With the second installation of our year end lists, I present to you my favorite albums of 2012! This year was a tremendous year for music. We got some great releases from hot new artists, reunited groups and a few maybe forgotten giants, just for good measure. I personally have been all over the place this year. From being obsessed with wildly aggressive punk-rap (Death Grips) to soothing gently stroking ambiance (Mirroring), from seriously ominous guitar sludge (Swans) to cute poppy bliss (Chairlift), I have been bouncing around so much I couldn’t even tell you my favorite genre of 2012. What I can tell you is how I perceive the sounds of the year and how I will remember it, best represented in my favorite albums of 2012…..
Special consideration needs to be given to the following artists/albums who will not be appearing on this list (but maybe deserve to):
Purity Ring – Shrines – Shrines is my debut record of the year. ‘Fineshrines’ alone warrants that award.
Swans – The Seer – Both the heaviest and most ambitious release of 2012. Deep, dark stuff, but what can you expect from such post-rock legends?
Kendrick Lamar – good kid, M.A.A.D. City – The best rap release this year. ‘Swimming Pools’ and ‘Backseat Freestyle’ are still on repeat.
Death Grips – Money Store – The most unique spin of 2012. Impossibly addicting and crazy aggressive. Is my new go-to listen for pre-soccer game rituals.
And now, in no particular order, my favorites:
Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
It had been 7 years since the last Fiona Apple release. Seven long, heartbreaking years. With, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, Fiona reminds us how easy it is to forget about great artists. Her absence has gone unnoticed to so many that this record almost came as a surprise. The release shouldn’t surprise any, but the quality should. Fiona’s talent is on staggering display throughout. Her bone-chilling vocals, her toe tapping piano strokes, her heart wrenching lyrics and her never ending whit, blend to create the most spinnable record of the year. Time and time again I have started my day with a heaping bowl of Fiona. ‘Every Single Night’ is one of the better pop singles in years, ‘Hot Knife’ maybe the most creative display of looping I’ve ever heard, and ‘Daredevil’ delivers chills not found anywhere else, by anyone. Thank you Fiona, thank you.
Dum Dum Girls – End of Daze
I have about decided that my favorite genre is this whole female-fronted, lo-fi, garage-rock, punk-pop sound floating around. Bands like Vivian Girls, La Sera, and The Babies never fail to bring a smile to my face. Sitting atop this genre pyramid are Dum Dum Girls. With each successive release these ladies grow by leaps and bounds. If last year’s ‘Only in Dreams’ gave a taste of front woman Dee-Dee’s budding vocal confidence, ‘End of Daze‘ is the whole cake. This is the first release where I really feel that Dum Dum girls have exceeded what Vivian Girls accomplished years ago. Songs like the title track, ‘End of Daze’, highlight the group’s strengths, simple structure, powerful harmonies, and fuzz clashy drums. I usually mind a more polished sound, in this case, I adore it.
Grizzly Bear – Shields
At this point Grizzly Bear are giants. Any news of a new single, tour, or heaven forbid an album, bring so much hype and lust and want that the group is put upon such a pedestal it is surprising they are able to achieve anything at all. Luckily for them (and us) they are tremendous musicians, every song of their newest masterpiece, Shields , is proof of that. Singles, ‘Sleeping Ute’ and ‘Yet Again’, give us perfectly catchy, light and airy ditties perfect for mixtapes and parties alike. ‘Speak in Round’ offers up some classic Grizzly Bear yearning, while ‘The Hunt’ recalls Yellow House days gone by, with disjointed strums and haunting vocals. Each track has an attitude all its own so every time I listen I hear different pieces that catch me off guard. ‘Sun in Your Eyes’ is the best piece of music released this year. I can’t give praise any higher than that.
Japandriods – Celebration Rock
There aren’t many rock bands left, they are a dying breed. When we get a band that embodies our own hopes and dreams to become rock stars, we hold them close. Such is the case with the beloved Japandroids. These dudes ooze cool. They play with passion, scream with fury, shred with purpose and smile every step of the way. ‘Celebration Rock‘ is my feel good record of the year. Spin this record and try not to think of your best friends, of glorious highs and suffocating lows. Japandroids have hit on a vein here that is impossible to dislike. Both accessible and deep, ‘Celebration Rock‘ is the duo’s peak so far.
Laurel Halo – Quarantine
My surprise album of the year. Laurel Halo completely ambushed me with this gorgeous release full of swimmy synths, siren vocals, and deep, deep wonder. Every spin brings forth more layers and more intrigue. From the second you lay eyes on the wicked album art, you can’t help but be captivated. What Laurel has done is created a perfect base for her to grow off of. She has the looping, layering, haunting down, with those as a constants, there is no telling where else she can take her music. She can go a little pop like Grimes, or ambient like Grouper. Either way I’m in love.
PS. This year’s award for biggest crush for no particular reason goes to Laurel as well.
Chromatics – Kill For Love
Oh Johnny Jewel, do you ever take a misstep? Chromatics are the shiniest star in the glimmering indie dance-pop universe right now, and for good reason. Chromatics have mastered their craft. With Kill For Love Johnny Jewel and friends have put together a sprawling, grower. Songs like ‘The River’ drift in and out of consciousness displaying Johnny’s love of spacey, instrumental type tracks, while ‘Candy’ gives us the groups straight forward power-pop side. ‘Kill For Love’ draws from mid-70′s radio, while ‘Into the Black’ is a freaking Neil Young cover done by a dance act(?!). Chromatics show an incredible amount of range with this, their strongest, release to date. Put on ‘The Streets Will Never Look The Same’ and try not to bob along. Really gorgeous stuff.
Grimes – Visions
I struggle to find words of praise strong enough for what Claire Boucher has done this year. Under the Grimes moniker she has produced some of the year’s best shows, collaborations, songs and here, with Visions, album. Whats more is she did it her way. Not once has Claire submitted to demands of those who see her (obvious) marketability. Visions symbolizes a new movement in indie-pop, a do-it-yourself, in you own bedroom, while learning the instruments movement. I cannot stress how special this release is to me. ‘Oblivion’ is a gem of single, perfectly displaying Claire’s darker side, ‘Genesis’ is the ultimate live dance track, ‘Be a Body’ shows her rising confidence in her vocal strength, (how about those high notes?!), and ‘Nightmusic’ proves Claire’s confidence in her Montreal buddies (in this case Majical Cloudz) is well founded. Every song is stellar, every second is memorable.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend, Ascend!
Godspeed’s reunited masterpiece, either proof that god exists, or proof that he doesn’t. I haven’t yet decided.
I would love to hear what you guys think! Thanks for reading, have an awesome weekend!