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KINGBLIND TOP 15 ALBUMS OF 2012 (#5-1) (PART 3 OF 3)

Here is what you have all been waiting for. The top 15 albums of 2012. Broken down into 3 parts. (15 thru 11) – (10 thru 6) -(5 to 1)

Today we have our final batch.. So enjoy numbers 5 through number 1.. is going on Christmas break, We will return in early January.. Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!!

1. Lee Fields- Faithful Man

Lee Fields, he’s paid some dues. He packed up and fled from Wilson, North Carolina in 1967, following the footsteps of his heroes to New York City. He began to sing and dance in clubs where people literally threw money at his feet. He began a recording career two years later, releasing cuts that go for silly money on auction sites. After a tough couple of decades, his stock began to rise with the advent of crate-digging hip hopsters, giving him a new lease on life and leading to a true re-emergence with three albums for Ace.

On his second album for Brooklyn’s Truth & Soul, he’s been backed the label’s in-house band The Expressions (also to be heard on Aloe Blacc’s I Need a Dollar and records by El Michels Affair, Adele, Liam Bailey, Ghostface Killah and Jay-Z, to name a few). With this support, he looks set – five decades into his career – to follow similarly inclined and rejuvenated acts such as Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones into a broader spotlight.

Tracks like I Still Got It reaffirms that this dude, even at 61, is “cool and dangerous” – and back, back, back. You’re the Kind of Girl, Moonlight Mile and I’m Still Hanging On each hark back to the sweet, swishy, southern-states soul of Al Green, and to The Moments’ idolisation of the ladies. Nicknamed ‘Little JB’ in his early years, he was seen as a sort of mini-me James Brown, but there’s no Little JB here, more echoes of Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Percy Sledge. This is no pastiche however, and Fields has found in The Expressions a band that can flip from Muscle Shoals to Philly soul lushness to sweaty talcum shuffling, showcasing his versatility and establishing him as very much his own artist.

With the last few years seeing a revival in ‘authentic soul’ via the likes of Amy Winehouse, Plan B and Adele, it should be no problem for Fields to find a new audience with this collection. The man is worth some love.

2. Jack White- Blunderbuss

Having recently divorced his wife of six years, it’s tempting to interpretJack White’s debut solo album as his very own version of Dylan’s breakup classic, Blood on the Tracks. After all, with its bruised, scabrous lyrics – full of nosebleeds, burst lips, missing limbs and pummelled digits – and preoccupation with love gone not so much bad as cataclysmic, it sounds as though the erstwhile White Stripe has been eviscerated by his loss.  

But it’s important to remember that, not only was the split apparently amicable (his ex sings back-up on three songs here), but that White has never been a confessional songwriter in the conventional sense. Despite his deep devotion to the blues – that most ‘authentic’ of musical genres – he’s a conceptual art-rocker at heart, inhabiting his own unique crossroads between theatrical artifice and bloody-minded sincerity.

There’s a sense throughout Blunderbuss – trust him to choose such an archaic weapon – that White is positively revelling in the role of the wronged lover. So you never get the sense that he’s being entirely serious; he’s too eccentric and machismo-camp to suggest otherwise. It’s what defines him as an artist and it’s why he may be the only great rock superstar of recent years.

While this isn’t a major musical reinvention, it certainly develops his trademark synthesis of stripped-back garage-rock and Americana. Despite his guitar God reputation, White – ever the contrarian – relegates his axe to a supporting role, favouring instead a sort of aquatic country-blues dominated by Rhodes electric piano and the punk-Liberace glissandos of pianist Brooke Waggoner. She’s part of a small group of musicians who never detract from White’s minimalist aesthetic – Meg may be gone, but the primal rhythms remain – and who hit upon a particularly delightful sound on the breezily Kinks-esque Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy and the compact mini-opera Take Me With You When You Go.

During those moments when White’s guitar does come to the fore, it fits and squalls as though it’s having a breakdown, although he still swaggers with the best of them on the likes of Sixteen Saltines and on a raucous cover of Little Willie John’s jittery hoodoo, I’m Shakin’.

After all these years, there’s still nobody quite like him.

3. Frank Ocean- Channel Orange

I’ve been trying to pinpoint why Frank Ocean’s astonishing success is one of music’s most heartening stories in recent years. The simple answer is that we want to see talent rewarded. Too frequently the hype around a rising artist is just that, variations on I-was-there-first nonsense. If anything, Frank Ocean’s ascent has been gradual and a bit understated. He built his clout early with some songwriting credits for established hitmakers and as a member of Odd Future, a collective bursting with oversized personalities. Despite already being signed to Def Jam, Ocean self-released his debut Nostalgia, ULTRA in early 2011. The album eventually gained the attention of industry royalty and resulted in a gorgeous Beyoncé track (4’s “I Miss You”) and a star-making turn on last year’s mammoth Jay-Z and Kanye West collaboration Watch the Throne. Proof that life can be poetic: one of Ocean’s killer hooks was for a song called “Made in America.” Indeed.

One of Frank Ocean’s gifts is a rare purity; another is an equally rare modesty, which can be deceptive. Comparisons to Stevie Wonder and Prince are apt, but only to a certain extent. Ocean’s style, more than his ingenuity, matches those masters’ – for now at least. If I had to point to another artist who Ocean recalls, it would be Mary J. Blige. Like Blige, Ocean radiates compassion and warmth despite the bleak themes and broken people of his songs. Ocean is an observer, especially of woe, and the woe is often his. There’s nothing boastful or sexy about him or his music. He is the antidote to the kind of swagger and decadence albums such as, well, Watch the Throne celebrate. I suspect that’s why Channel Orange, Ocean’s first major-label album, has been met with such enthusiasm. How can you not root for this guy?
And then there’s the matter of Ocean’s sexuality. Last week (on Independence Day) Ocean published a letter on his Tumblr in which he mentions once having been in a relationship with a man. He describes the two summers they spent together:

And on the days we were together, time would glide. […] By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love. It changed my life.

