THE YEAR AT THE HALF: 2012’s best (so far) part 1

Posted on 09/07/2012 by

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We’ve been fooling with this post for awhile. We meant to do something like this a few weeks ago, but between school, work, the lack of a cohesive idea, and difficulty agreeing on what should be on the list, it got pushed back. But finally, here we are. There will be some omissions, there may be some mistakes, but overall, we hope it’s a good picture of what this year has looked like so far. And since it’s the half (an obvious nod to football), it’s gives us some time to reflect and make some changes before the year ends.

Today we’re talking albums.

OUR FAVORITE DEBUTS

FOE – BAD DREAM HOTLINE

It’s rare anymore that an album remains on heavy rotation for more than six months, if only because there’s a lot of great new music out there. This year is no exception, and the debut album from FOE (Hannah Clark from Arthur, Hannah Shark) is exactly what the world needs right now. Bad Dream Hotline firmly instills Clark as a unique personality, one who would have thrived in the ’90s and deserves to conquer not just England and the United States, but the world over. While each of her videos have been made on a shoestring budget, they all contain things you can’t buy with money – creativity, ambition, and ingenuity. It’s the ideas that have and always will drive great music, and Clark is onto something very special here. Latest single “The Black Lodge” (the album’s best song) is released on 07/23. Not only this year’s best debut, but this year’s unequivocal best album.

ALT-J – AN AWESOME WAVE

The only band I could even try to use as a reference point to Alt-J is Wild Beasts, and not surprisingly, both have roots in Leeds. Although this band initially stood out for their odd name – ∆ (which is Alt-J on a Mac), their music slowly drew me in. I don’t know which tune it was, or even when it was, but the handul of demos they made available on their Soundcloud page ended up on my iPod, and I was eventually sucked in to their world. There’s no going back, as An Awesome Wave is constructed exactly like an ALBUM should be. You’re led in, given a few treats, there’s several twists and turns, there’s the climax, and then you’re ushered out at the end, wanting more. If you’ve just heard the singles “Breezeblocks,” “Fitzpleasure,” and “Tessellate,” trust me, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Tracks like “Dissolve Me” and “Taro” are some of the best pop songs of the 21st century.

ELLEN & THE ESCAPADES – ALL THE CROOKED SCENES

I never expected to list this album as one of my favorite debuts. It’s nothing against Ellen & the Escapades, or even the type of music that they play, but it’s not exactly the type of music I get excited over – it’s more of Tim’s thing, but this record is fantastic, and it’s no surprise that the Pledge Music campaign they did to fund the album’s production was a rousing success. Their fans love the music and they love the band – and more I listen to All the Crooked Scenes, I can’t help but feel the same way. Start with the title track and “Preying On Your Mind,” and you’ll hear why the album is one of this year’s pleasant surprises.

Others: St. Gregory Orange, Clock Opera, Django Django, Exlovers, Niki & the Dove, Stalking Horse, The Cribs

EVERYTHING ELSE

BLOOD RED SHOES – IN TIME TO VOICES

Although some may say that the band’s best days are behind them, In Time To Voices, the third album from Blood Red Shoes, is the band’s best work to date. While it may be somewhat more restrained than some of their past work, this album shows that the band is never afraid of a challenge and is never afraid to keep growing. Singles “Cold” and “Lost Kids” contain plenty of the trademark BRS sound, but songs like “Stop Kicking” are indicative of a band that isn’t planning to stop pushing boundaries anytime soon.

PULLED APART BY HORSES – TOUGH LOVE

Sophomore albums can go one of two ways – failure, sending a band straight into obscurity, and success, reaffirming what everyone thought about a brilliant debut. Luckily, Pulled Apart By Horses’ Tough Love is very much the latter. The music is still heavy and wild and a bit mental, but the band’s talent for melody is the ultimate driving force, which turns tracks like “Everything Dipped in Gold” and “Some Mothers” into pop songs with razor edges.

Others: Saint Etienne, The Cribs, Chiddy Bang, Mi Mye

Singles, EPs, and more later this week.

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Posted in: Audio, Video