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
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Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is cursed. Everything he has ever touched in his life has turned bad including a past gambling habit that has made Bernie reluctantly indebted to Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin) an old-school wise guy who paid off Bernie's debts--but not before kneecapping him with a baseball bat. Shelly runs the Shangri-La Hotel and Casino a throwback to '50s Vegas when it was an adult playground full of gamblers and glitzy shows--not the family-oriented fantasyland it is now. Realizing Bernie's contagiously bad luck could be profitable for him Shelly brings Bernie on as the casino's "cooler"--so called because Bernie's able to stop a gambler's winning streak just by standing nearby. But after many years of being indentured to Shelly Bernie's debt is nearly paid and he's looking forward to moving on with his life. Shelly on the other hand doesn't want to lose one of his most valuable assets--especially since upper management wants to upgrade the Shangri-La with three floors of gambling and a roller coaster. Complicating matters even more the shy Bernie becomes smitten with Natalie (Maria Bello) a hard-bitten cocktail waitress at the Shangri-La who after a few awkward dates warms up to Bernie. Suddenly with a genuine Lady Luck by his side Bernie's cooling techniques run cold and his once icy touch turns hot. Has Bernie's luck really changed? Is he really going to break away from his hellish existence and take the girl with him? Not if Shelly has anything to say about it.
In The Cooler Macy gives his gutsiest most lovable most heartbreaking loser performance to date. Bernie is one sorry lump of flesh but because Macy's portrayal is so nuanced you never really feel sorry for Bernie. From the beginning Bernie's good at what he does and commands respect on the casino floor. When he falls in love with Natalie Macy suddenly become the thinking woman's sex symbol radiating his peculiar sensibilities and goofy sex appeal especially in the rather explicit but intensely comical and intimate love scenes. For her part Bello (Auto Focus) does a wonderful job playing the wounded Natalie another working girl with a chip on her shoulder whose whole demeanor is changed by love. Yet the real tour de force performance is Baldwin's. He's finally let go of the idea that he has to play the leading man and has embraced his supporting role with fervor. His Shelly is a desperate desperate man the worst kind of control freak but Baldwin plays the nostalgic casino manager with empathy and dare we say heart even as he breaks people's knee caps and punches pregnant women in the stomach. Supporting player Paul Sorvino also gives a memorable performance as the Shangri-La's aging drug-addicted lounge singer.
Co-writer and first-time director Wayne Kramer understands a thing or two about bad karma. "I'm the kind of guy whose luggage always gets lost by the airline " he has admitted--and he evidently pours all his experience being unlucky into The Cooler. He and co-writer Frank Hannah came up with the concept of a Vegas casino floor "cooler" without any real proof the job exists but whether it's fact or fiction the film comes alive when Bernie's anti-Midas touch is at work cooling the dice so they'll crap out jinxing the slot machines so they'll bust or tapping the dealer so he'll get a blackjack. The pace of the film only hiccups in a few places usually during moments between Bernie and Natalie but overall it brilliantly displays Las Vegas' fading glamour--those "daddio" days when cocktails were cocktails and gamblers gambled. The Cooler could have just as easily been Shelly's story as he tries to hold onto the old Vegas ways and maintain his casino's dignity before it turns into another splashy attraction.
Sean Combs premiered his new collection of men's underwear, pajamas and robes on Wednesday at Bloomingdale's, Reuters reports. Sean John Loungewear has been available at Bloomingdale's for less than two weeks and is selling well, the store's fashion director Kal Ruttenstein said.
Singer Stevie Nicks has postponed two concerts at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles to undergo treatment for severe bronchitis, The Associated Press reports. The two shows will be rescheduled at a later date. Nicks expects to return to her "Trouble in Shangri-La Tour" in Las Vegas Saturday if she responds well to medication.
French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo was released from the hospital Wednesday after making what doctors call a remarkable recovery, according to Reuters. Belmondo was admitted to Saint Joseph's hospital in Paris two weeks ago after suffering from a stroke while vacationing on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Belmondo, 68, starred in Jean-Luc Goddard's 1960 film Breathless.
