INFAMEWETRUST’s ALBUMS of the YEAR (10-1)
10. Bat for Lashes, The Haunted Man
After a three-year weight, Natasha Khan – better known as Bat for Lashes – finally released her third album The Haunted Man. The songs are a little more stripped back, and a little more electronic, but just as captivating as her first two albums. Khan even works with Lana Del Rey collaborator on the haunting lead single “Laura.” Bat for Lashes also puts on a pretty incredible show – I was lucky enough to see Khan bring the album to life in Madrid this past November.
Top tracks: “Lilies,” “Laura,” “Winter Field,” “Deep Sea Diver”
Another long-awaited follow-up album, The xx released their second album towards the tail-end of the summer. Coexist maintains the same minimal, evocative atmosphere as the band’s debut, turning up the club influences slightly with the album’s beats. But Coexist is not the soundtrack to a night out. It’s a stained and clouded album, a soundtrack to early morning comedowns.
Top tracks: “Angels,” “Chained,” “Fiction,” “Reunion,” “Swept Away”
While a good portion of the population has Taylor Swift as the butt of their jokes, her fourth album Red has already sold 3 million copies in its two months of release. With simplistic acoustic numbers, Swift shows that she’s matured into a brilliant songwriter, and with a Dr. Luke produced stormer like “I Knew You Were Trouble,” she shows that she could just as easily be a pop princess.
Top tracks: “State of Grace,” “Red,” “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” “Begin Again”
Maybe Frank Ocean isn’t the savior of R&B that the media makes him out to be, and maybe his album has received extra attention due to Frank Ocean coming out as bisexual this summer, but Channel Orange is still a remarkable album. It’s not like anything better is nominated for a Grammy this year after all. The imagery in his lyrics compliments the beats so well. Andre 3000’s guest verse on “Pink Matter” is the best part of the album.
Top tracks: “Thinkin Bout You,” “Super Rich Kids,” “Pyramids,” “Bad Religion,” “Pink Matter”
After trying to be an R&B starlet with 3 Words and releasing the awfully patchy Messy Little Raindrops, Cheryl Cole released her best album yet in 2012, cementing her status as Girls Aloud’s breakout solo star. While the hype surrounding her has died since her stint on The X Factor, Cole still scored a number one hit with “Call My Name,” produced by man of the moment Calvin Harris. The album is sleek and modern, a great British pop album embellished with flourishes of EDM.
Top tracks: “Call My Name,” “Girl in the Mirror,” “Screw You,” “Ghetto Baby,” “Telescope”
I’m not saying that MDNA is Madonna’s best album, but I’m not saying that it’s a bad album. MDNA is a return to form for the Queen of Pop after 2008’s Hard Candy. While “Turn Up the Radio” may be dismal, Martin Solveig proved his worth with the infectious lead single “Give Me All Your Luvin’” and the Guy Ritchie diss “I Don’t Give A.” Alle and Benny Benassi direct the album to the dancefloor with club bangers “Girl Gone Wild” and “I’m Addicted.” The savior of the album has to be William Orbit, who reunites with Madonna after a decade apart. “Love Spent” is an album highlight, while “Gang Bang” may in fact be a career highlight.
Top tracks: “Gang Bang,” “I’m Addicted,” “Some Girls,” “Love Spent,” “Falling Free”
Sticking to her tried-and-true formula of knocking out a new album every year, Rihanna released her seventh(!) studio album Unapologetic towards the end of 2012. Instead of putting out a dance hit like “We Found Love” or “Where Have You Been,” Rihanna put out the more classic-sounding “Diamonds” as the album’s lead single. In fact, the album’s loudest moments are two tracks produced by David Guetta. The first half of the album features a more urban sound, echoing Rihanna’s Instagram feed, while the second half of the album recalls the wounded balladry of 2009’s Rated R. Unapologetic became Rihanna’s first number one album in the U.S., at last, and it’s easy to see why.
Top tracks: “Diamonds,” “Pour It Up,” “Jump,” “What Now,” “Stay,” “Get It Over With”
In order to justify exploring a more mainstream, pop sound, Marina and the Diamonds developed a strange alter ego Electra Heart – a blonde Barbie, a bubblegum bitch, a homewrecker, a prima donna, a teen idle. Regardless of her motives, it worked. Electra Heart is one of the best pop albums of the year, despite the pretense behind it. “Primadonna” is Dr. Luke’s best production in years, while “Homewrecker” is the kind of quirky pop that makes Popjustice readers go mad. Even though the lyrics pander to the Tumblr generation – “oh god, I’m gonna die alone,” Marina sings on “Teen Idle” – Electra Heart is compelling, enticing, and only a little ironic.
