Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2012: Top 20

Here are the 20 albums that I listened to the most this year. The first part of the top 35 is over here; as I mentioned there, it was an odd year for music. I don't even own many of the albums below; rather, I streamed them from various places.

Once again I've bolded some albums throughout this list. Call these my consciously chosen top albums, if I was going by something other than the number of times I've played them.

What were your most listened to / favourite albums of the year? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter, because obviously I need more music to listen to.

20. Electric Guest - Mondo

It's impossible not to think of Broken Bells when listening to Electric Guest, which makes sense given Danger Mouse's involvement in both bands. Mondo sounds like what Broken Bells' second album should have been, with a collection of dreamy yet intense genre-spanning songs. This was my go-to album for when I needed to drown the world office out with headphones.

19. Ellie Goulding - Halcyon

Probably the best pop album of the year. I am hopelessly in love with Ellie Goulding's voice. She could sing Instagram's terms of service and I'd feel all warm and fuzzy. Halcyon doesn't sound like all the other dance-pop out there, despite the almost cliche influence of dubstep (probably via boning Skrillex for a while) creeping in there once in a while.

18. Justin Bieber - Believe

Shut up. Seriously, shut the fuck up. Stop the Bieber hate. You're only hating because it's popular to hate stuff that's popular, which makes you just as bad as his army of wailing beliebers. This is a perfectly great pop album. As a grown person, you can admit that without questioning your sexuality or becoming creepy. Just let go. Believe.

17. Fergus and Geronimo - Funky Was the State of Affairs

This is just a whole lot of WTF. I don't remember buying this. I don't remember listening to this more than once. I'm listening now, and none of this makes sense... "Planet Earth is Pregnant For the 5th Time"??? I'm pretty sure it just jumped from 70s punk to a 3 minute track of a bunch of people talk-singing that cut to a little jazzy number. Where am I?

16. Muse - The 2nd Law

I love Muse more and more with every album they release, and The 2nd Law is no exception. Their last album, The Resistance, was influenced heavily by Queen. The 2nd Law doesn't abandon that influence, but layers new influences on top of it, with a dollop of U2 and a pinch of dubstep all mixed together to somehow sound only like an evolved Muse. Madness is probably the second-most stuck-in-my-head song of the year, only being beat by a certain hit that never, ever, ever, ever, ever wriggled its way out of my brain folds...

(Tied for 15). Taylor Swift - Red, Lana Del Rey - Born to Die, Carly Rae Jepsen - Kiss

Ah, my three favourite pop almost-princesses. Lana Del Rey is all fake hipster-pandering, but somehow it works. Taylor Swift makes an art out of complaining about relationships, but who can't relate with that? Ah, and Carly, with her slightly 80s vibe and squeaky clean simplicity, I think I love her most of all. Call Me Maybe obviously struck a nerve with everyone, but my vote is for Good Time (weirdly cross-posted on Owl City's latest album as well), with its forceful meaninglessness, as the best pop song of the year.

14. Hey Ocean! - Is

I never paid Vancouver's Hey Ocean! much attention until this year, dismissing them as just more bland Canadian indie rock. I was wrong. This albums is just irresistible  They're somewhat reminiscent of Stars (coming up later in this list), except even cheesier and more fun.

13. fun. - Some Nights

More hipster bullshit, but damn if it isn't effective. The first word that comes to mind to describe fun's music is fresh. It sounds light and airy, yet dramatic and over the top at the same time.

12. Stars - The North

Stars are regulars on these lists of mine, pumping out albums yearly. The North is mostly more of the same: cheesy retro-tinged emo-lite pop. The North is a little slicker than their early stuff, and not my favourite of theirs, but I guess I listened to it quite a bit.

11. Saltillo - Monocyte

This is the first music album that has actually scared me. Sparse violins play against echoey samples and electronic noise, like the soundtrack to a radio transmission from a haunted house. Try listening to this at 3 in the morning with the lights out.

10. Plaster - Let It All Out

Another one of those albums I randomly stumbled upon and couldn't stop listening to. This Montreal band's electro-rock is big and dirty. LIKE MY COCK.

