Year in Review: Best albums of 2012

Our InOut team presents its picks for the best international albums of the year

As selected by Justin Cremer:

1. Baroness, Yellow & Green

Many Baroness fans, or fans of heavy music in general, didn’t know what to make of this expansion – and yes, dare I say it, softening – of the Georgia rockers’ sound. Was it even metal? Who cares. With the ambitious double album Yellow & Green, Baroness dispensed with labels and clearly displayed that they are one of the best rock bands out there. Period. (Read a review of Baroness' 2012 Roskilde performance)


2. Marriages, Kitsune EP

As the rest of my list attests, I’m a bit of a sucker for expansive, instrumental post-rock. But let’s face it, sometimes you want some vocals. That’s what we got here when 3/5 of the members of Red Sparowes decided that guitarist Emma Ruth Rundle should sing. Her voice perfectly compliments the music, though it must be said that the stand-out track of this EP is its lone instrumental, ‘White Noise’.


3. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Americana

Based on the strength of not only this collection of reworked American folk songs, but also October’s Psychedelic Pill, Uncle Neil made a triumphant return with his old pals in Crazy Horse. With Americana, this 67-year-old Canadian sure managed to deliver this Denmark-residing Yank a rocking infusion of much-needed home.


4. Jack White, Blunderbuss

If this list would have been made earlier in the year, Blunderbuss would have been at the top. Upon its release, I was spinning White’s first official solo venture repeatedly. Though months then passed with scant a listen, late-year replays reminded me that this is the real deal. A solid and timeless rock album by one of the best who does it today. (Read a review of Jack White's 2012 Roskilde performance)


5. Down, Down IV Part I – The Purple EP 

There’ something about Phil Anselmo. Yeah, he seems kind of like a dick but he just oozes cool. And the former Pantera frontman has weathered age better than most, sounding terrific at age 44 in what is supposed to be the first of a series of EPs from the Southern sludge metal masters. 


The best of the rest:

6. Deftones, Koi No Yokan

7. Pelican, Ataraxia/Taraxis

8. The Fierce and the Dead, On VHS

9. Cat Power, Sun

10. Brother Ali, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color (Read a review of Brother Ali's Lille Vega concert here)


As selected by Allan Mutuku-Kortbæk:


1. Of Monsters and Men, My Head is An Animal 

The epic rise of Iceland sextet Of Monsters and Men introduced the world the genre of chamber pop.  Hailed as the new Arcade Fire by some, in truth they sound more like a witty mix between Indie-rock starlets Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and popular folk rockers Mumford & Sons. Their debut album is a diamond in the rough and may be Iceland’s best export yet. (Read a review of Of Monsters and Men's Store Vega concert here)


Beach House's Bloom2. Beach House, Bloom

The aptly-named Bloom represents a coming of age for the captivating, soul-stroking music of this enigmatic duo from Baltimore. Their fourth album is a sheer listening experience; a journey through time and space rather than solely an amalgamation of songs. 


3. Mumford & Sons, Babel 

Outdoing a debut album like 2009’s Sigh No More seemed a daunting if not almost impossible hurdle for the now familiar Mumford & Sons,. Babel keeps the best of what we remember from its predecessor, which is rare for a second album. Little wonder that their 2013 show at Falconer Salen has sold out so quickly. 


4. Grizzly Bear, Shields

Shields is as experimental and as contemplative an album as you’ll hear this year. Rock/electronica à la New Yorkers Ratatat meets alt-rock influences not too unlike those of Icelandic heavyweights Sigur Rós in a marriage woven in the clouds.  


5. John Talabot, Fin

Barcelona’s John Talabot has somehow managed to weave a mix of house disco and indie together with the panache of a true innovator. Fin is Barcelona in an album; vehemently unique and ice cool  albeit welcoming and accessible at the same time.  


