, I’m starting my list with an instrumental EP. To read my detailed thoughts on the band, check out my review of their concert earlier this year. This is a great, albeit short collection of instrumental songs featuring drums, bass and Flamenco guitar, fusing classical and rock effortlessly. Though it’s a great album and currently less than $6 on iTunes (seriously, buy it), this is a band best seen live. Be sure to check them out on Facebook because they may be coming to a town near you in 2013 and you don’t want to miss out. They may play their take on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which you won’t find on their album.
6. Showbread - Cancer
Though their album Who Can Know It? made it onto my list last year, technically it came out in late 2010. So here we are again with their newest offering, Cancer. Much like their dual albums in 2008, Anorexia and Nervosa, this album tells a story and is named after a malady. Cancer sucks, I think we can all agree on that. I have lost friends and family to cancer and I know several people who are currently dealing with it. On the album, which was crowdfunded via Kickstarter, the story is told of Planet Cancer, an allegory to life on Earth and amidst themes of despair, the story offers hope of an escape from Planet Cancer. Again, I only began listening to Showbread with their last album, Who Can Know It?, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but it appears that album was a divisive one. A friend of mine who has followed Showbread for years hated WCKI? and he loved Cancer, so go figure. Check it out. Once again, just like WCKI? the album is available as a free download (or with a donation if you’re feeling generous) at Come and Live!
5. Muse - The 2nd Law
I have been a Muse fan for several years now and I still rank their sold-out Staples Center concert as the best overall concert I have been to and I have been to many concerts. As I like to focus more on independent bands and artists here on The Stereo Lounge, it would be easy for me to slip into calling Muse or any other band that was once great, yet not popular, well, a bunch of sell outs. It would be easy to say something flippant like, “They haven’t put out a decent album since Black Holes and Revelations” or “I can’t believe they went dub step on ‘Madness’ and don’t even get me started on ‘Survivor’ being featured as the 2012 Olympic theme song…” But I won’t be the one doing that. I am sure there are plenty of those people out there and they are entitled to their opinions. I will say that I really haven’t enjoyed their last two albums, this and 2009′s The Resistance as much as those that came before, mostly because in my opinion, Black Holes and Absolution were so hard to top. I mean they could have stopped there and had a great run; called it a career. I for one am happy they didn’t and though I freely admit to not liking the last two albums as much, that in no way, shape or form means I didn’t like them at all. Quite the opposite. I always look forward to new Muse and the same held true here. They are playing Staples Center again this month and I won’t be attending, but I will be hard pressed to find a concert to top their last Staples appearance, which I was privileged to attend. I hope I get the chance to see them live again because it is unforgettable. They are phenomenal live. So yes, The 2nd Law is poppier and more commercial than ever, but I don’t care. I’m the guy who calls himself a Silverchair fan and also really likes Young Modern, okay?
4. mewithoutYou - Ten Stories
Another band I saw this year and also wrote about here on The Stereo Lounge.com, mewithoutYou is very hard to describe to the uninitiated, but I love their style. They have to be one of the most creative bands out there when it comes to using complex allegories to explain simple truths and telling elaborate stories. This whole album is a concept album, essentially, and I would be lying if I said I understood all its various themes, references and nuances, but the thing is, you don’t need to. The album is yet another amazing release from an incredible band and again is a band I would highly recommended seeing live as soon as possible. I have this album on vinyl, but luckily it came with a digital copy as well, because I want to take this baby with me wherever I go and my turntable is not exactly portable.
3. Imagine Dragons - Continued Silence EP
Though they released their full length album, Night Visions, this year, some of the tracks on the album were repeated on their earlier EP, Continued Silence and in my opinion, while I enjoy the new tracks included on the album, the EP is a more complete and perfectly planned release, with not a single song on it I don’t like. 2012 was a huge year for Imagine Dragons and expect to continue hearing about them in 2o13, whether you like it or not. But like it you probably do, because the highest viewed post on my blog was my review of the Continued Silence EP.
2. Bad Books - II
The moment I typed the words Bad Books on the page, the almost sickeningly catchy single “Forest Whitaker” pops into my head and refuses to leave. It can stay as long as it wants, because if there is one band I don’t mind getting massive amounts of radio play, it’s indie rock supergroup, Bad Books. I meant to write a review of their concert back in October, but my mind was literally blown a la Tenacious D’s ”Pick of Destiny” and as you can see, I haven’t written anything in the blog since before that concert occurred. Here’s a quick rundown. It was great. The openers were Harrison Hudson (cool dude, check him out too), The Drowning Men (Awesome), and what’s not to like about Kevin Devine and members of Manchester Orchestra having fun on stage? It’s not like I had any unused video footage (it was at the Troubadour, which frowns upon that stuff.) Just buy the album. You will not regret it. End of rant. (Now listen to “Forest Whitaker” and try not to get it stuck in your head for the next 3 weeks.
1. Fun. - Some Nights
For me, this was an easy choice. No band had a bigger year or deserved it more. I began 2012 with my review of Some Nights, and I had no idea how big it was going to get. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this album and most of the good things are already contained in my review. This album not only got a lot of radio play, but it was covered on Glee and was constantly featured on my iPod. If you have only heard the singles, however, I would encourage you to listen to the whole album. There are some great songs on there, including “One Foot” and “It Gets Better” that haven’t really made it into the mainstream media yet.
So there you have it, my favorite albums of 2012. Below you will find a few albums that may have made my cut, but I simply did not take the time to listen to them enough to reasonably include them on my list, but you should totally check them out anyway. Happy New Year from The Stereo Lounge.com!
Honorable mentions: Mumford & Sons – Babel, Smile Empty Soul – 3′s, The Early November - In Currents
- Bowie Releases 66th Birthday Single, Plans First Album in Decade – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Top Albums of 2012 (thisweaknessbeingmine.wordpress.com)