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Music: Best Albums of 2012

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Music and fashion are two things that go hand in hand.  Both are creative outlets, and can be intertwined to reflect the other.  For most people, we would guess that music has a strong influence on that persons style, and vice versa, as each helps to define the other.  Here at OLE MASON JAR we obviously love fashion, but certainly love music too, as often times it inspires a lot of what we do.  Periodically, we will spotlight music related content for those that also enjoy fresh tunes.  (For a real-time look at what we are listening to at any given time, make sure to check out our Last.fm profile)

Best Albums of 2012

As 2012 quickly comes to an end we present our picks for the best albums released in 2012.

I will preface this column with a disclaimer that all picks are completely biased, and a comprehensive representation of what we choose to listen to the majority of the time.  The musical style and taste here at OLE MASON JAR is a little outside the realms of that which frequents the top 40 lists[1], although don’t think we don’t occasionally enjoy a little soiree with Taylor Swift, Kei$ha, Will.i.am or Maroon 5.  We like music, and a catchy song is a catchy song…but we have to admit that we subconsciously hold it against artists when “everyone” else knows about them already.  We tend to be inspired more by the bands that fall into the category most would refer to as “Indie Music”[2].  

2012 was a great year for music, and a lot of great artists put some really good stuff out.  In preparation for this blog, we did our homework, listening to every album on the list in its entirety just to confirm its proper ranking.  Qualifications were simple…album had to be released in 2012.  One thing was clear for 2012, Southern Rock (Folk Rock) is in it’s revival, heavily appearing on our list (Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers, etc…).  Without further ado, it is our pleasure to present to you, our top 10 albums of 2012.

10.  Alabama ShakesBoys and Girls  

The darling of the major publications (Rolling Stone, NPR, etc…), Alabama Shakes definitely burst onto the scene this year, highlighted by their closing set the first night of Bonnaroo, and 3 Grammy nods…that is some mad props right there.  We have got them lower than those “too smart for their own good” writers of NPR though, because there were other albums this year that we thought were better, and a female singer that sounds a little like Jack White[3] isn’t enough for us to jump on the wagon like everyone else.


 

9.  Imagine DragonsNight Visions

Even though they formed in 2008, 2012’s Night Visions is their first major release.  You have probably heard  “It’s Time” on the radio (or will hear as we roll into 2013), a very catchy song that is somewhat irresistible from changing the station when it comes on.  The rest of the album is similar in style and is great to put on when you need a little something more upbeat.  We think of all the artists on the list, Imagine Dragons might be one to break out on the mainstream (a la One Republic, Owl City), which means when they do, we wont like them anymore :).  *Side note, I like the instrumentals a ton, but there is something about their lead singer I am not sure about, perhaps it is his voice (a little nickelbackish) or the fact he doesn't play an instrument (never trust a lead singer who doesn't play an instrument...except for Matt Berninger of The National

update 9/1/2013 - As predicted, Imagine Dragons broke out in a big way...so good for them! As for me, I instantly turn the station when I hear "radioactive" come on.


 

8.  The Tallest Man on EarthThere’s No Leaving Now

This guy has been around awhile, but his third installment is by far his most successful to date.  We like to think of him as a new era Bob Dylan[4].


 

7.  Wild NothingThe Nocturnes

Probably the first time a lot of you are hearing about Wild Nothing (a solo act and stage name of Virginia born Jack Tatum), heck I don’t think he even has legit music video on youtube.  When running a business like OLE MASON JAR, hours of time are spent working on the computer (usually with headphones on listening to music), and this album is perfect for hitting play on track 1 and running through the whole thing.  A throwback to 80’s pop like The Smiths, Wild Nothing has plenty of infectious melody, hazy synths and flows together effortlessly, making it a perfect album to put on and get lost in your work[5].


 

6.  Grizzly BearShields

Their last Album Veckatimest was great… this one is better.  Like Wild Nothing, this is also a great album to put on when you need to get some work done. 


 

5.  The Avett BrothersThe Carpenter

Shout out to fellow North Carolinians, and for creating another great album.  We like their last album “I and Love and You” a little better, but that doesn’t take away from this one in the slightest.  These guys have hung around for a long time, and now are at the right place at the right time, with the masses yearning for that folky southern rock sound that is growing ever popular. 


 

4.  Passion PitGossimer

We will admit we may be a little biased on these guys (no not because of their song on the Taco Bell commercial), but because we got a chance to see them live earlier this year[6].  The album is upbeat and fun, and a good break from the rest of the albums on this list, or anything for that matter.


