Year-end List: Best of 2012

I must admit, the line up of 2012’s releases fades in comparison to that of last year, which bought us the best of art in the longest time. However, this year wasn’t devoid of a few chosen gems which not only delighted us but stood the test of time, sparkling with the same intensity with the onset of 2013.

 

 

Quoting John Cusack in High Fidelity – “What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”

 

Music came first, obviously. Everything else has been a domino effect of sorts, as was last year. 2012 was such a blur. Quite frankly, I just counted on my fingers and I can only remember four odd months. In the grand scheme of things, it’ll surely leave its consequences as it fades away, staying true to the domino theory. Nonetheless, I held on to my headphones more than ever. Learnt some, forgot some.

 

Here is a list of albums, songs and films that meant a lot to me and pleased me enough to make me recommend them. Listen and watch if you haven’t, relive them if you already have. Here we go.

 

Best Albums of 2012

 

(35-21)

35) Babel – Mumford & Sons

35) Threads – Now, Now

33) Former Lives – Ben Gibbard

32) Exister – Hot Water Music

31) Lonerism – Tame Impala

31) Port of Morrow – The Shins

29) Violent Waves – Circa Survive

28) Some Nights – fun.

27) Instinct – Niki and the Dove

27) Lava Bangers – Lazerbeak

25) Handwritten – The Gaslight Anthem

25) An Awesome Wave – Alt-J

23) Failed States – Propagandhi

22) We Don’t Even Live Here – P.O.S

21) Fragrant World – Yeasayer

 

With some old-timers (Hot Water Music, The Shins) and a dash of fresh artists (Alt-J, Tame Impala, P.O.S), there were a plenty of great albums that were on loop for quite some time. I was never really a Mumford & Sons fan, but to my surprise, I did enjoy Babel. After two fantastic albums, the expectations for The Gaslight Anthem were sky-high but they managed to please me again. P.O.S’s new release wasn’t as good as his debut, but Never Better was on another level, so any comparison will seem shallow. Alt-J came out of nowhere with a fantastic CD and became a quick-favorite. Nate Ruess channelled his pop-sensibilities after the lovely debut Aim & Ignite and fun. was everywhere – from commercials to movie soundtracks. In contrast, there were artists like Niki and the Dove and Lazerbeak who provided me my dose of Indie-tronica. Circa Survive and Propagandhi deviated from their trademark sounds and came out with solid albums as well.  

 

(20-11)

20) Don’t Panic – All Time Low

20) Highway Birches – Yellowbirddd

18) Kaleidoscope Dream – Miguel

17) Coexist – The Xx

16) Waking Season – Caspian

15) Koi no Yokan – Deftones

14) The Haunted Man – Bat for Lashes

13) Blak and Blu – Gary Clark Jr.

13) The Idler Wheel is Wiser than… – Fiona Apple

11) Able Bodies – From Indian Lakes

 

Gary Clark Jr., with Blak and Blu has managed to make Blues relevant again with some great jams which will surely stick with me for the months to come. Caspian’s post-rock prowess doesn’t seem to weaken at all, since Waking Season proved to be an exciting background soundtrack. The Xx dodged a sophomore slump and followed up their much-loved debut album with Coexist which might seem similar in design but is much refined in terms of execution. Miguel and Bat for Lashes were the surprises of the year for me, since they made me like the kinds of music I thought I’ll never enjoy. Fiona Apple returned with an album that seems so simple at first but proves to be her most matured and complex work yet. The only standout in this segment is All Time Low, since Don’t Panic is probably nothing in comparison to the intricacies seen in the folk-shaded Yellowbirddd album and the Deftones CD, but it makes up for all those shortcomings with tight songwriting and by doing Pop-Rock the right way.

 

(10-6)

10) Blunderbuss – Jack White

10) Gossamer – Passion Pit

10) Vital – Anberlin

7) Until the Quiet Comes – Flying Lotus

6) A Minor Bird – Sucré

 

I want whatever Steven Ellison was smoking while making the Flying Lotus album. It’s so weirdly beautiful that you’d feel the need to have it on for every single second you spend not-sleeping. Sucré can be called a supergroup of sorts, with Darren King teaming up with his wife and Eisley’s Stacy Dupree-Bemis and multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Larson. A Minor Bird was the most pleasant surprise of 2012. People might continue to call Passion Pit as “party music”, but Gossamer had the depth that most of the albums that come out these days truly lack. It makes recovery from loss and heartbreak sounds so easy and enjoyable that you won’t remember why you were down in the first place. Anberlin realized that despite having a grammy-winning producer on-board, you can still go wrong with execution. Dark is a way, Light is the Place wasn’t necessarily bad, but Vital‘s perfection outshines it by miles. The eccentric, mad genius – Jack White decided to lose the White Stripes-The Raconteurs-The Dead Weather’s guitar sheen and keep things simple, bring forward a whole new side to his Ol’Blues sound.

 

(5-1)

5) Bloom – Beach House

 

 

Once you’re done touring for what people claim to be your best album yet, you begin to rethink your course of action. Or not? Beach House topped their 2010 masterpiece Teen Dream with another magnificent dream-pop release, which, in a way, brings out the strongest elements of pop music and lifts them to amazing heights. Songs like Myth are hard to come by.

 

4) Channel ORANGE – Frank Ocean

 

 

Although Channel ORANGE is his debut record, Frank didn’t slip into the party quietly. After collaborating with none other than Jay-Z and writing a blog about his sexual preference, Frank was anything but unnoticed. Looking past the headlines and expectations, Frank Ocean packs in enough oomph in every song to make Channel ORANGE the best R&B release in years.

