Hi kids. This is an excerpt of a post I contributed to Masey, listing my top 5 albums of 2012. I’d encourage you to also click through and check out the other contributers’ selections, as there was definitely a diverse bunch.
1. THROUGH THE DEEP DARK VALLEY – THE OH HELLOS
I have a lot to thank The Oh Hellos for. 2012 saw me lose faith in the music blogging gig, and they were the band that managed to pull me back out of a serious “blogging funk”, with their release “Through the Deep Dark Valley” – which is easily one of the most sincere celebrations of pure music I’ve ever heard.
There’s something about this album that is at once totally accessible (in some respects, it sounds like a band you might have had playing on your block), while at the same time unspeakably beautiful. It’s a weird thing that I’m probably not explaining very well, but the music is… friendly. Warm. Welcoming.
I simply cannot believe that “Through the Deep Dark Valley” is the first full-length album from siblings Maggie and Tyler Heath. It’s just so emotionally rich, with a seamless story, it’s like they’ve been spinning these tales their whole life. An album that really does need to be listened to in its entirety to fully appreciate, I really mean it when I say, “Please listen to this”. Damn near to album of the year for me.
Stand out track: This is really a tough one, because, as a concept album, each song builds on the other. But if I had to pick one, I’d go for “Second Child, Restless Child”.
2. HANDWRITTEN – THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM
Straight up, straight forward, chest-beating rock tunes. And “45″ is pretty much a masterclass for bands on how to open an album. It’s just… well, perfect.
Brian Fallon has one of my favourite voices in contemporary music, and on “Handwritten”, he’s in amazing form; sounding even more raw and honest than on “The ’59 Sound” (which, incidentally, was in my “Best Albums of the Decade” post for 00-09, so their track record so far is pretty good with me).
There’s one thing that the Gaslight Anthem do so well, and I love them for it: when you’ve loved and lost, but want to pick your chin up and take on the whole world… this is the album for you.
Stand out track: “Here Comes My Man”
3. THE LUMINEERS – THE LUMINEERS
I don’t know what it is with Americana, but it seems to be the genre of music that just skips my head and instantly connects with my heart. I remember the first time I heard Whiskeytown, it was like that. And the same thing happened with the Lumineers. I heard “Flowers in your Hair”, and as soon as the percussion kicked in about 60 seconds into the tune, I was in love.
It absolutely freaks me out to think of this as a debut album. It’s just ridiculously accomplished. More than any band on this list, I think The Lumineers have an incredibly tough job ahead of them. Where they go from this album, I have no idea.
Stand out track: “Stubborn Love”
4. STRANGER IN THE FIRST PLACE – ROBERT FRANCIS
You know, the lack of recognition for Robert Francis still boggles my mind. I first wrote about him 5 years ago, when I heard his debut album, “One by One”. At the time, the guy was just 19, and inspired something close to hero worship in me.
The guy is now 25 (24 at the time of this album’s release), and still writing songs that are well beyond his years, telling his stories with a dusty road and jack daniels soaked tinge.
“Strangers in the First Place” probably isn’t going to be for everyone, and I accept that by now; but, to my mind, it’s probably one of the best alt-folk records of the last 5 years.
If there was one dude I wanted to be in my own musical career on this list, it’s Robert Francis. The guy is a musical titan.
Stand out track: “Some Things Never Change”
5. CHANNEL ORANGE – FRANK OCEAN
You know, to be honest, I’ll be very surprised if this album isn’t on 90% of the lists in this post. Frank has always been the most intriguing member of OFWGKTA to me, and when I heard “Channel Orange”, I knew there was a reason.
This album is just so, so ambitious. And there are really 100 reasons why it shouldn’t have worked. But it just does.
The thing I love about Frank Ocean’s stuff is that the guy just clearly knows so damn much about music and the shared history of genres… and he somehow takes that knowledge, tips his hat to tradition, and then steps on, pushing boundaries into places where no one else has the guts (or vision) to go.
I dunno. I guess what I’m trying to say is: this is creativity, pure and simple. And it completely blows me away. And while other albums may resonate more for me in terms of playability and comfort, this is – without question – album of the year for me. The scale of what this kid has accomplished is, quite frankly, unfathomable.
Stand out track: “Pyramids”