The Best Albums of 2012

This past year (well past by this point might I add) provided us with a slew of good to great music. There were new albums from Ben Gibbard, Muse, The Killers, and B.o.B. to name a few. They all made solid efforts in 2012, but they didn’t quite crack the top ten albums. Below is my list, long overdue.

01: Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal

From the opening of the first track you can almost sense that this is a special effort. There is a quiet intensity, a captivating beauty, that threads through every melody and harmony on this wonderful debut album from Iceland. By the time you get to the final track you’re only thought will be to press play again.

mp3 : Of Monsters and Men – Yellow Light

02: The Lumineers – The Lumineers

Another brilliant debut album on the list. Bursting with raw emotion and well written lyrical vignettes this album is filled with driving drumbeats and folk fueled romance. Although a few of their tracks are more aligned with radio friendly airtime it’s when they slow down that their true talent shines through.

mp3 : The Lumineers – Submarines

03: John Samson – Provincial

Many of the songs that appear on his debut solo effort closely mirror his top shelf work with The Weakerthans. While some reviewers this past year found this off-putting I find John Samson’s lyrical storytelling to be just as captivating with or without his regular band.

mp3 : John Samson – Heart of the Continent

04: Mumford and Sons – Babel

Not much needs to be written about this band or this album. They’ve grown up from an indie darling quartet to a full on success recognized the world over. This album is a worthy continuation of their career.

mp3 : Mumford and Sons – Where are You Now

05: Sufjan Stevens – Silver and Gold

I know; this is a Christmas album that’s actually a collection of five separate EP’s that were written over half a decade and they just happened to be released as a box set in 2012. I know all the reasons that this technically shouldn’t be on a list, but the entire collection is simply so good that it can’t be relegated to one month of listening every year. On top of that you can listen to each EP in chronological order and follow along with the evolution of his musical style.

mp3 : Sufjan Stevens – Christmas in the Room

06: The Walkmen – Heaven

On this album The Walkmen continue their waffling between being effortlessly cool and trying really hard to channel Bob Dylan. The magic is when both of those efforts combine into a single glorious song. This is their best album since Bows + Arrows.

mp3 : The Walkmen – Line by Line

07: Beach House – Bloom

Although not quite as captivating as their previous effort (Teen Dream) their latest effort provides the same breathy vocals and building crescendos that have become their trademark.  This music would fit in almost any scenario.

mp3 : Beach House – Myth

08: Matt & Kim – Lightning

If you didn’t feel like dancing you will after a single listen to this album.  Or you might have a seizure.  It’s honestly a tossup.  Matt & Kim put out a solid album this time around and their one weakness (vocals on slower tracks) is kept to a minimum this time around.

mp3 : Matt & Kim – Now

09: fun. – Some Nights

It began for most people when their song We Are Young was featured prominently in a primetime commercial (possibly debuted during the Big Game?)  If you were daring enough to jump into the full album from that snippet you would find yourself treated to a modern day pop musical; complete with letters to moms, hanging out with friends, and pleas to find true love.

mp3 : fun. – All Alright

10: Jack White – Blunderbuss

I feel like I’m breaking an unwritten rule putting Jack’s first solo album this far down my list.  The problem is that for every brilliant track on the album, there is another track that reminds you how great Jack White is when he’s surrounded by other creative people.  This is a solid album, but it’s not his best effort.  I’ll go ahead and label it the Josh Ritter effect whereby an album starts off brilliantly and then veers into head scratching territory.

mp3 : Jack White – Freedom at 21


Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons took the world by storm last year with their debut album Sigh No More.  Since the album launched in February the boys have been busy traveling the world, playing various shows, opening for Bob Dylan, dropping a brilliant performance on La Blogotheque, and generally being involved in all manner of music making mischief.  Seems as if throughout this process they’ve also begun penning and performing music for their second album, as of yet untitled, which is set to be made available in the later parts of this year.

mp3 : Mumford & Sons – Home (Possible Title) (Live on KCBO)
mp3 : Mumford & Sons – Lovers Eyes (Possible Title) (Live)

It’s obvious on these two tracks that the band hasn’t strayed far from their modern folk sound (which is undoubtedly a good thing).  Hopefully the remainder of the album will be as solid.

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Mumford and Sons cover White Lies

Recently the four boys in Mumford and Sons found themselves in the cozy recording/broadcasting studios of the best Australian radio station, Triple J, on their program aptly named Like a Version.  (shot disclaimer; Triple J is the only Aussie radio station I’ve ever heard of).  Well as part of this program Mumford and Sons decided to cover a great song by White Lies.  It’s an interesting banjo and modern folk take on what is essentially a rather dark anthemic rock song.  Have a listen yourself.

mp3 : Mumford and Sons – Unfinished Business (White Lies Cover)

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Mumford and Sons album Sigh No More

The debut album by Mumford and Sons, Sigh No More, is quite simply one of the most brilliant albums I have ever heard.  Other than that very serious statement (one which I have pondered over for the past) I cannot figure out what else accurately captures the mood of this album.  Far and away this has already become the album to beat for 2010 (and yes, I know it was released in 2009 in the UK, but as I’m currently based in the USA this will officially be on my list for 2010).

I’m struggling with how best to summarize an album that is beautiful, poignant, and brilliant throughout quite literally every single track.  It’s an album so good, so compelling, it prompts me to go back to my old ways of burning copies of CDs and literally forcing everyone I know to listen to it from start to finish.  It’s an album that is so well constructed that I’ve listened to it now about nine times and I honestly cannot figure out which two songs best represent the talent and craft that is apparent within each track.

For reference the following statements say nothing about the actual sound of the band, the type of music the create, but it’s the easiest way for me to explain how .  This album reminds me a lot of the debut Third Eye Blind album in that every sing song is well crafted and worth listening to.  This album reminds me a lot of Funeral by Arcade Fire in that the scope of the entire album is so epic and so moving you’re compelled to start it over again and again and again.  This album reminds me a lot of Is This It by The Strokes in that the first time I heard it all I could think to do was to immediately run around forcing everyone I know to listen to this brilliance.  This album reminds me a lot of The Weakerthans and Cloud Cult in that every song is infused with inventive storytelling.  This album reminds me a lot of Sufjan Stevens in that the composition and frequent use of layered crescendos adds to the overall impact in a way that is genuinely smile inducing, foot bouncing, simply joyous fun.

mp3 : Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More
mp3 : Mumford and Sons – The Cave

Perhaps the best way to sum up how I feel about the Mumford and Sons album Sigh No More (amazon) (itunes) is this; if I could I would force everyone who visits The World Forgot to download the entire album and listen to it before being allowed to visit any other website, go outside, or take a restroom break.

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