List by Chandler Mays
A new tide has turned over our musical landscape this past year. The end of 2012 officially marks the first full year of Spotify usage in the US, which in turn has drastically increased the overall number of albums I’ve had access to this year. Whereas I usually listen to anywhere from 150 to 200 new albums a year, I ended up listening to around 400 new albums in 2012. This new development makes choosing placements for the year-end “best of” list quite excruciating. However, I consider this to be a welcome problem to have, and I can honestly say that 2012 was a phenomenal year for music.
Now, without further ado, Atlanta Music Guide’s 30-21 best albums of 2012:
30. T.I. – Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head
Tip’s first album in two years marks a glorious return of the Atlanta king after his unfortunate prison stint, and this 70-minute comeback will get you amped without a doubt. T.I. doesn’t waste any time as he starts the introduction with a sample of Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man”, then immediately drops his stylishly energetic wordplay with a signature southern drawl that I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of. This energy stays high throughout the album which also includes welcome cameos from Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky, and Andre 3000. With a perfect blend of contemplative tracks and hard-hitting club bangers, T.I. has clearly dropped another classic southern rap album. Next time you’re cruising through our fair city of Atlanta, Georgia, crank “The Way We Ride“, and you’ll know what’s up.
29. Ponderosa – Pool Party
The arresting sophomore release from Atlanta’s own Ponderosa marks a striking stylistic change in sound, and I could not be more impressed. While their debut album, Moonlight Revival, contains a more classic southern rock sound, Pool Party takes that original approach, fuses it with the stylings of My Morning Jacket and Fleet Foxes, drops acid, then dives head first into a pool of reverb. The opening track, “For Here I Am Born“, is an absolute stunner with gorgeous harmonies and echoing guitars that seem to emerge from eternal caverns of light, and the song crescendos into an intense explosion of thrashing instruments at the end. Their first single from the album, “Navajo“, is also a wonderfully written track. By the time the final song ends, you’re already reaching for the repeat button.
28. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
Ladies and gentlemen, this woman has issues. One would think Fiona Apple would have figured a few things out by now, but that is not the case, and it is quite the blessing for us listeners. The Idler Wheel… is a song-writing feat of epic proportions where Fiona lays it all out on the line, leaving no stone unturned. “Every Single Night” sets the tone of the record by dropping us directly into Fiona’s brain, where anxiety, self-loathing, and loneliness swirl about in a frenzy of emotion, proving that Fiona is indeed her own worst enemy. The compositions are fascinating, and Fiona’s thoughts are unrelenting, yet you will find yourself hanging on to every word. With songs like “Left Alone“, you can’t help but fall in love with this beautiful train wreck of a musician.
27. Maserati – Maserati VII
Maserati, who originate from Athens, Georgia, continue to wow their fans with their fifth full-length release and first release with drummer Mike Albanese. Mike replaced original drummer Jerry Fuchs who tragically died in 2009 by falling down an elevator shaft. Thankfully, Albanese fills the large shoes quite snugly, and the band’s sound is not compromised in the least. Breakneck drumming and kinetic guitar lines run like electricity through this nonstop album of post-rock psychedelia. If you every run a marathon, be sure to put this album on repeat, and you will finish first. Every song has an iron-fisted drumbeat while synth layers wriggle and swirl throughout over rapid-fire bass-lines and reverberated guitar riffs.
26. Jack White – Blunderbuss
From The White Stripes to The Raconteurs to The Dead Weather, Jack White has proven that he is the coolest young musician on the scene. His attitude is prime rockstar material, and his guitar skills are the stuff of legends. Now, we have finally been given a full-length solo album in which Jack purges his emotional demons from his recent divorce, and the results are dynamite. White Stripes fans still get catchy garage rock riffs on songs like “Sixteen Salteens“. Jack masterfully manipulates the left and right channels in the mixing of “Freedom At 21“. The bluesy harmonies on “Love Interruption” are beautifully composed. His guitar solos are highly original on tracks like “Weep Themselves To Sleep“. Essentially, Jack White rules. Be sure to check out Blunderbuss.
