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Minggu, 09 Desember 2012

Daftar 25 Albums of the Year

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From artists whose work rightfully resonated with millions to those who remain independent gems,

25. Calvin Harris - 18 Months
Sure, you've already heard all the best tracks off Calvin Harris' third full-length album, but that's only because the Scottish DJ and producer has been promoting it since the summer of 2011. Some songs — including collaborations with Rihanna and Florence Welch — are much stronger than others, but on the whole, Harris' brand of EDM is more interesting than most.
Choice track: "Feel So Close"

24. Maroon 5 - Overexposed
Those who forgave the band for "Moves Like Jagger" were delighted by Maroon 5's fourth studio album, which saw the band working with pop confectioners Max Martin and Ryan Tedder, among others. While not entirely groundbreaking, the end result is a solid assortment of Top 40 radio layups.
Choice track: "One More Night"

23. fun. - Some Nights
The second half of Some Nights falls short of its first, but perhaps it's just that the first half sets the bar very, very high. Indie pop gets epic on tracks like "Some Nights" and that song you might have heard once or twice, "We Are Young." Yes, the album is flawed, but its highs are so very high that it's certainly memorable.
Best track: "We Are Young"

22. Lee Fields and the Expressions - Faithful Man
While not quite the triumph that was his 2009 release My World, Lee Fields' Faithful Man is still one of the most solid old school soul records in recent years. Its title track features a searing vocal performance set to gorgeous production values (although Fields' stripped-down session for Yours Truly is a marvel, too).
Choice track: "Faithful Man"

21. Mac DeMarco - 2
Former Makeout Videoape frontman Mac DeMarco cut down on the pervy affectations that riddled 2012 EP Rock and Roll Night Club for his debut full-length album 2, producing a solo full-length debut that may sound a bit too natural and honest for those in search of the Next Big Thing. But it's excellent, earnest rock and roll. Also, his Facebook updates are the best. Hi, Gary.
Choice track: "My Kind of Woman"

20. Citizens! - Here We Are
The music video for "True Romance," the delicious lead single off the band's full-length debut Here We Are, depicts a number of amorous couples going at it in the face of destruction. The clip is a fitting visual for the band, a well-dressed and rakish crew of Brits who have embraced a brilliantly seductive pop sound. It's not just an album, it's a proclamation: The band has arrived.
Choice track: "True Romance"

19. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
Sharon Van Etten scored one of the year's first critical triumphs in February with the release of Tramp, which retains the emotional intimacy of her first two albums even with its louder, expanded new sound. In November, Van Etten released a deluxe edition that included all the album's demos, most of which are heartbreakingly beautiful.
Choice track: "Kevin's"

18. Liars - WIXIW
Get past the intentional obfuscation of the album title and you'll find a pretty if unsettling creation in WIXIW. The album is almost entirely electronic, stitched together with odd samples (the band's Angus Andrew told Pitchfork they sampled wet rags dripping on pots and deflating balloons), but avoids sterility with its lyrical exploration of internal struggle.
Choice track: "No. 1 Against the Rush"

17. Nas - Life Is Good
Nas is one of those artists who works best while miserable. The rapper released his best album in over a decade this year, drawing inspiration from his nasty divorce from singer Kelis and serious tax issues. The entire piece — including the cover art, which features Nas holding his ex-wife's wedding gown — is brutally, brilliantly honest.
Choice track: "Daughters"

16. The xx - Coexist
It took The xx three years to produce a follow-up to their groundbreaking debut xx, so it was reasonable to assume they were taking their time to explore new sonic landscapes. That wasn't the case: They just delved further into that hushed, spare quality that made xx so unique.
Choice track: "Angels"

15. Tame Impala - Lonerism
With their sophomore album, Australian psych-rockers Tame Impala moved further away from their trippy '60s rock influences towards warmer pop landscapes. The album was written and recorded almost entirely by frontman Kevin Parker, who explained, "It's about the persona of someone who is really isolated — but not necessarily deliberately."
Choice track: "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards"

14. Wild Nothing - Nocturne
Nocturne finds Wild Nothing frontman Jack Tatum embracing dichotomy. It's nostalgic without being derivative, moody without being melodramatic. Tatum definitely nods to the '80s synth-pop he holds so dear, which makes the record emotionally resonant while still being catchy as hell.
Choice track: "Shadow"

13. Jessie Ware - Devotion
There's an elegance to Jessie Ware's debut full-length album, a grace not uncommon among those used to taking supporting roles in the studio (she's a former backup singer). The lack of bombast in these quietly brilliant R&B-flavored tracks is particularly refreshing in light of the flashy party pop that dominates Top 40 radio these days, and everyone — including the ever-subtle Katy Perry! — has noticed.
Best track: "Wildest Moments"

12. Grizzly Bear - Shields
With the gorgeous 2009 album Veckatimest, Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear cemented its reputation for dreamy, textured, but isolating arrangements that left some listeners struggling to connect. With Shields, the band moved away from its more ponderous moments, offering a more focused, accessible, and verbal experience. It's less artsy, maybe less pretty, but certainly more interesting.
Choice track: "Yet Again"