The industry responded to Ocean’s candor and bravery with an outpouring of support. Let’s be clear: it was a big moment for LGBT acceptance in the predominantly homophobic world of R&B and hip hop. It was also genuinely heartbreaking.

Channel Orange was born of distraction, of Ocean’s need to create “worlds that were rosier” than his. A cursory listen of the album and its parade of drug addiction and unrequited love would suggest Ocean failed at his task. In a recent New York Times feature, Ocean described his songwriting as “an extension of [his] talk therapy.” His lyrics approach dysfunction in a sort of matter-of-fact manner that avoids preachiness, and his aching delivery communicates nothing but sympathy. When he focuses on his own pain, as he does in “Bad Religion,” the results are devastating.

Channel Orange’s scale and scope are impressive to behold. It spans time and distance – from Ancient Egypt to the modern Las Vegas strip (on “Pyramids”), from Ladera Heights (the “black Beverly Hills”) to the temples of India – and for all of its 55 minutes, it’s brilliant. Unlike Nostalgia, ULTRA, the hooks on Channel Orange are less immediate and woven into the album’s sprawl. The more you untangle, the more you’re ensnared. The “Benny and the Jets”-quarter-note piano vamp on “Bad Rich Kids” (and its Blige interpolation); the breezy swing of “Lost”; the miraculous electric-piano-driven chorus of “Sweet Life”; the drum-kit clatter of “Monks”; the naked, organ-drone confessional “Bad Religion”; the astounding two-part R&B fantasia “Pyramids”: these songs are hard to shake. Taken together, even with the bloat of intros, outros, and interludes, this group of stars forms a constellation. Forget the number of producers and contributors (most notably Earl Sweatshirt and André 3000): Channel Orange is the work of an auteur. Ignore its genre trappings (house, hip hop, rock): the album is pure soul.

“I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore,” Ocean wrote on his Tumblr. The truth is, the post was unnecessary. He’d already outed himself on Channel Orange. Still, the album does contain one revelation: Frank Ocean. And the secret is out.

4. Metz- S/T

When he was a teenager in the early ’90s, Metz bassist Chris Slorach had it all figured out. Whenever he was home alone, he’d pilfer his dad’s credit card, dial the Sub Pop hotline and order the label’s finest new LPs. Nirvana. Afghan Whigs. And hey, the crime paid. Spat out of Parkdale, home of the Toronto hardcore scene they pretty much invented, Slorach and his bandmates Alex Edkins (vocals) and Hayden Menzies (drums) make music far more ferocious than you’d expect from men who look like a bunch of dropout chemistry students. In fact, Menzies is a dropout chemistry student.

Turns out, the trio’s self-titled debut is full of torment. ‘Headache’ makes a deliciously bad impression, yelling about media angst, while ‘Get Off’ careers in with the depraved, junkie squall of heavy metal being twisted out of shape. It’s pure American hardcore, as Metz channel Hüsker Dü and The Jesus Lizard – the pre-grunge guitar gods of Slorach’s Sub Pop heroes. Their pace doesn’t let up, nor does their ire. Best is ‘The Mule’, seething with the disaffected confusion of being “left behind”, before ‘Negative Space’ delivers a final, thundering thwack of testosterone.

Metz deliver the same righteous anger that informed much of their favorite music in the early ’90s. The players might have changed but the problems remain the same: those affected by youth unemployment and conservative government can find salvation in hardcore. Metz are here to offer you redemption.

5. Alabama Shakes- Boys and Girls

This still-green quartet was just a small-town northern Alabama bar band a year ago. Now Alabama Shakes is one of the most talked-about new rock acts thanks in part to some good fortune (an early anointing by Drive By Truckers’ Patterson Hood) and a whole lot of show-and-prove on stage

The buzz centers on the dynamic presence and towering voice of singer-guitarist Brittany Howard. On the band’s full-length debut, she’s as good as advertised, singing with an unhinged gusto, threatening to lose her composure — if not her mind — any minute, as she leaps into boy-girl narratives with evangelical zeal. She often sounds like she’s having a conversation with a close friend or God, or just telling herself not to give up. “Didn’t think I’d make it to 22 years old,” the now-23-year-old Howard sings on “Hold On.”     

The songwriting and arranging are steeped in values drawn from ‘60s and ‘70s music, when rock bands channeled soul and R&B. Think of the Rolling Stones visiting Muscle Shoals, Ala., in the early ‘70s to work with the studio musicians who backed up Aretha Franklin and the Staple Singers

— that seems to be the sweet spot for the Shakes, all of whom are in their early to mid-twenties. The gospel plea “On Your Way,” the call-and-response vocals in the rousing “I Found You,” the rave-up finish to “Be Mine” – these songs pack a wallop because the band knows how to lay back and leave some space in the arrangements, rather than playing all out, all the time.  

The rough-hewn production wouldn’t pass muster on a major-label budget: amplifiers audibly hum, voices crack with emotion, a few bum notes crop up here and there. But this band is terrific all the same, changing speeds, rising and falling to keep up with Howard. “You Ain’t Alone” is all about those dynamics, Howard pushing higher to an ecstatic warble and then falling to a whisper, the band shading her every step.

And yet for all that, fans of the band may quibble. There are even better versions of “You Ain’t Alone” on-line from the band’s justifiably lauded concerts. The Shakes are novices in the recording studio, and they sound almost reserved here compared to their live performances. So “Boys & Girls” isn’t the best way to experience Alabama Shakes. But it’s a heck of an introduction.