The best of the rest:

6. Hot Chip, In Our Heads

7.  Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Here

8. Chromatics, Kill For Love

9. Grimes, Visions

10.  Orbital, Wonky


As selected by Michalis Nielsen:


1. Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball

Bruce Springsteen’s tireless energy manifests itself beautifully on this rather angry yet invigorating masterpiece. The sludge-heavy ‘Shackled and Drawn’ reverberates the soul, while the Irish-inspired ‘Death to My Hometown’ is an instant classic.  The Boss is angry, and through the medium of music, his proclamations penetrate ever so strongly. (Read a review of Bruce Springsteen's 2012 Roskilde performance)


2. Bob Dylan, Tempest

Age has finally caught up with the old crooner. Fortunately, his acceptance of inevitable ageing has bred an honest album that reveals dark and controversial lyrics, expressed beautifully by Dylan’s raspy voice. The title tack is startling – at nearly 14 minutes long, with almost 50 verses and no chorus, it’s still a masterpiece.


For Nas, life was good in 20123. Nas, Life is Good

The Queensbridge word wizard returns with sledgehammer force. His best album since 2001’s Stillmatic, Life is Good sees Nas execute some cohesive and refreshing rap music filled with beats with overtones of soul and jazz. The New York heavyweight also invites some expertly selected feature artists such as Mary J Blige and the late Amy Winehouse.


4. Coheed and Cambria, The Afterman: Ascension

The American quartet is forever consistent in their album releases, and The Afterman is no exception. Coheed and Cambria play progressive metal music with a punk influence. Falsetto vocals and rip roaring riffs combined with clever time signatures characterise this concept album, which is beautifully assembled. Highlights include ‘Key Entity Extraction’ and ‘Mothers of Men’.


5. Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, In These Times

After almost 800 concerts worldwide, the Giant Panda released their first fully electric album. Like a plant slowly nurtured, the reggae quintet’s extensive touring experience sprouts a bomb of a thumping, and vocally harmonious album of roots reggae. One cannot help but smile and skank along to the tangy guitar upstrokes and the melodious bassline.


The best of the rest:

6. Alabama Shakes, Boys and Girls (Read a review of Alabama Shakes' 2012 Roskilde performance)

7. Lana Del Rey , Born to Die

8. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange

9. Swans, The Seer

10. Muse, The 2nd Law


As selected by Claudia Santos:


1. Deftones, Koi No Yokan

Christmas came early for Deftones fans this year when the band dropped their seventh studio album, Koi No Yokan, in November. The album is intense and dynamic and remains true to the core of the band’s sound. The songs range from heavy to dreamy, giving the album a magical flow that can be thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to end. 


Jack White's Blunderbuss made two of our reviewers' lists2. Jack White, Blunderbuss

The genius of Jack White is legendary and 2012 saw the artist spread his wings and further develop his craft, this time on his own. His anticipated debut solo album, Blunderbuss, is edgy, bluesy and wonderfully diverse. White uses a wide array of instruments and musicians, reaching a whole new level both musically and vocally. 


3. Smashing Pumpkins, Oceania

Smashing Pumpkins’ ninth album, Oceania, is everything a fan of the band would expect it to be: beautifully melodic, lyrical and melancholic. Frontman Billy Corgan’s footprints are ever present and each song stands on its own. It is a beautiful album by a resilient band that has withstood its share of controversial line-up changes.


4. Dave Matthews Band, Away From the World

Away From the World is DMB’s eighth studio album and it shows, once again, that the band can do no wrong. DMB’s signature blend of jazz, folk, and world music is as solid as ever and Matthews himself is at the top of his game. Reunited with their nineties producer, Steve Lillywhite, DMB has put out yet another brilliant record that caters to the romantic and the introspective, without losing its edge.


5. The xx, Coexist

The xx started out with a bang, winning the Mercury Prize, in 2010 for their debut album, XX. The band’s second album, Coexist, is as compelling as the first, as the British indie-pop trio stuck to their magic recipe, keeping the songs as simple and as minimalistic as possible. It is a solid second album from a very promising band.


The best of the rest:

6. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Psychedelic Pill

7. Bob Dylan, Tempest

8. Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball 

9. Lee Fields, Faithful Man

10. Green Day, ¡Uno!


Check back tomorrow for our picks for the year's best concerts

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