OTM’S TOP 12 ALBUMS OF 2012
Let the music games begin! Be sure to click the link at the bottom for the top 6.
12. Pushing Electric – The Standstills
A late entry in the 2012 contenders race, Oshawa-based band The Standstills entered the ring with a solid Southern-flavoured rock album that will perhaps evoke The White Stripes even more than their guitar-drums duo configuration. However, there’s something smoother in the polish here and more of an accessible vibe than much of Jack White’s earlier work. The drumming’s also tighter, too. The Standstills aren’t out to craft something smarter than you; they’re coming at you full-throttle, with a fuller sound than bands with twice the members. Deliciously down and dirty rock. Even better: this album’s free at their website, kids. No excuses.
Highlights: “Pushing Electric”; “Good God Damn”; “Jesus”
11. Celebration Rock – Japandroids
Perhaps one of the biggest success stories of the year is Vancouver’s Japandroids, the indie duo who came, saw and conquered many Best Of lists this year with Celebration Rock. Singer/guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse took the lessons learned from Post-Nothing and shook them up in the studio with all of the vigor of a crowd going wild in a pit. The result: an album that floors it out the gate and doesn’t stop until track eight closes. While the belted vocals begin to sound a little “same-y” to me, for lack of eloquent term, the band’s ability to distill a live show feel into an album that’s all killer, no filler and own the world — with no major label promoting the shit out of them — is a glorious feat. It gives me hope that good music will always triumph in the end.
Highlights: “Fire’s Highway”; “Younger Us”; “The House That Heaven Built”
10. Eight And A Half – Eight And A Half
Eight And A Half is a band that embodies the symbolic Phoenix. From the ashes of The Stills and Broken Social Scene’s forever fluid nature comes the stellar trio of Dave Hamelin, Liam O’Neil and Justin Peroff, and with them, a stellar debut. Synth heavy without veering into pop territory, heavy yet not weighty, the compositions on their self-titled debut showcase the best elements of BSS with the roots-laced mature songwriting The Stills became known for at the end of their output. There’s a breathy undercurrent here but more importantly, the album feels timeless — not remotely tethered to one particular time, place or genre. This is what I wish The Stars sounded like to my ears.
Highlights: “Scissors”; “Go Ego”; “Walked Into Diazepene”
9. 1.0 – Sad Robot
You know where you can discover a lot of great music? The TV series Bones. I shit you not: Hart Hanson and his team have great taste in music for the series and often pull indie gems into the light to shine. For their season eight promo, they snagged Sad Robot’s “Hold On” for the background. Sad Robot, in turn, garnered new fans just in time for the release of 1.0. The L.A. based trio combines piano, drums and guitar into a lush sound sprawling from indie rock into a harder, rough-edged sound evocative of Guano Apes or Garbage at their darkest. Lyrically, 1.0 dwells in the personal emotions and the public, including the often unforgiving music industry. Sad Robot are calling for a revolution; I say we join them.
Highlights: “Hold On”; “Sing”; “God Damn The Man”
8. Some Nights – fun.
I knew fun. before fun. was cool, so there. I’m hipster-kidding, but it’s true: my first introduction to the indie pop goodness of the band was their opening slot on the Jack’s Mannequin Sing For Your Supper tour. I was immediately impressed by their gift for delving into heartbreak and personal insecurity with a deceptively uplifting and danceable sound, with just a hint of cabaret. Some Nights exploded in 2012 due to the success of lead single “We Are Young”, featuring the brilliant Janelle Monae, but my personal favourite has always been the latest single, title track “Some Nights”. As for the album itself, it builds on the strengths of predecessor Aim and Ignite (key single: “All The Pretty Girls”) and the result is a circus for the broken-hearted, where even the acrobats have fallen too far to ascend to their once grand heights. This isn’t to say that the album is depressing — it actually isn’t. Consider it the salve for the emotional wounds that allows one to stop licking them and carry on in the morning light. After all, we’ve all had some nights where we need to do precisely that.
Highlights: “Some Nights”; “We Are Young”; “All Alright”
7. Wrecking Ball – Bruce Springsteen
In 1984, Springsteen released an album that would speak to struggles of many Americans and endure in the music industry as a classic album. Born In The U.S.A. rings truer than ever these days, but there are new layers to the complexities of working class life. That’s where Wrecking Ball, Springsteen’s 17th album steps in. A heartwrenching, moving album that’s, at times, ascathingly vicious condemnation of a government that allows its people to suffer, Wrecking Ball ultimately is a love letter to the spirit and endurance of the 99%, as it were. The folk storyteller sensibilities remain strong in this work, and while the references to God/the Good Lord can be a little much for non-Christian ears, they make sense in the context of the world unfurling from track to track. In years to come, this will be a musical time capsule to the economic fallout of the Bush years and the ever-widening divide between rich and poor.
Highlights: “We Take Care Of Our Own”; “Death To My Hometown”; “Wrecking Ball”
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