For my top five albums of the year, we begin with something I didn’t think I would like but then did. And then loved. And then became obsessed with to the point of nausea. But a good nausea. Folks, I’m not ashamed to admit but I heart the Original Soundtrack to Rock of Ages. Heart heart heart!!!
Maybe it’s nostalgia or maybe I’m just that shocked that Tom fucking Cruise can carry a tune but this disc is Chock-o-Block with great tracks. My personal favorite is Cruise and Malin Akerman’s rendition of Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” This is largely due to the scene in which it is performed being so over the top and wonderful that I could hardly contain myself.
Next up is Donald Fagen’s Sunken Condos. My first reaction was instant delight at the cover. Artists these days don’t put as much thought into album covers largely because they are seen on a small screen. Since the advent of downloads, I have opined for the days of the album cover as art (see: Yes or Pink Floyd). Sunken Condos is a brilliant piece of work by Stephen Walker and Jeff Wack. The centerfold is equally as amazing and haunting in its beauty.
The music itself is classic Fagen/Steely Dan. Slinky grooves played by stellar studio musicians with DF’s voice out front, guiding us through his unique and remarkable take on life. It’s nice to see him getting past his big, autobiographical trilogy on life (The Nightfly, Kamakiriad, Morph the Cat) and just have fun again.
For number three on my list, I look closer to home and note the wonderful debut of The Stereo Pirates‘ self-titled record. Since it was a January release, it was a real treat to play it all year and enjoy it through all four seasons. I found it to be a great disc to throw on while running and play from start to finish. Perhaps it’s because it’s a “journey” album and every time you listen to it, your mind goes down a new path.
Number two on my list is That’s Why God Made the Radio by The Beach Boys. Brian is back and this time, it ain’t no publicity stunt. Their twenty ninth (!) studio album is a return to heights that have not been seen since Sunflower. Honestly, some tracks are right up there with Pet Sounds. All surviving members are here, including the return of Al Jardine replacement, David Marks. The last three tracks (“From There and Back Again,” “Pacific Coast Highway,” and “Summer’s Gone”) are Smile-like in their connectivity and wonder. The band recorded 28 songs for this album so perhaps this isn’t the end for new material but if it is (they are all in their 70s, after all), what an impressive coda!
The best of album of 2012 is Sonik Kicks by Paul Weller. I make no bones about by obsession with Brit Rock and it really isn’t that much of a stretch to guess that the Modfather would be my top pick of the year. I wrote a more detailed review of it back when it was released and all of those words still apply today, if not more so. Weller is truly like a fine wine, getting more robust with each passing year. He promises much more to come in the future and I simply can’t wait. If he keeps growing like this, it’s going to be more apparent that his solo career is leaps and bounds past The Jam and The Style Council. Diehards like me already know this to be true.
Now, go buy all these fucking records….