5.The Oh Hellos – Through the Deep, Dark Valley
I found this album in one of my routine iTunes new music searches. This is a process where I take a band I like, look at the bands iTunes says are related, and work my way down until I find something new and interesting. From the very first 30 second preview of this album, I knew it would quickly become a favorite. As I listened to this album over and over again, it just kept growing on me. I absolutely love their use of harmony, their fun indie folk vibe, and their energy. You just feel like you are right in the middle of a group of people hitting drums, strumming folk instruments and singing loudly. This album captures that incredible energy of community, and it is because of that fact that I gave it the fifth spot. Aside from the more abstract ideals that make me love this album, the lyrics are deep well crafted, the music is catchy and fun, and the melodies and harmonies will melt your heart. This album is absolutely incredible and this band deserves far more attention.
4. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
GY!BE’s return to the music scene excited me. They were always one of the more creative post-rock groups out there, and I was getting a bit tired of all of their, in my opinion, underwhelming side projects. They tended to be more experimental, less music. More “unique noises” less epic builds. So, when I heard that the band would be returning to its full form and making a new album, I got excited. I ordered the vinyl the day I could, and patiently waited until it arrived to listen to the album. It’s very rare that I do not try to find an early release leak of an album. But, this album needed to be heard, for the first time, in its entirety, on vinyl. The vinyl itself intrigued me. Listening to side A of a full 12″ LP, then side A of a 7″, then onto side B of both. As I listened through the album, it captured all the things I loved about this band and more: At its quiet moments; dark, ominous and looming, At its loudest points; epic, chaotic and intense, and the extremely well done slow build that takes up the long gap in between. This is epic build post-rock at its absolute finest. With two songs breaking the 20 minute mark, this album is definitely not for everyone, but if you have the time and love for this style of music, then I deeply urge you to check out this album. It is absolutely worth it.
3. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Blame it on patriarchy, blame it on my male privilege, or maybe blame it on high, shrill timbres being less appealing to many, but I just can not get into that many female singers. There are those that I love (Imogen Heap, Daughter, Regina Spektor) but more than not, I tend to find a lot of female lead music tiring. That being said, when my good friend Jeffrey James kept posting about this Sharon Van Etten, I decided to give her music a chance. I am very happy that I did. Her voice is perfectly smooth, never once coming close to annoying. Her music is calm and hypnotic. It is simple, but never boring. She has a flare of weird in her voice, but it never overwhelms the pure beauty that she creates. At times, her composition and melodies almost remind me of a female Rufus Wainwright.The music itself reminds me, at times of a more subdued Yeah, Yeah Yeahs, and at times of Junip, with its hazy beats and guitars. But my favorite moments on this album are the quiet, calm and impressively simple songs. Songs like Joke or a Lie and my personal favorite on the album Give Out, create so much out of so little and evoke so much emotion and beauty. They also allow her stunning voice to stand on its own, and blow you away.
2. Lowercase Noises – Passage
I am breaking my rule of not allowing EPs on my favorite albums list this year, because this EP was just so incredibly good, it had to be on here. Perfectly crafted, with stunning instrumentation and arrangement, and not a second that does not demand to be heard. I have already written all about my love for Andy Othling and his newest EP so instead of re-hashing my praise from my earlier article, I would just encourage you to go read it now here: http://doesitsuckreviews.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/lowercase-noises-passage/
1. mewithoutYou – Ten Stories
mewithoutYou, one of my all time favorite bands, releases an independent concept album. That should be all I need to write for you to understand why this album is my favorite album of the year. The music is a perfect blend of their earlier works. At times it has the harder nature of Catch for us the Foxes, the melodic beauty of Brother, Sister, and the folky fun of It’s All Crazy. The lyrics are mewithoutYou in their finest. They use deeply poetic writing to paint a wonderful story about a circus train crash, yet there is a deeper story going on. The meaning is so deeply layered, that even know, through countless playthroughs ,I am still not sure if I completely understand all of things Aaron Weiss was trying to get across. The album is more well-rounded than their last effort, and has such deep, profound messages running throughout it, I could not possibly pick a better album from this year. Although many may disagree with me, I would even argue that this album is mewithoutYou’s finest effort to date. Perhaps it is because their more developed, post modern, mystical philosophies speak to me in very profound way, but I find this album to be quickly becoming my favorite album of theirs. My new-found appreciation for puns also benefits from some of the sillier moments of wordplay like “Maybe there will be a bakery hiring. We’ll knead a little bit of dough to get back home.”. If you have never listened to mewithoutYou, check out this album. If you grew tired of the folky nature of “It’s All Crazy” you should revisit this incredible band.