List by Chandler Mays
And the list continues! Here are AMG’s Top 30 albums of 2012, numbers 20-11:
20. Big Boi – Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
Critics and music fans alike were curious of how Big Boi would fare without Andre as he released his first solo album, Sir Lucious Leftfoot…, in 2010. Of course, he knocked it out of the park, not only solidifying himself as a hip hop all-star, but completely stepping out of Andre 3000’s shadow. With solo success now under his belt, Big Boi can relax and flex his creativity, trying whatever whim strikes his fancy. Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors shows Big Boi adapting his style to the indie electronic sound. Collaborating with indie acts Phantogram and Little Dragon, he crafts smooth rhymes that flow perfectly within this new sonic atmosphere. But don’t worry, Big Boi didn’t give up his ATL-pimp status, as you can still find him hitting hard on tracks like “In the A”, “Thom Pettie”, and “Gossip”.
19. Chairlift – Something
I won’t hesitate to say that I thought Chairlift’s debut album, Does You Inspire You, was uninspired hipster trash. Even the more popular “Bruises” kind of annoyed me. So now I’m trying to figure out what exactly changed on their sophomore album, Something, because I can’t stop listening to it. The indie dance pop style is still there, but the songs are more well-written and have a much more matured sound. The percussion is intricate, the bass-lines are spot-on, and the synth arrangements are simply divine. Most importantly, however, lead singer Caroline Polachek’s voice has developed a more emboldened personality, and seems much more confident than on the debut album. Polachek crafts ethereal melodies that rival the best 80’s new wave songs you’ve heard. They will remain in your brain for days, and that’s not a bad thing.
18. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist
Some people can’t get into hip hop due to the genre’s saturation of excessive misogyny, n-bombs, overuse of bad language, and self-aggrandizing “swag”. This is understandable, but people should be aware that there are many hip-hop artists out there with a message worth listening to. Macklemore is one of these artists. The Heist not only provided me with Ryan Lewis’s brilliant musical production, but with positive lyrical inspiration. The album tackles topics like consumerism, shoe culture (yup), religion, capitalism, love, drug/alcohol dependency, dreams, and most notably gay rights. “Same Love” made me cry the first time I heard it. Also, one of my favorite songs of the year is definitley “Thrift Shop“. The music video is hilarious, and that saxophone sample makes me dance without fail. As long as you’re not a cynical douche that doesn’t have the heart for real emotion and inspiration, you will love The Heist.
17. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Here
“I’m a man on fire walking through your street / with one guitar and two dancing feet / Only one desire that’s left in me / I want the whole damn world to come dance with me.” I sure as hell dance with the Magnetic Zeros, and so should you. All you have to do is open your ears and eat the granola. Trust me, you’ll feel the magic. Here is another beautiful album of blissful alternative-folk-americana-country-gospel-pop-rock that will have you frolicking in the musical paradise that exists just between the horizon and the sunshine. Just open your third eye, look to the sea where the cotton hits the turnpike, chase the thunder, and yell out, “That’s what’s up!” …This is the last time I drop acid before writing a review.
16. Wowser Bowser – Wowser Bowser
Having already built a strong reputation for their high-energy live performances, Atlanta synth-rockers Wowser Bowser finally put out their anticipated self-titled debut album in January. Throughout the year, it hasn’t strayed far from my player. The album clocks in at a short-but-sweet 37 minutes over nine skillfully composed dance-driven psychedelic pop songs. The first track, “Water Story“, has such an uplifting sound to it. Your ears percolate as a female back-up singer joins the verse, and you are bouncing around the room as soon as the chorus hits. My favorite tracks on the album are “The Garden” and “Winter Child“, a song which perfectly combines a syncopated electronic drumbeat over layers of exquisite psychedelic synth tunes. The vocal melody hauntingly swims through the middle of the song directly into the middle of your brain.
