Friday, December 21, 2012

Top 40 Albums of 2012 - Part 2: 10 to 1

Thank god the world didn't end before I got to finish up the Random Ramblings & Mixtapes' Top 40 Albums of 2012. Last night, we did a quick run through #40 - #11 which you can check out by clicking here. And now we finish things up with the almighty Top 10. These are the albums that I couldn't get enough of. The ones that I'd have to listen to from start to finish because, after all, isn't that how albums should be listened to? No Gotye. No Mumford and Sons. No Frank Ocean. Just what I consider to be "the good stuff."

Random Ramblings & Mixtapes: Top 40 Albums of 2012 (#10 - #1)

 10. Strange Bruises - Mode Moderne
For all the unforgivable bands that Canada has unleashed on us-- Barenaked Ladies, Rush, and of course, Nickelback, immediately come to mind-- they've still managed to be quite a hotbed for some high quality indie rock. I came across Vancouver's Mode Moderne back in June and was floored by Strange Bruises. Spotting their influences is easy, borrowing the best parts of The Cure, New Order, and The Smiths, but it's what they do with those parts that makes Mode Moderne stand out. And with songs like "Foul Weather Fare" and "The Open Air," it shows that they've learned well from those that have come before them. After all, there will always be a place for moody danceable indie pop.

9. TRST - Trust
Trust managed to pull of quite a trick by making indie hipsters like electro-goth. The first time I heard them I thought they were a bit gothy, but once I checked out TRST there was no doubt in my mind. The album is tailor made for dimly lit dance clubs. One can almost picture strobes flickering in time with the throbbing beats and everyone in the room wearing more than their share of eyeliner. It's the kind of stuff where it wouldn't be out of place in an industrial set fitting snugly between Front 242 and Haujobb.

 8. Separation Realms - Autochrome
Of all the Boston bands that made me fall in love with the city I call home, Autochrome was quick to become my favorite. Dark but danceable post-punk would be the best way to describe them, but they somehow didn't sound like anyone else. They most definitely didn't sound like they were from Boston or from anywhere else, for that matter. It's no wonder I became obsessed with their music.

 7. Sweet Heart Sweet Light - Spiritualized
When it comes to Spiritualized, I was fortunate enough to have Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space be my starting point to the band. That album was the soundtrack to my first summer I lived in Boston back in 1997. Since Ladies and Gentlemen..., I've been a follower of Jason Pierce and co. absorbing every album and seeing countless Spiritualized shows. So 15 years later, Sweet Heart Sweet Light is as mesmerizing a trip as the first time I'd heard the band. Songs swell to orchestral proportions somehow managing to toe the line beautifully between gospel and drugged-out psych rock like only Spiritualized can do.

6. TOY - TOY
UK's TOY is a band with impeccable timing. They debuted just as I was heavily into my psych/shoegaze phase, which, truth be told, is a phase that has long-term effects. Their first single, "Left Myself Behind" almost instantly became one of my favorite songs of the year (landing at #6 on our Best Songs of 2012 countdown which you can check out here.) It took almost 8 months before a full-length followed and thankfully it didn't disappoint. An album that successfully splits the difference between the dizzying haziness of Spiritualized's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space and the psychedelic Krautrock drone of The Horrors' Skying, while still managing to add their own twist to a familiar sound. 

5. Reign Of Terror - Sleigh Bells
I have to admit, I was a bit worried that we had seen all that Sleigh Bells was capable of doing on their first album, 2010's Treats. This is one instance where I was happy to be proven wrong. They didn't need to go out and reinvent themselves on Reign of Terror. Instead they just improved on something that wasn't even broken. Derek E. Miller's guitars get a bit of a pop-metal makeover sounding as if he's on the brink of breaking into a hair metal solo while Alexis Krauss flexes more of her vocal muscle making the heavy songs heavier and the slow jams sound like they'd be perfect for pop radio. 

Plus this gives me an opportunity to post the "Comeback Kid" video which I love. Not only because I have a big crush on Alexis but because she shows so much pop diva potential. 

