Our Albums of 2012 series began yesterday on entertainment.ie/music, with Django Django and Jack White taking the number ten and number nine slots respectively. Eight more albums are to be revealed between now and Christmas Eve, as chosen by Music Editor John Balfe and our team of entertainment.ie contributors. Enough chit-chat, let's get down to business...
#8 is Cody Chesnutt - Landing on a Hundred
Cody Chesnutt once described his latest album Landing On A Hundred as a "body of work that reflects an intense period of observation". That intensity might also be fuelled by the knowledge that the album was funded by donations from his fans and its recording took place in the legendary Royal Studios, once home to soul legend Al Green. While Chesnutt's feature vocal on 'the seed' by hip hop band The Roots kept him within the music scene, new material was long awaited. Released a decade after his debut, 'The Headphone Masterpiece' it is clear this project is a labour of love and every tear, bead of sweat and drop of blood within these songs was worth it.
A truly astonishing collection of tracks that revives the spirit of authentic soul, 70's funk and gut wrenching blues. Lyrically, Chesnutt's profoundly honest tales about his search for inner peace and spiritual redemption provide the perfect poetic sentiments to compliment the lush arrangements performed by Cody's ten piece band. In a fast paced music industry that is at times criticised for lacking musicianship and genuine creativity, Landing On A Hundred is a shining example of artistic freedom that pays tribute to the musical icons of the classic soul era. One of the most beautiful and underrated hidden gems of the year.
Words by Karen Lawler
#7 is Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It
Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius) released one of the most hauntingly beautiful albums of 2012 with Put Your Back N 2 It. On this follow up to his hugely acclaimed low-fi debut Learning, Hadreas explores some very dark themes; there is a deep well of pain to be found in these songs, but he delivers in a way that never feels forced, maudlin, or self pitying. The music is brutally sparse, and with all twelve songs clocking in at three minutes or under, this is an album that leaves you longing for more of its sweet sadness. Not a single moment or note is wasted – so many albums feel bloated, overcooked and long outstay their welcome - Hadreas pares this one back to the bare bones, and it is all the better for it.
Songs like 'Hood', 'All Waters' and 'Dark Parts' emerge from the silence in short, melancholy bursts of naked honesty. At times it feels almost unbearably intimate as Hadreas lays his soul bare in a manner that calls to mind Elliot Smith, Antony and the Johnsons and Sufjan Stevens at their very best.
His tremulous, fragile voice, simple piano melodies and poetic imagery ensures that this is an album that stays with you long after the last notes have faded away. In a decent year for album releases, it is testament to the power of Put Your Back N 2 It that it remains up there with the very best albums of the year despite being released back in February. Beautiful sadness never sounded so good.
Words by Paul Page