Best Albums of 2012

As has been the case in recent years, there was a lot of fine music being made in 2012.  New technologies have not only changed the accessibility of music, they also seem to have inspired a venerable geyser of creativity and experimentation.  Some big names forged exciting new directions for themselves, while others far less heralded blazed trails in uncharted territory.  I hardly consider this list to be absolute, but based on what I heard this year, these are the 15 albums that stood out to me: 15) Cloud Nothings, Attack On Memory – In one of the most schizophrenic albums of the year, Cloud Nothings segue from the sprawling gothic instrumental coda of “Wasted Days” to the tight radio-friendly punk jam “Fall In”.  And that’s just the end of the third track.  They pull it off, though, largely because they cultivate the same pleasant angst in their sound in every song. Essential Listening: “Fall In”, “Wasted Days” 14) Beach House, Bloom – In some ways, the name “Beach House” is very fitting for this Baltimore duo.  The guitars often use tinny, chasmy surf-rock timbres, and Victoria Legrand’s haunting vocals sound as if they’re processed through a seashell.  Bloom nestles more »

Pop Will Eat Itself: Gorillaz’ “Plastic Beach” as a Commentary on the Disposable Nature of Pop Music

“I’ve tried to get into the mainstream consciousness, which is not an easy thing to do these days because it is primarily a very disposable medium… pop will eat itself.” -Damon Albarn, Spinner interview “A Casio on a plastic beach” -Gorillaz, from “Plastic Beach” The imagery that is presented in the title track off of Gorillaz’ third studio album, Plastic Beach, is pretty blunt: there’s a disturbingly massive pile of crap that’s gathering in an ocean somewhere, and we’re to blame.  The lyrics may not explicitly make this connection, but how else can you account for a Styrofoam deep-sea landfill?  It’s a cynical, if not delightfully cheeky, reminder that our actions as humans have a profound impact on our environment. This, however, is not the only reading of either this track or this album taken as a whole.  As Damon Albarn (Gorillaz’ co-creator and musical mastermind, and former Blur frontman) imparted in an interview with Wired about Plastic Beach, “it has environmental thoughts scattered and peppered around every bit of this record.  But at the end of the day, it’s not just that.  It’s way more colourful than that.”  For Albarn, “plastic” isn’t simply symbolic of our wasteful tendencies as more »