25. Purity Ring – Shrines
Montréal duo Purity Ring stick to a perfect synth-pop formula for their debut album, Shrines. While the sound doesn’t vary much throughout the length of the album, the sound is so intoxicatingly potent that as soon as the first beat drops on “Crawlersout“, you probably won’t want to hear any other sounds for months. Purity Ring utilizes dreamy vocals from singer Megan James, atmospheric synthesizers, and beat machine percussions that are comparable to a lot of modern hip hop songs. Shrines takes aspects from many current trends in contemporary music and compresses them into a style that is all it’s own. Basically, Purity Ring created an album of beautiful electronic pop music that is highly addicting. Once you go “Fineshrine“, you never go back.
24. Hop Along – Get Disowned
Being obscured by the giant shadow created by Fiona Apple, folk punk singer-songwriter Frances Quinlan came out of nowhere and blew me away with her phenomenal album Get Disowned. First thing’s first: her voice. Quinlan has one of the most unique female voices I have ever heard. It’s brutally raw and beautifully vulnerable all at the same time. Next: Her lyrics. Quinlan is a true poet. With lines such as “Elvis never gave an encore greater than my love”, her lyrics will strike you to the core and worm their way into your brain for days on end. Hop Along as a whole unit play incredibly catchy guitar-driven indie rock, and you will assuredly be hitting the repeat button on this album. After listening to songs like “Tibetan Pop Stars“, you’ll realize that nobody deserves your attention the way Hop Along does.
23. Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is An Animal
Oh, Iceland, you’ve done it again. The debut album from Of Monsters and Men is a gorgeous folk-pop album that brings its own Nordic charm to the table. The band has two lead singers, one male and one female, that sing together and separately in a back and forth pattern throughout the album. Their voices are soothing to the ears and compliment each other well. As soon as “Little Talks” started making the rounds last year, I knew I would become a fan. I loved repeatedly chanting along to the many “Heys!” within the song, which reminded me of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Sure enough, the rest of the album is beautiful from start to finish with twelve insanely catchy tunes filled with epic guitar strums and drumming, sing-along choruses, and gorgeous harmonies. My favorite track is all of them.
22. The Mad Flight – Break, Heart; Break!
This Atlanta band’s debut immediately jumped into my “best albums of the year” list and constantly refused to get bumped off. The Mad Flight plays catchy, yet slightly morose indie rock songs that serve as a musical platter for the main course, which is the vocals and lyrics of lead singer Paul Cantrell. His voice sounds like a mix between Matt Berninger, Zach Condon, and Jeff Buckley. It immediately captivates you and doesn’t let you go until the album ends. Cantrell’s lyrics are eloquent and have a grandiose language to them, similar to Decemberists’ lyrics. In the song “Pen Ultimatum”, he sings, “Was hunched over a desk, I was philandering with a sophomore / while you’re off God knows where discreetly framing your philosopher.” The entire album will tickle your brain, diddle your eardrums, and create big smiles.
21. Baroness – Yellow and Green
While Baroness might have lost some purist fans on their third album, they most definitely gained some new fans, myself included, with the expansion of their sound. Their first two albums were much heavier, progressive-oriented sludge metal albums. This new double disc opus isn’t exactly metal. It’s something else entirely. The album’s alluring, instantly captivating sound is a dizzying amalgamation of hard rock, psychedelia, post-rock, and 90’s grunge influences, all with a stoner metal backbone. Yellow and Green have everything you could want from a classic rock album: Great guitar riffs, extremely catchy vocal hooks, and exemplary musical interludes. Baroness does a great job of towing the line between playing poppy rock, yet still remaining unconventional.
Stay tuned for AMG’s 20-11 best albums of 2012, coming soon!