15. Swans – The Seer
The Seer will destroy you. The Seer is for introspective music fans. The Seer rewards those who strive for that intangible, otherworldly state of consciousness: the musical nirvana. As the opening track “Lunacy” approaches it’s end, Michael Gira keeps repeating, “Your childhood is over.” Once I finished the album’s extravagant two-hour running time, those words took on a brand new meaning for me. Before The Seer, I was a nothing but a mere child, but I have now transcended youth to enter musical adulthood. I truly felt like I had accomplished something after listening to this album. Swans blend brutal, meditative repetition with heavy yet sophisticated instrumentation. There are massive walls of drone that crescendo to inconceivable peaks where your reality becomes meaningless, and nothing else matters except for the music. Come on, give it a try. You know you want to…
14. fun. – Some Nights
fun. is fun. There’s no other way to put it. I have played this album too many times to count, and it is my favorite pop album of the year. Some Nights is essentially what you would hear if Freddie Mercury was commissioned to write a broadway musical for Disney. The self-titled track immediately shows off the amazing voice of Nate Ruess, and plays like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia” on a heavy dose of bubblegum and crack. “We Are Young” is an epically catchy pop song with an infectious chorus that has managed to reach “Don’t Stop Believing” status in a single year. Nate Ruess says the song’s lyrics were inspired by one specific night of heavy drinking. He was kicked out of a taxi cab for puking all over it. He told Rolling Stone, “The cabbie was demanding all this money, and all I could do was stand on the corner with my head against the wall. It took me another day before I was a functioning adult and could actually write down the verses.”
13. Kishi Bashi – 151a
I was lucky to be able to cover Kishi Bashi earlier this year at 529, because that one show turned into a 151a obsession that has yet to let go of me. Kishi Bashi’s debut is a gorgeously crafted psychedelic chamber pop album that is the musical equivalent of a sunrise from the top of a mountain while on a sugar rush. Kishi’s swirling, uplifting violin arrangements loop, layer, and swirl around his angelic voice that range from melodiously reverent to a high-pitched j-pop vocal. I dare you to lay on your bed and listen to “Manchester” with your eyes closed. I promise that you won’t regret it. Fans of unique singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists should definitely listen to this album.
12. Gentleman Jesse – Leaving Atlanta
From Consequence of Sound: “Jesse Smith was walking through an Atlanta parking lot when he spotted a group of teenagers struggling to swap out a flat tire. A self-proclaimed ‘gentleman’, Smith was the kind of guy who’d help you with a flat. He was also the prime target for a mugging. Smith woke up in an ambulance — the last thing he remembered was getting clubbed in the face with a table leg. He spent the next month recovering in a bed. Then his father died. It had been a couple years since Smith’s 2008 debut, Gentleman Jesse and His Men, but it was time to hit the basement for some songwriting sessions– that, or quit music altogether.” Despite the catchy power pop jangle of Leaving Atlanta, there’s a personal underlying sorrow present. Dissatisfaction with life in a town that’s bringing you down mixed with tales of mistakes and squandered relationships are told by Jesse with poignance. However, these sentiments are sung within superbly crafted garage-rock pop songs, and there’s nothing quiet like a happy-sounding sad song.
11. The Shins – Port of Morrow
James Mercer’s voice is like sriracha: It goes good on everything. On top of that, he seems to be incapable of writing a bad pop song. Port of Morrow is The Shins’ best album (yeah, I said it). On it, Mercer has written 10 awe-inspiringly beautiful songs to create a perfect pop album. It’s everything you would want from a Shins record: lush instrumentation, toe-tapping rhythms, singalong choruses, heady lyrics, and impeccably charming melodies. Also, as an added bonus, the video for “It’s Only Life” is one of my favorite music videos of 2012. It plays like a live-action Miyazaki film. If you can momentarily set aside your need for darkness or edginess, you will assuredly fall in love with this slice of pop perfection.
Stay tuned for AMG’s top 10 albums of 2012, coming soon!