totally top five 2k12: albums

5. Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls [itunes] I’ve only had this album for like a week and a half, but it settled itself all over me and hasn’t let up since. If I’d had it a little longer or put less weight into how much I listen to stuff, it’d be a hell of a lot higher up on the list. I heard “Hold On” on Pandora a few times earlier in the year, but it never really grabbed me until I heard it at the front of the whole album. It’s a great song, all hopeful and plaintive and hungry, and Brittany Howard’s voice is p h e n o m e n a l. I could listen to her sing the phone book. “Boys & Girls” is another favorite and it showcases her voice in the same way that “Hold On” does, all beautiful and wailing.

Boys & Girls is kind of vintage-y and lo-fi and it’s the kind of album you should listen to on a hot day while the sun is setting and you’re drinking something cold and extremely alcoholic. It sounds like what a million other bands have tried to do, but it sounds utterly effortless. It’s like… This isn’t what Alabama Shakes are trying to sound like, it’s what they’re meant to sound like. Gorgeous.

4. Marina & the Diamonds, Electra Heart [amazon]Marina Diamandis’ first album The Family Jewels was one of my most listened albums of 2010 and 2011 and it’s something I put on a lot because the songs are all so solid and beautiful and even after all this time they haven’t gotten even a little bit old and I was looking forward to Electra Heart immensely. Sadly and irritatingly, I’ve been broke-ish all year and had to settle for listening to badly ripped versions on YouTube until about a week ago. Man, do I even have to tell you how much quality matters? Like, Alabama Shakes, this’d be a lot higher if I’d had it longer.

My favorite song on the album is “Starring Role” I think. For the moment at least. And I sing the “you like my dad / you get on well / I send my best / regards from hell” part all the time. The acoustic version is gorgeous too. My other favorite is “Living Dead” which is, sadly, only on the import. But you should listen anyway.

3. Lana Del Rey, Born to Die [amazon]I did not want to like Lana Del Rey. I don’t like the kind of trash-twee floral headband, dreamy, filthy American flag aesthetic. I don’t like her socio-cultural appropriation. She is a problematic artist.

I started listening to Lana Del Rey because I was forced to. This summer was a particularly sweltering one in southern California and I have only one friend with a pool and, as you learn from birth, you never turn down an invitation to a pool, even if that friend tortures you by playing music you don’t want to listen to on repeat. I am a very chill human being though, so I tolerated it. And then suddenly I liked it and then I was begrudgingly spending money on it. Damn it. Swimming Pool Stockholm Syndrome. Favorites: “This Is What Makes Us Girls”, “Dark Paradise”, “Diet Mountain Dew”, “National Anthem”, and “Summertime Sadness”. Just put it on and float in a pool and drink something kind of fruity but too booze-y and close your eyes and point your face into the sun and give in. Just give in.

2. Ellie Goulding, Halcyon [amazon]I would have never downloaded this album without hearing “Anything Could Happen”. Period, end of story. This song is transcendent. When I first heard it, I posted about it on Tumblr and Facebook and said, “IF YOU AREN’T RUNNING THROUGH A FIELD WEARING HEADPHONES AND SCREAMING THE WORDS TO THIS AND CRYING BECAUSE THE WORLD IS BEAUTIFUL AND HAS SO MUCH POTENTIAL AND PEOPLE CAN BE AMAZING WONDERFUL CREATURES THEN WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE GOD DAMN IT” and, were it not like six degrees outside with six inches of snow on the ground I would still be doing this. Also, I’d apologize for the capslock, but I still feel that strongly.

Anyway, the rest of the album is just as good and very worth spending your hard-earned money on. I particularly recommend “Only You” and “Figure 8”, the latter which I was just scream-sobbing into a pillow like twelve hours ago. So good.

1. Lavender Diamond, Incorruptible Heart [amazon]I ended up with this album because I was perusing Amazon’s $5 albums page (Albums should always be $5! I would buy all the albums, all the time.) and saw that it had a free single — “Everybody’s Heart’s Breaking Now” — and I bought it and I fell in love so hard. Her voice! It’s so ethereal and magical and beautiful. I feel like I’m in a movie, like I just broke up with my long-term partner and I’m walking further and further into the water on a beach and I’m wearing a linen shirt and a long white skirt and the wind is blowing my hair and I’m just sinking deeper into the water in slow motion.

“Light My Way” is also great, really dance-y and cheerful and “Just Passing By” is really pretty and float-y and sleepy. Same goes for “Come Home” which makes me feel sort of weepy in a sad, but beautiful way. Also, “Forgive”. Also, the whole album.