It's that time of year again where we all start thinking about the year that's just gone and everything that happened. Music plays a big part of my life so I thought I'd share my top 10 albums of the year with you. These aren't put in an order, that would be impossible for me to do, these are all fantastic albums that I love equally. So here we go:
Electra Heart - Marina & The Diamonds
I loved Marina Diamandis from the moment I heard her debut album The Family Jewels which was an album all about how she didn't want to be turned into a corporate pop star machine. So what did Marina do for her second album? She want into full corporate pop star machine mode. Albeit with sarcasm and irony, she wanted to use the album as "a vehicle to portray part of the American dream, with elements of Greek tragedy and that's all going to be coming out through the visuals". A bit of a mouthful and very confusing at times when you try to read through her interviews. But I'm quite a shallow person when it comes to pop music (my first and greatest love, thank you Britney Spears, era Oops... I Did It Again) and this album is just perfect to enjoy great great pop music. Marina worked with producers like Dr. Luke (cf Katy Perry: Teenage Dream, California Girls, Kesha Tik Tok etc etc) and Diplo and it really tells but you don't loose any of Marina in the pop music. Her lyrics are still witty and telling. I also loved her for releasing several songs from the album in youtube acoustic versions, my favorite by far has go to be Lies. Worth a closer look if you've never heard of Marina, her voice is phenomenal.
The Only Place - Best Coast
I loved Best Coast's first album so much. It was the perfect album to listen to on a summery day at the beach. According to wikipedia the band is described as 'surf pop' so I guess it makes sense. This album is far less 'beach pop', the sufer pop has been turned down slightly. The songwriter Bethany Cosentino said that "It comes from a point of view of being very homesick and feeling like my feelings were all over the place because of the fact that I was so busy and scatterbrained and traveling all the time." Reading that and the listening to the album really made it clear to me and I really related because a lot of the time my homesickness just hits me so this was a perfect musical accompaniment to work through all that. That's not to say this is just a melancholy album, it's just very different to it's predecessor but what's wrong with that?
I Know What Love Isn't - Jens Lekman
I'll give credit where it's due and say that without a music obsessed boyfriend I would never have listened to this album. Our music tastes are rapidly growing apart (his preferred music is loud and angry with screaming) but every now and then he links me to music that he knows I'll enjoy as well. Jens Lekman was one of those moments. This album is just beautiful and listening back to it after having seen Jens and his band live, makes it an even better listening experience. Lekman's lyrics are essentially stories in song form. The themes ranging from getting married for Australian citizenship to unrequited love. Even if the songs at the core are dealing with a sad topic the song can still be upbeat and beautiful, it sounds like a cliché but this really is a 'feel good album'. Highly recommended.
Every Kingdom by Ben Howard
Think it would be safe to say that this was probably my favorite album of the year. I had this downloaded and didn't listen to it until I visited my friend in Barcelona for an amazing weekend, so this album brings back a lot of lovely memories. Ben Howard has the most amazing voice and I'm kicking myself that I didn't get to see him tour this year. The songs are beautiful and his VOICE is just gorgeous. I'd give the album a solid 10/10 and I wish he'd hurry up and release a new album just so I can stop having Every Kingdom on repeat. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Ben Howard has also been the King of Cover Versions this year. He's soulful cover of Carly Rae Jepsen's 'Call Me Maybe' and Lana Del Rey's 'Video Games' have been some of my most played songs this year. You forget that they're just cover versions. Heaven.
Devotion - Jessie Ware
I've been very late on the bandwagon with this album. I'd heard the name Jessie Ware floating around on blogs and music websites for a while but never took much notice or bothered to download her album. I'm Kicking myself that I left it this long. This album is just stunning. I feel like many great female vocalists get to capitalise on what Adele is currently doing and what we as listeners are doing, which is realising that a lot of the time we see pop stars dolled up to the nines and more focused on their image than their voices or music (Lady Gaga is sometimes guilty of this as far as I'm conceded). And that we're fed up of being fed an illusion. Ware's voice is stunning and honest. Her songs are stunning. This album is perfect for pretty much every occasion; I've been writing my essays to it, listening to it with my mum and singing along in the shower. The album is solid and I can't find a fault. Maybe that Wildest Moment isn't nearly long enough for me, it's one of those songs I wish would just go on forever. Do yourself a favor and check her music out.
