2012 has been a really good year for music across just about every genre imaginable. From breakout newcomer sensations like Alabama Shakes and The Trishas to solid efforts from veterans like Soundgarden and Jack White, 2012 had good music for anyone’s tastes.
Anytime you try to music list that has “best” in it, you’re setting yourself up. Unlike football, where the “best” team is decided in direct competition, music is subjective. Someone, somewhere thinks that Paul McCartney’s “Kisses on the Bottom” is the best album of 2012. We, obviously, disagree with this.
In picking our Top 25, we decided to go with a simple formula. What spent the most time playing on our Ipods? Forget cultural relevance, forget important works, what did we go back to when we wanted some music? This is our list. We’d love to see yours in the comments section.
#25: Shiny Toy Guns- “III”
While only released slightly over a month ago, Shiny Toy Guns has already made enough of an impression, and gotten enough repeat plays, to hit the Top 25. From the album’s first track, “Somewhere to Hide”, you are hit with just how much this band missed returning original vocalist Carah Faye. Other standouts include “Speaking Japanese” and “Waiting Alone.”
#24: The Trishas- “High, Wide, and Handsome”
After one highly acclaimed EP and three years of hard touring with Americana stalwarts like Todd Snider and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Trishas finally made their arrival official with the release of their full length debut “High, Wide, and Handsome.”
You can read our full review of The Trishas’ “High, Wide, and Handsome” here.
#23: Corb Lund- “Cabin Fever”
At first glance, Corb Lund could be mistaken for a commercial country artist. He’s got the cut chin and ever present hat. His voice even occasionally veers into Garth Brooks commercial country twang. But once you delve farther into “Cabin Fever” and start to listen to the lyrics, you quickly discover that Lund is very much in on the joke. Standout songs include the hilarious Spinal Tap riff on CMT style country “Cows Around”, the hilarious “Gothest Girl I Can”, and the Hayes Carll assisted “Bible on the Dash.”
#22: Lacuna Coil- “Dark Adrenaline”
A new album by Lacuna Coil is always something to be celebrated and “Dark Adrenaline” finds them focusing on a slightly cleaner, if somewhat darker sound. As always, vocalist Cristina Scabbia is the star and remains one of the best set of pipes in the business. Highlights include a cover of REM’s “Losing My Religion” and the dark beauty of “Kill the Light.”
#21: The Mynabirds- “Generals”
“Generals” is The Mynabirds’ second album and finds primary lyricist and sometime Bright Eyes collaborator Laura Burhenn delving even deeper into the political and social commentary she showed flashed of on the band’s debut album “What We Lose in the Fire, We Gain in the Flood.” But don’t think “Generals” is some preachy political rant. There’s a lot of groove here and the commentary comes wrapped in Burhenn’s trademark blues-pop sound.
#20: Paul Thorn- “What the Hell is Goin’ On?”
It’s tough for a covers album to break through as one of the year’s best, but then it’s rare that as respected a songwriter as Paul Thorn picks some of his favorite friends and influences. The result is something much more than just another band covering “Gimme Shelter.” Thorn shines a light influential but underappreciated writers like Ray Wylie Hubbard and Wild Bill Emerson as the focus of his covers.
Read our full review of Paul Thorn’s “What the Hell is Goin’ On?” here.
Read our interview with Thorn about the album here.
#19: Amanda Palmer- “Theatre is Evil”
After the runaway success of Amanda Palmer’s million dollar Kickstarter campaign, people wondered if her trademark sound would change. Of course it did. Palmer’s sound has changed on every Dresden Dolls and solo album she’s done. But while it may not sound like her old material, “Theatre is Evil” also sounds far from a lady sitting on a million bucks and phoning it in. Each song is a piece of performance art, complemented by the highly creative, and somewhat controversial, videos that have accompanied singles “Killing Type”, “Want It Back” and “Do It With a Rockstar.”
Read our full review of Amanda Palmer’s “Theatre is Evil” here.
#18: The Birthday Massacre- “Hide and Seek”
The Birthday Massacre has always been a hard band to pigeonhole into a genre. They’ve been identified with everything from goth rock to synthpop to ’80s revival over the years. Despite taking a darker lyrical tone with “Hide and Seek”, the band does nothing to clarify those blurry lines. There’s still the synthpop beats clashing with the crunchy guitar riffs, all served up behind singer Chibi’s voice, which sounds a bit like what you’d expect to come from a demonically possessed china doll. “Hide and Seek” may be a more serious Birthday Massacre, but it’s still a lot of fun.
#17: Antsy McClain & the Trailer Park Troubadours- “Living the Dream”
Antsy McClain is the biggest innovator you probably never heard. He was crowd funding albums before Kickstarter and was heavily involved with his fans through social media back when that meant message boards and e-mail lists. So when McClain decided to play around with things like electronic beats and even a gentle rap or two (which to be fair sounds more like a Grand Ole Opry recitation than Jay-Z) on “Living the Dream”, he does so knowing his fans are with him because they’ve been included in every step of the process. McClain’s own tag line for the album is “What happens when a man sees his own mortality… and takes his friends out for ice cream” and that’s about as apt a description as you’ll ever get from an artist about his own album.
#16: Epica- “Requiem for the Indifferent”
As always, Epica’s fifth album is a showcase for the angel voice of Simone Simons. Whether on ballads or harder numbers, Simons’ voice is one of the best in the business. But behind that voice are some strong lyrics from Simons and Mark Jansen, and some impressive instrumental work. “Requiem for the Indifferent” is Epica’s most progressive and most polished album to date, but also their strongest musically. They don’t rely on the standard wanky prog metal tropes but focus on a complete album where every song makes sense in relation to the others and lengthy numbers like album closer “Serenade of Self Destruction” are balanced by shorter numbers like “Guilty Demeanor.”
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section. Stay tuned later this week for the next ten albums in our 25 best albums of 2012 series.