Sounds that Define 2012

[The following is my final column published for the guide, the lifestyle magazine of The Hoya. The print version of AMPlify runs every other Friday. You can find the originals by searching my name at thehoya.com. Just as a sidenote, I really wish I could have written more than 700 words for this one. Check back for my full best/meh/worst list later in the month.]

To be honest, I’m the biggest flip-flopper I know. I’ve gone back and forth between my views on everything from political issues and people to fashion and food so many times, I could give Mitt Romney a run for his money. Too often I see both sides of an issue. I nod during debates, regardless of whom is speaking, unless I hear something outrageous. But if there’s one part of my life where my opinions run deep, it’s music. With that in mind, I now bring to you the Definite Best and Worst Albums of 2012, according to AMPlify.

DEFINITELY THE BEST

Muse | ‘The 2nd Law’

In many ways, this album isn’t entirely different from Muse’s previous work. Pounding drumbeats, guitar solos, string sections, and raging bass lines accompany Matt Bellamy’s bellow-to-falsetto vocals. The sound is epic in Muse’s traditional style.

Somewhat surprisingly, Muse manages to tastefully incorporate a divisive genre — dubstep — on the entirety ofThe 2nd Law. Whether manifested in the heaviness we think of as true dubstep or in lighter electronic beats, the influence is all over this album and yields a new sound that never bores.

Sharon Van Etten | ‘Tramp’

Sharon Van Etten is not for the faint of heart. Her aching guitar-and-vocal-based music is frequently lumped into the singer-songwriter category, but that designation, reminiscent of tired coffee-shop talent, doesn’t begin to encompass the depth of her music. Van Etten paints not-so-pretty pictures of her past and sets them to subtly complex rhythms and harmonies that result in some of the best word-painting I’ve ever heard. Van Etten isn’t a one-trick pony either; she recently recorded a cover of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Rufus Wainwright that beautifully captures Christmas romance.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis | ‘The Heist’

Admittedly, I am completely unqualified to judge hip-hop and rap, but this album has some of the greatest mass appeal of any album I’ve heard in a long time. With meaningful, thoughtful lyrics and catchy beats and hooks, this album is a clear winner.

DEFINITELY THE MEH

Mumford & Sons | ‘Babel’

If you love ragged vocals tinged with an English accent and accompanied by lots of banjo, you will like the title track of Babel. If you love listening to nothing but the aforementioned music for fifteen songs in a row, you will like this album. But if you, like me, could go for a little more variety in your music, this album is one to skip.

DEFINITELY THE WORST

Maroon 5 | ‘Overexposed’

Unlike Muse, Maroon 5 doesn’t quite have a grasp on how to tastefully update its sound, as proven by all the songs on the aptly named Overexposed. If you like Maroon 5 best for the soulful, daring songs on their debut album, Songs about Jane, you — like me — will be completely and utterly disappointed by this album.Overexposed could also have been named Overproduced. Cue the bells as we mourn the self-destruction Maroon 5 has put their music through.

Ellie Goulding | ‘Halcyon’

I’ve already written an earlier column detailing my disappointment with Ellie Goulding’s sophomore slump. In case you missed out, this album is to be avoided at all costs unless you want to hear a girly breakup album that is somehow supposed to be danceable.

Taylor Swift | ‘Red’

Let me start by saying that I am a big T-Swift fan and not ashamed of the number of times I’ve listened to Speak Now and Fearless. Do you remember when Taylor Swift was still considered a country artist? Neither does she, as evidenced by the majority of the songs on Red. While T-Swift has always toed the country-pop line in the past, on Red, she has full-on crossed to pop, and it hasn’t served her well. Her efforts to keep up with musical trends like electronica and dubstep leaves Red as a collection of cold, genre-less bunch of songs that — as we say in the country — is getting a bit too big for its britches.

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6 thoughts on “Sounds that Define 2012

  1. Katie says:

    I don’t agree with the Maroon 5 assessment at all. And The Heist is a sell-out for Macklemore especially when compared to the type of work he put out with his mixtapes.

    • My thoughts on Maroon 5 are just a matter of taste, I suppose; I really think ‘Songs about Jane’ is their best album, and I don’t like what they’ve done this year.

      As for Macklemore, I have all of his mixtapes, and I agree that they’re very strong work, but I don’t hear a huge decrease in depth or quality with ‘The Heist.’ Also, this post was about 2012 albums, and this was the only one of his that fits that qualifier.

  2. AJP says:

    Greetings from Britain, I very much enjoyed the read. Also as an englishman, I would like to say that I have no idea where Mumford and songs got their accent from, but I’m fairly certain that it’s a little put on. Oh well, he’s a big Jesus guy, so go him, he’s probably a right nice chap.

    • Thanks so much for reading! I’m glad you liked the post. Yeah, I don’t really know what’s up with Mumford, but they’re huge somehow. I guess fairly tame music tends to have the widest appeal.

  3. […] I started AMPlify in July and wrote a similar column for a student newspaper this semester. I even wrote a piece about what music I did and didn’t like this year, a sort of modified list of top albums. […]

  4. […] I started AMPlify in July and wrote a similar column for a student newspaper this semester. I even wrote a piece about what music I did and didn’t like this year, a sort of modified list of top albums. I’ll […]

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