The Key’s Year-End Mania: Q.D. Tran’s Top 5 Favorite Albums of 2012 from Non-Philly Artists

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For The Key’s year-in-review, we asked our trusted sources – our writers and photographers, XPN’s on-air staff, fellow bloggers in the Philly scene and even a few musicians – to send us their Top Five Whatevers. Could be the traditional music route – albums, songs, concerts of the year – or it could be only loosely connected. We’ll be sharing these recaps every day through to the end of the year. Today, Q.D. Tran of The Deli shares his favorite albums from non-Philadelphians.

OK, so here is my year-end list of top 5 favorite albums from non-Philly artists that I’m just getting in under the gun. I know. I should have chosen a more original topic like some of the other folks who were asked to contribute to The Key’s Year-end Mania, but since I spent most of my year focused on writing about Philly’s indie music scene, it actually was a lot of fun for me to think about and revisit other albums making the rounds internationally/nationally.

Why didn’t I just call it “My Top 5 Favorite Albums of 2012”? Well, because there was a rad local release that found it’s way into that list, and I didn’t want to give it away just yet. You can find the record sitting at the top of my list of “40 Favorite Philly Releases of 2012” HERE along with more fine works that came out of our beloved hometown this year. So without further ado, below is my top 5 list of non-Philly sounds that caught my attention in 2012. Keep in mind that these picks are obviously based more on my gut feelings than an exact science so nothing is finite and it’s all subject to change depending on my mood when I wake up. Cheers!

1. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light

How’d Spiritualized’s Sweet Heart Sweet Light make it to the top of my list? Well, when I first listened to the album, it didn’t really standout to me, but after revisiting the record while creating a “Best of 2012” list for Pulp Lab, I began to dig deeper into the LP and realize how timeless of an album that it actually is. The dichotomy of sadness and hope found in Sweet Heart Sweet Light is a beautiful uplifting contrast, and the fact that Jason Pierce was mixing the record while going through experimental chemotherapy treatment for a degenerative liver disease makes all the Jesus/God lines and death references combined with some psychedelic gospel rock ‘n’ roll more honest and meaningful to me. I can easily see myself coming back to this album throughout my life making it a classic in my book. Sweet Heart Sweet Light is by far Pierce’s finest release since Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating in Space.

2. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.a.a.d. city

You could probably interchange Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.a.a.d. city with Sweet Heart Sweet Light on this list. I think that I have multiple times already. With artists like Drake cornily making hip hop as he once said “for the ladies” and topping the mainstream charts while castrating the genre, this album is breath of fresh air. I was discussing good kid, m.a.a.d. city with Kurt Hunte from Plastic Little (who also likes Kendrick Lamar, but usually prefers an artist like Big Sean) at The Institute bar. He made a comment that Lamar’s music is “heady.” To which I responded, “That’s exactly why I like it.” good kid, m.a.a.d. city is a magnificent, thought-provoking album that is responsible for bringing back faith in the future of hip hop to me.

3. Grimes – Visions

With all the talk about Grimes starting right from the gate of this year, I’m sure that you’ve had your fill by now. However, love her or hate her – she made a great album full of fun, shadowy dance beats. And while some might not be able to get past her child-like vocals, I find them angelic and impressive. Though I admittedly probably wore the album out listening to it the first half of the year, Visions is still able to standout as I reflect on all the releases that I have come across in 2012.

4. Swans – The Seer

I love dark, weird, heavy, epic jams…HA!

5. DIIV – Oshin

Oshin, for me, is all about the gorgeous guitar tones and thick underlying bass. I often lose myself in them. It also doesn’t hurt that what is most likely my favorite song of the year, “Doused,” is on it.

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