11. Jack White - BlunderbussGiven how prolific Jack White has been for the past decade and a half, it's sort of hard to fathom that this is the first collection of songs he's released under his own name, the only songs he feels are entirely his "own expression." Blunderbuss is weirder than anything produced by The Raconteurs or The Dead Weather, weirder than that one-off collaboration with ICP about butts. But it's wonderfully weird — weird with purpose.
10. Muse: The 2nd Law
The 2nd Law could have easily become a complete disaster. When beloved British rockers Muse unveiled "Survival," the album's lead single and the official song of the London Olympic Games, some longtime fans feared the band had finally gone too far, with a bombastic arrangement that verged on self-parody. But in the context of the album, the song reflects a playfulness that's actually quite refreshing for a band often accused of hiding behind the same onslaught of sound over and over again. Despite the orchestral arrangements and the gothic backing choir, Muse doesn't take itself as seriously as you might think.

Though Spin's Justin F. Farrar rudely dismissed the band as one "too devoted to a micro-managed version of Thom Yorke's dystopian despair," it actually sounds like the English trio had a rollicking good time putting The 2nd Law together. It is, as another reviewer noted, the sonic equivalent of a blockbuster, intended to be enjoyed without pretense or preoccupation. There are funky '80s pop moments — the saxophones on "Panic Station," for example — packed in with surprisingly understated boner jams ("Madness"). It's by no means perfect, but so very entertaining. Consider it a popcorn album.
Choice track: "Madness"

9. Pink: The Truth About Love
It's hard to believe consistent hitmaker Pink hadn't scored a Number 1 album in the United States until this year, but at least she achieved that feat with a truly worthy album. While it's clear that much of The Truth About Love, Pink's first release since giving birth to her daughter Willow in 2011, was written with Top 40 radio in mind, it's a league apart from other pop diva efforts because the whole thing sounds distinctly Pink — and not just because of all the swear words.

Pink co-wrote each and every track on the album, from the thumping party anthem "Here Comes the Weekend" to "True Love," which saves itself from being too saccharine with its opening line: "Sometimes I hate every single stupid word you say." Pink's always confident voice sounds more brazen and beautiful than ever this time around, wrenching emotion out of each and every syllable without ever veering into melodrama.
Choice track: "Try"

8. Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream
Miguel had one of the most interesting radio hits of the last year with "Sure Thing," a song he co-wrote years ago with his then-preteen brother, but he's still flying just under the radar. This is partly because his latest effort, Kaleidoscope Dream, is so wildly different from his 2010 Jive Records release All I Want Is You that he almost sounds like a different artist. Chalk it up to having more control: Miguel wrote or co-wrote every song on the album, and produced and edited most of them, too.

"Being new to the industry, I think I let people who had experience guide me," Miguel explained to LA Weekly earlier this year of his debut. "And after that learning experience, I came to the conclusion that you always have to go with your gut." His instincts led him to create something that's impressively intimate and elegant at once, an album that may not find a home on the radio but promises real warmth in the sadly sterile world of modern R&B.
Choice track: "Adorn"

7. Mumford & Sons: Babel
Critics were divided on the sophomore effort from Londoners Mumford & Sons, who ushered in a painfully earnest folk-rock wave a few years back with Sigh No More. Most reviewers took issue with how faithful the band remains to its own formula: Anthemic, singalong songs that swell and ebb and swell, with abstract lyrics and love and light, peace and hope, etcetera. Others were frustrated at the frequency with which Marcus Mumford gets Biblical (raised by the national directors of the Vineyard Church of the UK, he can't really help it).

However flawed, Babel was still the breakaway album of 2012. It did not need a Pitchfork review to break Justin Bieber's first-week sales record for the year, nor to become the fastest-selling album of 2012 in the UK. The band has tapped into something that people really want — something accessible that at least claims to be honest, a respite from the smoke and mirrors of the Top 40 pop world. And for what it's worth, Babel is an improvement on Sigh No More in terms of its production, even if it occasionally feels like its shinier extension.
Choice track: "Whispers In the Dark"

6. Taylor Swift: Red
Taylor Swift's approach to lyric writing is exactly opposite Marcus Mumford's: She achieves a striking resonance with her following by honing in on very specific details and images, like the sight of an ex-boyfriend's dorky childhood photos. Swift's songs are unrepentantly confessional and never too cool — she's like a wise big sister to her younger fans and a relateable echo of youth to their mothers. It's really no wonder that she's already sold almost 3 million copies in the weeks since its release.

Swift knows she has a lot of people to please, and somehow manages to play to all of them with surprising consistency on Red. While there has been some mild backlash from the country community over the sheer poppiness of the album, Swift still nods to her country sensibilities from time to time, as with the gorgeous title track. She even manages to dabble with dubstep with some degree of grace (see: "I Knew You Were Trouble"), although ultimately she probably needn't have bothered — her career will far outlast that trend.
Choice track: "All Too Well"


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