2013 Calvin Awards: Best Album
By Kim Hollis
February 18, 2013
Our selection for Best Album won handily this year, receiving nearly double the points of the second place finisher. Jack White went to Nashville and came away with a solo debut in Blunderbuss that blew us away. He makes the most of his opportunity to go raw and the result is an eclectic record that features the soulful Memphis-style of "Love Interruption", the powerful and emotional "Sixteen Saltines", a rocking cover of "I'm Shakin'" (written by Rudy Toombs and originally recorded by Little Willie John) and even the hippy-sounding "Take Me With You When You Go". Taylor Swift and Adele might be getting all the attention for having done breakup albums recently, but with White's divorce recently finalized (not to mention the dissolution of The White Stripes), he could be added to that conversation.
This year's runner-up made headlines in 2012 when he published an open letter on his blog announcing he had fallen in love with someone of the same sex (which is notable since he works in a genre that has traditionally been homophobic), but by the end of the year, Frank Ocean's album channel Orange was making "Best Of" lists all across the board. Ocean channeled his feelings of unrequited love and longing into an album that paints a picture of contemporary Los Angeles while taking musical storytelling to a new level. He's going to be an exciting artist to watch in the coming years.
Indie folk has seen an explosion over the last few years, but The Avett Brothers have actually been at it since the late 1990s, with their first EP released in 2000. This past year brought them their biggest selling album ever in The Carpenter, and with Rick Rubin producing the band's second album in a row, they seem to have discovered a formula that works, good enough for third place amongst our voters. Before you assume that the Avetts can be easily categorized under that indie folk label, you might reconsider after giving The Carpenter a listen, as they shift from grunge to Beatles-esque sounds to doo-wop - all couched in the language of grief. I had the pleasure of seeing the band perform a couple of years ago after a baseball game, and their energy is simply astounding.
It's been five years since The Shins had a studio album, but they came back strong with Port of Morrow, a more polished and electronic album than what they had given us previously. This album was the first for the band since the departure of founding members Dave Hernandez (currently of Little Cuts), Marty Crandall (who was released from the band after legal difficulties) and Jesse Sandoval (now with The Minders), although all of those former players make an appearance. As always, James Mercer's songwriting is dreamy and bouncy, and we dare you to keep "Simple Song" out of your head for several hours after you listen to it.
We delve back into the realm of indie folk, but this time we're doing it Iceland style. Of Monsters and Men's My Head Is an Animal finishes in fifth place, thanks to its catchy tunes and earnest lyrics. It's all but guaranteed that you're going to sing along with the choruses of these infectious songs, with #1 alternative hit "Little Talks" being a particular standout (though by no means the only fantastic song on the album). My Head Is an Animal is effectively the band's first studio album, and we're thoroughly excited to see what their future will bring.