dfDubReport’s Top 10 Album Picks of 2012
By Tiney Ricciardi, Sarah Flynn, Laura Rowe and Rania Khoury
2012 was an incredible year for music. New artists were introduced to the scene, old favorites returned and unique collaboration was happening all over the place. Lucky for us, some of that genius got recorded and we could bump it in our cars. Here are the top ten albums we enjoyed the most.
10. Santigold – Master of My Make-Believe
In a generation where we just want to dance, Santigold has proven herself as a strong female artist with sick beats and even sicker rhymes. Her debut album Santigold defined her as an artist and opened doors as she exploded on to the scene four years ago. Now, her sophomore album Master of My Make-Believe is a masterpiece of self discovery and has proven her right to success. The album seems to have multiple personalities, as she moves from slow songs of youthful unity to upbeat cockiness with the song “Look At These Hoes.” This album is an extension of a promising career, and we can expect to see and hear a lot more of Santigold in 2013.
9. Elephant Revival – It’s Alive
I saw Elephant Revival for the first time this year at Harvest Music Festival on Mulberry Mountain. I was taken aback with their haunting and soulful performance (and their absurdly talented violinist), I immediately looked them up when I got home. I discovered a whole discography of great music, but their album Its Alive was definitely one of my favorites this year. Their folky, moody jams had a very cool jazz feel, with smooth emotional highs and lows that carry you through each track. I also loved this album for a slightly nerdier reason — Elephant Revival recorded this album using an analog console and recording technology. The benefit? A higher sample rate that gives “quiet passages all the integrity of the loud passages … the emotion in the music has a more powerful impact,” according to the band. Definitely worth a listen to see for yourself.
8. Goodnight Ned – Smoke From the Sails
2012 was a big year for local music. One band who stormed the scene was Goodnight Ned. The band’s debut Smoke From The Sails is almost picturesque for our list — rocky and rugged with vindication, all the while clean and poetic in terms of songwriting. The six-piece has a familiar folk dynamic between the guitars, keyboard and vocals, which they fill out with violin and trumpet. Plus, with even more local love, they sincerely explain the unique paradox many feel about our great city in their song “Dallas”: The fundamental difference between us/Darlin’ I love you, but you don’t love Dallas/You’ve been so good too me, but this shit town won’t let me leave.
7. Tame Impala – Lonerism
Australia’s Tame Impala has found a singular sound in the cross-section of timeless pop and psychedelia with their second LP Lonerism. The album’s statement of intent is announced right from the very start as the rhythm of “Be Above It” gamely holds onto the coattails of the band’s imagination as it swoops and soars. Kevin Parker’s diffused, dreamy vocals are somehow swept along in the backdraft of the record’s psychedelic swirl. As Lonerism moves further and further away from its predecessor’s rock ‘n roll roots, it evolves into more fluid, mind-expanding grooves. This album is incredibly intriguing and beautifully executed. It’s an excellent choice for isolation or acid trips with best friends, take your pick.
6. Beat Connection – The Palace Garden
If you’re a sucker for a great pop tune, Beat Connection’s The Palace Garden should be a staple of your musical diet. Between the band’s 2010 debut album Surf Noir and the latest, the original duo added two more members, including vocalist Tom Eddy to replace the synthetic alternative. This definitely played to their advantage in creating a fuller and more mature sound. While The Palace Garden maintains Beat Connection’s authentic afro-beat style, it also explores a more electronic undertone in songs such as “Think Feel” and “Further Out.” Ultimately, the album showcases a huge amount of growth which bodes well for these college students. Rest assured, you’ll be seeing much more of them in the coming years.
5. Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror
Experimental distortion rock duo Sleigh Bells released an awesome album, Reign of Terror, in 2012 that dished out one power anthem after another. No matter if I was feeling a personal high or having a discouraging day, crunchy loud tracks like “Born to Lose,” “End of the Line,” and “Comeback Kid” lifted me to a nothing-can-stop-me! kind of mood. I was fortunate enough to catch Sleigh Bells in Dallas at House of Blues this year, and their live performance definitely lived up to their studio mixed album — a delightful surprise considering how much noise is incorporated into their music. I love this album and will consider it a source of empowerment for years to come.
4. Black Moth Super Rainbow – Cobra Juicy
Black Moth Super Rainbow has a reputation for abstruseness, a band who only rarely provides the glimpses of humanity that so many other artists do. This prevailing sense of mystery about the band, which is absolutely remarkable in the internet era, becomes all the more enigmatic when paired with their music. The band combines elements of psychedelic rock, vintage soul, electro-pop and more than a hint of video game composition aesthetic to create soundscapes that are both inherently alien and instantly familiar. Right from the beginning of Cobra Juicy, I was both surprised and delighted to hear a chopped-up electric guitar set (the base for the expected colorful synth). This is easily BMSR’s catchiest album.
3. Tennis – Young & Old
Two notes from lead singer Alaina Moore of the indie group Tennis has listeners swooning like Homer of the Odyssey over his mystic sirens. But the band’s charm doesn’t stop there. This husband-wife duo out of Denver is the type to gaze at each other across stage regardless of how many times they’ve sung that damn song. The lyrics are just that earnest. Tennis’ dream pop style is rooted in easy-breezy guitar and lackadaisical keyboard that flirt with long forgotten memories and conjure an innocent smile. Call it cutesy, call it girly. But men and women alike can relate to stories of internal wondering and love at first sight. So cuddle up close and lay down the needle. Young & Old is one record you will keep coming back to.
2. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Here
Powerful moving praise is what Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ newest album Here offers to listeners. The jangle-pop sound of their last album has mellowed into a humble, low key collaboration themed around spirituality and love. Despite criticisms to Alex Ebert’s motivations and persona Edward Sharpe, his group has evolved a genuine effort of spreading humble positivity (Ebert’s goal after a visit to rehab years back). One of the best tracks on the album is “That’s Whats Up,” which features female vocalist Jade Castrinos and stays true to their original energy and style. Ebert recently moved to New Orleans with girlfriend and singer Castrinos, where she gave birth to their daughter. Even though their album title Here serves as a reminder to live and love in the present, I can’t wait to see how a new family and cultural setting will influence their music in the future.
1. Dr. Dog – Be The Void
The inherent dynamic of Philadelphia-based Dr. Dog deserves them notoriety. The band has three singers who work together well, but work even more magically when solo. When the diverse nature of each one’s voice is caught on tape backed by their melodic guitar riffs and irresistible drumbeats, the result is absolute indie-pop perfection. Be The Void is just one in a series of flawless albums — preceded by Shame, Shame (2010), Fate (2008), We All Belong (2007), Takers and Leavers EP (2006), Easy Beat (2005), and Toothbrush (2004) — and our favorite of 2012. It’s upbeat, it’s rocky, it’s heartfelt. And the songwriting is superior to most bands on the scene. Songs like “That Old Black Hole” and “Lonesome” have you top tapping and snapping, while songs like “Vampire” have you shaking and screaming along the lyrics. Once “Get Away” and “Do The Trick” hit the speakers, you’re pleasantly bobbing your head to the a capella harmonies and mellow flow. The band is pleasantly all over the place. What makes a great album is it’s timelessness and, though pretty much anything by Dr. Dog fits in that category, Be The Void exudes a certain relevancy that will keep you singing long after this year.