Normally I make my Top Ten Albums list in December, but the pace of life has delayed it until now. Looking back, I realize that I didn’t listen to all that much new stuff in 2012. There were a few albums that almost made the list (I could’ve expanded the list to a Top 15, but why mess with tradition?), and I came across others that, when I listened to them for the sake of writing this post, I wondered why I thought I liked them at all.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s this year’s list. Links point to where you can preview or purchase the albums on iTunes. Enjoy!
10. Cee Lo Green, Cee Lo’s Magic Moment – Occasionally a Christmas album will wow me enough to make it into the year-end list. This year, Cee Lo Green did it with an album that feels like one of those star-studded Christmas specials from days past. Cee Lo invites friends like Rod Stewart, Christina Aguilera, the Muppets, and acapella group Straight No Chaser to join in the festivities. The results range from pure fun – the duet with the Muppets on “All I Need Is Love samples “Mah Na Mah Na” – to the purely sublime – beautifully sung renditions of carols and newer sacred Christmas songs. (Best of the Best: “All I Need Is Love” (with the Muppets), “Mary, Did You Know,” “What Christmas Means To Me”)
9. Band of Horses, Mirage Rock In the summer, when I first heard that Band of Horses were releasing a new album, I became excited. When I head they were teaming up with famed producer Glyn Johns, I became ecstatic. With Mirage Rock, Band of Horses deliver on everything their fans expect: thick, effects-laden vocals, heartfelt songwriting, and expert instrumentation. Though there’s nothing on the album nearly as compelling as anything off of Infinite Arms, Mirage Rock is a compelling listen. (Best of the Best: “Knock Knock,” “Slow Cruel Hands Of Time,” “Heartbreak On The 101”)
8. Sleepy Turtles, Summer, Hither EP – In the course of 5 songs – and a mere 20 minutes – Atlanta’s Sleepy Turtles have managed to create one of the most lovely cycles of songs to come around in a long time. I would have ranked it higher had it been a full length album, but at the same time, Sleepy Turtles have delivered a fully realized album without the filler. Think Band of Horses meets Mumford & Sons, and you’ll get an inkling of why this local band is proof that the future of Americana music is bright. (Best of the Best: “A Reason To Hope,” “Being Small,” “Morning Song”)
7. Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls – Fuzzy, garage-y, retro goodness from the state of Alabama. The Shakes, fronted by the charismatic Brittany Howard, have created a fusion of rock and soul, rooted in the great music of the 60’s (one can almost picture the band lighting up the stage on The Ed Sullivan Show) yet filtered through a modern sensibility. A surprisingly warm and fun record, designed to get you up on your feet. I can’t wait to see what they do next! (Best of the Best: “Hang Loose,” “I Found You,” “I Ain’t The Same”)
6. The Fray, Scars & Stories – OK, I get that it’s not the hippest, edgiest thing in the world to admit that you like The Fray; I mean, they’re not exactly critical darlings. I’ve actually enjoyed their music from the start, and on this release the band teamed up with famed producer Brendan O’Brien to expand their sound. Love them or not, Scars & Stories contains everything you can expect from The Fray, from earnest ballads to epic story songs. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say it’s their best yet. (Best of the Best: “The Fighter,” “Rainy Zurich,” “Be Still”)