Amanda’s Top Albums of 2012: 10 Honorable Mentions

First, sorry it took me longer than planned to get to this. Second, yes I’m still alive. Third, the first week and a half of the Spring semester have been relatively quiet, but I’m just holding my breath and waiting for the crazy shit to start.

In the mean time, here is the list of ten honorable mention albums I promised in my last post. I am not going to give any big descriptions of these, but I will include the cover art and a favorite song. Also note that these are NOT in any particular order at all

The 2nd Law – Muse
Favorite Song: definitely “Supremacy”

Some Nights – Fun.
Favorite Song: “Some Nights” (by FAR – even despite the annoying but of auto-tuning near the end

The Slideshow Effect – Memoryhouse
Favorite Song: maybe “The Kids Were Wrong”

Babel – Mumford and Sons
Favorite song: “Hopeless Wanderer”

Attack on Memory – Cloud Nothings
Favorite Song: “Separation”

Dark Adrenaline – Lacuna Coil
Favorite Song: “Kill the Light”

Nothing Here Seems Strange – Buxton

Favorite Song: “Wolves and Owls”

Blonde Album – Lightning Love
Favorite Song: maybe “Orange Glow” (in favor of full disclosure: the guitarist of this band is the nephew of one of my professors. That’s how I even heard of these guys. They are so light and pop-y it’s almost comical, but they’re just FUN).

Bag of Hammers – Linus Pauling Quartet
Favorite Song: definitely “She Did Not Know” (just listen to the GUITAR on this one!)

Living Things – Linkin Park

Favorite Song: uh… perhaps… “Burn It Down” (I love Linkin Park, but I’ll admit that this album was a bit underwhelming for me the first few times I listend to it. But it’s really grown on me since then.)

Okay, there’s my honorable mentions for the Top Albums of 2012. Let me know what you think, Folks! (If the honorable mentions don’t clue you in on how schizophrenic and all-over-the-place my music tastes are, nothing will). In the meantime, I will try my best not to take quite so long to post again. But no promises. *shrugs*

Amanda’s Top 20 Albums of 2012, Pt 2: #10-1

Alrighty, folks! Here is the second half of my Top 20 list. (If you missed the first half, it can be found here). Since yesterday I’ve been tinkering with it EVEN MORE. I just cannot decide where some of these albums should be. So again, if you disagree with the placement, I probably agree with you. Seriously, pretty much any of the top 10 (except #1-3) could be pretty much ANYWHERE before and after each other. *shrug*

In any case, please enjoy and please feel free to sound off in the comments. (At the end you will find a Spotify playlist with all the albums).

And off we go!

#10: Theatre is Evil – Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra

Amanda Palmer, formerly of the Dresden Dolls, is an internet QUEEN. Last year she started a kickstarter project to fund her new studio album, and raised over a million dollars! I was one of the people who donated to that project, and received the really kick-ass special edition vinyl and the art book for the album. Coincidentally, the whole album kicks so much ASS. Amanda Palmer’s special brand of “punk cabaret” at its finest.

My favorite song: Oh lord, half the album… but if I’m pressed to choose, maybe “Killing Type” or “Trout Heart Replica” or “Bottomfeeder”

#9: Lonerism – Tame Impala
These guys are still pretty new. Their first album came out in 2010. They’re Australian. And they are SO TRIPPY. Tame Impala is psychedelic rock with a dream-pop twist, and they will make your head spin (in the best way possible). Every song on Lonerism is just pure groovy guitar goodness (trying saying that five times fast).

My favorite song: either “Elephant” or “Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control” (seriously, the whole second half of “Nothing…” is just MINDBLOWINGLY AWESOME)

#8: My Head is an Animal – Of Monsters and Men
Oh man. Part of me feels like this album should be higher up than this… Oh geez. This is so hard! My Head is an Animal is a BRILLIANT album. Period. End of discussion. No but really. This indie folk/pop band is from Iceland. They released an EP in 2011 that I absolutely FELL IN LOVE with and I waited with baited breath for this album to come out. And it did not disappoint. It is expressive, controlled, and beautiful.

