Monday, December 24, 2012

Year in Music 2012: Top 3's

It was born out of the need for a quick filler day, but that's how the very best traditions start. It's time for "Various Top 3's" day!

On with the random, pointless, straight off the top of my head lists.

Spotify, Grooveshark, and YouTube links when I can be arsed to edit them in.

Top 3 Albums I Loved Last Year But Didn't Really Care About This Year

3. Cults - Cults
I sort of saw this coming. As immediate and catchy as their music is, it doesn't necessarily lend itself to long term listening. I still like this CD, it just doesn't come to mind very often when I'm deciding what I want to listen to. 

2. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committe, Part 2
When MCA passed away this year, I put on Paul's Boutique, Ill Communication, and Hello Nasty. This one is still solid, it just ends up in the shadow of some of their classics.

1. Sims - Bad Time Zoo
To be clear, I still like this CD. I just didn't listen to it this year. At all. 

Top 3 Albums I Missed Out on Last Year

3. Grouper & Ilyas Ahmed - Visitor
The entire EP is good, but the first song, "The Edges" is a singular sort of song. Almost post-rock in its execution (with some awesome echo-y guitars), but comprised almost entirely of some beautiful feminine vocals. The rest of Visitor seems to be made of of various different experiments - no two songs sound the same.

2. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - s/t
To be fair, I had heard this at the very end of last year, and it almost made the final cut for albums of the year, but if I had given myself enough time to listen to it, it absolutely would've made it. Novak told me last year that it was his favorite. It might well have edged into the top 10 for me.

1. Deadbeat - Drawn & Quartered
More to come on exactly why this was, but suffice to say, the amount of ambient dub music I'd heard before this was minimal - the amount I liked was even less. Now I find myself needing to hunt down more. This CD would've made it into the top 5 last year, and the part in "First Quarter" where the super reverbed, tasty dubbed up guitars chime in would've probably been my favorite moment of 2011.

Top 3 Album Covers

3. Beach House - Bloom
The real beauty of this album cover (which is already visually striking) is that all of the lights are painted in glow in the dark ink. It makes for a cool effect, especially since this album is perfect for nighttime listening.

2. Swans - The Seer
My wife took one look at this cover and told me I wasn't allowed to play it around her.

 1. Jam City - Classical Curves
The music? Not my style at all. The artwork? Fantastic.

Top 3 Songs I Stopped Listening To After Burning Myself Out on Them Last Year

3. The Clash at Demonhead - Black Sheep (14th most listens last year, 3 plays this year)

2. Yeasayer - Madder Red (11th most listens last year, 2 plays this year)

1. The Pains of being Pure at Heart - Belong (9th most listens last year, 1 play this year)

Top 3 Listening Experiences This Year

3. Sitting in my comfy chair, listening to Clams Casino
Most of my favorite listening moments happen in my chair, cat nestled on my lap, listening to some new music as I slowly lose consciousness. This year was no exception, but if I had to pick one awesome chair listening album, it was Clams Casino.

2. Blasting Death Grips in my car after saving the Hospital Wireless network
Like a bawse.

Also, Death Grips is insane.

1. Sitting beside the Caribbean Sea, listening to Deadbeat.
 Ten minutes before Linds and I left on our Mexico vacation, I got the brilliant idea to load a little bit of new music onto the iPod. The third party tool I used to transfer music that wasn't already in my library was kind of crappy, and corrupted my iPod's database, save for the three album I put on. One of those albums was Silver Swans' Forever, which was distinctly 'meh'. One was Mind Spiders' Meltdown, which is awesome, and will be on lists for the rest of the week.

The last was Deadbeat's Drawn and Quartered, and upon first listen (on the airplane ride - twice!) it was sort of long, and not what I was in the mood for. Over the nest couple of days, I got more and more into it, before sitting beside the sea listening to it while sitting in the shade of a palm tree, and realizing that I could not have a better album for the experience I was having. It enhanced the experience, and the experience enhanced it.

It's going to be hard to top this one.

Top 3 Tracklist Decisions

3. The pacing on 'Allelujah, Don't Bend! Ascend!
After the super-epic pummel of 'Mladic' and 'We Drift Like Worried Fire' (each almost twenty minutes of build and eventual explosive release), the listener needs a break. The two "intermission" tracks don't stnad out that well on their own, but as breathers, their both required and great. As it turns out, 'breathers' is probably a bit of a misnomer, since both feature tension heightening dissonance and make it sound as if the record is out to murder you - also, each is longer than two average pop songs put together, so 'intermission' seems weird. It makes sense in context.

2. 'Ashtray Wasp'
Takes elements from the first two tracks and synthesizes them together to form one of the best album closers of the year.

1. 'Continuous Thunder'
The perfect comedown to one of the best albums of the year. To end with it wraps up Celebration Rock perfectly.

Bottom 3 Tracklist Decisions 

3. Lana Del Rey - The EP's worth
By placing the most well known (and, not coincidentally, the best) songs from her album as the leadoff tracks, it sort of highlights the fact that the last half of the album drops off a lot. At least it makes subsequent listens easier.

2. Sleigh Bells - 'True Shred Guitar'
This one wouldn't make sense as anything other than the first track, but it's a nearly completely useless intro. The actual meat of the song might have worked, but the weird (and weirdly censored?) live bit in the beginning is really stupid.

1. Mind Spiders - 'Meltdown'
This one makes no sense at all. Why on earthtake a album full of blistering snotty garage punk riffs, and place a weird, repetitive electronic ditty on the end of it? None of the elements in 'Meltdown' appear in the rest of the album, it just feels out of place and weird. I usually end up skipping it when I'm listening. At least 'Imagination Blind' was a decent song.

Top 3 Albums I Was Excited About last Year

3. The xx - coexist
I was excited about this one, but also fearful of a sophomore slump. That slump sort of happened, and coexist isn't as awesome as their self titled. Then again, the Hold Steady album that I considered putting in this spot never even happened, and we got a underwhelming solo record from Craig Finn, instead, so I'll consider this a win.

2. P.O.S. - We Don't Even Live Here
It took a while (three and a half years!) but he finally came out with his followup to Never Better. It was pretty good, but not as jaw-dropping as my favorite album of 2009 - but I'm sure we'll be hearing more about it later this week.We'll call this a win, too.

1. Sigur Rós - Valtari

This one was kind of a 'can't miss' proposition. I knew Sigur Rós was coming out with a new album. There were reports that it was going to sound more like the epic post-rock of Ágætis Byrjun and ( ), and less like the hyper pop offerings of Jónsi's solo stuff (not that I didn't love Go, too). The only surprise wasn't that I loved it, it's that everyone else didn't.

Top 3 Albums I'm Excited For Next Year

3. New Yeah Yeah Yeahs Album
Supposed to be out Spring 2013? If nothing else, I'm excited to see what it'll sound like. Their last two releases (Is Is and It's Blitz) were both fantastic, but sounded nothing alike.

2. New Arcade Fire Album
How are they going to top a beloved classic, an underrated masterpiece, and a Grammy "Album of the Year" winner? The answer is probably that they won't, but it'll be fascinating to watch them try.

1. Atoms For Peace - Amok
Thom Yorke, Flea, the drummer from R.E.M. (who doesn't get quite the same level of name recognition from me), along with Nigel Goodrich? How could this not be awesome?

I mean, please tell me that it'll be awesome.

It'll be awesome, right?

1 comment:

  1. The album cover for the Alt-J album is better than all of your three except Beach House.