Born To Die/Born To Die The Paradise Edition - Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey was already on my list last year when she just had Blue Jeans and Video Games out as singles and I already loved her then. The whole fuss of 'she's just a product engineered by her record label' aside this album really showed that she can sing. I was obsessively listening to this album in France. I think what I like about Lana Del Rey is that she's very different to the kinds of female 'pop' artists that we have at the moment. Her music isn't flashy pop music that needs auto tune, and Lana herself when you look at her in candid photos doesn't dress up to the nines. She's also the gift that keeps on giving, not only did fans have a wealth of previous recorded music from Lana but she also released 'The Paradise Edition' with 9 new songs that show that even in such a short time she's really evolved further as an artist. I'm really excited to see what 2013 brings for Lana.
Gossamer - Passion Pit
This was just one of those albums that crept up on me and without meaning to I became obsessed with it. This was pretty much all I listened to in the summer. I'd heard of Passion Pit before but knew nothing about them and this is the first album of theirs that I own. I'm so glad I downloaded this. It's such an upbeat and summery album, it was perfect for lazying the days away during the olympics and enjoying what sun Wales got. Some critics have called it a 'Haribo sugar rush' and that's probably the best way I can describe it. But that's not to say it's in one ear and out the other, the band paid attention to lyrics so it's not just mindless pop music. Sadly Passion Pit have landed on the Breaking Dawn soundtrack (I hate the films but damn they have good soundtracks) but at least they are getting some well deserved exposure.
Channel Orange - Frank Ocean
This album is a complete step outside of the music that I normally listen to. I admit I came round to listening to it because of the hype that surrounded it. I've struggled finding rap music that moves on from Jay Z and Kanye West (I feel like I'm being predictable?) but that doesn't venture into the stereotype of rapping about women and guns. There's just something about this album that draws me in, it's hard to explain. I just love the style of the songs and the writing and it's one of those albums where every time I listen to it I find something new. So as a result I've been trying to collect Frank Ocean's discography. He's a very welcome addition to my iTunes library.
Boys & Girls - Alabama Shakes
Ah this album, what a dream and what a relief to get to listen to this kind of music. Alabama Shakes have received three Grammy nominations for 2013 and they only have one album out. That should say everything. The music is the kind of 'country' music that I can handle. I'm hesitant to call it southern country music but the influence of their home state (Alabama just in case the band name didn't give you a clue) is clearly there, and it's a completely positive influence. Brittany Howard has an amazing strong voice, the songs are powerful but at the same time there are very tender songs on the album such as You Ain't Alone. If you want something that's a little different and heartfelt then this is the album for you.
Babel - Mumford & Sons
I love Mumford & Sons unrequitedly. In my eyes they could do no wrong but at the same time it wasn't really clear to me how they were going to produce an album that was better than Sigh No More. Sigh No More is probably one of my all time favorite albums that I keep coming back to. With Babel Mumford & Sons have songs that sound far more epic, for want of a better word. I was also very pleased to hear far more banjo on the songs. It did take me a while to get into the album, I felt like there weren't as many stand out tracks as with the last album. There are gorgeous songs but sometimes I missed those heart breaking and darker songs in the same vein of 'Thistle & Weeds' and 'I Gave You All'. Broken Crown comes close but I can't help compare it with the old version (To Darkness) they did on their India EP (extremely highly recommended - mind blowing in fact). But aside from this, Babel is a fantastic album, I've always loved their lyrics - all the literary references and biblical references. It just feels like very clever song writing. This album is going to be on rotation for a long time I can tell.
This album only came out last week so it's too close to the end of the year to really say this comes under my top 10 but it deserves your attention. I stumbled upon this on iTunes and as it turns out Frank Hamilton has a settler backlog of music. From the title and hashtag you can probably guess it's youtube and twitter related. You'd be right. Basically every Friday Hamltion posts a new song onto his blog, they are recorded in his living room, using a laptop and a recording device with a microphone inside. The songs are available to purchase from Bandcamp (each week) and iTunes (at the end of each month). In my clueless iTunes wanderings I stumbled on the 'best of' version rather the monthly version but I've had a few listens and really like what I hear. The obvious comparison is Ed Sheeran but Frank Hamilton is more my cup of tea. The lyrics are great, a lot of the time you can't help but smile. Because the songs themselves are deceptively simple with great songwriting there's bound to be more than one song you can identify with. It's definitely worth checking his blog out, something to brighten up your Fridays ready for your weekend.
What were some of your favorite albums from 2012? Please feel free to share them, I'm always looking for more music to get obsessed with!