It’s a very special moment when you arrive someplace, look around at a vista that is clearly, awe-inspiringly fantastic and realize: “Holy ****! Almost no one else has SEEN this!”
After many years of looking at some pretty impressive vistas, I have to be honest: It makes it better. Let’s face…
From the perspective of world linguistic history, programming and scripting languages represent not a diversity of approaches so much as a remarkable extension of an already highly standardized phenomenon: English.
2012 Albums of the Year:
10. Anberlin - Vital
For reputation’s sake alone, I hesitated to place this album at the ten spot on my list. Like several other bands I like (Thrice and Muse come to mind), Anberlin inspire both derisive dismissal and rabid support from a very limited number of people, even as they fly under virtually everyone else’s radar. On some level, Anberlin really is that straight-faced, overly enthusiastic emo band from high school that has, despite the odds, labored on making music for a relatively small niche audience with little market exposure. Sure, Cities got some great attention, but that landed back in 2007. What could Anberlin possibly have been doing these past five years?
Preparing to release Vital is what Anberlin have been doing.
Vital is Anberlin at their tightest. The record, with very few exceptions, has a gleefully narrow muiscal focus: loud bombast framed within 80s new wave synths and delivered within the constraints of candy-coated pop hooks. There’s no doubt whatsoever that Vital is Anberlin’s heaviest album to date - Someone Anyone and Desires alone ae heavier than almost anything else the band has produced. There’s also no doubt that Vital is Anberlin’s strongest connection to bands like Duran Duran and A-ha, bands that Anberlin frontman Stephen Christian has flirted with from the very beginning but only now fully brings to bear on his own work. Vital is Anberlin firing on all the cylinders it has. The rhythm section is relentless, low-slung, and louder than any pop album has a right to be. The guitars are energetic, imposing, and straightforward. The synths give me the urge to watch Ryan Gosling’s Drive again.
Of course, Anberlin’s biggest strength has always been Christian’s vocal performance. It continues to shine on Vital. Though Christian has, for the most part, left is pretty, silky voice to stand on its own in times past, he tampers with his pipes a little more directly here. On Innocent, Modern Age, and Type Three Christian runs his voice through fuzzy, shimmery filters. Self-Starter, Desires, and Little Tyrants see Christian recovering some of the aggressive growl he showcased way back on Anberlin’s 2005 record Never Take Friendships Personal. Throughout the record, Christian’s voice has incredible range in pitch while maintaining perfect stylistic consistency. It, like all the other elements of Vital, fits the record perfectly. Christian’s vocal performance is the obvious anchor point for Vital’s stylistic focus. When Anberlin embraces the atmospheric swirls of Type Three, it’s because Christian’s voice makes it work. When Anberlin does it’s best impression of Muse’s Stockholm Syndrome in Desires, it’s because Christian’s voice can drive that energy. In Vital, Anberlin have finally crafted a solid album around Christian’s voice rather than trying fit his vocal into whatever music the rest of the band churns out. The result is the most fun, catchy, and cohesive music Anberlin has ever produced.
In a year where electronic music was abused by everyone from Lana Del Rey to Papa Roach, Anberlin’s Vital shows how a rock band can make a pop record with a heavy implementation of synthesized sound and come out with something that doesn’t smell like doo-doo. Sure, Vital has it’s missteps. God, Drugs, & Sex is silly in its self-importance (surely an attempt to recapture the magic of Cities’ closing track). Everything on Orpheum that isn’t the bridge or the outro is boring as hell. Taken all at once, the album can even feel a bit fatiguing with all its earnest bombast. These slips in quality shouldn’t prevent anyone from appreciating what Anberlin has done with Vital. Vital is a refreshing bit of blaring sincerity that never lets you forget how much fun it is to listen to. Skip that last track if you must, but queue up the rest and you’ll be surprised at how well Anberlin has weathered the cynicism of 2012’s pop music scene.
Best Singles of 2012
10. All The Rowboats by Regina Spektor
I have and always will love Regina Spektor. Though in my estimation, 2012 did not see her best work, All The Rowboats was everything Ms. Spektor does well rolled up into a single delicious, darkly shimmering song. Lovely, delicate piano; sharp, punny wit; quietly sinister metaphors; bizarre thematic material; it’s all there. The surprising addition of a heavily embellished drum machine only adds to its charm - and Regina’s vocal approximation of that drum blast is charmingly signature even as it pushes her pas tthe confines of the purely acoustic. This song will get stuck in your head, as it surely did in mine.
A Year’s Albums and Singles in Review
As someone who loves lists, the beginning of a new year is one of my favorite times. The whole Internet comes together in a hot mess of opinion to let us all know what movies we should have seen, what shows we’ve missed, and what music should have found its way onto our playlists. Though there’s something self-congratulatory about this whole practice (three cheers for middle class leisure!) there’s also an opportunity to broaden our own cultural boundaries and deepen our connections to the popular milieu. Sharing these lists bring new light to preferential constellations, pose new occasions for discovery, and connect us to new streams of recommendations that otherwise might have floated on by.
I’ve curated my own top ten lists, one for my favorite albums of 2012 and one for my favorite singles. I don’t have any methodology beyond asking myself what music gave me the most joy throughout the year. The list of singles is - almost by necessity - much more poppy than the list of albums, but I feel that they complement each other well. Before I start putting out those results and their reviews however, check out these fine specimens that didn’t quite break into my top ten.
Almost There Albums
Almost There Singles
Next up, number 10 on my list of favorite singles of the year….
Orange & Ginger Sticky Chicken
Chicken (thighs, wings or legs) / 1 Orange / Ginger / Garlic / Honey / Ketchup / Sweet Chilli Sauce / Soy Sauce / White Wine Vinegar / Olive Oil / Cumin Powder / Cayenne Powder / Olive Oil
SLICE into each cut of chicken 3-4 times (2)
PEEL large chunk of ginger and three garlic cloves
CHOP ginger and garlic
MIX 2tbsps ketchup, 2tbsps honey & 2tbsps sweet chilli sauce
ADD 1tbsp soy, olive oil and white wine vinegar
THROW chopped ginger and garlic into marinade
ZEST the orange and add to pot
HALVE orange and squeeze juice into marinade (3)
SEASON with salt, 1tsp cumin and 1tsp cayenne
STIR together until they’re all friends
DROP chicken into marinade (4)
LEAVE anywhere between 2-24hrs
COOK in an oven, 180C for 30-40 mins, or
BBQ that tasty bitch
GO COOK YOURSELF