With 2012 coming to a close, YPOIW would like to take the week to showcase our favorite releases of the year. Monday through Friday will be a countdown of our top 25 favorite albums of 2012, starting with spots #25-21 on Monday and continuing until the final #5-1 on Friday. This weekend, we'll also be taking a look at some albums that we feel deserve an honorable mention but didn't quite make it on our list as well as releasing our end of year podcast in which we discussed each and every album on this list. Thanks for reading, and most importantly, enjoy!
Though it is a record that is completely feminine, The Idler Wheel. . . speaks to all demographics that have felt love and loss. The flushed-out piano playing, jazz-abstract percussion, strange ambient samples, electronic churns, and other sounds out of Apple’s fascinating mind give the album a dark tone that is not without heart. That heart comes from Apple’s deep, strained voice. It is a sexy voice that is earnest, never ironic, and never held-back. The anti-innocence of her songwriting shirks naivety by appearing at all times experienced. Apple has experienced the extremes of fame and art and life and sex, and she can work with all of this seamlessly via her experience. She knows exactly what she has accomplished, and she reaches for something more here on her latest record.
Apple has always been a critic’s darling, but now she is at the top of her game. Here, there is a balance between weird (“Hot Knife”) and pop (“Werewolf”). But even in her weirder moments, there are plenty of melodies that permanently embed into the listeners’ brains (“I’m a hot knife I’m a hot knife”) and in her popper songs, there are weird moments that cause borderline confusion (the screams in “Werewolf”). Everything is tied together by Apple’s voice—again that voice—and the themes of lost love. Apple knows that some men are not good for her, and others exist only in fairytale lands (“Anything We Want”) but no matter the shade of relationships she lives through in the moment, they are vital to her. And to us. -TJ
14. Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse
Slaughterhouse is Ty Segall’s second appearance on this list (This time as a member of Ty Segall Band) and if the cover of this album doesn’t have your blood curdling, then one listen to it should do the trick. Of the three albums that Ty released this year, Slaughterhouse is without a doubt the heaviest and most menacing. Even though the first thing you’ll probably notice about Slaughterhouse is it’s heavy production, this doesn’t at all come at the expense of Ty’s many melodic gifts. Tracks like “I Bought My Eyes” and “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart” are infectious earworms that keep with Ty’s spirit of writing catchy as hell garage rock gems.
My favorite track on Slaughterhouse is without a doubt “Wave Goodbye”. Ty’s demonic cries of “Bye bye! AHHHHHHHHH!” are followed by what is probably the heaviest riff on the entire album. The album ends with the fittingly titled ten minute droney “Fuzz War”, which only emphasizes the heaviness and distortion that Slaughterhouse is all about.
Aside from the sound of this album, the thing I love most about Ty Segall is how honest all his songs feel. There aren’t any gimmicks tying these songs down, Ty and his bandmates lay out everything they have for you to see. They just give you straight up, balls out rock music on Slaughterhouse. Which is admirable in an age when a lot of bands try to hide behind trends and gimmicks. -Mark
13. BADBADNOTGOOD - BBNG2
Few people would argue against the importance of jazz, both musical and cultural, and that it has been home to many of the most creative artists in music history. It is unfortunate, however, to look upon the past several years, which have seen the rise of very few notable jazz artists. The genre is largely stagnant, with most new players who receive acclaim within the jazz community being praised simply for how well they execute the already established ideas of former greats. It is exciting, then, when the rare exception occurs, and an artist or group is willing to push the boundaries of the genre into more currently relevant territory. Toronto-based trio BadBadNotGood is one such example, updating jazz into a context that incorporates hip hop flavorings and an enlivening sense of youth. The band initially garnered attention for its covers of various hip hop instrumentals, including J Dilla's "Fall in Love," Waka Flocka Flame's "Hard in Da Paint," and various Odd Future songs, as well as non-hip hop excursions like Flying Lotus's "Camel," Joy Division's "Transmission," and a medley comprising parts of the soundtrack to the beloved Zelda video game franchise, only occasionally indulging in original compositions. The group's earlier material was certainly impressive, but their sophomore record, BBNG2, expands upon each aspect introduced on their debut. The musicianship and chemistry between members seems to be even stronger, allowing them to develop the simple structures of their source material into fleshed out works. Original compositions are more common, and their inclusion is always warranted, such as with album highlight and saxophone feature "UWM." Even the addition of new instrumentation is productive, such as with the strings on Kanye West cover "Flashing Lights," and the diversity in cover choices feels smoother, welcoming the inclusion of two James Blake picks and a My Bloody Valentine song. Simply performing jazz renditions of modern popular music isn't quite enough to call any artist forward-thinking, but BadBadNotGood excels by letting components of it influence their own, realizing the potential of the songs they reinterpret, and proving to be stellar performers throughout. -Danny
12. El-P - Cancer 4 Cure
In 2010, El-P announced that his alternative hip hop label Definitive Jux would be going on hiatus. This did not bode well for those hoping to hear another album from him, as his last one was released in 2007. El-P has proven to be an artist that takes his time, though, and over the past couple of years, we’ve seen him come back in a big way. After releasing some stellar instrumental tracks in early 2010, including a full mixtape and a Justin Bieber remix, he began collaborating with a lot of up-and-coming artists like Das Racist and Mr. Muthafuckin Exquire. In 2012, we’ve seen him form a beautiful partnership with Killer Mike; he produced Mike’s album and they’ve appeared on each other’s songs. It’s clear that El-P sees the amazing shit that’s happening around him in rap right now and wants to prove that he is worthy of being a part of it. This is exactly what he does on Cancer 4 Cure. As a big fan of his, I can say with confidence that it is the best record he’s ever put out and it was absolutely worth the wait. Cancer 4 Cure takes many of the themes that El-P has worked with in past releases and grounds them in a modern context. He does what much of the best music of today does: reflects the darkness of the surrounding world, and tries to decide how to deal with it. All of this is accomplished while seamlessly moving from one track to another. On the album, El-P shows himself to be a master lyricist, storyteller, and one of the best hip hop producers in the game. I’d say that earns him a spot on this list. -Stephen
11. PS I Love You - Death Dreams
PS I Love You is a bit of an underdog band; they're not wildly popular south of the border and they've never achieved widespread critical acclaim beyond their first album single "Facelove." In many ways, their popularity reflects their hometown of Kingston, which is located on the northern shores of Lake Ontario in-between the sprawling metropolises of Toronto and Montreal. People that live in Ontario know where Kingston is and they know about PS I Love You; everyone else is largely ignorant. Death Dreams is their second album, and while it sticks to the noise pop traditions of their first album, it more or less abandons the punk-short songs in favor of a more traditional alternative rock structure. It more or less is Paul Saulnier doing the best Dinosaur Jr impression anyone has ever done while still maintaining a unique and compelling sound. His vocals are often indecipherable and the mixing is far from perfect, but I also feel this all adds to the charm. It's really hard to care about any flaws this album has when I'm getting my skull shredded by the best young guitarist in North America. -Kyle