A Smattering of 2012 Albums

Getting ready for the end of the year, I realized there were quite a few albums released in 2012 that I never got a chance to listen to (read: have on in the background while I do something more important, like chastise Nick for being the Scott Stapp of real people).  So this past week, I’ve been playing catch up on a few of those records, hoping for a life-changing experience to come out of my speakers. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll still tell you what I think about the handful of recordings these artists made this year.

Mirage Rock

Band of Horses

2012

Columbia Records

This new album by Indie rockers Band of Horses surprisingly delighted me.  Their blend of Indie and Alt-country caught me off guard; I was expecting more of something like “Is There a Ghost” from these former Sub Pop artists.  Instead, I got songs along the lines of Gram Parsons, modernized.  While I wouldn’t say this is a great record, it’s certainly very solid, with the member’s harmony vocals standing out on every song.  The familiar-sounding, but completely original “A Little Biblical” stood out the most to me with its catchy chorus, country vocals, and tight arrangement.  I’d definitely recommend Mirage Rock.

Love This Giant

David Byrne & St. Vincent

2012

4AD, Todo Mundo

This collaboration between Indie darling Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Talking Heads genius David Byrne feels less like a fluid album and more like a collection of musical ideas.  It’s an okay an album, but overall less than the sum of their two parts.  There are plenty of thoughts that St. Vincent and Byrne throw against the wall on Love This Giant, but only a modicum of them stick.  The main problem is that the two barely sound like a duo on the album — they trade off vocals on almost every other song like it’s a stipulation not to hurt one (or both) of their egos.  The horn sections sometimes convolute the tunes too much, unfortunately (to be honest, at first, I thought the brass parts were MIDI files, but then saw the personnel and got depressed by the poor sound production of it).  However, when Clark and Byrne do come together and duet, the album soars.  Those two songs, “Lazarus” and “The One Who Broke Your Heart” are phenomenal and worth listening to the record for.

Blunderbuss

Jack White

2012

Third Man, XL Recordings, Columbia

This is going to be a horribly unpopular opinion, but I was really disappointed by this first solo outing by Jack White.  And I know the reason: too much Jack White.  Think about it, White works better when he has someone to restrain him.  Meg White’s simplicity in The White Stripes, Brendan Benson’s pop mentality in The Raconteurs, and Alison Mosshart’s aggressiveness in The Dead Weather all held him in line.  And now, with the dissolution of The White Stripes in 2011 and his divorce from Karen Elson that same year, White was completely alone to record this album.  With no one to hold him back, Blunderbuss is a record that tries to be painfully honest (which doesn’t work with White’s elusive persona) while still trying to be the Blues-saving guitar genius that everyone expects him to be (which doesn’t work with being painfully honest).  The result is an album that is too all-over-the-place.  I will say the single “Love Interruption” is beautiful, and that “I’m Shakin'” is the rocker that he’s great at writing.  But overall, Blunderbuss just has too damn much Jack White.

Port of Morrow

The Shins

2012

Aural Apothecary, Columbia Records, Interscope Records

No matter what Kristen says in her review of this album, I think this could be the most disappointing album this year (that I’ve heard so far).  Consisting of  forgettable, mid-tempo songs, Port of Morrow is like sex in a loveless marriage; we, the listeners, keep coming back knowing that James Mercer can deliver satisfaction even if he hasn’t in five years, and Mercer keeps plugging away, even though it feels like he’s not enjoying it anymore.  The Shins to me always represented the joyousness of youth: Oh, Inverted World was weird and creative, Chutes Too Narrow could be aggressive and forgiving at the same time, and Wincing the Night Away was a maturation that we could all get behind.  Then Mercer fired his band, did a shitty vanity project with Danger Mouse, and has only now just released the new Shins’ album.  Honestly, the best song — the single “Simple Song” — isn’t even close to being as good as the worst song on Chutes Too Narrow.  

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3 Responses to “A Smattering of 2012 Albums”

  1. Low blow dude.

  2. […] Atlases – Beware and Be Grateful, Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself, Band of Horses – Mirage Rock, and Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre is […]

  3. […] Ryan reviewed this album (in a compilation cop out) in 2012, so go read that. The fourth studio album by Band of Horses really can do no wrong in my opinion; maybe because I just love this band, or really, because this album is fantastic. […]

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