Nothing can create a sense memory quite like a song. "Ignition" comes on at a party and you're suddenly in eighth grade again, awkwardly grinding (eww) at your first middle school dance. Or you hear "Clocks," and find yourself instantly swept back to a stuffy attic bedroom, lying on the rug at your friend's house while rain rattles the window, the two of you listening to A Rush of Blood to the Head all the way through. And now, we will forever after think of the year 2012 when we hear these albums.
The best albums of the year take us back to sweeping moments of cinema, the best kind of sleepless nights and summer bonfire beach parties. Here are the top albums of the year, and why the Hollywood.com staff loved them. (Oh yeah, and there are some miserable ones, too — just because you have a record deal doesn't mean you're, like, an actual musician.)
Port of Morrow, The Shins
The Garden State soundtrack was ingrained in my head for years, and so naturally The Shins were too. Their new album delivers the same sort of emotional yet uplifting beats that make it easy to keep on repeat for hours. —Anna Brand
Le Voyage Dans le Lune, Air
French electronica duo Air have spent over a decade composing grungy soundscapes and alt rock songs with influences from every branch of the music world. In their 2012 album, the band took on a task that was both radical and fitting: re-scoring Georges Méliès' 1902 silent sci-fi film A Trip to the Moon. Air flexes every muscle with Le voyage dans la lune, utilizing an array of instruments and otherworldly noises to convert the 20th century's depictions of the future into sound while making the tracks completely listenable to the modern ear. You won't hear a riskier album this year. —Matt Patches
End of Daze EP, Dum Dum Girls
Technically, End of Daze doesn’t quite qualify as an album, but this EP has enjoyed more plays on my Spotify account than any album from 2012. Its five songs exquisitely capture the sound every Indie pop band in the business is striving to create right now. It’s pure and honest, full of haunting melodies and danceable guitar pop. So yeah, it’s pretty perfect. —Kelsea Stahler
Beasts of the Southern Wild (Music from the Motion Picture), Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin
You can chalk the magic of Beasts of the Southern Wild up to the imagination of writer/director Benh Zeitlin and the immaculate performances of Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry, but another major component in the equation is the powerful, mystifying score. The music helped to paint such a vivid, enchanting picture in the tear-jerking movie. Revisiting the album long after your doubtlessly emotional theatrical experience will transplant you right back into your misty-eyed state of mind. No movie was more powerful in 2012, and the soundtrack that made that possible is easily the most enchanting music you can use to backdrop your own (admittedly less moving) day-to-day. —Michael Arbeiter
Rage Valley, Knife Party
When Australian/British drum-and-bass band Pendulum announced that they were parting ways in June of this year, fans all over the world were in mourning. But right on the heels of this sad news came the announcement that members Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen were instead going to focus on their side project, electro-house/dubstep duo Knife Party (whose second EP had been released May 27), and fans were no longer worried — mostly because Rage Valley was so flippin’ awesome. If Pendulum had to end to make way for more Knife Party amazing-ness, we were all fine with that! —Sydney Bucksbaum
The Lumineers, The Lumineers
While propelled by that oh-so-catchy and sing-a-long friendly "Ho Hey," don't pawn The Lumineers off as a one-hit wonder. Their self-titled debut album is as satisfying musically as it is lyrically. While they may not be as arena-ready as their folksy counterparts Mumford & Sons (though the track "Big Parade" begs to be sung at the top of your lungs with thousands of other fans) they are a force to be reckoned with. Songs like "Submarines" and "Dead Sea" will conjure up comparisons to The Beatles. A rock-solid debut from a band that is just getting started. —Aly Semigran
Reign of Terror, Sleigh Bells
The Brooklyn noise pop duo of vocalist Alexis Krauss and guitar player Derek Miller shattered expectations — and eardrums — with their 2010 debut, Treats. If that album sounded like girl-group sunshine filtered through gloomy heavy metal, their follow-up, Reign of Terror, is just the opposite: shred-eriffic guitar jams and stomp-clap percussion in service of taut, earwormy pop. "End of the Line" features stream-of-consciousness lyrics that could be plucked straight out of the diary of a depressed teenage girl, while "Born to Lose" and "Comeback Kid" sound like the sonic love-children of The Shangri-Las and Nirvana. Please shred responsibly. —Christian Blauvelt
Blown Away, Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood never fails to impress, and Blown Away is the next step in the evolution of Underwood as an artist. With this album, she explores more pressing emotions while also producing quality songs that have fun, catchy tunes. If you listen to "Good Girl" and the single "Blown Away," you will totally understand. —Lindsey DiMattina
The Lion's Roar, First Aid Kit
If you're not careful, this Swedish duo made up of sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg could sound like background music. Their lilt never goes to full volume and their subtle folk jingles never create the roar of dance hits or stadium rock. But when you listen close, that is when the magic happens. On a dozen moody tracks that sound like they were made in the American mountains, these two young ladies create textured melodies and velvety harmonies that bely their young age and their national origin. No one will mistake them for background again. —Brian Moylan
