5. Of Monsters And Men - My Head is an Animal
This album made its way into my top 5 at the very last minute. I first discovered Of Monsters And Men over the summer during one of the three times I moved this year. It was a turbulent morning in terms of getting the rental truck picked up and returned on time. I had a headache. I was exhausted. And very irritated. Towards the end of the move, “Mountain Song” came on satellite radio. The song had a joyous feel to it and really was a bright spot in a rough day. I instantly had to jot down the title and the artist to check them out later. To my delight, this entire album has a great upbeat folksy charm about it, and every song is equally appealing. I look forward to more from this band!
4. Emeli Sande - Our Version of Events
In short, Emeli Sande is going places. After reading a glowing review about her in the morning paper on my commute to work one day, I just knew I had to get this album. I must say, I feel a little guilty having only paid $5 for it through Amazon’s mp3 store. Life, love and encouragement are the recurring themes on this delightfully balanced r&b/pop album. “Heaven” and “Wonder” are the two tracks that stand out to me, but each and every song is special in its own way. In an age of R&B music plagued by generic, recycled beats and shallow, mundane lyrics, Our Version of Events is a very welcome breath of fresh air.
3. Ralf Gum - Never Leaves You
Ralf Gum’s Never Leaves You can arguably become one of my favorite house music albums ever. Smooth at times, chill at others and upbeat as well, this effort is as well-rounded as they come. I only recently bought this one, but have listened to at least one of its tracks almost every day since. My favorites are “Take Me To My Love” which featured a return of vocalist Monique Bingham to the studio and “So Good” featuring Caron Wheeler. Anyone who appreciates good house music is going to appreciate Never Leaves You.
2. Esperanza Spalding - Radio Music Society
My already enthusiasm for Esperanza Spalding was already high, but after winning the Best New Artist Grammy in 2011 (and to my delight, snatching it from Justin Bieber), that enthusiasm skyrocketed. Her album Esperanza was already a regular part of my rotation, especially on a relaxing Sunday at home. And when she followed-up that effort with Radio Music Society, I fell in love. Her unique fusion of jazz and soul makes her a jewel and in my opinion, a pioneer in the genre. A true musician. A philanthropist. An educator. Ms. Spalding beautifully demonstrates all of her talents on Radio Music Society.
1. Hans Zimmer - The Dark Knight Rises: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Listening to this soundtrack for the millionth time as I type out this list. Hans Zimmer’s brass-heavy scores are a big part of the reason he’s my favorite film composer, and he did not disappoint on the score to the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. A part of me was thrilled that James Newton Howard did not return for The Dark Knight Rises music so we could get all Hans. The notion that the spirit of a movie is its score is so spot-on, and this soundtrack is a gleaming example of that. I got this soundtrack back over the summer, and since then, I don’t think a single day has gone by that I don’t listen to at least one track from it. My favorites include “Gotham’s Reckoning,” “Why Do We Fall,” “The Fire Rises,” “Fear Will Find You,” and “Imagine the Fire.” A truly epic score to go with a commensurately epic film.
SWV - I Missed Us
One of the best comeback albums I’ve ever heard. After 15 years, SWV came back and delivered an album laced with that same feel that we came to love them for initially. What was so respectable about this album is they didn’t come back and try to do what everyone else is doing. They stayed true to themselves and this was a nice ode to that 90s R&B that, like so many others, I came up with.
Norah Jones - Little Broken Hearts
I don’t think I was even aware that Norah Jones had a project up her sleeve this year until I saw this album on sale at Starbucks back over the summer. That very same day, I had to get it. While it wasn’t what I expected from her, it was a very tasteful change of pace. In Little Broken Hearts, Norah Jones experiments a bit with pop and I must say I like the feel of it. I expect to give this album more listens in the coming months and I expect to fall more in love with it.