Last week saw my list of favorite songs from 2012. Now we've arrived at the my picks for best albums of the past year. In short, it was a good year for music. There were some releases from stalwart favorites, as well as some artists that were brand new to my ears. So, without further adieu, here are my Top 6 Albums from 2012. Hopefully you'll find something you like among the ruins.
6. "Deep Chills" / Lords of Acid
Their first studio album in over a decade finds the Lords of Acid back on solid ground. Deep Chills is a masterwork of what this act does best: raunchy, tongue-in-cheek songs set to a good beat. From the single Pop That Tooshie, to the hilarious Sole Sucker, it's obvious that LoA haven't changed much, but that's ok, as they simply go ahead and do what they've always done so well.
5. "MDNA" / Madonna
Ah, Madonna. Every four years or so the (aging) Queen of Pop will put out a new record that is typically a mixed bag ranging from the great to the meh. MDNA does not break with this trend. Honestly, the first go around with this album left me a bit cold. It's something that seems to improve upon further listening. The weakest track is probably Give Me All Your Luvin, while the closing number, Falling Free, is the definitely the best. Gang Bang is just too funny, in a dark humor sort of way. I'm Addicted is a wonderful club rouser, and Girl Gone Wild is pretty awesome. It's an uneven album, though, to be sure, so caveat emptor.
4. "In Our Heads" / Hot Chip
As inconsistent as Madonna's MDNA is, the opposite is true for Hot Chip's In Our Heads. These fellows keep getting better with every release, and their 2012 album was definitely the best yet. So many good tracks. They found a way to make a variety of different songs, and structure them in such a way as to create a cohesive listening experience that never bores. Night & Day and Look At Where We Are are two (of many) stand-out tracks.
3. "Words and Music by Saint Etienne" / Saint Etienne
One of the hallmarks of a 'best' album for Matty-Matt is that it has a sense of cohesion to it. Very rarely, however, such a unity of sound can slightly undermine things, and that is why our # 3 album isn't our # 1 album. There's nothing really wrong with Words and Music by Saint Etienne -- quite the contrary -- yet it does suffer from being a bit, well, bland. It feels longer than it's 48 minute run-time.
The thing is, Saint Etienne haven't changed much in twenty years. That's a good thing, to be sure, but it does mean that their sound can become a bit repetitive a tad more quickly than it otherwise would. I know, this doesn't sound like a write-up for my third favorite album of the year, but it comes across this way because this release was honestly a contender for the #1 spot. It just missed the mark, unfortunately.
2. "Elysium" / Pet Shop Boys
After almost a quarter-century of making music together, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe still know how to put out a substantive album. Elysium isn't groundbreaking by any means, yet it makes for one of 2012's best offerings. There is a warm and smooth sound to the release, no doubt enhanced by the American producer, Andrew Dawson (much was trumpeted about the Boys recording Elysium in LA). Despite a few uptempo tracks among the slower-paced, the albums maintains a sort of unifying tone throughout, and ends with the heartbreaking and sublime Requiem In Denim & Leopardskin.
1. "Born To Die" / Lana Del Rey
The title's a bit of a downer, but Born to Die is a rejuvenating album. It makes you love music again. With rarely any missteps, this release by the relative newcomer Del Rey manages to take you on a whirlwind of highs and lows during its 49 minute run-time. The songs are varied enough to make you prick up your ears at every turn, and the production is solid and melodic. Her follow-up EP Paradise, released later in the year, is another gem. If you haven't listened to Ms. Del Rey yet, then what are you waiting for?
And, there you have it. My Top 6 Albums of 2012. If you're not familiar with any of them, I hope you seek them out and give 'em a listen. And, if you do so, I hope you enjoy them.