Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 9:30 pm
How jam packed was your iPod this year? Were you someone who kept up with all the great music that was released in 2012, or did all the awesome tunes seem to pass you by? If you fall into either category, check out this a list of some great albums from 2012 that are definitely worth your time!
Theatre Is Evil
Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra
If you’re an avid reader of this site/user of social media and you don’t know who Amanda Palmer is, there is no better time to become a fan. A performer in every possible sense of the word, Ms. Palmer got together with her band, The Grand Theft Orchestra, and created one of the most diverse and emotionally resonant albums of the year. Palmer is famous for her brand of cabaret inspired art punk-rock, and while that theme is certainly present on Theatre Is Evil, many other influences come out to play. Synths and effect-soaked vocals begin the album on “Smile (Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen),” and that kind of shoegaze meets electro pop shimmer reappears on other album highlights like the rolicking single “Want It Back.” “Do It With A Rockstar” pulsates with a punk rock fury that will supercharge your morning commute. “Trout Heart Replica” is an emotional, string laden piano ballad. By the time “Olly Olly Oxen Free” crashes to its thundering close, you will have fallen in love with this alternately exciting and gentle art rock record.
Steve Vai is considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest living guitarists, and during his long career he has managed to always stay relevant while continuing to challenge himself. He dabbles in the worlds of Metal, Prog, and just about any sub-classification of Hard Rock you can imagine. With The Story Of Light, Vai combines his unchallenged skills with a softer, more spiritual side. His renditions of the traditional “John The Revelator” and “Mullach A’tSi” are perfect examples. The latter of the two is a gentle, acoustic-tinged delight, and the former is full on gospel/blues explosion that features samples of Blind Willie Johnson’s version from the 1930’s. Other tracks of note are the the metallic pulse of “Gravity Storm,” the hard edged funk of “Velorum,” and the prog-rock perfection of “The Moon And I.” The Story Of Light is a compelling epic that is a must add to the collection of any rock geek.
Mumford & Sons did not stumble on their sophomore effort, the supercharged Babel. The band did not struggle with their identity between records, but rather grabbed it by the throat and turned it up to eleven. The record opening trio of the title track, “Whispers In The Dark,” and single “I Will Wait” are truly exceptional individually, but together they can cut through whatever preconception you may have about this band and let you know just who they are. There is a reason the band went from playing bars to arenas in a few short years, and Babel is a clear mission statement as to why. Nominated for “˜Album Of The Year’ at the 2012 Grammy Awards, Babel should be a part of your collection if it isn’t already.
Channel Orange was released at a time when the artist behind it needed his music to stand qll on its own, and after one listen it’s clear that Frank Ocean delivered. Not just one of the best Hip Hop records of 2012, Channel Orange happens to be one of the top albums released this year period, evidenced by its nomination for ‘Album Of The Year’ at the 2012 Grammy Awards. Stunning falsetto on tracks like the excellent “Thinkin Bout You” showcases Ocean’s varied ability as a vocalist. His vocals alone would make him one of the top artists of 2012, but throw in his work as a songwriter and producer for this album, and you’ll find his name much closer to the top spot on that list. Look to experiments on tracks like “Pyramids” and “Lost” for more proof, but by the end of Channel Orange what you’ll find is an incredible artistic statement by an artist at the top of their craft.
Christian aTunde Adjuah is an enthralling double disc set that employs elements of Jazz, Rock, Hip-Hop, and just about anything else you can think of. Subdued and pensive at times, joyful and exuberant at others, this is an album for everyone who has ever said “I like SOME jazz.” Christian Scott‘s work can be liked to that of Miles Davis both on the trumpet and in composition on tracks like “Fatima Aisha Rokero 400” and “New New Orleans (King Adjuah Stomp),” but Scott manages to extrapolate on that vibe in order to create his own modern take on the themes and techniques Davis’ pioneered. Take the dark, bassy rumble of “Jihad Joe” on the album’s second disc. The track is certainly a jazz piece, but it also has a Progressive Metal undertone that is created by the guitar work of Matthew Stevens and the piano interplay of Lawrence Fields. Tracks like this embody Scott’s ability to create something altogether new and exciting in a genre that can be bogged down by misconception. This is a truly fantastic modern Jazz gem.