At the beginning of the year we changed our slogan to “Get more out of the music you love” as we feel this is the essence of what we do. At the heart of Hifi is music, for me the best movie soundtracks are made by the music complementing the picture, rather than sound effects (sound effects are great for demoing subs though). While playing with the latest gadgets is fun, at the end of the day you want the system to disappear and the music to shine through. This year I’ve enjoyed a number of new albums and the ones below are the ones that I’ve enjoyed the most and have spent the most time playing. This is not a best of 2012, for that I would need to have listened to every album released this year, perhaps think of it more as a recommended listening list.
10. Young the Giant – Young the Giant
It’s not often these days that I discover new music from the Radio. My new music generally comes from online services and music groups I belong too. Young the Giant’s My Body had quite a bit of air play this year and I often found it stuck in my head (in a good way, not in a Carly Rae Jepsen way). I wasn’t expecting much from the rest of the album to be honest, but this delivers in spades, while it’s nothing revolutionary it’s a solid rock album that is very listenable. There’s a number of ‘in the open’ videos on Youtube which are a different flavour to the album, but great like this version of Strings.
9. Norah Jones – Little Broken Hearts
Norah’s latest release I have to say I think is her best work to date. This is an album that grows on you the more you listen to it. It’s interesting, it’s sad, it’s catchy, it’s mello, it’s just brilliant. And every song of course carry’s the charms of her beautiful voice. Go buy it, on vinyl, or watch this person listen to it on vinyl, whatever, just listen!
8. Julia Stone – By the Horns
Better know as half of Julia and Angus Stone, this Australian has changed her sound slightly for the album By the Horns. Julia’s voice is the best I’ve heard it on this album, and the sadder, more haunting style seems to suit her better than what has come before. The National fans will approve of her version or Bloodbuzz Ohio (I think anyway), and there’s live acoustic versions of most of the songs online if you like bootleg versions. Here’s a acoustic version of By the Horns, enjoy.
7. Beachwood Sparks – Tarnished Gold
These guys are arguably one of the first honest retro bands of the new millennium. They were here, releasing and making music long before some of these other vintage bands came along. Do you miss the parking lot parties at Grateful Dead shows as much as I do? Check this LP out.
Here’s one of the stand out tracks on a stand out album, if you dig it, get it.
6. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – Here
ESATMZ (as I’ll call them to save characters) had big success with the track Home in 2010 and the latest album Here deserves this same success. From the opening foot tapping track Man on Fire through to the subtle tones of the closing track All Washed Out - it’s brilliant.
5. The Black Keys – El Camino
OK so its not a 2012 album, but it was released at the end of 2011 and I only picked up a copy post Christmas so it didn’t make last years list. El Camino continues a similar sound from one of my top albums of 2010; Brothers. With El Camino, The Black Keys hit the mainstream with track Lonely Boy (20m+ views on Youtube and counting), and sure its a great track and worthy of its success but The Black Keys have been making fantastic rock and roll for many years prior, so make sure you check out their back catalog and my number two album of 2009, singer Dan Auebach’s Keep it Hid.
4. Lambchop – Mr M.
Mr M. was my introduction to Lambchop, I read a glowing review then quickly picked up the album. Mr M. has been on high rotate both from a music point of view, and from a Hifi point of view. This is an excellent recording with vocals that jump from the speakers, and bass that will test the most capable subwoofers. If you like this track it’s a sure bet you will enjoy the rest of it, a solid album from beginning to end.
3. Beach House – Bloom
The followup to 2010′s Teen Dream which was a top album for me was my most eagerly anticipated album this year – or perhaps The xx’s Coexist which didn’t really do it for me – Bloom is a gem and has delivered in spades. Dream pop with layers of sounds that have you discovering something new on each listen. Here’s Beach House performing opening track Myth (Live on Letterman).
2. Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams
Success in the Music business is an unusual thing, you get bands like Mumford & Sons who trade off one single and see nice sales etc. and then you get bands like Lord Huron who are relatively unknown who put out a solid 10 track debut album and are probably working two jobs to try and pay off the money they borrowed for the recording studio. I predict big things for these guys in 2013 as they have started to get some press and no doubt people will catch on how brilliant songs like Time to Run and She lit a Fire are.
1. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
I can’t remember how I stumbled upon First Aid Kit, all I know is that it was a good day when I did. Some describe them as a female version of Fleet Foxes, but they are so much more than that. The Lion’s Roar is full of country folk gems, the voices are haunting and delightful at the same time. The lyrics are perfect and songs like King of the World (featuring Conor Oberst) redefine the definition of catchy music. Every time I’ve put this on when visitors have been over they have asked “Who is this, its great?!”. For this little summary I’ve been struggling to pick out a couple of stand out tracks, to be frank it is all bloody good. Album of the year for me. Listen Listen Listen.
So there you have it, another great year in music and one that will be remembered for sure. I think the art of creating a great album, rather than just a great single is something that needs to be celebrated and encouraged. With the digital age where you can pick and choose playlists from the couch, the temptation is there to miss out on the journey that a great album can take you on. Long live the album.
Thanks to all of you for the continued support and Merry Christmas!
So what have you been listening to?