My favorite song: God, I don’t even know! Maybe “King and Lionheart” or “Little Talks” or “Six Weeks”…? GAH! TOO MANY AWESOME SONGS TO CHOOSE FROM!

#7: Shields – Grizzly Bear
Okay, honestly, I’m still torn about this one. I keep going back and forth over whether Shields should maybe be behind My Head is an Animal. Even as I type this, I’m considering moving them around. UGH. Either way, this album is wonderful. What I love about this band is that they pull from so many different styles. They’re indie rock, but they mix in a lot of folk, psychedelic, lo-fi, and even some pop. Also, I seriously LOVE Edward Droste’s voice. Also, they’re from Marfa, Texas – so another local-ish band makes the mix. Yay!

My favorite song: “Speak in Rounds” (probably… or maybe “Yet Again”)

#6: Milk Famous – White Rabbits
Here’s another band you can thank (or blame) on my brother. He introduced me to White Rabbits a few years ago. Their first album, Fort Nightly, is also awesome. Just so you know. And I love Milk Famous so much. It’s opening song, ironically called Heavy Metal (and the whole album) is a bit more laid-back than some of their previous work. But it still makes me want to dance. It’s got a great groove to it. (And yes, this is yet another indie rock/psychedelic/lo-fi mash up – I listen to a lot of bands like that, okay?)

My favorite song: “Temporary” (at least for the moment)

#5: Neck of the Woods – Silversun Pickups
I cannot possibly oversell how much I love Silversun Pickups. I just can’t. Their 2009 album, Swoon, is one of my favorite albums EVER of everything ever. The only reason this album isn’t slightly higher up is because a) it doesn’t quite match up to the awesomeness of Swoon, and b) there were a TON of really fucking fantastic albums this year (and I’m still wondering if I should put it ahead of the next album…). Trust me though, this album still ROCKS.

My favorite song: possibly “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)”

#4: Port of Morrow – The Shins
The Shins were here in Houston in OCTOBER and I didn’t get to see them and I am STILL SO UPSET OVER THIS! YOU HAVE NO IDEA! *flails* …ahem… anyway. Yes, The Shins… Port of Morrow is The Shins first new album in FIVE YEARS, so we had to wait awhile for this one. But it was WORTH it. Indie rock with a great dream-pop vibe (and its REALLY dreamy in parts), and James Mercer’s fantastic almost-wailing lead vocals. LOVE IT!!!!

My favorite song: definitely “The Rifle’s Spiral”

Okay, so. Before I proceed, let me just say this: #1-3 are all pretty much TIED. These are definitely my top three favorite albums of the year. This is based on the honestly shamelessly RIDICULOUS number of times I have listened to these three albums. Sometimes I would listen to just these three albums over and over again for a week at a time. Sometimes I would pick just ONE album and play it on repeat for four or five days straight. I’m not even kidding. I have these songs stuck in my head all the time. I dream them. I wake up with the on my tongue. SERIOUSLY. And, quite frankly, for those of you who are also on my Facebook or Tumblr… if you can’t guess what these three bands are, you haven’t been paying much attention to all my ranting…

So, without further ado, #1-3 of my Top 20 albums of 2012:

#3: Safe Travels – Jukebox the Ghost
Jukebox the Ghost. I once put all three of their albums on a playlist and let it play straight through on repeat for SEVEN DAYS. SEVEN. Yeah. They have this amazing ability to be really bouncy and pop-y and dance-y and fun, while still having this underlying melancholy over EVERYTHING (a lot like The Killers, actually) and I absolutely LOVE that.

My favorite song: definitely “Everybody Knows” – the number of times I’ve listened to this song is, frankly, gratuitous.

