Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Favorite 10 Albums of 2012

Every year has its soundtrack. These were the albums that contributed to mine this year.

Top 10 Albums of 2012

1. The Fray: Scars and Stories
Favorite tracks: “Heartbeat,” “Rainy Zurich,” “Be Still”
I’ve liked The Fray’s last two albums, but I feel like this is the album where they truly came into their own. The lyrics are about living life-- when it feels like flying and when it rubs you raw, love and faith and trying to move forward. There is a perfect layer of guitars to counterweight Isaac Slade’s fragile, almost weightless voice. This has had consistent plays throughout the year, but was the soundtrack specifically to my spring.

2. David Crowder*Band: Give Us Rest
Favorite tracks: “O Great God, Give Us Rest,” “Let Me Feel You Shine,” “Sometimes,” “Oh, My God I’m Coming Home”
I’m going to be honest, I was a little biased against this album purely because the mainstream CCM community was excited about it. Fortunately, I gave it a shot anyway. This is an album that largely needs to be taken as a whole-- an experience, a religious mass, a journey. It is reverent and rich and layered, a spectacular end to the career of a band that changed the way the Christian community worships.

3. Thousand Foot Krutch: The End Is Where We Begin
Favorite tracks: “Be Somebody,” “Courtesy Call,” “Fly On the Wall”
This album provides a beautiful blend of TFK’s strong points, from the rapcore that established their career over a decade ago to the symphonic rock sound that buoyed 2009’s Welcome to the Masquerade. Although there are a lot of relatively substance-less rock anthems, they are balanced by themes of change, of identity, of overcoming apathy, even of worship. This is an album that carries a little of the explosive energy of Thousand Foot Krutch’s live show into my headphones.

4. Capital Lights: Rhythm N Moves
Favorite tracks: “Rhythm N’ Moves,” “Caroline,” “Newport”
This is a bit of a departure for this list, but it has been a consistent favorite since its summer release. I was a fan of Capital Lights’ debut, and thus devastated by the disbandment that shortly followed-- and thrilled when they reunited to hit the studio again. This is a rare case of clean dance music that actually provokes some thought while still providing some killer beats. Their tongue-in-cheek writing style and infectious hooks make this album memorable.

5. The Classic Crime: Phoenix
Favorite tracks: “Beautiful Darkside,” “Heaven and Hell,” “Let Me Die,” “What I’d Give Up”
I was a kickstarter backer for this one, and I certainly didn’t regret it. Independence allowed The Classic Crime to fully dig into their rich potential, coloring their tunes with dark-edged lyrics and a punk-influenced rock vibe that feels more mature and dynamic than any of their previous releases.

6. Project 86: Wait for the Siren
Favorite tracks: “Fall, Goliath, Fall,” “Off the Grid,” “Blood Moon”
This is one of the few releases I’ve heard in the past five years that has legitimately heavy guitars-- “skull crushing” might be a more apt descriptor. The instrumentation is strong in more areas than just guitar work though, including pipes and a dulcimer to add a haunting thread to the songs. Project 86 mastermind Andrew Schwab didn’t hold off on the lyrics either, using words to weave an epic with an almost narrative feeling to it. This is one of the very few albums I have ever reviewed that I legitimately could not find flaws with.

7. Anberlin: Vital
Favorite tracks: “Self-Starter,” “Little Tyrants,” “Modern Age,” “God, Drugs & Sex”
I’ve been following Anberlin since their masterpiece Cities, but like many fans, none of their more recent releases had connected to me in anywhere near the same way. Although this isn’t quite Cities-level, it’s the first one that could be compared in the past 6 years. Anberlin brought back the more brooding, hard-edged guitar sound of Never Take Friendship Personal and Cities while blending in the more atmospheric, electronic elements of Dark is the Way, Light is a Place. This is truly a masterpiece, experimental but grounded, poetic but raw.

8. Disciple: O God Save Us All
Favorite tracks: “Once And For All,” “O God Save Us All,” “Draw the Line”
This album was very highly anticipated for me to the point where I was afraid of being let down-- but I wasn’t. This is a beautiful blending of their harder sound and their skill with symphonic ballads, showcasing their skill in diverse formats. The lyrics are the strongest songwriting I’ve heard yet on a Disciple record, bridging themes of the Christian life from beginning to end. The album beautifully captures Disciple’s identity and mission as a band, and achieves some serious rock and roll in the process.

9. Flyleaf: New Horizon
Favorite tracks:  “Fire Fire,” “Bury Your Heart,” “Broken Wings”
The last Flyleaf album really had to grow on me, but this one I liked from the first listen. Beyond being the band’s most musically textured work to date, it is also the most thematically dynamic, exploring both struggle and victory with both urgency and thoughtfulness. Lead vocalist Lacey Sturm’s announcement about stepping down coincided with the record’s release, making it even more meaningful for fans. This is an album that has promise to endure.

10. Paper Route: The Peace of Wild Things
Favorite tracks: “Glass Heart Hymn,” “Letting You Let Go,” “Rabbit Holes”
Although the indie sound of Paper Route’s Absence was enough to earn them an underground following, the most accessible sound of Peace of the Wild Things is launching them into a more visible spotlight. Although this could easily be just another indie-and-electronic influenced alt rock release, Paper Route really poured their hearts into this album-- heartache, spirituality, healing, and despair are all explored with the flashlight provided by the band’s intensely purposeful instrumentation. This album is breathtaking, raw, and worth every single word of critical acclaim.

Runners Up Who Were Also Awesome But Won't Fit On the List:
World We View - Nine Lashes
Lights of Distant Cities - Bebo Norman
Mean What You Say - Sent By Ravens
Beneath the Scars - 12 Stones
Murdered Love - P.O.D.
Resuscitate - Remedy Drive
The Struggle - Tenth Avenue North
Life Will Write the Words - The Rocket Summer
The Midsummer Station - Owl City

(Feel free to comment with your own favorites-- I’m sure I’ve overlooked some with my list, and I’m always up for hearing more good tunes!)


Liz said...

see.. 'The Struggle' was disappointing in my opinion...but then again the light meets the dark is ridiculously amazing...and i'm super biased so there's that.

i also agree with your #1

Lina said...

I'm was surprised to see Bebbo Norman on there because I thought he was just an obscure British dude (since the British people on station have his Christmas album.) I might have to check him out then... I really enjoyed the Fiction Family album you pointed me to, and I enjoyed the new Owl City as well. It's not easy keeping up with things in the bush!