 

3.  Mumford and SonsBabel

A great follow up to their debut album Sign No More, Babel delivers above expectations.  I must admit too that this album was so good it probably could be #1, and we might have put them there if they weren’t as popular as they are right now (remember we said we were biased on bands that get too popular :) ).  We just really don’t like it when someone who knows nothing about music tries to tell us about “this new band called Mumford and Sons”), to which we reply “yeah buddy, started listening to them a couple years ago while you were jamming to Nickleback”.  Regardless, pretty sure they will win Album of the year at the 2013 Grammy Awards…thinking that might ease their pain a little from having us put them at #3.

Update 9/1/2013 - The Grammy's read this and agreed with me...Ladies and Gentlemen, your reigning Album of the year award winners Mumford and Sons!


 

2.  The LumineersThe Lumineers

Even though their first full-length album was released in 2012, don’t be fooled these guys are legit.  Like the other folk rock bands on this list, The Lumnieers are benefitting from a revival of their style of music (you have probably heard “Ho Hey” on the radio recently, might have even thought it was Mumford and sons).  The Lumineers (with 2 Grammy nods) are our pick this year for best new artist….and we will make sure to let the Academy know that if they call.

Update 9/1/2013 - Unfortunately, someone didn't let the Grammy's know that F.U.N was not a new artist, and actually has a couple albums out, so not really sure how they can win "best new artist"?  So as much as we don't like being wrong on predictions, we also hate it for these guys as they really did deserve it.

 

 

1.  Of Monsters and MenMy head is an Animal

Some of you may or may not have heard of this band yet…all of you should.  Of Monsters and Men’s My Head is an Animal was a pretty easy choice for us as our #1 album of 2012, and for several reasons:

  1. They have a really cool name for a band
  2. They are from Iceland [7]
  3. They have, both, a male and female lead singer (We love a good female lead singer)
  4. Every song on the album is great, and perfectly paced as a whole. 
  5. They aren’t widely known yet :)

Of Monster’s and Men is that one band you seem to find every year or two and fall in love with.  Their sound is similar to others (Arcade Fire), yet also different and unique so as not easily comparable.  The album is filled from start to finish with excellent lyrics, an amazing set of instruments, well-timed rhythms and beautiful harmonies.  Our recommendation to you is that next time you sit down to do anything on the computer for 45 minutes or so, put in your headphones and put on this album…we think you’ll enjoy!

Update 9/1/2013 - Yep we still hold true to this being our top spot.  Great album!

 

Honorable Mentions:

Ben Howard - Every Kingdom

British singer who can sure strum an acoustic guitar.

Will Hoge - Modern America Protest Music

Poor guy, putting him on here for the fact that you have probably heard his song Even If It Breaks Your Heart all over the radio, just not by him…but by Eli Young Band.  His version is better.

Jack WhiteBlunderbuss

We are big fans of Jack White, as we are the White Strips.  We just weren’t quite in the mood for ole Jack’s signature sound this year.

MS MR - Candy Bar Creep Show

Have we mentioned we love a good female lead singer?  Their album only had 4 songs, so we couldn’t really rank them, but am sure when their full length is out we will have nice things to say.

Update 9/1/2013 - Since doing this list we have found a couple of new bands we really enjoy listening to that also had albums come out in 2012.  We are making sure we include them now!

Lord Huron - Lonesome Dreams

Keep an eye out for these guys, as we think they are going to get really big.  A mix between Vampire Weekend and Local Natives, Lord Huron blends pleasing melodies with catchy rhythms. Had we heard about them sooner, they would have been in our top 10 for sure!

Beach House - Bloom

If you like to sit in isolated places and drink bourbon by yourself, this is the album to do that with.  It is an album you put on and listen to all the way through, as it focuses not on singular songs but every song, as each song flows into the other. 

Best Songs of 2012

Check out our complete playlist of our picks for the best songs of 2012

 

Now go listen to some good music!

 

-The team of OLE MASON JAR

[1] Songs you hear on the mainstream radio stations.

[2]  Indie music isn’t a definite style of music, but most indie bands are influenced by each other causing similar sounds. The sound is often melodic; the instruments are simple but well textured. Songs are usually more creative and abstract in sound than what is found in the mainstream.  A staple of Indie music is that the artist have an intimate following and are not mainstream…and being referred to as an Indie genre (like we did) actually goes against the rules (posers), so in essence people only like them when they are small and only “they” know about them, but if anyone else does, they are no longer cool to listen to (sorry Gotye, you are out).

[3] Or does Jack White sound like her?  Still deciding if it is more feminine or masculine…but I like it.

[4] Based on Bob’s latest album Tempest (also released in 2012), he probably agrees.

[5] We are actually listening to Wild Nothing as we type this blog.

[6] Great concert that our CEO Bradley Rhyne fully recapped can be read here.

[7] Anyone that knows us, knows are strong affinity for fellow Icelandic bands Sigur Ros and Jonsi.

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