As the year approaches it’s halfway point, I think it would be beneficial to create a list showcasing some of my favorite albums that have come out over the past 5~ months for those music listeners who didn’t really pay much attention this past half year or just didn’t have the time to listen to all of it. With each album on this list there will also be a slip-shod description of the album, along with a favorite song off of the album, telling YOU why you should be listening to it. This list is in alphabetical order, so if you don’t know the alphabet, this will probably help you a bit too.
Allo Darlin – Europe
This album sashayed into my ears after reading so many raving reviews about it about a month ago. I decided to pick it up and boy do I love it. Adorable, cutesy twee-pop with all of the perks that come along with the genre: catchy melodies, female vocals with an accent, ukelele, and a sense of youthfulness. This album was fantastic for my Spring and newly kindled romance, so I’m highly recommending you all to get this and pull it out whenever you’re feeling low. What a pick me up!
Beach House – Bloom
Oh Beach House, can you ever disappoint me? At this point, that’s looking pretty abysmal. This record definitely contains some of Beach House’s best songs because they have honed in their signature style of breathy, dream-filled, euphoric pop to maximal levels. Just imagine this: every song is depicting a scene in slow motion, one being watching a show of fireworks on a hill with your closest friends, another being floating down a river during a star shower and another being blowing bubbles as a child at a cottage by the water. The whole thing is a blissed-out heavenfest. I’d get on this boat quick.
Bear in Heaven – I Love You, It’s Cool
Bear in Heaven kill it again with this album, making danceable, disco-friendly pop that can get loud and in your face at times but still end up being one of your closest friends. Some of the textures and grooves on this thing rock, check this one out for sure.
Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself
As some of you might know, I am primarily a violin player, so when someone like Andrew Bird comes around playing his fiddle like no one’s business, I gotta listen to it. I haven’t listened to his other albums as much as I have this one, but I feel like this one is a bit more violin oriented, having elements of traditional fiddle styles to chopping and of course the signature pizzicato under loop pedal effects. So if you’re into some really interesting violin-led chamber pop, check this out. It’s also Andrew Bird, who so far can do no wrong.
Chairlift – Something
Chairlift’s “Something” is DEFINITELY something. Out of all the albums on this list I think this one grew on me the most. Full of 80’s influenced pop, this group doesn’t only just take this fun, bouncy aesthetic and pair it to modern tendencies, but they also put some really dark twists into it. Take “Sidewalk Safari,” about a woman looking for a person so she can kill him or her with her car. Then the singing itself is wonderful, Caroline Polachek does a great job with range and clarity, shooting up and around like on “I Belong In Your Arms” and “Ghost Tonight.” It’s a totally fun, somewhat dark listen that deserves your attention.
Chromatics – Kill For Love
When I saw that the genre labeled on their previous releases was”No-wave” I was a bit skeptical. How can something be “no-wave?” Well I still don’t think that label is appropriate, since this thing grooves. Basically, if you liked the movie “Drive” starring Ryan Gosling, you’re going to really enjoy this album. Chromatics guested on the soundtrack and Johnny Jewel, one of the members of the band made his own soundtrack for the movie, so that Drive mindset was definitely in place during the creation of this album, but in a way it doesn’t stray far from their other material. It’s dark, mysterious and inviting, the way Gosling acts in Drive. So put this on your iPod and walk the streets at night to instantly feel really, really cool.
Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
Ah I remember the days when Cloud Nothings were just another cookie cutter lo-fi band making short but sweet pop songs out of nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed those songs, but these newly crafted songs on “Attack on Memory” are just worlds better. The band took a new approach on songwriting, taking obvious influences from the 90’s emo scene. But this thing SHREDS like no one’s business. The raw emotion and occasional screaming really push the envelope there, creating tension and anger even in the listener. I have some of the songs on the album on my exercise playlist: with lyrics like “I thought/I would/be more/than this!” shouting at you for a good minute, why wouldn’t it be?
Death Grips – The Money Store
What can I say about this record that hasn’t been said already? It’s dark, it’s disturbing, it’s disorienting, it’s debilitating, it’s distorted, it’s decrepit, it’s dirty, it’s demonic, it’s different, it’s dynamic, it’s DEATH GRIPS. This thing is unlike anything that has come before it and adds a whole new element to the game, combining industrial, hip-hop, rock, psychedelia, new wave and about a million other influences into one treacherous hit. The lyrics are terrifying and outrageously violent, but that’s what the whole thing is about. These guys are painting a picture of peril; a world of apocalypse, filled with decaying synthesizers, continuous thunder and empty-street roaming psychopaths. The whole thing is a fantastic dream of destruction.
El-P – Cancer 4 Cure
This decade is going to be the one that thoroughly introduces me to hip-hop that isn’t trash, like this album right here. El-P crafts a paranoid, violent environment so he can lay down his fabulous raps and outrageously good beats. My first encounter with El-P was his first single off this album “The Full Retard” which features a ridiculous beat and crazy lyrics as well. Just pick this one up, it has great guest spots on it too, including Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire, Despot, Killer Mike and Danny Brown.
