Music has always been an important part of my life, and while I don’t buy or listen to as many albums as I used to back in the days, I’ve still listened to enough to make the following Top 10 list. You’ll see a few familiar faces on my list that also appeared on many of the national year end lists. There are a few albums we all agree on, but also some that we completely differ on. That’s okay…it’s that difference of opinion that makes the world go round, right?
Before I get started with my list, I must say there are a couple things I needed to touch on first.
1) There were no hip-hop or rap albums that particularly moved me enough to add them to the list this year. Nas was close and P.O.S. made my first draft, but overall the hip-hop community had a pretty mediocre year when it comes to my taste. This is a shame, because I really like that style of music too.
2) I don’t get the appeal with Frank Ocean. His album was just plain boring to me.
3) I don’t like music because it’s trendy or buzz-worthy. These albums are ones that I couldn’t take off repeat this year.
Now that we have all that settled, here are my Top 10 Albums of 2012
10. Chris Richards & The Subtractions – Get Yer La La’s Out
As it just so happens, Chris was featured in last’s week’s Friday Five Questions… feature. I’ve listened to his music for years, and have come to expect certain things from a Subtractions album. Sure, the album met my expectations, but it also surprised me (in a good way). This album doesn’t have the same “power pop” sheen as previous efforts, and the sense of growth shown is amazing.
9. Ben Folds Five – The Sound of The Life of The Mind
It’s been a long time since Ben Folds Five put out an album together. In that time, I’ve grown to like Folds as a solo artist and on his collaboration with author Nick Hornby. Even though I like what Ben has been up to since the last Ben Folds Five album, it’s good to have them back.
8. Green Day – ¡UNO!
Green Day didn’t have to do much to put out an album better than 21st Century Breakdown, but I was pleasantly surprised with their first of three albums this year. The quality got progressively worse with each release, but there’s just something about ¡UNO! that captures the band’s past magic. It’s not epic like American Idiot, but it’s just as fun as any of the albums pre-Idiot. Musically, it fits in nicely with Foxboro Hot Tubs and the Nimrod and Warning era.
7. Reel Big Fish – Candy Coated Fury
Sure they’ve only released greatest hits, cover albums, and live albums lately, but Candy Coated Fury is the first album filled with original material Reel Big Fish has released since 2007. For the most part, this albums sounds like vintage Reel Big Fish. The band’s trademark snark and viciousness is hidden behind the poppy ska punk exterior. They aren’t covering new ground by any means, but it’s a fun listen regardless.
6. P!nk – The Truth About Love
It’s a shame P!nk got her big break with “Get the Party Started” because I think it incorrectly grouped her in with artists like Mandy Moore, Jessica Simpson, and Britney Spears. Thankfully, she was able to shed that distinction pretty quickly though, because I think she’s one of the most important female vocalists of this generation. The Truth About Love is just another example of her pure fearlessness when it comes to making music. She’s still as aggressive as ever on this album, but there are more tender moments than on previous albums.
5. Hot Water Music – Exister
I’m starting to detect a pattern with a lot of this year’s picks. Whether it’s a return to form like with Green Day and Reel Big Fish, or a return from a long hiatus like Ben Folds Five and Hot Water Music, my Top 10 list seems to be filled with lots of nostalgia this year. On Exister, Hot Water Music offer up a more polished sound than I’m used to from them, but I like it just as much as their older albums on Epitaph. There’s just enough driving punk and post-hardcore sentiments throughout Exister to immediately add it to my favorite albums of this year. A must for Hot Water Music fans.
4. Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten
Brian Fallon and gang come up with another masterpiece. There’s just something about his songwriting and singing that is completely intoxicating. With a nice blend of punk rock and Americana, Gaslight Anthem is one of my favorite bands from the past five years. If they keep pumping out quality music like this, I’m guessing they’ll continue to be held in such high regard by me.
3. Jimmy Cliff – Rebirth
Mark my words, Tim Armstrong and Rebirth will do for Jimmy Cliff what Rick Rubin and the American series did for Johnny Cash. Tim Armstrong probably wouldn’t have been my first choice to produce Jimmy Cliff’s new album, but it works. His love for the genre really shines through on Rebirth. Cliff has had a very long career, but I have no problem saying this is his best album since The Harder They Come. Who knew that one of the founders of Operation Ivy and Rancid would be responsible for the best reggae album I’ve heard in years. In fact, Armstrong is so respectful of Cliff and his talents, if I didn’t know this album came out this year, I would have probably mistaken it for something that came out in the ’70s.
2. fun. – Some Nights
Some Nights is the one album that came out of nowhere for me this year. “We Are Young” was getting played so much that it kind of got stuck in my head. iTunes had the entire album cheap, so I took a chance. As you can see by where fun. landed on my Top 10, that gamble paid off. Sure, the singles are catchy and fun, but the real power of Some Nights is the rest of the album. It’s as epic as any Queen album and yet has a slight hip-hop influence. It’s a fun album to listen to where every track is a sing-a-long.
1. Imagine Dragons – Night Visions
Imagine Dragons put out an EP and an album this year, but since the EP was essentially a sneak peek of what was to come, I’ll focus on the full-length. How did I choose Imagine Dragons over other heavy-hitters on my Top 10 like Gaslight Anthem and fun.? It’s simple, of all the music I listened to most this year, I listened to imagine Dragons the most. “Radioactive” became my go-to song (and easily my favorite song of the year) and the rest of the album is just as amazing. While it’s not a cohesive album in terms of style, Imagine Dragons show off they belong to play the arena circuit sometime soon. Their music may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love them. Night Visions is feel good music in every sense of the word.
And there you have it, there’s my Top 10 List for the Best Albums of 2012.
If I could’ve chosen 11 albums, the following would have made it. As it stands though, it only gets an honorable mention.
Honorable Mention. Classics of Love – S/T
This is a very quick listen, so if you’ve got the time, I recommend it. Classics of Love finds Operation Ivy’s lead singer Jesse Michaels returning to more of a hardcore punk sound. I love his ska songs with Common Rider, but I was beginning to miss that political fury and more aggressive singing. If you want to see that side of Jesse again, look no further. He doesn’t miss a step.