Monday, January 28, 2013

Best Albums Of 2012: #10 - 1

Here's part two and the conclusion to The Soundtrack Of My Life's "Best Albums Of 2012" list.  The top ten includes more than one album cover featuring an alarming amount of pink.  Three of the albums are debut records for the artist.  Most importantly, they're all spectacular.  Let's get started...

10. Dum Dum Girls - End Of Daze

End Of Daze is the only EP on this list.  It contains a mere five songs and one of them is a Strawberry Switchblade cover.  Three of the tracks were originally meant to be released as b-sides during the promotion of the band's last album, Only In Dreams.  It's somewhat of a miracle that this EP became the wonder that it is.  I would have never guessed that something so scattered, and really made up of obscurities mixed with stray ideas, could be so captivating.

9. Alicia Keys - Girl On Fire

I jumped on the Alicia Keys bandwagon when she released As I Am.  "No One" was blowing up on the radio and the record was a release day purchase for me.  I backtracked from there and discovered The Diary Of Alicia Keys, which would serve as a massive influence towards my own musical creations and use of keyboards.  However, Alicia's formula became somewhat stale over the years.  The Element Of Freedom came out in 2009 and, even though that album holds some stellar singles, I found myself skipping over a decent amount of the tracks.  On that note, Girl On Fire has completely reinvigorated my adoration for Alicia Keys.  There's absolutely zero filler on this record and Alicia is taking chances with new production methods.  She also collaborated with fresh faces such as Jamie xx, Gary Clark Jr., Emeli Sandé, and Frank Ocean.  Girl On Fire is an album that deserves to be ranked among the best of her work.

8. Diamond Rings - Free Dimensional

Special Affections, Diamond Rings' debut album, was the result of an extended stay in a hospital.  The bedroom pop aspect and flamboyant image of Diamond Rings contrasted so violently with John O'Regan's voice that it was brilliant.  A sound setting of innocent keyboards and beats that rang the call of Casio was an unlikely pairing for such insightful lyrics.  Pop music can disguise the most provoking ideas.  For his second album, Diamond Rings went glam.  The production level has been doubled over and there's more of a superstar persona to his ways.  The Klaus Nomi outfit and rap bridges complete this package.

7. Neon Trees - Picture Show

I had the opportunity to witness a Neon Trees concert last summer and it was a truly amazing experience.  Meeting some of the band only made it even better, but that's a story for another day.  Picture Show took the alternative pop sound of their debut and added a new wave twist.  They swayed away from the standard pop song structure, although "Everybody Talks" is radio tailored, and expanded to unfamiliar territory.  "Teenage Sounds" is Billy Idol and "Mad Love" is a bit of Bruce Springsteen.  Some of my favorites from the bunch are the mellow tracks like "Close To You" and "Take Me For A Ride".

6. Sleigh Bells - Reign Of Terror

I still like to bring out Treats and blast in over the speakers every once in a while.  That record will forever hold many unforgettable memories.  Reign Of Terror was definitely a change of direction for the duo.  It took the band away from the wordless sing-along melodies and towards a guitar focused mashup of pop vocals and 80's stadium rock.  Luckily, they managed to keep that Sleigh Bells attitude.  The Reign Of Terror vinyl presentation is also one of the most impressive packages I acquired in 2012.  True. Shred. Guitar,

5. Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits

Let's face it, supergroups and collaborations between established musicians can be disappointing.  Metallica and Lou Reed is the only example necessary.  In contrast to that fact, Divine Fits created the best "supergroup" album in recent memory.  Britt Daniel of Spoon, Dan Boeckner of Handsome Furs and Wolf Parade, Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks, and Alex Fischel are responsible for this masterpiece.  A Thing Called Divine Fits is the perfect blend of a new project and the sounds of those associated bands.  But honestly, is Britt Daniel even capable of creating anything less than amazing?

4. Porcelain Raft - Strange Weekend

I became obsessed with Porcelain Raft in late 2011 after stumbling upon a few scattered singles and mismatched EP's.  The acoustic "Everything From You Hands" and a live version of "Backwords" were constantly on repeat.  When Strange Weekend came out last January, you better believe I snatched a copy of the limited white vinyl and fell in love with every moment of the record.  The studio version of "Backwords" would probably sit near the top of my "favorite songs of 2012" list.  From Mauro Remiddi's songwriting methods to the live performances, Porcelain Raft fascinates me.

3. Grimes - Visions

My first encounter with Grimes was an odd one.  Prior to Visions, I hadn't heard any of Claire Boucher's work.  Back in January when Visions was getting a ton of attention and critical acclaim, I listened to a few random tracks off of it.  It didn't strike me as anything special.  It wasn't until I heard "Genesis" that I sat back down and gave the entire record a spin.  Now I'm obsessed with everything about Grimes.  My favorite track on Visions changes every other day, but "Colour Of Moonlight (Antiochus)" with Doldrums sits on top most often.  Don't even get me started on the "Genesis" music video.

2. Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra - Theatre Is Evil

Everyone has some sort of radical opinion about Amanda Palmer.  Writers rant about how she's taking advantage of her fans and stealing the valuable time of musicians, but at the same time, her fanbase ranks among the most loyal followers that you could ever find.  Theatre Is Evil found its beginnings as the Kickstarter album that passed the million dollar mark.  It lives up to the hype.  I absolutely couldn't believe how solid this album was.  The standard tracklisting holds fifteen songs and clocks in as quite a hefty record, but every single moment is just as brilliant as the last.

1. Lana Del Rey - Born To Die / Paradise

Lana Del Rey captured the attention of the entire internet population.  She captivated and confused everyone.  Is she a scam with fake lips or is "Video Games" a masterpiece? Maybe both? Neither?  The mystery surrounding "Lizzy Grant" only made the situation more interesting.  By the time she released her debut album, Born to Die, most of the hipsters had thrown her away, but in an interesting turn of events, she became somewhat of a pop star with a following of devotee's who would trend  "Lana you're the bestest" all over social networks.  The pop crowd took her in after the now infamous Saturday Night Live performance.

When creating this list, Lana was a clear choice for the top spot.  Out of every artist, album, and single from 2012, I kept returning to Born To Die and never stopped talking about the Lana Del Rey hype.  It's so rare for an artist to magically appear and shoot to the top like Lana managed.  I've paired Born To Die together with her second album, Paradise, due to the idea that they're companion pieces. It's also simply because I love both albums.  "Ride", the lead single from Paradise, received the ten minute epic of a video that it deserved.  That video is probably the best representation of Lana Del Rey as an artist.

There's been talk that Lana may retire from her current career and focus on working behind the scenes, making music for film.  Maybe the stage life isn't for her.  Either way, she fell into the spotlight and and created my favorite album of 2012.

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