So, it’s that time of year again, where every music blog on the planet starts publishing their best-of lists for the year. I won’t even pretend to be qualified to talk intelligently about music, or to be a legitimate music blog of any kind, but I like rambling about music and I’d rather do that than deal with pre-op shenanigans anymore, so!
Ten favorite albums of 2012, in no meaningful order. Venture forth, listen, and agree with me, or I’ll kick you in the head because you’re wrong.
Purity Ring – Shrines
I love these crazy Canadian kids in a way that I don’t think you really understand. Not only did they manage to fully capture my heart with their sound and put together what could easily be considered one of my favorite songs of the last year— and, in the process, make me fully re-evaluate a long-standing assumption that slick sounds just weren’t for me— but they also put on one of my favorite concerts of the year.
Bonnie Raitt – Slipstream
Bonnie Raitt was a staple of my childhood. Nick of Time was put on during family dinners at least once a month, and I had no idea what to expect with the release of Slipstream; I was wary, to say the least, as I always am with albums by artists I love, but I was hardly let down. The woman hasn’t lost an ounce of her talent, and Slipstream pulls back to everything I loved about listening to her as a kid, with a little more rollick and a little more wisdom.
Gold Motel – Gold Motel
I don’t think I really conveyed how much I enjoyed this album, but let it be known that I really, really loved it. It dropped in the middle of summer, when I was drowning in days that consisted of ten hour of class and nine hours of studying, and then this burst in, all rollicking bass lines and chill energy and, well…I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it through those nineteen hour days without it. Or this last semester, which was even more exhausting than the summer: since August, the playcounts on most every track on this album have skyrocketed.
Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks
Technically, this was first released in 2011, but given that that was in Iceland, I’m giving myself a pass to include it in 2012 since it wasn’t released in the US until then.
What is there to say about this band? I can’t really define their sound. In a lot of ways, I’ve always had this weird impulse to consider them an effortless personification of the quirky-hipster sound the Edward Sharpe, et al tries a little too hard to achieve (not a slight against the Magnetic Zeroes….I adore them, they just feel like they try a little too hard for my tastes sometimes). Little Talks— both the album and the song— came out of nowhere and hooked me into obsession by the time I’d hit the second chorus in the first listen.
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
I didn’t flail a lot on my blog about Frank Ocean this year, because the rest of the internet was flailing appropriately— and more intelligently and more eloquently— about him already. However, I’ve been in love with his voice since I first heard it on Watch The Throne, and Channel Orange cemented my adoration for him. Even if he hadn’t had the brilliant courage to come out as publicly as he did, at such a critical time for him, I still would have loved Channel Orange. It’s an outstanding album that’s become one of my defaults to drive or study to since this summer— and I’m grad school, so all I do is study— and frankly (ha! pun!) if you don’t like it, we probably can’t be friends.
The Weeknd – Trilogy
He’s brilliant. Echoes of Silence and House of Balloons totally caught me off guard, and then when Trilogy was about to drop this year, I figured there was no way the magic could be replicated, but that just goes to show how much I know.
Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man
I can’t really explain how— or how much— I adore Bat for Lashes. I’ve always, always had a very particular and unquantifiable love for piano-based singer/songwriters with lovely voices, and Natasha Khan satisfies everything about that, but it’s something else. Two Suns is one of my absolute favorite albums of the last ten years, but it’s not one I’ve ever really been able to explain or talk about. It’s an emotional wrecking ball of an album, one that I will always associate with graduating from college and all the accordant confusion that came with the feeling that I should be adult and having no idea how to actuallybeone.
I read a review of The Haunted Man that explained a similar love for Two Suns and a disappointment that this third album didn’t live up to Two Suns and the way almost every track on it was a punch to the gut that you couldn’t help but repeatedly present yourself for, that a lack of such emotional devastation is a shortcoming that leaves this album a faint shadow of its predecessor. I, however, have to disagree. No, this album doesn’t have that kick-to-the-throat rawness to it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as good. Musically, I love this album, and it sweeps into the emotionally devastating territory sporadically and without warning, making the kick almost more effective— if you don’t think Laura is one of the saddest songs of 2012, then frankly, you’re kind of an idiot with the emotional range of a teaspoon, if I may quote Hermione Granger.
