The first thing I heard in 2012 that left an impact on me was The Maccabee's Given To The Wild. Originally released in the UK in early January, the album saw a U.S. release in April and never relinquished its hold on me the entire year. Given To The Wild places at #2 on my Best Albums of 2012. My original review is below.
Favorite tracks: "Feel To Follow", "Forever I've Known", "Unknow", "Grew Up At Midnight"
Self described as cinematic in nature, Given To The Wild tantalizes both with its moments of shimmering beauty, and there are many, and its grandiose walls of sound. The Maccabees never miss a beat, knowing when to exhibit restraint and when to turn on the jets and go full bore without going over the top. It's dramatic, orchestral, melodic rock at its finest.
After a brief intro, the album kicks into gear with the somber guitar lines of "Child". What starts out sounding as a standard medium tempo ballad is given life with a horn section joining in throughout the song which bursts into a joyous final 90 seconds. This leads into one of the album's top tracks, "Feel To Follow" which exemplifies the mastery at work here. There's a swooning chorus of "oohs" and a quiet breakdown before a soaring post-rock conclusion. It's the first of many stunning tracks.
Producer Tim Goldsworthy, best known for his work with UNKLE, definitely makes his mark on the album as electronic flourishes are added to The Maccabees guitar based rock sound. "Ayla" has fluttering piano and keyboard lines running underneath the song, "Went Away" relies heavy on keyboards and "Go" has a stuttering beat behind it's bursts of guitars and keys. "Heave" is awash with ethereal harmonics.
At the center of the album is another of its highlights, "Forever I've Known". Starting out slow and simmering, the song alternates between picking up steam and soft moments but when it kicks back in after lead singer Orlando Weeks pleads "Can we still try" repeatedly, it punches you in the gut with an urgent guitar line by Hugo White made to plant itself in your skull and live there. It's a monumentally grand rock song.
Given To The Wild is unstoppable all the way to the end and closes with a trio of its most beautiful songs. "Unknow" is a dark, icy rocker with angelic vocals that offset the driving moodiness of the music. "Slowly One" is a gentle acoustic number for its first half before heading into an electrified conclusion. Album closer "Grew Up At Midnight" is a tender ballad that culminates with a majestic explosion of chanted vocals, pounding drums, flourishing piano and guitars. It is truly as I described earlier a wall of sound and then suddenly, just when you think it is about to reach over the top proportions, it all just drops out, closing the song with simple, echoed guitar notes just as it started. It's a jaw dropping conclusion to a magnificent album.
I can only hope Given To The Wild will eventually see a U.S. release. There has been talk of American tour dates later in the year, so there is reason to be optimistic. But with an album this impeccably good, it's worth every penny to import and get in your hands right away. The Maccabees have produced a masterpiece. I can't recommend this highly enough.
Given To The Wild was first released in the U.K. January 9, 2012 on Fiction Records, then released in the U.S. January 24, 2012.