9. Metric - Synthetica

I'd be surprised if Metric ever released an album that didn't make this list. Like all their music, I wasn't sure about Synthetica on first listen, but it grew on me every time until I craved it, like a fine chocolate. All of it fits together perfectly, managing to be equally at home in the giant speakers of an arena or the headphones of your bedroom.

8. Garbage - Not Your Kind of People

Garbage is back. I still remember seeing the video for Queer for the first time and immediately falling in love with this band (ok, mostly Shirley Manson), and that relationship continues to this day. It's been seven years since their last album, but Not Your Kind of People feels like the natural evolution of their previous work, blending the electronic influence of their middle albums with the griminess of others. At times it feels a bit forced, like a Garbage tribute band more than Garbage itself, but it still does it for me.

7. Grimes - Visions

Grimes is fucking weird. That would be apparent even listening to Visions, yet it's her most accessible album yet, with actual songs and whatnot. But that weirdness shines through to create something unlike anything else that's come out this year.

Like seriously:

Weird. I want to touch her eyebrows.

6. The Big Pink - Future This

Electronic-tinged britpop with a layer of retro darkness, The Big Pink's second album delivers more of the same as their first. Which isn't a bad thing. It borders on trying too hard to be inspiring and uplifting instead of just fun, but I managed to listen to it over and over without being inspired to do anything positive. Phew.

5. Now, Now - Threads

On paper, Now, Now is a pretty typical rock band. They'd almost pass as a 90s grunge act. But their gradually building songs perfect the formula spectacularly, and uuungh, Cacie Dalager's voice.

4. Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror

When Sleigh Bells first made an appearance on this list, I questioned whether the dirty cheerleader gimmick could be maintained. I guess the answer is yes. They've evolved their sound while maintaing their unique aesthetic, and gotten a little heavier with the lyrics. Let's see if they can do it a third time.

3. Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal

I don't know what the hell they're going on about ("my head is an animal?" what?), but the intensity and authenticity of these folky Icelandic dudes is irresistible. There is something magic about a guy and a girl sharing vocal duties (see above: Stars, Hey Ocean!), and it's used to full effect here. I couldn't stop listening to this album.

2. Marilyn Manson - Born Villain

When asked what my favourite band is, Marilyn Manson is still my most frequent response. I obviously listened to and enjoyed Born Villain this year, but among their discography I'd say it's mostly "meh." It maintains the status quo musically rather than experimenting with anything new, and lyrics that may have been shocking in the 90s aren't so much any more. It says something that even an average Marilyn Manson album still made #2 here, but maybe my lack of enthusiasm means I should hang up the black lipstick and find a new favourite band. Maybe something obscure, like...

1. Chairlift - Something

This is one of those albums that inexplicably struck a chord in me that wouldn't stop vibrating. Like La Roux in 2009, it's not necessarily the best album on this list, but I couldn't stay away from it for long. On paper it's typical 80s-inspired synthpop, but each song seems to have a twist that sets it apart; some discordant sound or distortion that keeps things interesting. Most people probably haven't heard Chairlift outside of their brief appearance in an Apple commercial a few years ago, but give Something a chance. It's great and awesome and something something.

That is everything. What did you listen to in 2012?


S said...

Brave of you to admit Believe is on your list. Let the hate comments begin!

Phronk said...

It's a good album! No shame in that. :)

Dani Kekoa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phronk said...

Dani: these comments are spam. I hate to remove any comments, even when they are made up of insane conspiracy theory rambling, but they are copy-pasted and have nothing to do with the post.

Kitty Glitter said...

I agree about Carly Rae Jepsen. I love her album. For me the best album and most important pop album this year is by far Ke$ha's Warrior. It was only released December 2nd but I have listened to it like crazy. It's one of those albums where every time you hear it again a totally different song becomes your favorite song. Lana Del Rey is also really underrated, her album is pretty amazing, it should be listened to as an album though, not just picking up singles or else you really miss the impact. I'd read that the whole album is about anhedonia but in the last song it finally goes away. Also listening to it on mushrooms is really awesome, although I think that is true with most music.

Tatiana said...

I feel sad that I've only heard of half of these bands. And I too feel like Bieber hatred is overrated. Like if a pre-teen girl idol is enough to ruin your life equilibrium you need to reevaluate your priorities. I'm gonna have to check out some random icelandic music now.