Father John Misty – Fear Fun
Say you were in any popular “indie” band of the moment right now? Which ones would stick out? Fleet Foxes is definitely one, surfing on international praise for their two albums and amazing live shows, seems like a pretty stable gig right? Well this guy, J. Tillman (AKA FJM) left the band to focus on his solo career. Pretty ballsy move, but it was totally worth it. This album is chock full of fantastically written songs that take aspects of freaky folk, classic country and melancholy singer-songwriter deals like Van Morrison and wraps them up into a wonderfully crafted album that contains songs that rival some of those from his previous engagement. And like the album cover, this thing gets really silly sometimes, which is a great break from a lot of the mostly melancholy works of more recent singer-songwriters. If you’re into Fleet Foxes, it’s almost like a requirement to have this.
Grimes – Visions
Grimes is one of those artists you wish you were really good friends with. Well, I think so anyways. Her personality seems so likeable and adventurous, like her music. I was sold when I first heard “Oblivion” and then “Genesis” which are both grooving, futuristic jams that take influences from tons of other sectors of the music sphere like 80’s new wave/pop, 90’s glam pop, rave culture, electro, and K-pop- to name a few. The thing is full of stellar beats that pair nicely with Grimes petite, yet powerful voice which arcs and glides around the cloudy landscape she creates with her minimal keyboard and sampler setup. It’s shaping up to be my album of the year, so I’m not sure why you wouldn’t get it.
Julia Holter – Ekstasis
This album is a lot like the one before it, Grimes’ “Visions,” but there are a few differences. For similarities, they both share small but strong voices that effortlessly flutter through the lush environments that are set up around the vocals. However, unlike Grimes, Holter makes most of her beats and accompaniment out of more organic tones, like strings, percussion, organs and horns. That isn’t to say there isn’t synthesizer on this thing, which there is and it is used expertly. This is also more of a pensive record than a dancey one. I dunno, I guess the vocals are just similar. Not much else. Check it out, though! It’s intricately crafted, ethereal pop with great musicality. Woo!
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
2012 is full of perfectly named albums: from Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music, to this: a full-fledged ride on a phoenix out of an exploding volcano. If that didn’t make sense, what I’m trying to say is that this album sounds like its title. It’s CELEBRATION Rock. This is music you play after winning the biggest event of your life. This is music you play with friends going on a ridiculous roadtrip. The whole thing is made to help you celebrate life itself, by packing your ears full of anthemic vocal melodies, crashing waves of cacophonous guitars and heaping piles of spirit and passion. This album is a treasure for good nights.
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
If you don’t count Death Grips as hip-hop, then you could count this as my favorite hip-hop album of the year. The beats are insane, the rapping is some of the best I’ve ever heard, and the range of emotions and passion on this album are off the charts. There are moments of rambunctious fun then times of introspection and mourning, then there are times of fiery anger and full-scale badassery. El-P, whom I previously mentioned with his album, produced the whole thing, which creates a glorious harmony between Southern style rap and New York style beats. The whole thing still leans toward the Southern side, but El-P brings his own mad genius to it. If you consider yourself a hip-hop fan, this needs to be in your library.
Kindness – World, You Need a Change of Mind
Another album that grew on me after a few listens, Kindness’ album “World…” really came upon me when the music video for the great song “House” came out, which featured Kindness teaching a young child how to play the song. That inspired me to listen to the whole thing again and I’m sure glad I did. The whole thing is laced with disco tendencies and inescapable grooves. Some songs on this will undoubtedly make you want to dance around the space you’re in: there is no way you can deny guitar chops, funkadelic bass lines and smooth vocals of that caliber. Don’t let the gloomy cover fool you: this album is a full-sized can of good times.
Laurel Halo – Quarantine
The first thing that hooked me dealing with this album was definitely the terrific cover art. The juxtaposition of the beautiful and “proper” schoolgirls and the terrible amounts of gore really got my brain thinking about this music that’s on here. I read or heard in an interview with Laurel Halo that this cover, in a way, mirrors the music on the record in the sense of something normally beautiful can be morphed into something hideous and terrifying under certain circumstances and conditions. This album definitely portrays that aesthetic, by pairing Halo’s usually pretty vocals and light, starry synths with jagged, twitchy, paranoid textures with a layer of dissonant white noise. Sometimes even Halo’s voice is there to make you cringe, but it’s all worth it.