 

4) Born and Raised – John Mayer

 

 

Let’s admit it, John’s 2009 release Battle Studies wasn’t good enough. John knew that. To top it all, it seemed like he was finding it difficult to keep himself away from unnecessary controversies (Ridiculous interviews, racist tweets, never ending list of Hollywood arm-candies, etc.). Born and Raised sees him brushing his knees, clearing his head off and going back to where he started. Before any of this happened, he was just a boy, locked in his room, playing guitar over a tape recorder. He brings it all back and paints it in sepia, with country-toned melodies and a larger-than-life story about an underdog, Walt Grace. There’s enough heart in Born and Raised to make you see the world the way you want it to be.

 

4) Celebration Rock –  Japandroids

 

 

As much as the critics loved it, I didn’t enjoy their debut album at all. Post-Nothing was a noisy mess with a hint of healthy ambition, which could grow into something so much more than the album allowed it. Unrestricted and unbound, Japandroids return with their own brand of rock n’ roll in Celebration Rock, which retains the sonic blast but lines it with grit and youthfulness. With each of the eight songs just clocking around 4 minutes, Japandroids redefine what the youth of today believes to be Rock. When had Rock music sounded so much fun?

 

1) The Seer – Swans

 

 

Everything about Swans is sprawling and directionless. Probably the toughest of albums to crack and understand this year, The Seer takes a chainsaw and demolishes every single overtly-elaborate Sufjan Stevens album when it comes to ambition. 2 hours of intense, loud, dark post-rock, thrashing its way into your senses one song at a time — the 32-minutes long title song makes you forget that this band ever disbanded. Despite being consistently appreciated by critics worldwide, they’ve never really enjoyed public attention but now seems like the right time for them to explode. The Seer is a practice, a meditation-of-sorts and undoubtedly the album that’ll grip you like none other.

 

Honourable Mentions (In no particular order) –

 

The Quiet Life – Anchor and Braille

Swing Lo Magellan – Dirty Projectors

Ex Lives – Every Time I Die

Anthology – Thrice

Slaughterhouse – Ty Segall Band

 

Best Songs (In no particular order) – 

 

Sweet Life – Frank Ocean

Freckles – Josiah Hall

To Live and Let Go – All Time Low

Never Had – Oscar Isaac

Walt Grace’s Submarine Test – John Mayer

Don’t Look Back – Miguel

I’m Shakin’ – Jack White

Before I Start Dreaming – Anchor and Braille

God, Drugs and Sex – Anberlin

Fire’s Highway – Japandroids

Never Let Me Go – Emily Wolfe

Anthology (Live) – Thrice

Myth – Beach House

 

Best Movies of 2012

 

(20-6) 

 

20) Life of Pi

19) Bernie

19) Looper

19) Prometheus

16) 2 Days in New York

15) Holy Motors

14) The Avengers

13) Cabin in the Woods

12) To Rome, With Love

12) Chronicle

10) Beast of the Southern Wild

9) I Wish

8) Monsieur Lazhar

7) The Dark Knight Rises

6) The Intouchables

 

(5-1)

 

5) Sleepless Night

 

 

Almost too subtle to be called a crime thriller but too fast-paced to be called indie, Sleepless Night showcases everything that is wrong with our usual dose of Hollywood action films. Somehow, the french setup helps and the story just won’t be the same if done otherwise. After the 2011 oscar-winner The Artist‘s Juan Dujardin , here’s another actor who’ll make Hollywood take notice. This shouldn’t be too bad if we get to see more of Tomer Gazit Sisley.

 

5) Argo

 

 

Ben Affleck has been around for quite some time. Every time he has stepped behind the camera, he has managed to bring forward some of the most well-written stories (The 2007’s brilliant Gone Baby Gone and 2010’s underrated The Town). Argo is unarguably his strongest, with the satire making way for an ever-growing tension that builds up to become an unforgettable entertainer.

 

5) The Perks of Being a Wallflower

 

 

Probably the best adaptation in a long, long time, the fact that Steven Chbosky decided to direct the movie himself really helped the movie. Excellent ensemble cast with equal attention given to how the characters develop during the length of the movie as well as the dialogues, The Perks of Being Wallflower is decorated with the strongest of emotions visible in the subtlest manner possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ezra Miller gets an oscar nod for his role.

 

2) Moonrise Kingdom

 

 

Wes Anderson is in a class of his own. Our era of cinema has had brilliant visionaries who’ve come out with the best of films with great consistency, but there’s no one else who has such an impecable eye for details. Wes has always laid that delicious layer of melancholy in every film since his debut Bottle Rocket and Moonrise Kingdom is no different. With a star-cast as strong as versatile as this, Moonrise Kingdom relies on the two child protagonists to carry the movie towards success. Quirky, sweet and brilliant in its own way, Moonrise Kingdom is the movie you wouldn’t expect to like. It’ll never make you laugh out loud but the silly smile will never fade away.

 

1) Django Unchained

 

 

For someone as prolific, mundane and brilliant as Tarantino, it’s surprising how effortlessly he has released masterpieces after masterpieces while just having fun. Inglourious Basterds was cemented into my all-time favorite list and the announcement of Django Unchained had me intrigued beyond imagination. As always, Tarantino doesn’t disappoint. Dialogues sparkle as ever, with a very unexpected casting coming together so cohesively… it just doesn’t get better than this. Jamie Foxx as Django proves that he has been criminally under-utilised in the industry. Sure, he shined along Tom Cruise in Collateral but Django Unchained provides with an abundance of space to soar high. Christopher Waltz tops his award-winning performance in Inglourious Basterds in the role of Dr.King Schultz. The duo have such strong screen presence, you’d almost forget that Di Caprio is also in the cast. This is the kind of film every film lover lives for.

 

 

 

 

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