Before I get started with my fifth and final list, I want to take this opportunity to say thanks to all you awesome people who visited You Hear That, left a comment, wrote a guest post, or shared a recommendation over the course of the past year. This here blog means a great deal to me, and whether we know each other in real life or in 1’s and 0’s, I’m tremendously thankful for all the support and feedback you’ve provided, and I’d hug every single one of you if it were physically possible and/or in keeping with your particular feelings about boundaries and personal space and stuff.
It’s getting a little misty up in here, so let’s get on with the matter at hand — the 5 albums that rocked my socks off in 2012.
Fun. — Some Nights
Not only is Some Nights the album I listened to most in 2012, it’s arguably the year’s most divisive, as well. Reviews were all over the map, despite the fact that it ended up netting Fun. 6 Grammy nominations, and it produced the most impassioned YHT comment thread I can remember. The use of autotune was a big sticking point for purists, which I can understand, but the album shines brightly for so many other reasons, and while my list may not be ranked, Some Nights is undoubtedly my favorite of 2012. (My only regret is that the director of The Hunger Games didn’t pull a Michael Bay and do a low angled, slow-mo sequence set to “We Are Young” when Katniss and Peeta hit the Entrance Ceremony in their fire suits. How absofuckinglutely perfect would that have been? I actually get kind of angry thinking about how this didn’t happen.)
Read more about Fun. here.
Jack White — Blunderbuss
I have to admit to having fallen out of touch with Jack White. I didn’t connect as strongly with The White Stripes’ final two albums, and I did a bad job following along with his Dead Weather and Raconteurs releases (though going back and exploring these in recent months has been extremely rewarding). In hindsight, I think I was waiting for something exactly like Blunderbuss — an album with White as the sole signatory, one that gives us an opportunity to soak in his wildly generous skill set without a filter, be it real or perceived. Blunderbuss is everything I could have hoped for, and it leaves me feeling spoiled rotten each time I play it.
Oh, and seeing him in the parking lot of Third Man Records was pretty cool too.
Fiona Apple — The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
This weekend, I went back and listened to Fiona Apple’s 2012 effort with fresh ears and fell in love with it all over again. It’s just unbelievable. The combination of creativity, musicianship, emotional weight and humor is just off the charts. And when I listen to The Idler Wheel…, I can’t help thinking about something Apple said in an interview with Pitchfork, on the topic of her creative output:
I wish I was one of those people who just sat around and made art. I’ll set it up, but I don’t know if I will be creative when doing something… I can move a lot faster, I just don’t.
I think one reason I care for this album so intensely is that I don’t know when the next one will arrive. But I can’t fault her — her brand of artistic honesty is too refreshing, and I’m happy sitting back and enjoying her work however and whenever I can.
Brooklyn Rider — Seven Steps
(Apologies in advance — it’s another running story.)
Think about how rarely we listen to music without doing something else at the same time. It pretty much never happens, right? The closest I get, at least on a regular basis, is when music accompanies some repetitive, brainless activity, like long-haul driving or running. I took Seven Steps for a barefoot run on the beach in South Carolina earlier this year, and I’ll never forget the transfixing cocktail of outward peace and inward enlivenment I experienced for those 63 minutes and 14 seconds. The intensity of Beethoven’s quartet drenched in natural reverb, the coolness of waves periodically soaking my feet and ankles, a steady stream of endorphins flooding my brain and spinal chord… it doesn’t get much better than that. In fact, if that’s my ceiling for contentment, it’d suit me just fine.
Brooklyn Rider — String Quartet No. 14 in C# minor, opus 131, Mvmt VII Allegro [Soundcloud/iTunes]
Read more about Brooklyn Rider here.
Alabama Shakes — Boys & Girls
Alabama Shakes made last year’s top albums post with their dynamite eponymous EP, and even though Boys & Girls includes the 4 tracks that made up that EP, I simply can’t resist including the Shakes this year as well. I’ve had too much fun seeing them live — once last December in Charlottesville and again in Richmond this June — and I’m WAY too eager to post a picture of the promotional version of Boys & Girls I got at BK Music, thanks to a tip from my musical sherpa Clay. (Thanks, Clay!) Exactly how fond of the above pictured record am I? Let’s put it this way… not having small children or pets frees up valuable arm space in the ol’ what-to-grab-on-the-way-out-of-a-burning-building hypothetical, and my promo copy of Boys & Girls is right around the top of my list, along with family photos, my laptop and my UK pressing of Abbey Road. In fact, I may include my copy of Boys & Girls in future family photos, regardless of how many adorable kids and dogs Mrs. YHT and I end up with.
That’s it! 5 posts and 4,000-ish words later, 2012 is in the books! I hope you’ve had fun following along. If you missed any of the other 5×5 installments, you can catch up using the links at the top of this post.
I hope you have a great New Year’s Eve, and don’t forget to call a cab at the end of the night. It’s cheaper than a DUI and way less prison-y.
See you in 2013!