So we all come back, just in time for the year to end and a new one to begin. Yet convenient for us, we get to put out our list of “Best Of’s”. We three people here at Arbitrary Line all have our own opinions with our own tastes, so it seemed that compiling an overall top list would be tedious and counterproductive, so instead we all are taking matters into our own hands and individually making our own lists.
Yet before we do, I would like to put out lists of Honorable Mentions. These are albums that didn’t make my top 5/10/20/what have you, yet I believe at least deserve some talking about. As it will be explained further during my personal “Best Of”, I compile my lists by two categories: quality of music, and amount of times I’ve clicked on it on Spotify (my media player of choice). Which seems like a silly standard, but makes sense. Anyways, these albums fell short on one of the two categories, or both. So lets start!
John Mayer – Born & Raised
The Good: Ok, so this is an album I guarantee will be on NOBODY’s end of the year list. However, this album did hit on one category: number of times played. The album was released at an excellent time. Released in late spring, everyone is moving into summer. The laid back, easy nature of not only his voice, but the music, offered something very appealing to me. The new country style worked well with Mayer’s husky tone. The one thing that Mayer knows how to do, is write a hook. Which is why this album is appealing. Every song title has a unique and catchy hook that sticks in your mind. Tracks like “Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey” and “Queen of California” are most likely going to be a regular part of Mayer’s repertoire.
The Flaw: Tone. Everyone knows the background to this album, they know about the several years he spent away in hiding to atone for his sins. The problem is, he doesn’t let us forget this. There’s 12 tracks on the album and he takes about 10 to tell us “I’m sorry”. It gets nauseating at a certain point. Even though Mayer wrote very catchy hooks, the album was a wash of this somber mood. The only two songs that stylistically and mood wise were a change were “Something Like Olivia” and “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967” which ironically had nothing to do with his personal life. Also some of the lyrics were pretty terrible and not thought through.
Father John Misty – Fear Fun
The Good: J. Tillman, the former drummer for Fleet Foxes, had already released multiple albums under his name. This May however, he decided to release an album under the name Father John Misty. He creates a masterful, and very shroomed out, folk album. Tillman does well to continue the Fleet Foxes sound that is so loved by many. Yet Tillman separates himself very well. It’s a folk album yes, but an eclectic folk album. Tillman takes us through a musical journey that goes from his Seattle days, down the west coast to his new home in his “spider-shack”. Yet he even brings us to the south, with the cliche, line dancing in a bar type sound. Tillman took a recognizable sound already established with the genre, and took it to earth and made it his own.
The Flaw: I guess I’m the only one who’s thinks this about the album, but the lyrics don’t sit right with me. Except for songs like, “Every Man Needs a Companion” which is very straight forward, songs like “I’m Writing a Novel” just ramble out random thoughts that came from his shroom filled trip down the coast. I guess I’m missing something that everyone else hears, but to me there’s no cohesion to the lyrics.
Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams
The Good: Probably another album you would not see on anyone’s best of, yet Lord Huron holds a special place in my heart. His Mighty – EP was one of the best new sounds in folk music I had heard. His sound was a perfect blend between Fleet Foxes wash of treble, and the iconic African sounds of Paul Simon’s Graceland. Much to my surprise, the sound stayed the same. Though Lord Huron wrote more tracks with the tribal beat with tracks like “Time To Run”, he also stepped back and wrote more tracks that were very cut and dry folk like “I Will Be Back One Day”. The songs run a bit long, but are not just dragged out, all 5 minutes of a song are packed with substance.
The Flaw: Even though the other continental sounds are very new to the world of folk, Lord Huron’s album at it’s core is just like most folk albums. The lyrical content, the stylings, all very basic to the folk world. It’s just filtered through a hazy, reverb glass. The reason why this is so disappointing is that it was all there in his EP. The echo-y chamber that was Mighty was lost. However, unlike how most people think, this is a very good album at its core. I think this wasn’t a year for folk. If these two albums (Lonesome Dreams and Fear Fun) had been released a year or two ago, I think they’d be looked at differently.
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
The Good: As I’ve previously stated in my review, and as other people have said, this is a quintessential, fist pumping, feel good summer album of the year. It hit right at the cusp of summer and talked of wild nights and the joys of youth. Whats not to love? From the very first song, the listener is stuck with an adrenaline shot that doesn’t end until the fireworks in the 34th minute (ish). The distortion and strained vocals with lyrics talking of reckless abandon is something we connect to, especially around our age. Songs like, “The House That Heaven Built” are without a doubt going to be songs that characterize not only the summer of 2012, but the year itself.
The Flaw: The unfortunate thing, is that this adrenaline boost is not only the album’s main proponent, but it’s downfall as well. With 8 tracks to the album, Japandroids were smart not to let the album fall off. Imagine if Celebration Rock had maybe, 10 songs? Would we still be on board? Regardless of that notion, I think people look past something. We’ve been going along at 90 mph for 5 tracks, then hit “Younger Us” which throws off the entire mood. It’s like we were going down the highway and then had to deal with traffic. We’re then jolted back with “The House…” and then immediately brought back down again. The band had us comfortably sitting at the edge of our pants and then said, “eh, we’ll slow down a bit.”
Well that’s all I have for you folks today. As I said, later this week I’ll be giving you my Best Of for the year. Till then, don’t be afraid to check out these albums, there’s a reason why we put them up here.