So as previously mentioned last week, it’s time for the Best Of’s! The albums that we felt were the standouts, the ones that will become an icon for our memories of the year. Yes, I know its January, we totally planned that though.
Ok, so as the you will find out, the other two authors here on The Arbitrary Line have all listened to many albums over the year, and we all have our own personal favorites, whether it’s our top 10 or 20, etc. Me personally, I only have 5 key albums that I want to talk about. 5 albums that will remind me of 2012 every time I listen to them.
Now as I had mentioned in my honorable mentions, I judge my end of the year albums by two categories, 1. Actual musical value, and 2. Number of times played on Spotify, my media player of choice. The reason why the second aspect is so important is that it speaks to a tool of judgement that is inherently human. We find albums or songs that speak to us, connect with us for one reason or another, we then press play till it breaks. So why not consider that a legitimate judgement category? Anyways, here’s my top 5!
5. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellen
Dirty Projectors, a band that takes a couple of years off and then says, yeah we’re really not gonna change up our style too much. The syncopated rhythms, the rough yet unique tone of Dave Longstreth’s voice, and of course the three part harmony in the backgrounds from Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle, and Olga Bell are still there in force. The very first track “Offspring Are Blank” gives us the hint that the melodies are going to be as catchy and prevalent as Bitte Orca was, but with some alterations to the background. Then one of the best tracks on the album “About To Die” hits and firms both aspects with this bubbling sound and a catchy chorus. As we get to the title track, it’s a softer acoustic track, where Longstreth’s shaky voice draws us in with intimacy. I also enjoy the tracks like “The Socialites” that give Coffman or others a chance to show their stuff. All in all this album doesn’t disappoint for DP fans. The awkward syncopated rhythms along with what seems like improvisation with the melody are still there. They just traded out a guitar with a soundboard.
4. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver of the Screw and Wipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
Fiona Apple has stayed out of the media’s attention for a while. She held off for a very long time to put out a new album after her last album in 2005, and her huge success with her 1999 album (which title is SIGNIFICANTLY longer than this one). However, the time off did not weaken her song writing abilities. Apple never lost the ability to take her biggest insecurities and bang them out on a piano. Immediately this is apparent in the opening track “Every Single Night” when she sings “Every single nights a fight with my brain.” to only then sing “I just want to feel everything.” Apple takes us through 10 tracks of heart break and uncontrollable love and desire. Apples voice also lends to the way we are wrapped into her insecurities. The natural shake and quiet nature of her voice makes every single lyric about constantly ruining situations or relationships, or putting on the facade of wanting to be alone more chilling and personal. Writing highly catchy piano licks help with the entertainment value. Not only that, but the end of the album offers “Hot Knife” which is completely a track from left field but hands down one of my favorite tracks from the year.
3. Jack White – Blunderbuss
Earlier in 2012, Jack White took a long awaited step from the multi-band leader persona and stepped into the limelight by himself. He took his distorted guitar licks from The White Stripes, the down to earth country style of The Raconteurs, and the deep south steel blues styling of The Dead Weather and rolled into one package labeled Blunderbuss. The best part about the album is that every track is unique, at no point could any track just roll into another one without you knowing. Jack White gives us style after style with ease. The first track “Missing Pieces” eases you in with a smooth electric piano melody, White then smacks us with a White Stripes reminiscent “Sixteen Saltines”, then half an album later gives a Chuck or Bo Didley sounding track in “I’m Shakin” which is just pure fun. My favorite part of this album is the fact that he completely denies that anything in the album is about personal issues, and I believe him.
2. Kendrick Lamar – good kid m.A.A.d city
This album is one that slowly formed its way from a decent album in my mind, to a well crafted, 12 track story. Not only is it a musical journey, but it brings us through the life of Kendrick. It takes us through young 17 year old Kendrick, and everything that comes with adolescence, to his life growing up in Compton. the best part about this album, is Kendrick never tries to pretend he’s something he’s not. The narrative style of the album lets us look into his past and reap the nostalgia with him. Tracks like “Backstreet Freestyle” gives us an exhilarating, adolescent, arrogant jolt. Then the chillingly shocking tracks that are the title tracks, giving us a view into Compton life. Yet perhaps my favorite track is “Sing About Me/Dying of Thirst” a track where he begins by rapping letters written to him, about death or even his last album. The chorus of “Promise that you will sing about me” is a gut wrenching look into Kendrick’s fear of not achieving anything in his lifetime, but of no one caring when he leaves. The transition of this entire album from youthful bliss and ignorance, to frightened self survival in a terrifying city is something worth defining the year.
1. Frank Ocean – Channel ORANGE
Ok so first off, big shock placing Frankie at #1, I know I know. However, there’s a reason why he’s been given that place amongst pretty much everyone’s best of’s. For someone who had never really enjoyed R&B before, Frank Ocean made me a fan. The very first notes of “Thinkin Bout You”, Franks voice chills you to your core. But then, BUT THEN, you find out what his range is. As a vocalist myself, I cringe at the fact that I’ll never have an upper range as smooth as his. Then unlike most R&B artists that give a knock out track and then tread water for the rest of the album, Ocean then delivers track after track of deeply personal, smooth tracked gold. Perhaps what makes this album so chilling is Ocean’s abandon for censored material. Ocean sang about whatever he wanted to, whether it’s sleeping with a crack dealer, or his sexuality, and you felt the same emotion he did. He then manages to build this style and blow us away with an almost 10 minute long journey in “Pyramid”. Every track delivers, from “Thinkin Bout You” to “Forrest Gump”. Even throw away tracks like “Fertilizer” can easily replay in your mind all day. Also, he managed to be one of the only people to have a song with a brilliant verse by Earl Sweatshirt. Pretty sure only Odd Future can say the same, and that doesn’t count. So yes, how very cliche and un-hipster of me to place this album at my #1 spot, but damn does he deserve it.
Well there you have it, hope you enjoyed it!