Raymond E. Scott, the co-owner of Source magazine, was arrested one day after the Source Hip Hop Music Awards in Miami Beach, AP reports. According to police, Scott was arrested Tuesday and charged with reckless driving, battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence, driving with a suspended license and possession of marijuana. Police stopped Scott for speeding and say he became verbally abusive with the officer who ordered him out of the car. Source CEO David Mays reportedly tried to pressure police to drop the charges by threatening to tear up the city and call Jesse Jackson. A spokeswoman for the magazine said a statement would be released Thursday.
Rapper Nate Dogg was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine after pleading no contest to a charge of possessing an unmarked firearm, AP reports. The rapper, whose real name is Nathaniel Dawayne Hale, was arrested on June 18, 2000, for allegedly kidnapping his girlfriend, holding her against her will, assaulting her and setting a car on fire. The charges were later dismissed at a preliminary hearing.
Actor Roy Scheider could face possible jail time if he fails to appear at his next hearing scheduled in a few weeks, according to PageSix.com. Scheider owes his ex-wife Cynthia nearly $1.4 million in payments stipulated by their 1989 divorce agreement. Scheider and his lawyer Samuel Sharp failed to show up for a hearing last Thursday at the Central Islip, Long Island, courthouse. Sharp reportedly called the courthouse minutes before the hearing, claiming he was stuck in traffic. But when Judge Morton I. Willen called the Nassau and Suffolk County highway patrols, he was told that traffic on the Long Island Expressway was running smoothly. The judge warned Sharp that his stall tactics were intolerable and said that the lawyer could face jail time if he failed to show at the next hearing.
State regulators have proposed fines of nearly $59,000 against Sony Pictures for an accident resulting in the death of a welder Tim Holcombe on the set of Spider-Man, Variety reports. Hale died on Mar. 6 after he was struck in the head when a boom extension fell onto the aerial basket in which he was working. The California Division of Occupational Safety & Health said that Sony owned Columbia Pictures failed to use good engineering practices and that the capacity, operation and maintenance instruction plate had not been changed according to specifications. They also allege that Holcombe did not have adequate fall protection, such as a safety harness. The studio has until Sept. 6 to file an appeal.
The British media is having a field day over Mick Jagger's appearance Thursday on the cover of Britain's Saga Magazine, a publication aimed at people over the age of 50, Reuters reports. Jagger is promoting the new film Enigma, which he produced along with Lorne Michaels. The film is set in 1943, the same year that Jagger was born. Saga editor Paul Bach thought it would be a perfect subject for his readers. The Rolling Stones singer, once known as the wild man of rock 'n' roll, is reportedly dating 23-year-old model Sophie Dahl.
Michael Crawford is returning to Broadway with Dance of the Vampires, Variety reports. The show, which will open on April 11 at the Minskoff Theater, is based on Roman Polanski's 1967 movie The Fearless Vampire Killers. The musical premiered in Vienna four years ago and was directed by Polanski, but show organizers were unable to get the director back into the United States to work on the play. Polanski fled the country in 1977 when facing charges of statutory rape. Crawford, who starred in The Phantom of the Opera for 14 years, has committed to the show for one year in New York.
Tony Danza will host the Miss America Pageant, becoming the first solo male to host the event since Bert Parks in 1980, Reuters reports. Parks died in 1992 and hosted the pageant for 25 years. Danza will replace Donny and Marie Osmond, who have been emceeing the event for the past two years. The Miss America Pageant organizers are trying to boost ratings and appeal to viewers by incorporating elements of reality TV shows and have also added a game show segment.
George Michael has returned the piano used by John Lennon to record the song Imagine to the Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool, AP reports. Michael bought the 31-year-old piano at an auction last year for $2 million. At the time, the pop star said that the instrument should be seen by people rather than protected in storage somewhere. But Michael first wanted to use the piano to record a song on his next album. Lennon, who bought the piano in 1970, was killed in New York City more than 20 years ago.
Eric McCormack and Debra Messing from NBC's Will & Grace have been added to the presenters list for the 53rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards, according toVariety. Other presenters include Kelsey Grammer, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sela Ward, Martin Sheen, Jessica Alba, Michael Michele and Amy Brenneman.