George Lewis Jr. is trouble. The man that records as Twin Shadow shows a certain muscled moodiness, a combination of self assurance and self destruction, vulnerability and invincibility, adding up to a gentlemanly, megalomania animating ‘Confess.’
Already more than halfway through, 2012 has gone just way the Mayans predicted it, with the Top Albums of 2012 (So Far) offering loads of ear deliciousness streaming out of your speakers. There have been grand returns -- the Shins and Fiona Apple dropped their first discs since when people actually bought CDs -- and a handful of acts burst upon the scene with awesomeness previously unseen: the despondent-exuberant fun., the hell-hath-no-fury-like-an Alabama Shakes.
A strange thing happened in February 2012: The best dance album of 1989 was released by two 20-somethings from Brooklyn. ‘Something,’ the cutesy-obtuse title of the second album by Chairlift, spins with synths and honesty. The duo's collaboration sounds like Madonna and New Order getting together for a bubble bath, especially on the toothache inducing ‘I Belong on Your Arms.’
James Mercer came into 2012 facing major expectations. The Shins mastermind captured the hearts and ears of alt guys and gals across the country, with at least partial aid from a mega-headphoned Natalie Portman. Following the albums 'Oh, Inverted World' and 'Chutes Too Narrow,' what would the 'Port of Morrow' hold?
The disempowering of major labels due to the digital revolution has caused, among other trends, a blurring between the lines of indie and mainstream pop. A symbol of that interweaving is the auto-showtune, Kanye-meets-Queen ballast of fun., featuring power-piped frontman Nate Ruess. Dude was a member the Format, who spent the ‘00s cultivating a small following. Seems it’s a good thing they dissolved, as fun. have been occupying the charts, our ears and award show stages all year.
The award for coming-out-of-nowhere goes to Alabama Shakes, whose southern-fried blues rock vibrates with authenticity and emotion. They became the hot new thing after SXSW, and ‘Boys and Girls’ only grows better with each listen. Brittany Howard’s powerful voice is one of a kind, as gruff and sweet as her Alabama home.
There was a lot of auteur-cred on the line for Jack White coming into his career as a solo artist, as well as a few whispers asking if he could do it alone. He answered that call with rapscallion aplomb. The effortlessly idiosyncratic onetime White Stripes frontman released his first solo record in April 2012: 'Blunderbuss,' as the title implies, is a gunpowdered anachronism, all traditional formats and explosive delivery.
It sometimes seems that the forces of Cool have overwhelmed those of Fun in the musical world of 2012. Luckily for us, there are still advocates for awesomeness, like mile-a-minute Japandroids. If "ooh-oh-ooh" choruses are an index of Gross National Happiness, ‘Celebration Rock’ is Bhutan (if that Himalayan kingdom were loaded with high-fiving, shout-it-from-the-rooftops stompers).