The Midsummer Station, Owl City
Everything about this album — as with every Owl City album — just puts me at ease. His melodies are lightheartedly catchy and the lyrics are intriguingly fun. —Leanne Aguilera
Out of the Game, Rufus Wainwright
If the glamorous soul of my being had a soundtrack, it would be Rufus Wainwright. But Rufus Wainwright produced by Mark Ronson? Well now we have the breezy, 70s-feeling music of my fall. The album is full of Wainwright's usual quirks: grandiose arrangements, lyrical quips and dips, but it's held together by this gritty, golden tone that Ronson put together. It's a different beast entirely—and a very, very good one at that. —Alicia Lutes
Bloom, Beach House
Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scally, the Baltimore duo collectively known as Beach House, know a thing or two about making good music. The band's latest album, Bloom, is a dreamy mix of psychedelic vocals and soothing melodies that can only be described as enchanting. With each of its mesmerizing singles, including such standouts as "Myth," "The Hours," and "Lazuli," Bloom succeeds in transporting you to another time and place — a time and place that lacks Earth's gravitational pull. At risk of sounding like a total hippie, listening to Bloom makes you feel like you're floating. —Abbey Stone
Coexist, The xx
Try to find a more ambitious, creative, haunting, and occasionally heartbreaking album from the year of our destruction, 2012. The minimalist background music combined with the achingly beautiful vocals show that less really can be more, and the themes of isolation and intimacy are basically universally relatable — unless you're always happy, in which case you suck. —Shaunna Murphy
The Worst of 2012
Believe, Justin Bieber
While Believe's first single, "Boyfriend," was surprisingly infectious — and hinted that Bieber may have more Timberlake potential than we initially thought — the rest of the album was pretty womp-womp. Mushy inspirational ballads, the worst offender being the album's title track, weigh down Bieber's usual pop effervescence, and the heavy synth and autotune permeating his more club-friendly tracks are something only a Belieber could love.
California 37, Train
Train's music has always been nonsensical mainstream dreck, but the band really hit new lows with this year's California 37. The easy-listening pop easily fades into the background of car commercials and doctor's office waiting rooms alike, which may explain why no one is actually listening to what they're singing about. In the ubiquitous radio hit "Drive By," lead singer Pat Monahan declares he's "Just a shy guy looking for a two ply Hefty bag to hold my love" (he wants to put his love for you in the garbage?) and in "50 Ways To Say Goodbye," rather than come to terms with his breakup, finds a variety of ways to kill off his girlfriend, including "She was caught in a mudslide/ Eaten by a lion/ Got run over by a crappy purple Scion." (How romantic!) But the real horror comes in the form of "You Can Finally Meet My Mom" when, as Funny or Die gloriously pointed out, he actually can't wait for his girlfriend to die, so she can meet his dead mother in Heaven. I would suggest we all start listening a little closer to Train songs, but then we'd all have keep listening to Train songs.
5 (Murder by Numbers), 50 Cent
If your idea of music is a menagerie of gutteral groans and undue threats directed toward an absent second party, set within an atmosphere of incessant percussive clanging, then have we got an album for you: 50 Cent's 5 (Murder by Numbers) delivers all the constituents of a lingering headache, complete with uncessarily violent overtones!
Kiss, Carly Rae Jepsen
After the viral success of "Call Me Maybe," Ms. Jepsen's first single to reach America, we had high hopes for this Canadian pop princess. Unfortunately, no other songs on Jepsen's second studio album come anywhere near replicating the magic of "Call Me Maybe," and the album as a whole is too sugary sweet to leave you with anything other than a sugar hangover.
Fortune, Chris Brown
Chris Brown is the worst and everything he does is the worst.
[Photo Credit: WENN (4)]
Staff Picks: The 14 Best Songs of 2012 (And 5 We'd Like to Forget)
Staff Picks: The 10 Best Books of 2012 (And 5 That Pretty Much Sucked)
2012: Remembering the Year that Was in Pop Culture Via Our Favorite Stories
You Might Also Like:
Jennifer Lawrence Bikinis in Hawaii: Her 15 Sexiest Pics
Beaten, Bloody Gabriel Aubrey After Fight With Halle Berry’s Fiance: Shocking PICS
Last summer, the legendary bad-ass Samuel L. Jackson took his talents to the realm of “children’s” literature by narrating the audio version of Adam Mansbach's profanity-ridden lullaby, Go The F**k To Sleep. The book, which was styled after Margaret Wise Brown's classic bedtime tale Goodnight Moon and described as a "children's book for adults," chronicles the challenge parents and babysitters alike face when their kids just won't go the f**k to sleep. (Which is literally the worst thing. Ever.) And now that election season is upon us, Jackson has made an about face on his message — he wants Americans to Wake the F--k Up!
His new video (NSFW...but do we really need to warn you?) tells the story of a little girl who is frustrated when her family -- who was so proactive a mere four years ago in the presidential election -- doesn't seem to care about the upcoming showdown between Obama and Romney.
While his video is very clearly pro-Obama (arguably more anti-Romney than pro-Obama), it reminds us that regardless of whether you will be voting Democrat or Republican this November, everyone needs to wake the f--k up and know the issues. We may argue on every other facet of politics, but that's one thing we can agree upon.
