Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Best Of 2012: #1

#1 - Muse - The 2nd Law

And there it is. My absolute favourite album of 2012 - step up, Muse. Producing the only album that I consider to be flawless this year, Muse have really outdone themselves with their sixth record. Whilst fans of the older stuff will probably be turned away again (although riffs are back in full force), the album is just so so good. Each song takes on a different style and sound, so I guess the only way to sum up the album is to go through them all!

Supremacy is a blend of epic riff-heavy Muse and orchestral soundscape masters Muse; starting the album off with a bang (or at least, a big guitar) - it's been said a billion times, but could totally have been a Bond track. Track two, Madness, is probably the biggest departure from the band's established sound there has ever been - but it's amazing! Is there no genre the band can't turn their hand to? The last minute and a half is particularly impressive. This is then followed up by Panic Station, a funk track, which weighs in at only three minutes, but is likely to become a Muse classic.

The album then shifts off to a one-minute prelude to Survival (titled Prelude, inventively) which shows off the band's orchestral side (at least their writing of orchestral music), and then launches into their Olympics track Survival, with its rather simple lyrics but monstrous riffs. That then leaves you a bit stunned, before things appear to calm down with Follow Me. Starting with Matt Bellamy's son's heartbeat, and then strings and vocals guide you slowly through the opening part of the song, slowly building little pieces on top, but remains fairly basic, until - DROP! The song switches into full-on electronic music for the second chorus, and comes out of nowhere, yet it is absolutely brilliant! The song then continues in that vein until the end.

Animals is up next, and is another song likely to please older Muse fans, with its guitar riffs here, there, everywhere. Whilst it sounds like quite a calm song, the lyrics are filled with anger (although the vocals don't show this) - just see 'kill yourself, come on and do us all a favour' for the evidence! It then all comes to a huge, cataclysmic ending, before giving way to the sound of Wall Street traders getting excited over... something. Explorers follows it up as one of the more beautiful tracks, and the longest one on offer here at just under six minutes. Critics that say that Muse just copy Queen these days will have a field day on this song, but who really cares when it's an amazing song that takes you on an incredible journey? The ninth track, then, is Big Freeze, and now the critics that say that Muse just copy U2 will have their turn now. But again, who cares? It's a massive track! Just listen to Dominic Howard's epic drumming in the chorus and Matt Bellamy's fantastic guitar work and epic (as always) vocals. Believe it or not, after this song, there are four more, but Matt never sings another lyric (he gets to wail on one song)...

...And this is because the next two tracks are bassist Chris Wolstenholme's. Save Me is an atmospheric and beautiful debut track for him; whilst Liquid State might be the heaviest thing on the album; straightforward epic rock. It's very hard to call the first of those tracks the weakest on the album, because it is still amazing, but I have to call one of them that! The songs deal with the new singer's alcoholism, and you get the feeling that both of them are fully meant, even if you don't get Bellamy's crazy vocal range. But you don't really need range when Liquid State's chorus is just going to go off live. Actually, the whole song will go off live.

And so we come to the penultimate tracks, which are the title tracks. The 2nd Law: Unsustainable is the first of these. It scared all the avid Muse fans back in June when it was put out as a teaser, because it is the now famous 'Muse-does-dubstep' track. And indeed, only Muse could combine such epic strings, a newsreader talking about the second law of thermodynamics, a robotic voice singing 'unsustainable', some dubstep made with guitar, drums and bass, and even manage to fit in the previously mentioned Matt Bellamy wail. All in the space of four minutes. And somehow, it works fantastically. But then it ends, and finally we have reached the end of our bonkers journey with the other '2nd Law' track, titled Isolated System. This one is a complete contrast to its predecessor. They share a title because the newsreader gets re-used and the themes are the same. There are no lyrics, just haunting, beautiful piano work, slowly adding pieces every thirty seconds, before taking it all away, then building up again... and just as you expect an explosion, it stops, and fades out with the newsreader going 'isolated system' before it all ends leaving you with chills.

So, out of all 25 albums I've put on this list, only this one I felt required a full song breakdown, because out of all thirteen tracks, there are almost no similarities between them. If you're looking for a coherent album, don't come anywhere near here. If you're looking for an absolutely perfect album which shows off billions of different styles and ideas, created by musicians that are completely worthy of the term 'artists', and songs that will make crowds go wild live, then your search is over. The 2nd Law is genuinely a full 5-star album.

RECOMMEND: Madness, Follow Me, The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
LOW POINTS: Animals, Save Me

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