The home stretch! Just four records remains in our countdown of the best albums of 2012. Numbers four and three are two distinctly different albums but both are among the year's best.
#4 is Grimes - Visions
Claire Boucher is an incredibly intriguing character. The 23 year old Canadian, who performs under the name Grimes, once constructed a houseboat which she dubbed "Velvet Glove Cast in Iron", armed herself with some live chickens, potatoes and a copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and attempted to sail down the Mississippi. When all was said and done all that remained was a damaged engine, impounded chickens and a great story for journalists to write in reviews, but this sense of adventure has transplanted itself towards her music. With Visions, Grimes has created a brilliant record of ethereal cutting edge dream-pop, as much a headphone/bedroom record as it is a dancefloor-filler.
For an album that was devised and recorded entirely in Boucher's bedroom, Visions is a remarkably assured piece of work. Be it the perkier, dance pieces like 'Be A Body' and 'Vowels = Space and Time', or the darker more introspective pieces like 'Genesis', the one unifying property is Boucher's falsetto-like voice, a perfect match for the record whether it's exploring the space in the more dreamy numbers, or firmly attached to the darker textures of songs like 'Oblivion' and 'Circumambient'.
It took her three albums to get here but Grimes' Visions is a masterpiece of dreamy electro-pop and its no-frills construction places Claire Boucher firmly at the forefront of the cutting edge of a brave new musical movement. Visions would be a welcome addition to any record collection. And holy crap is it ever catchy..
# 3 is Dr. John - Locked Down
For fans of either - and especially both - a collaboration between Dr. John and Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach would seem like an ideal meeting of the minds. On one side you have one of the premiere rhythm and blues acts of the last 50 years and on the other you have the leader of one of the most authentically-sounding retro bands in today's musical landscape, Grammy award winning Dan Auerbach. Locked Down, the offspring yielded by this union, is a swampy fusion of the rawer, more stripped-to-the-bone elements of Dr. John's music filtered through Auerbach's song-writing nous and studio know-how.
Locked Down is bristling with energy, its songs tight in structure but loose in feel. There is unmistakably an "electric creole" feel throughout the album. The goal, one would assume, for a record like this would be for it to seem perfectly at home among both the music of today and yesterday - and they have been incredibly successful. Locked Down feels timeless. It is a testament to its creators, not solely those present on the album but also those who forged these ideals and grooves on the muddy banks of the Mississippi over generations.
It's difficult to pluck standout tracks from the collection. Title-track 'Locked Down', 'Big Shot' and 'Getaway' all show off their feathers admirably but the album works well as a unit without relying on its individual elements to make it stand out from the rest. Auerbach's influence is truly all over Locked Down's hustle-bustle and this partnership has caught the Black Keys man at the most productive and fruitful period of his career. The results are spectacular and a shining light in the discographies of both men.