Article by Matthew Dippel | Photography by John Morin |Owl Staff

With each passing year comes new music releases… Some good, some bad, and some just forgettable. Listening to hundreds of albums for the sake of narrowing down the best of the best was a daunting task, but one that I was more than happy to take on.

Over the last month or so I’ve been setting aside a few hours a day to lay back, put on my headphones, get in the right mood, and listen to some select 2012 releases I had picked, along with suggestions from Owl staff members and HCC students.

The list comes with a few caveats. The first is one borne of time. As this issue will be released to the readers at the beginning of December, there will regretfully be some albums that come out that I won’t get to listen to or include on this list.

And, of course, I tried to remain as objective as possible and consider all suggestions, but alas, I am human, and my subjectivity somewhat shows in this list. I hope I’ve covered a good array of genres so there is a treat for everybody, despite my personal prejudices against bad music. I listened to a lot of albums, and these are the three that I thought deserved a spot on this year’s “best of.” Maybe you’ll see your favorite, or even better, find a new one.

Tame Impala: Lonerism (Psychedelic)

What would the Beatles sound like if they were still around today, did a lot more drugs, and added some Cream, Led Zeppelin, and Queens of the Stone Age influences? Well, the answer comes in the form of Tame Impala’s second album. Lonerism is a hazy, dazy, dreamy soundscape of psychedelic guitar textures,

driving percussion, bouncing bass lines, and soothing synthesizers crafted by band mastermind Kevin Parker. Parker’s spacey vocals narrate the aural trip that is Lonerism, seemingly channeling John Lennon from the grave, coming together as one of the best psychedelic releases in recent memory.

Rush: Clockwork Angels (Progressive Rock) Most bands at the point in their careers that Rush are at now are normally well past their prime. Paul McCartney is old and chubby, still touring with 40-year-old Beatles songs, Metallica is just lazy, and Syd Barrett and John Lennon are still dead.

But Rush perseveres. The holy triumvirate have delivered Clockwork Angels unto the masses, and the album marks a new high point in their discography, an achievement that very few bands decades into their career can stake claim to.

Instead of the lauded after “return to form” that fans clamor for, with this album, Rush instead reinvents their form yet again, this time resulting in a 70-minute slab of heavy prog rock with a complex narrative accompanying it. Magnum opus may be stretching it, but it’s nice to see an old dog with new tricks still contributing to popular music.

The centerpieces of this album, “Mladic” and “We Drift Like Worried Fire,” incorporate the best the band has offered

since their inception. Spoken word samples to set mood, long winded yet fascinating buildups of guitar, violin, percussion, and whatever else the collective happened to bring into the studio.

There’s no appropriate way to describe the sounds that Godspeed creates as a band, only to say that it is the embodiment of the word “epic,” in scale, volume, and grandeur. This is my album of the year, and I certainly don’t think I’m alone.

Frank Ocean: Channel Orange (R&B/ Soul) By John Parks | Owl Staff

Odd Future’s golden child Frank Ocean makes waves with his first album, Channel Orange while still riding the hype of his 2011 debut mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. Frank takes a similar approach with his latest release, sticking with themes of love, exotic locations, beautiful women, and understated hints of cocaine use. Appearances by Andre 3000, John Mayer, and Tyler, The Creator easily makes Channel Orange one of the most memorable R&B albums of the year.

Zac Brown Band: Uncaged (Country) By Joshua Eller | Owl Staff

With their third studio album, the Zac Brown Band offers something for everyone. The songs on Uncaged mix country, bluegrass, reggae, Southern rock,

and R&B together into a unique sound. From the Jimmy Buffett style of the song “Jump Right In” to the heartfelt ballad “Last but Not Least,” the Zac Brown Band provides a good time for all. Like the title track says, “you just have to get back to the country and get uncaged.”

Keane: Strangeland (Alternative) By Stephanie Perkins | Owl Staff

In their fourth album release, British group, Keane, has once again set the bar for their music. Strangeland is a fantastic, cohesive piece going back to a simpler and natural sound the band had with their first album, Hopes and Fears. From the upbeat songs like “Silenced by the Night” and “Sovereign Light Café” to the more somber “Sea Fog” and “Watch How You Go,” this album takes you on an incredible emotional journey.

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