Top 10 rock albums of 2012
This year has been a good year for rock, folk and pop rock, with old school taking centre stage and some new voices coming to the fore with amazing force. Here's my top 10. I've included my favourite tracks, but not all the videos are of my favourites. Just because I can. Enjoy!
10. Birdy - Birdy
Though only 15, Birdy just makes this year’s top 10, being possibly one of the most impressive female vocalists to have emerged in recent years. Her self-titled debut album, although a set of cover versions, is a showcase of what this girl can do.
Jasmine van den Bogaerde, belts out lyrics well beyond her years with hipster anthems Skinny Love and White Winter Hymnal and classic Fire & Rain. Her original track, Without a Word, is adequately delicate, with strong emotions present and rich piano accompaniment in the background.
Birdy has a lot of growing up to do in terms of coming up with her own songs, but her rich, full vocals are there waiting to break free, and I have a feeling she won't be caged for long.
My favourite: Skinny Love
9. Deftones – Koi No Yokan
It’s lustful, intoxicating, almost tangible in it’s night-time texture. The Deftones have brought to life an album full of sensuality and youthful melancholy – The Smashing Pumpkins’ 1979 video personified.
Those sounds accompanying those almost skin-on-skin moments of koi no yokan (loosely translated to ‘love’s premonition’) has you lingering in those sensations just before the first kiss.
It’s just beautiful, classic Deftones, pushing the envelope while staying true to their awesome guitar work.
My favourite: Leathers
8. Muse – The 2nd Law
It breaks my heart to see the name ‘Muse’ left below the top three, but The 2nd Law has left me wondering whether this was even meant to be an actual album or if it's just Bellamy flinging a meteorite at us from outer space while laughing maniacally.
I am inclined to think the latter, because this album, as much as I love it to the point of pulling over my car on the highway just to listen to how insane it is, is just plain absurd. ABSURD I TELL YOU!
My favourite: Can't choose, really. Oh, okay... Unsustainable
7. Zebra & Giraffe – The Wisest Ones
Local boys Z&G have a special place in my heart, and I can’t really pinpoint what it is that makes this album magical, but it just is. It has this kind of melodious glow surrounding each song, which sucks you in to not only lead singer Greg Carlin’s masterful, passionate lyrics, but the trio’s talent for making music that moves.
Musically, I think Zebra & Giraffe have found themselves. After years of what seemed like endless uncertainty, The band has found just the right concoction. And it seems Carlin is incensed by a different sort of rage. Something almost sinister. I love it.
My favourite: Little Black Book
6. Mumford & Sons – Babel
They’re simple: tilt your head to one side, close your eyes, sing along and repeat. Starting off slowly, often with Mumford singing solo over his acoustic guitar, nearly every track builds with banjo, keys, bass, and vocal harmonies until everything explodes into glorious folk rock that warms the soul until it brims with emotion and it spills over into your throat and then your eyes and you’re all choked up for no goddamn reason. That’s all.
My favourite: Babel
5. Van Coke Kartel – Wie’s Bang
Finally emerging from the shadow of Fokofpolisiekar, Van Coke Kartel are asking no questions. They’ve come out of the studio balls blazing with possibly their best album yet.
I may not speak Afrikaans, but Wie’s Bang transcends language barriers as lead singer Francois Van Coke clutches your heart in his hands with every word. From the intensity of Dankie, Ek Is Veilig Hier to the mania of the title track, it takes you back to the blood and sweat of every single Van Coke mosh pit.
My favourite: Tot Die Son Uitkom
4. Jack White – Blunderbuss
The fascination with Jack White and his odd relationship with his ex-wife Meg and his wallflower persona is an ongoing one, and the mysteriousness continues with Blunderbuss.
The seemingly confessional album gives nothing away about this mystical character with Southern strums, occasionally electric solos, power-riffs playing us like puppets to his playful soundtrack that is his somewhat inside joke about what he thinks of the rest of the world.
I think White really does reckon the world is just his playground.
My favourite: Love Interruption
3. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
Blues-rock band Alabama Shakes sound as if they were born a few decades too late. The album is filled with passion and the electric jolt of blues-based rock is nothing short of fantastic.
The band sounds as if they were meant to be among the Rolling Stones, Joplin and Otis Redding.Old school guitar licks, precise drums and boogie-rich bass make for a honey-drenched journey into the deep South of the US.
Though The Black Keys have been doing this for years, Alabama Shakes' genius has gripped me with its astoundingly resonant beauty. I am left dumbstruck, wondering how the world has hidden this band until now.
My favourite: Rise to the Sun
2. John Mayer – Born & Raised
It seems the more John Mayer becomes a douche, the better music he makes.
He’s put the two Mayers of Daughters and the media together to make one hell of an explosive personal journey into his musical brilliance and lyrical confessions.
The album evokes images of a nomadic cowboy strumming his guitar by the fireside, telling stories of his life, love and everything else. It’s disillusioned, but also a search for redemption – a reconciliation of his life and music and how hard it is to come to grips with yourself when you’ve crashed and burned – in life and by the industry.
Born and Raised is, by far, the most convincing, honest and resounding album of John Mayer’s career. It’s modern singer-songwriter stuff with more soul, with acoustics wrapping themselves around you like a quilt.
It's that moment where the dichotomy comes together almost seamlessly. And let me tell you, it’s quite something.
My favourite: Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967 (Quite possibly my favourite single of the year)
1. The Black Keys – El Camino
Gritty orgasmic rock like its meant to be. The Black Keys have come together with a guitar and garage sound-driven almost prison blues albums, still as ridiculous and still as potent in all its spaghetti-Western glory. El Camino is slick but vintage – like you should be in a crappy old El Camino, traversing the vast expanse of the southern states with a scratchy eight-track.
It’s the aural equivalent of Fear and Loathing with the seediness of being in a smelly old car with a hot blonde woman in naught but tiny denim shorts and bikini top bending over the jukebox at a last chance gas station-cum-diner.
El Camino is sheer momentum. So crass. But so slick.
My favourite: Little Black Submarines