[Photo Credit: WTFU2012.com]
Attention 'Harry Potter' Fans: J.K. Rowling May Have More Books Up Her (Wizard) Sleeve
8 Things More Offensive Than Victoria's Secret's Sexy Little Geisha
Johnny Lewis, 'SOA' Star, Dies After Suspected Homicide — REPORT
On Saturday, the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay began its 8,000 mile, 70-day journey, starting at Land's End, at the southwest tip of England (and will end at the 2012 Olympic Games in London). The Olympic Torch Relay is a tradition that puts the iconic flame into the hands of a diverse group of people — a symbol of the games' universal nature.
On hand for the ceremony was soccer star (and the Hollywood friendly) David Beckham, who greeted the torch as it arrived from Greece to the UK and lit the flame that would be carried to its athletic destination in July. Unlike past years, the torch will not be circling the globe — London choosing to highlight the inspirational people of its country rather than famous faces and sports stars from across the land. While the event won't be as star-studded as in past years, there are sure to be a few names who take over the heavy-lifting as the torch crosses the European landscape before landing at its final resting place. In recent years, enlisting celebrities to carry the torch has been an equal part of the tradition. Here are a few of the familiar names who have marched a leg of the race on the way to the Olympics.
Those enlisted for the 2004 Athens Olympcis include Ryan Seacrest, Sean Combs, Donald Trump and Nia Vardalos (from My Big Fat Greek Wedding). 2002's Salt Lake City event packed in even more Hollywood olympians: Diane Sawyer, Chris O'Donnell, Lance Bass, Larry King, Martin Sheen and the late Christopher Reeve.
The 2012 Torch Relay is aiming for a different kind of celebrity. Many of the bearers are veterans, handicapped or notable athletes. Beckham is a recognizable name, but the most awe-inspiring participant this year may be Diana Gould, who competed in the 1912 Olympics. When she carries the torch, Gould will be 100 years old. Donald Trump may have Celebrity Apprentice, but Diana Gould has longevity.
[NBCOlympics.com, HuffPo, Telegraph UK]
Harper Beckham Offered Modeling Deal: What She Can Learn From Mom
Victoria Beckham: Justin Bieber Thought My Son Was A Jolie-Pitt Kid
Ryan Seacrest Officially Never Sleeps: His NBC 'Today' Deal
Inspired by a Russian folktale Corpse Bride begins with the promise of a wedding. The snobby Everglots (voiced by Joanna Lumley and Albert Finney) are pushing their daughter Victoria (voiced by Emily Watson) into marrying Victor (voiced by Johnny Depp) the bachelor son of the social-climbing Van Dorts (voiced by Tracey Ullman and Paul Whitehouse). Neither Victor nor Victoria wants this arrangement--that is until they meet each other on the eve of their wedding and sparks fly. But when Victor screws up his vows during the rehearsal he is humiliated and rushes off. Once in the fresh cool air he is suddenly able to recite his vows perfectly down to even putting the ring on what looks like a gnarled tree root. Ah but that's not what it is at all. It's the very dead hand of the Corpse Bride (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter) a lovely but rotting young lady who rises out of the ground to claim her groom and drag him down into the Land of the Dead which is actually a pretty festive place. Even though Victor doesn't want to break the heart of the Corpse Bride who has her own sad tale to tell he just can't see how the marriage is going to work--being that's he's alive and in love with someone else. What's a decaying bride looking for her lost love to do?
Corpse Bride has amassed a nice eclectic group of British voices except for Depp of course (although at this point he should be considered an honorary Brit since he's played so many). It's easy to see Depp as Victor--gangly floppy hair sunken cheeks. And Watson as Victoria--big eyes round face petite femininity. But that's because they are the most normal of the Bride's bunch. The rest of cast don't look anything like their vocal counterparts either as highly exaggerated human caricatures (check out Lady Everglot's hair) or as one of the dearly departed. Bonham Carter probably has the most fun as the moldering newlywed who is just in the wrong place and the wrong time. Same goes for her friend Maggot voiced by Enn Reitel and sounding very much like Peter Lorre who has one of the better lines when he tells the Bride "I'm sure if I weren't just sitting in it I'd think you'd lost your mind."
All I can say is Tim Burton must have been a very different child who nonetheless watched a lot of the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials. But then again Burton's version of stop motion animation is a far cry from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. After producing The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach he has finally taken the reins and perfected what looks like a very cumbersome but amazing way of doing animation. "What I love about stop motion animation is that it's so tactile " Burton explains. "There's something wonderful about being able to physically touch and move the characters and to see their world actually exist." He isn't kidding. Corpse Bride is real eye candy from start to finish with an interesting twist on themes: the living world is washed out dull with little color--and little life actually--while the Land of the Dead is effervescent and jazzy where the denizens drink and party all night. I'm sure Burton truly believes this is what the hereafter is really like. So must Burton's longtime composer Danny Elfman the former lead singer of the '80s band Oingo Bongo whose hit "Dead Man's Party" aptly validates this feeling. However Elfman's songs in Corpse Bride--yes it's a musical too--are pretty tame and frankly pointless. If the film could have shaved off the musical numbers it would have zinged.