Monday, December 17, 2012

YPOIW TOP 25 ALBUMS OF 2012: 25-21

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!

25. Julia Holter - Ekstasis
What is Ekstasis? An author’s voice echoes softly through rows of columns, her words brushing against the marble ears of her audience. Electronic and acoustic instruments gently caress each other on the bank of a muddy river, as lotus flowers watch intently with a lazy turn of their petals. Homebound sailors breathe deep the briny wind and dance underneath the tepid glow of St. Elmo’s fire. The goddess’ sad eyes cast a languorous spell on her lover, lyre in hand and grass underfoot, strings and stems alike fading from consciousness. An artist paints with minimalist pencils and free jazz brushstrokes, with Classical colors and pop textures. The statues move their slow limbs and add their voices to hers, and the chorus walks singing into the forest. This is Ekstasis. -Steve

24. Joey Bada$$ - 1999
Move over Odd Future; move over A$AP Mob; there's a new group in town and their name is PRO ERA, led by Brooklyn's 17-year-old phenom Joey Bada$$. While most other rappers with dollar signs in their name spend time talking about how much swag they have and how many girls they get, Joey is busy taking his sound back to the 90's, a time period that many would call the golden age of hip-hop. While he isn't exactly reinventing the wheel with his sound, he is bringing a classic hip-hop sound to tons of people who didn't grow up with it (including myself), and he's doing a killer job at it.

While the theory of what Joey is doing is great, it wouldn't really matter if he didn't have the amazing execution to go along with it. His flow is immaculate, which is evidenced most on the hard-as-fuck track “Survival Tactics.” It's not only Joey who stars on this album; the rest of the PRO ERA crew, including Capital STEEZ and CJ Fly, show they have just as much talent as Joey on a number of tracks. This culminates in the almost 12-minute final posse track “Suspect,” which sounds like a bunch of kids just trying one up each other, and they're really damn good at it. Joey and his group have the world ahead of them, and it'll be interesting to see where they go with it. -Mark

23. Laurel Halo - Quarantine
Quarantine is an album teeming with defining qualities, but two of its aspects stand out most immediately: one is singer/songwriter/producer Laurel Halo's singular voice, which, to put it bluntly, is quite bold. What lends it its uncompromising nature is not a particularly eccentric delivery, but rather Laurel's placement of it front and center in the mix, most of the time dressing it in few to no effects. Her singing certainly isn't entirely conventional, even noticeably hitting a few off-key patches, yet no more than I imagine many singers in modern independent music encounter; such flaws become clearer, however, at the hand of her unapologetic exposure of them. Although it may be bothersome to some listeners, I find that Laurel's embrace of her voice is endearing, allowing it to exhibit personality much more adequately than if she had obscured it, which is especially refreshing in a time during which drowning identity by way of masking vocals is far too common. The other of the two aspects is the album cover, which vibrantly depicts a handful of Japanese schoolgirls committing harakiri, colorfully designed gore included, against a bluish-purplish grid-like backdrop. It is, without question, my favorite album cover of 2012, not only for how eye-catching it is, but also for how well it represents the album. So go the strong parallels that can be drawn between the subjects of the cover and Laurel's voice: both are stunningly beautiful in a polarizing sense, whether it be the juxtaposition of appealing colors and fine-tuned detail against gruesome bloodiness, or that which compares the affecting melodies Laurel sings against her sometimes challenging voice. The similarities exist on a grander scheme as well, specifically in that both focal points have a more digestible background for support. In the case of the Japanese schoolgirls, there is the grid, which serves as an undeniably gorgeous background that is unfazed by the violence that occurs in front of it; Laurel's voice has the strength of her production on which to fall back, which deeply explores an experimental vein of electronic music so effectively that even an instrumental version of the record would be impressive among highly respected IDM. Quarantine may turn off some people in the way it proudly wears its imperfections, but it's the acceptance of such qualities which truly lends the LP its character and shapes it into one of 2012's most strikingly unique releases. -Danny

22. Tame Impala - Lonerism
In 2010, Tame Impala made a name for themselves with their dreamy take on 1970's psychedelic rock on Innerspeaker. This year, they take that sound and mess the hell out of it. Lonerism is quite brave in that it takes so many well-worn cliches of psychedelic music and turns them on their head,  making it both more and less accessible than Innerspeaker in many ways. A melody so simple and catchy as that of the track "Keep On Lying" is countered by a four-minute fuzzed out guitar solo, and "Be Above It"'s chords are so strikingly "epic" that the only way to really digest them is with the strange production of whirring drums and buzzing synths. Lonerism is one of the few albums this year that has truly had its cake and eaten it. -Nick/TTK

21. Clams Casino - Instrumental Mixtape 2
Clams Casino's rise to fame has unfortunately not been as big as that of the people for whom he produces (A$AP Rocky, Lil B, etc.). It's a shame, because he has one of the most original production styles out there right now, even establishing the sound for the blogosphere genre known as "cloud rap." Whether you find that silly or not (and I wouldn't blame you if you did), what Clams does with his music rises far above that. This man creates delicate ice sculptures with his beats that bring to mind euphoria akin to swimming through the cosmos for what seems like an eternity. It might sound silly to you, but this is the kind of sensation Clams Casino's music brings to me, and Instrumental Mixtape 2 is just another chronicle of that sensation. -Robby

next (20-16)

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