#2: Phoenix – The Classic Crime
I came to these guys late. Just found them about six months ago, and it was thanks entirely to recommendations from Spotify. Ironically, this album was also made possibly due to funding from Kickstarter (but I didn’t contribute because I hadn’t heard of them yet). This album just hits me in the gut. Maybe it’s just my hidden emo coming out to play, but GEEZ, these guys just do something to me.

My favorite song: uh… um… do I have to pick one? Uh… “Beautiful Darkside”? “The Precipice”? “City of Orphans”? Probably one of those… maybe…

#1: Shallow Bed – Dry the River

And here we are. Number 1. Dry the River is a English folk rock band from London, and this is their debut album. And I just… I cannot describe to you how much I love this album. The lyrics are delicate, full of biblical references, emotional, powerful… the instrumentation is layered and complex and perfectly balanced. Peter Liddle’s lead vocals are high and clear, able to carry both gentle ballad and roaring anthem. In fact, the whole band shifts so perfectly from delicate to intense it still sometimes takes me by surprise. Which is saying something when you consider that I have listened to this album upwards of 100 times already.

My favorite song: Did you really think I’d be able to pick one? Haha. I could no sooner pick a favorite star from the sky (yeah, I made that reference, deal with it). Seriously, there is no possible way to pick one, or even several. This album is PERFECTION. Just listen to it.

I plan to post my 10 honorable mentions separately some time tomorrow. I probably won’t take the time to find all the album covers (that took forever!) or give long descriptions, but I will probably still at least list a favorite song or two.

Now, as promised, here is my spotify playlist of all the albums in the Top 20. I hope you enjoy it and find a new band or two to fall in love with!

Amanda’s Top 20 Albums of 2012, Pt 1: #20-11

So, here’s the deal. I had an extremely difficult time trying to decide what should go on this list, and what order it should be in. I started by just making a list (in no particular order) of the albums I really loved throughout the year. That list ended up having 25 albums on it. I managed to cut down to 30, and then got stuck. So I decided I would do my top 20 list, and then have 10 honorable mentions.

But even figuring out what order the top 20 should be in proved ridiculously difficult. I’ve been listening and relistening to the albums for the last three days, and have moved bands up and down the list several times each. So, you may completely disagree with what is and is not on the list, and that’s fine. But if the argument comes down to agreeing that “yes album x and album y should both be on the list” but arguing that “album y should never ever ever be ABOVE album x” – well, there is a good chance I probably agree with you to some extend or another and spent the last three days agonizing over it. And my music tastes are so varied, so eclectic (my mother says my playlists are proof I must be schizophrenic or have multiple personality disorder or something), and that makes it VERY hard to compare bands and albums in any fair or useful way. So… just don’t bite my head off about it, okay?

Like last year, I am going to go in reverse order, and split this into two posts, 20-11, and then 10-1. And then I might tack on the honorable mentions to the end of the second post, or give it its on post, I’m not sure yet. In any case, here we go.

Amanda’s Top 20 Albums of 2012, Part 1 – #20-11:

#20: Battle Born – The Killers I really really REALLY love The Killers. And I was so painfully excited for this album to come out. And while it managed to squeak its way onto this list, and has some very good songs on it, it just doesn’t come close to matching the brilliance or the delightfully melancholic tone of Hot Fuss or Day & Age (which are my two favorite Killers albums). My favorite song: “The Way It Was”

#19: Old Ideas – Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen is in pretty good shape in Old Ideas. He is, as always, an acquired taste for some people, but I love him. The songs in Old Ideas are beautiful and poetic as always, though they don’t hit me with the some power and emotional resonance as his older albums I’m Your Man and The Future.

My favorite song: “The Darkness”

#18: Mirage Rock – Band of Horses

Band of Horses is an indie-rock band (and let me warn you now: there are a lot of those on this list; sorry, I listen to SOME mainstream, but that happens less and less these days). But Band of Horses has a folksy almost-but-not-quite-country undercurrent to them – despite the fact that they use a lot of reverb. They always remind me a bit of the band America. I liked Everything All the Time better, but Mirage Rock is still an excellent album.