4. Passage - Exitmusic
Brooklyn's Exitmusic was one of my favorite discoveries of this year. I came across them because they were touring with The Joy Formidable so on a whim, I checked out their music and was completely taken aback by what I heard. At first, I heard hints of Beach House's dreaminess but then things took a different turn thanks to Aleksa Palladino's voice and Devon Church's soaring arrangements. Passage is a gorgeously dark and intense sonic journey. But it's Palladino's voice that demands the most attention showing shivering vulnerability one moment ("White Noise) and  hitting some unbelievable notes the next ("Passage.")

3. Ghostory - School Of Seven Bells
Over the course of three albums, School Of Seven Bells have evolved into one of my favorite bands. They've gone from the dreampop of their debut, Alpinisms, added a decidedly widescreen electro-pop sheen on Disconnect From Desire and now almost perfected their sound with Ghostory. They've managed to combine the best parts of all their influences from the shimmering, cascading guitars of shoegaze, the crystalline synths of electro-pop, and the siren-song vocals of goth and come up with a sound all their own. And they didn't rest there, either, as the band kept things going with the Record Store Day 7" release of their awesome cover of Siouxsie & The Banshees' "Kiss Them For Me" and the recent EP Put Your Sad Down where they further pushed the boundaries of their music moving toward even poppier terrain. Tireless touring also helped them land so high in this countdown; I've gone to see them even when they're opening for bands I'm lukewarm about (sorry, Afghan Whigs) or downright detest (not sorry, Temper Trap) and they just about blow me away each time. 

2. Zeros - The Soft Moon 
On paper, The Soft Moon sound like a band that is way up my alley combining dark post punk with goth and even a bit of industrial. I do feel a bit guilty that it took me a while to get into their music. But it was the first listen to Zeros' lead single, "Die Life" that finally woke me up. Puncturing drums, rumbling basslines, echoing guitars, screeching synths, and distant vocals are what make up the typical Soft Moon song, yet knowing all that doesn't mean the music is predictable. Zeros is all about mood and texture-  dank, cavernous, and at times, unsettling yet engrossing enough to keep listeners around wanting to know what's around the next corner. 

1. Celebration Rock - Japandroids
No surprises here. Celebration Rock is without question, my favorite album of 2012. And while it might share some similarities with their previous album, Post-Nothing (which incidentally, was my #1 album of 2009) from its familiar cover art to its 8-song/35-minute run time, Celebration Rock surpasses its predecessor with stronger songwriting, and catchy songs that practically beg, no demand, to be shouted in unison. It's an album that lives up to its title where even the most simple sentiments like "We yell like hell to the heavens" (from "The Nights Of Wine And Roses") or "And if they try to slow you down, tell them all to go to hell" (from the year's best song, "The House That Heaven Built") sound like absolute revelations. Plain and simple, Japandroids have made that one timeless rock album that most of us have been waiting all our lives for. 


10 to 1 (Top 40 Albums of 2012: Part 2)
10. Mode Moderne, "The Open Air" (from Strange Bruises) **
9.Trust, "Sulk" (from TRST)
8. Autochrome, "We Are The System" (from Separation Realms)
7. Spiritualized, "So Long You Pretty Thing" (from Sweet Heart Sweet Light)
6. TOY, "Motoring" (from TOY)
5. Sleigh Bells, "Comeback Kid" (from Reign Of Terror)
4. Exitmusic, "White Noise" (from Passage)
3. School Of Seven Bells, "Low Times" (from Ghostory)
2. The Soft Moon, "Die Life" (from Zeros)
1. Japandroids, "The Nights Of Wine And Roses" (from Celebration Rock)

** Note: Strange Bruises isn't available on Spotify, so this track only appears on the mixtape **

There you have it. Top 40 Albums of 2012- DONE. Mission: Accomplished. Very much looking forward to another great year of music and to more Random Ramblings & Mixtapes.

As always, listen loud and become immersed.

1 comment:

  1. So this Japandroids song that you posted is the best "new" song I have heard in YEARS. Yet, I was totally and completely mediocre on their last album. Kinda could have cared less either way. But having heard this song I really wish I hadn't ignored Celebration Rock!