Monday, December 31, 2012

My Favorite Albums of 2012

Hello New Year's Eve! You know what that means: list time! As usual, I've put together a list of my favorite albums of the year. This is not meant to list the best albums of 2012 because I can't listen to everything. This is merely the list of the 25 albums I enjoyed the most this year. But first, there are a few albums I'd like to mention, even though they didn't quite make the list for one reason on another.

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
Lucero aren't the most sophisticated band in the world. But that is definitely not a bad thing. They do one thing and they do it well. They serve up straightforward blues-driven southern fried rock and roll as befits a band that celebrates its hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, which is kind of the whole point of this album. This is certainly their best effort since 2006's Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers, if not their best yet.



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
This Icelandic band first caught my attention last year with their outstanding EP Into the Woods. In fact, "Little Talks" easily made it into my list of songs of the year, even though the EP was too short to consider for inclusion in my albums list. They've definitely followed through on the promise that the EP hinted at. Many would group their sound with that of Mumford and Sons, but Babel bored me. This album did not.



22. Lonerism Tame Impala 
T-Rex anyone? At least that's what immediately sprung to mind upon first listening to this record--especially on the track "Elephant." I really shouldn't like this album based on my well known musical tastes, but, you know what, I do. Whether or not it is in my wheelhouse, this is a great driving album, and I mean that in the windows-down, music-too-loud sort of way.




21. Sun Cat Power
Where have you been Chan Marshall? Her recent non-cover records have been released and quietly faded into obscurity, at least in my mind. I haven't really even noted their existence since 2006, when she released The Greatest (and I can't remember if that made my list or even if I even did lists then). Sun is definitely a departure from the blues-influenced Cat Power that I remember fondly, but this pop direction definitely suits her.




20. Silver Age Bob Mould
I don't know if the title Silver Age is play on Bob Mould's age, and I don't really care. My only care is that Bob Mould keeps going. I hear echoes of every era in his career in this album, and that is definitely a great thing.Can anyone tell me that the track "Silver Age" wouldn't sound at home on any of his best albums over the years? I would guess this album will grow in my mind as I listen to it more, but I only procured it near the end of the year. 



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
Anytime Justine Townes Earle puts out a new album, it seems like it's automatically under consideration for this list. I know that many of you are probably not fans of this particular genre as I skew indie in my taste, but indie country ain't bad either. Give this one a listen and you'll see why. Now, I'm just waiting on his dad's next effort.






16. Boys & GirlsAlabama 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 TerrorSleigh 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. BloomBeach 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 FunFather 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. SomethingChairlift
I'm not usually one for heavily electronic influenced music, but sometimes the exception must be made. It's not often that an album has two songs, much less three, that could be candidates for my song of the year ("I Belong in Your Arms," "Sidewalk Safari," and "Take It Out On Me"). And while none of them may take that title for me, three make inclusion on this list inevitable.




11. Open Your Heart  – The Men
Now we're to our first entry in the "where did the hell did they come from" list. I'd never heard of this band until I heard the title track on the radio (the track is awesome by the way). Tracks from this album my be the least-skipped of any album on this list save for the top five. 'Nuff said.






10. Sweet Heart Sweet LightSpiritualized
Spiritualized put on an album. It's remotely consistent with the earlier albums. It makes this list. Q.E.D.

And no, this is not to appease Erik Jones (hat tip though).







9. 2:542:54
The second entry in the "where the hell did they come from" short list. This young, English duo named their band after their favorite moment from a Melvin's song, so what's not to like. They have that pedigree. Full of minor chords and muted drums, this album suits the day I'm writing this perfectly (it's raining).






8. OshinDIIV
This is for me, in many ways, a very nostalgic album. It incorporates so many of the sounds of the bands I listened to in my formative years, but it does so in such a way as to not to seem retro or obviously derivative.








7. InterstellarFrankie Rose
This album really surprised me as well. Although her stints with

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. ShieldsGrizzly 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 DjangoDjango Django
This is the final entry in the "where the hell did they come from" portion of this year's list. I first noticed them when I heard "Default" on the radio, and that ear-worm is a strong candidate for song of the year. The fun doesn't end there though. This album is strong from beginning to end. Although it was released last January, it took a long time for it to find its way into my hands, but I'm glad it finally did.



4. Local BusinessTitus Andronicus
In some ways, this album was a bit of a letdown. But wait, you ask, how can it rank so highly then? This is more of a statement about the band's previous record, The Monitor, which was transcendent. Local Business is just a damn good, straight-shooting rock and roll record, and I can't fault them for being so good before. So in the cold light of day, this album does stand on its own (but that didn't stop me from happily revisiting their earlier work).



3. Celebration RockJapandroids
Speaking of straight-shooting rock and roll, now we have Japandroids. I read somewhere that they were close to breaking up before they made this album. I'm certainly happy they reconsidered and provided me with the anthems I've enjoyed so much over the last six months. I can't imagine this year without "The House That Heaven Built" or "Adrenaline Nightshift."




2. HeavenThe Walkmen
The Walkmen rarely disappoint. That said, I think this album is their best effort in years and that "Heartbreaker" may be their best song since "The Rat." And there you have it too--my favorite song of the year. Add that to a consistent quality from start to finish, it earned it's spot on this list. Any other year, it would come in at the top spot, but that honor is reserved for another album.





1. Attack on MemoryCloud Nothings
Even though I initially and erroneously thought Cloud Nothings were from Canada instead of Cleveland [Ed. note: so there, Andy], I can maybe explain why. There's been so much music on these lists over they years from Canada, I may have just assumed something so good would share that distinction. But no. I can hear Cleveland all over this album now. Put shortly, I loved every note on this album from start to finish. As the tempo and urgency ebbed and flowed, I went along happily for the ride. Even though it's only a brief eight tracks (which seems to be a theme this year), I can't for the life of me pick one above any of the others.

1 comment:

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