My favorite song: “Dumpster World”

#17: Night Visions – Imagine Dragons Ah, what can I say about this one? It’s just so much fun. I seem to have a thing for Las Vegas-based bands (that’s where The Killers are from too). I just really love the synth and the dance vibe in this album. Also, the album cover is fantastic.

My favorite song: definitely “Radioactive” (If this song doesn’t make you want to get up and dance, I worry about you.)

#16: Grandfather Child – Grandfather Child Let me introduce you to Grandfather Child and their self-named sophomore album. I bet most of you have never heard of them, as they are a local Houston band. And you can thank my brother for introducing them to ME so that I could introduce them to you. They’re a rock band with a healthy mix of country, rhythm and blues, and even gospel. And they are ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT.

My favorite song: “I Would Like to Thank the Universe / Planet Earth”

#15: Nocturne – Wild Nothing
Okay, first: I love that the album cover comes in like four different color combinations. It’s so cool! Second, this whole album is fantastic. The whole thing has a wonderful atmospheric dreamy quality (which is fitting since they’re generally considered dream-pop), and it also has a wonderful complicated layered sort of sound, without being overdone.

My favorite song: I’m not quite sure, honestly, maybe “This Chain Won’t Break”

#14: Holy Weather – Civil Twilight
Oh man, I love this album. It’s hard to explain to myself why its so far down the list, except that there were SO MANY albums to love this year. They’re alternative rock, and some people compare them to Muse, but I think they’re a bit less rock and far more laid back than Muse is. Great smooth vocals and fantastic instrumentals that are complex without being overwrought (plus wonderful lyrics), make this band AWESOME.

My favorite song: either “River” or “Every Walk That I’ve Ever Taken Has Been In Your Direction”

#13: Handwritten – The Gaslight Anthem

The Gaslight Anthem is a strange cross between a punk rock band and an Americana band. Honestly, that doesn’t make much sense in my head, but it makes perfect sense when you list to them. I really loved their 2008 album: ’59 Sound, but was slightly less impressed with their 2010 release American Slang. Handwritten, on the other hand, is marvelous. It’s good strong American rock. And I love it!

My favorite song: There’s a lot on this album. Probably either “Mulholland Drive” or “Biloxi Parish” or “National Anthem”

#12: Hero’s Dose – Infantree

I’ll be honest, I know very little about this band. I came across this album completely by accident on Spotify and FELL IN LOVE WITH IT. But I know next to nothing about the band. Even googling them doesn’t turn up much. Their own website, while providing plenty of music and photos, offers absolutely NO context, description, discussion of where they came from, etc. I know they’re from California, that’s about it. These guys are synthy, pop-ish, trippy, versatile, (maybe a bit 70s-ish?) and AWESOME. Just check them out. SERIOUSLY.

My favorite song: “Skinny Bones Jones” or “Fibber”

#11: Idler Wheel… – Fiona Apple

Okay, I guess I should give the full title just once, even though it’s ridiculously long as usual, so here it is (don’t say I didn’t warn you), *takes a deep breath*:The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. I think Fiona Apple is one of the artists you either love or hate. I happen to love her, and this album (with a typical Fiona Apple longer-than-some-novels title) is powerful, raw, and a bit well… insane (in a good way, of course).

My favorite song: “Werewolf”

Okay, folks. That’s it for now. Wow, that was really long… It took me forever to do all that, and now it’s midnight. Good grief. You can expect the second half of the list either some time Wednesday evening or Thursday morning (probably at midnight again). At that time I will also provide a link to a Spotify playlist with all the albums in order like I did last year. However, if you want to check any of these out they shouldn’t be hard to find online somewhere.

In the mean time, please feel free to sound off with agreements, arguments, complaints, predictions, etc. about the list so far. And good night!