Last Minute Gift Guide :: Albums
Looking for a last minute stocking stuffer?
Staffers at EDGE came up with their choices for albums that satisfy that need. Here's a list of ten choices that our music mavens Jason St. Amand and Chris Sosa selected. You will likely find all of them at any major music retailer or online.
CeeLo Green - "CeeLo’s Magic Christmas"
Not since Mariah Carey first sang "All I Want for Christmas" has the holiday been so much fun. CeeLo’s eccentricity proves the best imaginable compliment to the season. Add in the best rendition to date of Mark Lowry’s mega-hit "Mary, Did You Know" and a collaboration with the Muppets on "All I Need Is Love," and listeners couldn’t ask for much more.
But CeeLo gives more anyhow, teaming with Christina Aguilera on "Baby, It’s Cold Outside" and offering his own soulful rendition of Mariah Carey’s iconic classic.
Grimes - "Visions"
Grimes, aka Clarie Boucher, was the "It" girl of 2012. Besides being featured in fashion’s most prestigious magazines (V, Vogue) the Canadian musician’s third LP, "Visions" was also hailed by music critics. With songs like "Oblivion" and "Genesis" it’s easy to see why she’s been one of the most talked about indie celebrities of the year.
Boucher, an electronic artist whose music has been described as "post-internet," draws inspiration from everyone from Mariah Carey to Skinny Puppy and puts their aesthetics in a blender and pops out songs that sound like "The Terminator" soundtrack set to a rave. Cuts like the elegantly creepy "Night Music" and the addicting "Be a Body" are perfect jams to ring in the (possible) end of the world.
Carly Rae Jepsen - "Kiss"
A respite from the mindless Pitbulls and Flo Ridas of the pop landscape came to us in the form of this spunky Canadian with a deliriously catchy summer track ("Call Me Maybe"). Almost too good to be true, Jepsen was perceived as a one-hit wonder before her first US album even dropped. She proved everyone wrong by creating the most fun pop album of the decade thus far, with instantly memorable hits ("Good Time," "This Kiss").
Expertly produced, 80s-synths combined with current electronic dance and pop-rock trends blend into a timeless and satisfying pop record filled to the brim with uplifting tracks.
Bruno Mars - "Unorthodox Jukebox"
Mars proves his canny ability to craft eclectic yet accessible pop tunes on this sophomore effort. The album is a wonderful genre-spanning collection of songs informed by artists from The Police ("Locked Out of Heaven") to Michael Jackson ("Treasure"). "Unorthodox Jukebox" is the first album since Prince’s "Dirty Mind" to prod sexual limits in such a satisfyingly creative way.
While the eyebrow raising lyrics are sure to alienate some early fans, those who appreciate Mars’ ability to construct groovy, cohesive multi-genre pop music will love this silky set.
Miguel - "Kaleidoscope Dream"
R&B singer Miguel took the reins for his sophomore LP, "Kaleidoscope Dream" as he had more creative control on the record’s sound and style. The musician’s vision and aesthetic shines through on the 11-track record from start to finish; opener "Adorn," one of the best songs of the year, is a slick and sleek R&B throwback jam that pops with a heavy bass and enthralling beats. "Use Me" is another standout, thanks to its vibrant electronic sounds, and ends with Miguel crooning lyrics from the Zombies’ 1969 hit "Time of the Season." "Do You," "The Thrill," and "Candles in the Sun" are also fantastic cuts that show off Miguel’s talent as a songwriter and producer.
Frank Ocean - "Channel Orange"
R&B superstar Frank Ocean had quite a year: After announcing his first love was with a man on Tumblr (a move that was lauded by peers and single handedly changed the way the R&B and rap industry treat the LGBT community) his debut album "Channel Orange" skyrocketed and became one of the most important about albums of 2012.
The complicated LP reveals the singer’s deepest emotions and struggles through an array of sexy and honest tracks. Highlight "Pyramids" deals with depression and drugs while the uplifting "Bad Religion" is a jam about a same-sex love affair. "Thinkin’ About You" showcases Ocean’s vocals and talents as a musician. "Channel Orange" is a must have and belongs in any music lover’s catalogue.
Stone Sour - "House of Gold & Bones Part 1"
Met with instant acclaim among rock critics, Stone Sour’s fourth album is a measured sonic assault that wrestles the metal reins from forerunners like Metallica and Megadeath while nodding to the grunge rock of Soundgarden.
From melodic onslaught ("RU486," "Absolute Zero") to tender emotional pull ("The Travellers"), this band has crafted an album that will be remembered in the annals of rock music as one of the genre’s most fulfilling offerings.
Taylor Swift - "Red"
Taylor Swift broke records with her fourth studio album "Red" and it’s easy to see why: The 23-year-old country singer changed up her sound to incorporate more pop, rock and even dubstep - a risky move that paid off as T Swift sold more than 1.89 million copies in its first three weeks. She’s already dominated the charts with the singles "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," "Begin Again" and her latest, "I Knew You Were Trouble."
On "Red," Swift is astounding on every level; her lyrics are stronger than ever (comparable to wordsmith Leonard Cohen) and the songstress throws down the gauntlet as a true artist. Up to this point Tay-Tay has been a country singer with pop roots but on "Red," she’s flipped the script and becomes a pop singer with country roots. Though "Red" is hardly Swift’s grown-up album, she does show maturity and a side that allows her to produce a number of songs that carry infectious hooks and moving messages.
Usher - "Looking 4 Myself"
Usher is easily the worthiest successor to male pop superstardom since the death of Michael Jackson. His seventh studio effort represents the most cohesive, interesting, and enjoyable record he’s ever released.
Smooth and confident, Usher’s sensual vocals navigate EDM ("Scream," "Euphoria"), soaring balladry ("Dive," "Climax"), classic R&B ("Twisted") and grimy hip-hop ("Lemme See") with effortless precision. This is an album with true staying power.
The xx - "Coexist"
The British trio’s subtle album "Coexist" follows their self-titled breakout debut that stopped music in its tracks. On their latest effort, the band goes for an even more stripped back sound than on their first. The lead single "Angels," finds singer Romy Madley Croft ethereally playing guitar and chanting in her stunning voice, which will undoubtedly pull at your heartstrings.
Almost every cut on "Coexist" is restrained to a beautiful notion and held back in a perfect way. Sounds are so scarce, a simple drum beat or guitar pluck makes you appreciate every note. The xx are masterminds when it comes to creating soundscapes and using empty space and it has never been more apparent than on the track "Missing." "Coexist" may seem empty, slight, thin and cold but at its core, it’s full of life, energy, passion and tension with some of the best production in modern music.