First, I'd like to address Swing Lo Magellan by Dirty Projectors and Gossamer byPassion Pit, two albums that are making a lot of lists this time of year. It's not that I don't like either record, but I just haven't had the time with them I think that I need to truly call them favorites. Next, I'd like to recognized Onwards to the Wall by A Place to Bury Strangers. I loved this EP, but I didn't like the ensuing LP, Worship, nearly as much. Finally, there's Best Coast's second effort The Only Place. I kind of get the feeling they are turning out to be a one trick pony. This is a perfectly fun and good record, but it just didn't quite make the grade this year.
Now, with that out of the way, on to my favorite 25 albums of 2012.
25. Women & Work – Lucero
24. The Haunted Man – Bat for Lashes
I get the sense that on this album that we are seeing more of the real Natasha Khan as an artist and less of the persona that is Bat for Lashes. Perhaps that is why I didn't fall so much for the hype of her last album (or two). What I see here is an artist finding her true voice, maybe for the first time.
23. My Head is an Animal – Of Monsters and Men
22. Lonerism – Tame Impala
21. Sun – Cat Power
20. Silver Age – Bob Mould
19. Tramp – Sharon Van Etten
Who knew adding a bit of an edge would benefit Sharon Van Etten so much. I've heard her previous work, but for the most part, it lurked as background music for me. By adding a bit more emphasis to the plugged-in guitar (based on the sound, not necessarily the actual equipment), her music definitely pushed forward into my consciousness and made me stand up and pay attention. "Serpents" should be on everyone's song of the year list.
18. A Thing Called Divine Fits – Divine Fits
Supergroup sighting alert! I had no idea how Britt Daniel's metronomic approach to song writing would mesh with Dan Boeckner's more raucous style. It turns out it works very well, balancing Daniel's always and sometimes too polished B+ material with a Boeckner's OK to awesome material. I was prepared to hate this record because recent Spoon releases have left me a little cold (too much of the same) and because I was lamenting the demise of Handsome Furs perhaps a little too much. Suffice it to say, I didn't hate it.
17. Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now – Justin Townes Earle
16. Boys & Girls – Alabama Shakes
Sort of the same story as the last one genre-wise, but jeebus, what a voice and what energy! These guys seemingly came from nowhere, and even thought I don't listen to them that often, I can't deny quality. And they perfectly suit certain moods.
15. Reign of Terror – Sleigh Bells
When this album came out early in the year, I thought it was a dead-on lock for the top five. Obviously, a lot has changed. A bunch of albums on this list came out in the latter half of the year (or I acquired them then). Whatever the position, this album is chock full of rollicking fun. Their appearance on No Reservations certainly helps their case in many ways too.
14. Bloom – Beach House
For my Baltimore peeps. This solid follow-up to 2010's Teen Dream mines the same vein. Right from the start with "Myth", you know you are in familiar territory. This song has been in pretty much constant rotation on XMU since it came it out, and you know what? I never get tired of it.
13. Fear Fun – Father John Misty
I had no idea what to expect from this one from former member of Fleet Foxes J. Tillman. I suppose I expected more of the same that I got from that band. While the strengths of Fleet Foxes remain, Father John Misty has a way of bringing extra urgency, especially on tracks such as "Hollywood Cemetery Forever Sings." The melody is there even as the harmony is largely absent.
12. Something – Chairlift
11. Open Your Heart – The Men
10. Sweet Heart Sweet Light – Spiritualized
And no, this is not to appease Erik Jones (hat tip though).
9. 2:54 – 2:54
8. Oshin – DIIV
7. Interstellar – Frankie Rose
Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls (see last year's list), and the Vivian Girls, should have given me a hint how much I would like it. This is definitely the most mellow album at this end of my list, though the title track may lead you to think otherwise. I especially like how she employs her voice as another instrument in places. I know pedants would tell me that the voice is always an instrument, but you get the idea.
6. Shields – Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear are getting dangerously close to Spiritualized territory (see above). That said, Shields may be their most satisfying album to date. And that's saying something for the follow up to Vecktamist number 2 on my 2009 list). Its late release date, however, worked against it, as Grizzly Bear's albums only get better with every listen. When I revisit this list next year, this is a prime candidate to move even further up on any revised lists.
5. Django Django – Django Django
4. Local Business – Titus Andronicus
3. Celebration Rock – Japandroids
2. Heaven – The Walkmen
1. Attack on Memory – Cloud Nothings