In 2012, Christina Aguilera proclaimed her love for curves, Taylor Swift dabbled in the Kennedys and One Direction, Chris Brown and Rihanna continued to torture fans’ hearts, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong proved he is not rock n’ roll perfection, Lady Gaga increased the number on her scale and X Factor host, Britney Spears, showed America that the clouds have yet to clear in her head.
Within all this nonsense, the music industry gave birth to a slew of albums that will undeniably outlast the current pop culture relevancy of the musicians above. Yes, sometimes you need media gossip to self-promote an album (cough, cough Rihanna), but other times all you need for success is in the music. So, congratulations to the artists on Shockya’s Top Ten Albums of 2012, for demonstrating to society that music and tabloid success don’t need to go hand and hand.
1. “Blunderbuss” – Jack White
All hail the king of traditional rock n’ roll, Jack White, and his masterpiece, “Blunderbuss”. The 13 track album, which dropped on April 24 via Third Man Records, took the top prize by a landslide. Whether he is in The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather or beside a female band, I will remain a loyal and avid fan of Jack White simply because of his innate ability to tactfully adapt his immense musical skills to eclectic projects. As Cady Heron said in “Mean Girls”, “The limit does not exist” and these wise words of Lindsay Lohan are more than applicable to the career of Jack White.
The enigmatic aura that has continued to delightfully encompass White is at the forefront on “Blunderbuss” both instrumentally and lyrically. “I want love to roll me over slowly, stick a knife inside me, and twist it all around,” sings White on the opening verse of the album’s lead single, “Love Interruption”. Who else could get away with comparing love to a brutal death and make the fairytale psychotically appealing? Well, certainly not Taylor Swift.
The love woes continue to dominate “Blunderbuss” with White’s Grammy nominated track, “Freedom at 21”, the piano heavy songs, “Weep Themselves to Sleep”, “Take Me With You When You Go” and “Hypocritical Kiss” and The White Stripes-esque and guitar riff dominated single, “Sixteen Saltines”. Could “Blunderbuss” be influenced by White’s 2011 divorce from Karen Elson? Your guess is as good as mine since White is the ultimate man of mystery.
Through an orchestra of instruments and controlled vocal range, White can dabble in blues, alternative, garage and even country rock and still churn out a cohesive album. I will always welcome his friends to the stage, but “Blunderbuss” has proven going solo in music and in love wears well on Jack White.
2. “All The Little Lights” – Passenger
British singer and songwriter, Mike Rosenberg, put up a solid fight on the lyrical front for the number one position with his band’s album, “All The Little Lights”. Passenger formed in the 2000s and released their debut album, “Wicked Man’s Rest” in 2007. The quintet underwent several lineup changes over the years, but Rosenberg continued to independently drop three albums, “Wide Eyes Blind Love”, “Flight of the Crow” and “Divers and Submarines”, under Passenger. In 2011, Rosenberg hooked up with Boy & Bear drummer, Tim Hart, jazz bassist, Cameron Undy and keyboardist of Katie Noonan & The Captain, Stu Hunter, to create Passenger’s most recent project, “All The Little Lights”, which dropped on February 28 via Black Crow Records.
The 16 track album veers away from the typical route of lamenting in love lost and instead focuses on loving life itself. “Don’t you cry for the lost, Smile for the living, Get what you need and give what you’re given. Life’s for the living so live it or you’re better off dead,” sings Rosenberg on the tune, “Life’s For The Living”. The folkloric singer and wordsmith isn’t the friend to come to when you need that shoulder to cry on; he is the one to smack you back into reality. The tracks, “The Wrong Direction”, “Things That Stop You Dreaming”, “Keep On Walking” and “Patient Love”, also lyrically embody the inspirational bluntness that “Debbie Downers” everywhere need to tap into.
3. “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do” – Fiona Apple
Only Fiona Apple can title an album, “The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do” and get away with it unscathed. Since the release of her 1996 debut album, “Tidal”, the pop rocker lost the edgy and vulnerable path she meticulously created with her Grammy winning song, “Criminal”. Her overly produced 2005 album, “Extraordinary Machine”, rid Apple of her outlandishly raw vocals and instrumentals, which are essential to magnifying her untamed persona. “The Idler Wheel…”, which dropped on June 19 via Epic Records, put Apple back on track, bringing her back to her “Tidal” days with a more mature mindset. The singer and songwriter has a lot going on up in her head and “The Idler Wheel…” invites you in unrestrained.
4. “Channel Orange” – Frank Ocean
Appropriately following the innovative artist, Fiona Apple, R&B sensation, Frank Ocean, can refer to 2012 as his year. The “Best New Artist” Grammy nominee released his debut studio album, “Channel Orange”, on July 10th via Def Jam Recordings. The revolutionary 17 track album is a fearless and groundbreaking masterpiece for the R&B genre, which has become cluttered by an endless array of egomaniacs (cough, cough Chris Brown and his multiple personalities). Redefining the meaning of an R&B artist, Ocean took his personal demons by the reins on “Channel Orange” and proved therapeutic albums are worth the risk.
5. “The Only Place” – Best Coast
Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno of the California pop outfit, The Best Coast, are positively out of synch on their sophomore album “The Only Place”, which dropped May 15 via Kemado Records/Mexican Summer. Cosentino’s unconventional vocal undertone charmingly clashes with the laidback and melodic instrumental sounds of “The Only Place”. Best Coast does not pride themselves on their crafty ways with words. The idiosyncratic nature of the duo’s music fit well with the lyrical simplicity and is more than enough to bring “The Only Place” into the big leagues.
6. “Coexist” – The xx
The xx are sonically beautiful with the touch of one chord and the utter of a single note on the 11 track album, “Coexist”, which dropped September 10 via Young Turks. The trio, Madley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith (aka Jamie xx), use the emptiness of a song to their advantage, which makes the outfit’s music all the more magnetic. Yes, “Coexist” doesn’t deviate far from their self-titled debut, but the XX are an anomaly in the music industry.
7. “Kids Raising Kids” – Kopecky Family Band
Besides having both female and male counterparts like The xx, Kopecky Family Band are stylistically in a category of their own with their deeply layered vocals mixed with folkloric and catchy tempos. The sextet, who released their debut full-length, “Kids Raising Kids” on October 23, ideally showcase the power of consistently harmonizing through an album without sounding repetitive. The Nashville outfit uses their numbers wisely on “Kids Raising Kids”.
8. “KR 51” – Clare and The Reasons
2012 is the year for gender mixed groups. Clare and The Reasons hit a haunting high note with their third album, “KR 51”. Clare Manchon’s vocals are ethereally bewitching and when placed alongside quirky instrumental arrangements become further amplified. “KR 51”, which dropped July 10 via Frog Stand Records, is an album for the atypical ear.
9. “The Haunted Man” – Bat For Lashes
Natasha Khan exudes her effortless talent on her latest release, “The Haunted Man”, which hit stores October 22. Her dynamic vocal range is successfully complemented by widely eclectic tempos, which can most narrowly define her album as experimental genius.
10. “Born To Die” – Lana Del Rey
Simply put, Lana Del Rey’s debut album, “Born To Die”, could have climbed even higher on my list if this live SNL performance never happened. A lengthy career in this industry is made possible with a controlled stage presence and Del Rey, you missed that mark majorly.
Honorable Mentions of 2012:
1. “Halycon”- Ellie Goulding
2. “Butter” – Turbo Fruits
3. “The Glorious Dead” – The Heavy
4. “Anxiety” – LadyHawke
5. “Loveblood” – King Charles
Artist To Watch In 2013: Willy Moon