The Men – Open Your Heart
My introduction to The Men was utterly jarring, to say the least. I expected something along the lines of the usual post-punk NYC band with droning vocals and heaping piles of effects on every instrument, but instead I got something totally different. What I got was seething, caustic, rip-roaring punk that tore at my cerebellum with no remorse. But the thing was, I loved it. But then, why I started listening to this album, the follow-up to the album I started with, I was given another surprise. The band spreads their styles out from punk, to alternative rock, to surf rock, to post-punk and then even to classic country. My mind was boggled, but I didn’t like it any less than the previous affair. In fact, I liked it more. The fact that the band created an album that still kept the ferociousness of the previous record but added in other tracks to showcase other influences really impressed me. This is another incredibly great, fun, smashing listen.
Moonface – Heartbreaking Bravery
I admit it, I’m a sucker for Spencer Krug’s projects and his very unique voice. The plus side is that most things that Krug puts out is very enjoyable, like his Moonface project, which has a tendency to paint grandiose stories perfectly. These huge stories are nicely paired with huge backing instrumentation, with flickering synthesizers, deep percussion and great indie rock structures. Also keep in mind Krug has been in this whole “music making” game for a long time, so he knows what he’s doing when it comes to creating a good album. At least I think so.
Mount Eerie – Clear Moon
This is the newest addition to the “Top 25” list I have going on my computer, so I don’t have much to say analysis wise. However, if you’re familiar with The Microphones or Mount Eerie, you’ll probably really enjoy this album. It’s faint, male vocals usually being swarmed with drowning, dark instrumentation. The thing that reminds me of this album the most is an old, abandoned mansion on a beach: the floorboards creak as you walk through the cobwebbed rooms, exploring the contents of the old, forsaken manor. The mystery of this mansion unravels throughout the album’s length, concluding with some sort of relinquishment of spirits from the decrepit building. It’s a dark, ambiguous, listen, but I sure did like it.
Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now?
I’m a sucker for anything mandolin god Chris Thile does, but it really isn’t that much of a chore since anything Thile is a part of seems to be bluegrass gold. In this case, the band has parted from the more bluegrass sound and has adopted a more modern sound, still incorporating their crazy melodies, intricate musicianship and ridiculous chord changes into the mix. The songs are huge like a majestic fairy tale and Thile plays a fantastic narrator, recounting the epic story to children in front of a fireplace. Even if you’re not into bluegrass, these songs are intense and infectious. They even do a staple Radiohead cover.
Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror
If you don’t know Sleigh Bells, here’s one little description of what they are: noisy guitars smashing into your eardrums like a car crash, sweet but poisonous vocals from a deadly siren, beckoning the listener to walk into the destruction being caused around the siren. Even though this album isn’t as groundbreaking as their debut in terms of noise and hooks, this thing can SHRED like no one’s business. There were times when listening to this album that I got goosebumps due to the serious badassery that was being pumped through my brain. The central themes in this record are victory, defeat, and redemption, three things that can definitely bring about a killer guitar line, which is exactly what Sleigh Bells do. RAWK ON.
Spiritualized – Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
How can a record be melancholy yet rollicking? Well, ask Jason Pierce AKA Spiritualized. The songwriting on here is excellent, like all of Spiritualized’s material. The insertion of choral and gospel aspects like on his previous album “Ladies and Gentlemen…” are also greatly appreciated. There are some songs that are proud, anthemic declarations of independence and others are more intimate occasions with hushed vocals that ask for another level of listener appreciation. Not much I can say about this one except that it’s a fantastic listen.
John Talabot- ƒin
Imagine walking into a dense rainforest, somewhere in Brazil: the humidity is off the charts, there are crazy amounts of wild colors all around you, you hear the chirps and croaks of the forest floor inhabitants and the whole forest is a thick maze of foliage and wildlife, waiting to be discovered. That basically sums up a lot of ƒin, which is filled with lush textures and deep, organic beats that are endlessly danceable. Talabot is Spanish and you can see that influence in the music. In all honesty I couldn’t see an American producer coming up with beats this hot and well-crafted. It really is a wonderful experience, being immersed in this jungle of an album. Put it on and take the plunge!
THEESatisfaction – awE naturalE
THEESatisfaction’s “awE naturalE” takes a lot of leads from Shabazz Palaces’ great album from last year “Black Up,” where the female duo guested on one of the albums best tracks. The rapping/singing female duo goes over loops and percussion that really evoke thought, like the lyrics. The beats on here are really cool, albeit repetitive at times. They combine elements of jazz, funk, soul, afro-centric ideals, hip hop and r&b to create a cohesive product that at times ends too quickly, but I guess that’s one of the draws, right?
Jack White – Blunderbuss
Good old Jack White. If I’m not mistaken, this is his first full-length as a solo artist, which is surprising since he’s been the frontman of so many other projects for the past decade. This album is definitely more blues and folk oriented than his previous projects like the Dead Weather. If anything it’s the closest to it’s the Raconteurs. The songwriting is great, as usual with White and the melodies are catchy. In all honesty, it’s nice to see White on his own to have his total musical mind show. Check this one out for sure.
Well I hope you enjoyed that massive post of great music, there will most definitely be more to come!
Have an excellent day!