Exclaim!'s Best Albums of 2012: Pop and Rock, Part Two

Exclaim!'s Best Albums of 2012:Pop and Rock, Part Two
We left you hanging on Friday (December 14) with 30 through 16 on the Pop and Rock list. Now, we're unveiling the rest of our top 30, from 15 all the way to our number one album. Let the arguing begin!

Exclaim!'s Best Albums of 2012: Pop and Rock, Part Two:

15. How to Dress Well
Total Loss

Is How to Dress Well indie rock or R&B? Does it even matter? In a year where the lines between the two genres became more blurred than ever, Tom Krell, the falsetto-voiced brainchild behind the project, sidestepped the debate entirely and created the year's most deeply personal album with Total Loss. Musicians regularly use their craft to explore inner turmoil, but rarely does the listener get the complete journey offered on Krell's sophomore effort. From the album's opening line, "You were there for me when I was in trouble," repeated again on "Struggle," to acknowledge the figurative loss of his sick mother and actual loss of a friend, Krell lays bare his greatest fears and insecurities. Set to minimalist piano, pounding drums and washes of sound, Total Loss takes the sonic template he established on his debut and creates a dynamic and tightly wound narrative, culminating with the ode to the living, "Set It Right." That he managed to pen a bona-fide pop jam with "& It Was U" in the process is just icing on the cake.
Ian Gormely

14. David Byrne & St. Vincent
Love This Giant

If you aren't a fan of a horn section, then David Byrne and Annie "St. Vincent" Clark's collaborative album might have left you cold. Having been asked to create an evening of new music for a Housing Works charity event, Clark brought the idea of using a brass band rather than a traditional rock band to the table. Within these constraints the pair set about crafting a set of songs that, through emails, occasional meetings and spare studio time over two years became Love This Giant. The challenge was clearly one that both partners in the project thrived on, each bringing out the best in the other: Clark's fine guitar work is allowed to shine, while Byrne's delivery veers from delicate croon to paranoid mania. From low-end bass drones to churning raw funk, swaggering horn battles between the Dap Kings and Antibalas to the delicate closing passage of "Outside Space and Time," Byrne and Clark explore the full capabilities of their chosen set-up. The role of long-time St Vincent collaborator John Congleton cannot be underestimated either — his beats, buzzes and electronic hits form a vital part of the record, provided for Byrne and Clark to pick apart and reconstruct as necessary. Most importantly, Love This Giant isn't simply some dry experiment, but a record with the power to make you move, be it head-nodding, feet-shuffling or whatever you call the dance move they were doing in the video to lead track "Who." Quite where they go from here is another question, but we can only hope that this isn't a one-off collaboration.
Ro Cemm