Lost Lander – DRRT
These guys completely and totally caught me off guard. They barely made it onto my blog this year, but first there was Cold Feet, and then there was Afraid of Summer, and suddenly I had the whole album and was looping Belly of the Bird/Valentinalike a crazy person. There’s a little bit of quirky and a whole lot of fun in their sound, and I couldn’t being to tell you how many times I listened to the entire album when I was driving across the country this summer.
Sigur Rós – Valtari
I have a long-standing obsession with this group (and with their frontman’s ridiculous voice and solo work). I was introduced to their music probably almost ten years ago, and never looked back. Valtari succeeded admirably in solidifying that obsession. Just like their other albums, it’s filled to bursting with rich sounds and creativity and subtlety, everything that I’ve ever loved about their music.
The Lumineers – The Lumineers
If you don’t like these kids, we probably can’t be friends. There’s nothing not to like about them. They’re fun and great and fantastic live. They took the sound that Mumford & Sons rejuvenated and put an Americana spin on it, and no one’s capitalized on the Mumfordization of music more brilliantly than them.
Honorable Mentions and EPs
Metric - Synthetica
So close to being on the actual list…this album was much better than I expected, but I also had significantly lowered my expectations of them following Fantasies— also a solid album, but just…not as good as their first two, or Emily Haines’ solo work. Synthetica was super enjoyable and The Wanderlustwould be a contender for a spot on any favorite songs of 2012 list I made, but the album itself just felt a little lacking at times.
Garbage - Not Your Kind of People
If Bonnie Raitt was a staple of my childhood, then Garbage was a staple of everything from the seventh grade to the twelfth. While this album didn’t resonate with me nearly as much as Bleed Like Me or Version 2.0 did, it was still a solid piece from start to finish that really, really grew on me throughout the year.
Dragonette - Bodyparts
My first thought listening to Bodyparts straight through was that Tegan and Sara had finally given in and made a full-on dance-pop album. It’s fun, it’s good bright sound and good to run to. A masterpiece of musical composition? Hardly. But plenty good enough to get a lot of play on my iPod this year.
The Raveonettes - Observator
Really, given that their last album was a work of genius, these kids didn’t really stand a chance of topping it. Raven In The Grave is everything I’ve ever loved about the Raveonettes, and Observator is a solid collection of solid songs, but it lacks even a single standout track like Ignite or Apparitions.
AC Newman - Shut Down The Streets
I will forever love Carl Newman. I generally prefer him when he’s collaborating with Neko Case and Dan Bejar and Kathryn Calder for the New Pornographers— and his best work on this album comes with spot appearances by some of them— but his solo work is always formidable.
Fun. - Some Nights
This album was…not remotely what I was expecting for their sophomore effort. Their debut was this quirky, odd, fantastic conglomeration of joyful noise and unapologetically awkward instrumentation. Then We Are Young dropped in October with a little more angst, a little less raucous, and a lot more maturity, and I went from “oh, a second album could be neat” to unabashed excitement and anticipation. It sometimes gets a little too auto-tune happy (though some lovely human being removed it from the titular track and took it from really good straight on up to outstanding in the process), but from start to ending bonus track, it’s a blast to listen to and, by now, has an almost embarrassingly high play count in my iTunes.
Frightened Rabbit - State Hospital EP
Frightened Rabbit is forever one of my favorite bands. Pedestrian Verse is sure to be genius, and this EP is terrific.
Ke$ha - Deconstructed EP
If you haven’t figured out yet that I have an odd fascination with Ke$ha and her apparent determination to hide her own talent behind autotune and trash-pop hooks, then you clearly haven’t been paying attention.
Imagine Dragons - Continued Silence EP
I heard Radioactivefirst, but it was Demons that got me hooked. Then I saw them live, and as soon as they played It’s Time, I was a goner. Their album wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, but this EP? Fantastic.
Haim -Forever EP
God knows where these kids came from, but I was super late in the game in jumping on their bandwagon. Regardless of the eleventh-hour discovery, though, their we-defy-genre-and-fuck-you-for-trying-to-define-it sound is undeniably engaging and exceptional. Don’t Save Me, which isn’t on this EP, is the song that most people I’ve spoken to know by them, but this too-brief EP is, to me, a more vivid and expansive exposition of their sound.