Top tracks: “Primadonna,” “Homewrecker,” “Starring Role,” “Power & Control,” “Teen Idle”
2. Lana Del Rey, Paradise
Not content with becoming the year’s most-talked about artist with her major label debut Born to Die, Lana Del Rey gave us more to talk about with her 9-track EP Paradise (available packaged with Born to Die or as a singular entity). Paradise follows the same recipe for success as its predecessor; however, here, Lana is a little drowsier, a little more haunting, a little more wounded. Lana is less heartbroken, less Lolita, and instead a rawer, more sexual being. On “Gods and Monsters,” she boldly states, “In the land of gods and monsters, I was an angel / Looking to get fucked hard.”
Top tracks: “Ride,” “American,” “Gods and Monsters,” “Bel Air” (the whole thing really)
1. Lana Del Rey, Born to Die
Back to the start. Despite cries of “talentless” and “manufactured,” Lana Del Rey showed critics why she was so talked about with her major label debut Born to Die. A spruce of melodrama, a healthy dosage of American dream, and a winning marriage of cinematic orchestra and hip-hop beats created one of the most compelling debut albums in years. From the lovelorn lyrics of the title track, “Video Games” and “Dark Paradise” to the sexualized teenage rebellion of “Lolita,” “Carmen,” and “This Is What Makes Us Girls,” Lana truly produced a perfect album. Not to get ahead of myself, but if it’s not already one of my favorite albums of all-time, it’s my favorite album of 2012.
Top tracks: Where to begin? “Born to Die,” “Off to the Races,” “Video Games,” “Dark Paradise,” “Summertime Sadness”
VIDEO: The xx, “Chained” (on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)
VIDEO: The xx, “Chained”
REVIEW: The xx, “Coexist”
Since its first album, The xx has risen to indie-legend status as a transcendent London-based band.
After earning Britain’s coveted Mercury Music Prize in 2010, people outside the indie scene started to take notice. Shakira covered the band’s “Islands” and Rihanna used a sample from “Intro” on her 2011 album Talk That Talk.
A lot of bands get a taste of fame and its songs become arena-ready while promoting an archetypical image.
Due to its success, The xx would have good reason to go that way. But Jamie Smith, who earned acclaim as a remix artist outside of the band, maintained club music is the inspiration behind the new album in an interview with The Creators Project.
“Coexist” follows the blueprint of its predecessor. The band fine-tunes its distinctive sound by creating an album that doesn’t amplify The xx’s minimalist approach but instead amplifies the passion behind it.
The result is a stained and clouded album, rather than the soundtrack to a night out.
The club influences emerge only in percussive crescendos, in the house beat of “Sunset” or the 909 drum machine present in “Swept Away.”
The opening track and lead single, “Angels,” begins with Romy Madley Croft’s sparse guitar and dejected vocals: “Light reflects from your shadow / It is more than I thought could exist.”
Vocalists Croft and Oliver Sim maintain their monotonous crooning over the course of 11 tracks, evoking both intimacy and pain. Their voices sound as lovelorn as their pleading lyrics: “You leave with the tide / And I can’t stop you leaving,” they harmonize on “Tides.”
At its heart, “Coexist” remains cloaked in the same veil of heartache and restraint that affected “xx.” The beats are more persistent, but overall, the albums do not live in entirely separate worlds.
The xx has managed to construct its own sound with candid emotions, sparse guitar and a Balearic House shroud. “Coexist” only reaffirms The xx’s status as one of the most promising bands this generation has to offer.
—Written for The News Record, University of Cincinnati
NEW MUSIC: The xx, “Swept Away” (live)
VIDEO: The xx, “Angels” (live on Conan)
NEWS/TOUR DATES: The xx announce trio of shows
The xx have announced a trio of live shows to celebrate the release of their new album Coexist.
The first show is on Monday, September 10 at Shepherds Bush Empire in London. Their sophomore album is released the same day.
The band will perform at Cardiff’s The Coal Exchange the following day (September 11) and Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on September 12.
Tickets for the shows will go on sale this Friday (July 27). Click this link for details.
The xx recently unveiled a track from their new album, “Angels,” which can be heard here.
NEW MUSIC: The xx, “Angels”