Sunday, December 30, 2012

My 20 Favorite Albums of 2012

So I have all my mixes in the mail, it's time to do this. Whenever the year comes to a close and I decide to do something like this I always remember Roger Ebert's idea about quantifying art into lists like this: well, I forget the actual quote but I will paraphrase: it's next to impossible and the list is bound to change as the year/years go by. (I refer you to my lengthy Honorable Mentions list)  I'll be saying pretty much the exact same thing when I do my movie one. That being said, I will say this: this is a list of MY favorite albums of the past year not the BEST albums or anything like that, just the ones that stuck with me the most. But I guess that sort of goes without saying.

20) Archie Powell and The Exports-Great Ideas In Action

Great Elvis Costello and the Attractions-esque power pop from Chicago.

19) Screaming Females - Ugly
Punchy indie rock and scratchy post punk forged in the basement shows of New Brunswick, NJ. Sounds like Dinosaur Jr. and Woods-era Sleater-Kinney had a baby.

18) Tame Impala - Lonerism
Sad bastard lyrics set to a joyous mix of British pop, sorta metal, and pinch of 70's psychedelia. If you have the chance to see these guys live they make a righteous noise.

17) Frightened Rabbit - State Hospital EP
Speaking of sad bastard music, the first of two Scottish representatives on this list, and neither of them are from Edinborough like I thought. This pretty much a stopgap release for their full length that is coming out in 2013. If this is any indication then it should be really good, they are on a major label and seem to be on a precipice of sorts. It's still sad, and it's still loud, and it's still really great.

16) The Twlight Sad - No One Can Even Know
And here's the other Scottish band...and coming from the same line of U.K. miserabilism as Frightened Rabbit. There seems to be something to the Scottish sound these days and The Twilight Sad follows suit: it's full and loud and but never quite as noisy as the first two albums, if that makes any sense.

15) El-P - Cancer For Cure
The ever controversial El-P: there seems to be quite a divide with him in that people really like him or really hate him without too much gray area. I happen to like both his rhymes and his production, and hence his spot on the list.

14) Nas - Life Is Good
This might be weird seeing that this Nas' eleventh(!) studio album, but to me it seems to be his most fully realized one in a long time, or at least the first in a while to resonate with me. It's interesting too, to look at this from the spectrum of Illmatic when he was young and hungry to now where he talks, without being corny, about his divorce and trying to raise a daughter in this world. It shouldn't be like this but it ends up working out perhaps way better than it should have. Nas steps into the next chapter in his life with crisp rhymes and tighter production and newish, grownup worldview.

13) Jack White - Blunderbuss
Jack White's solo debut has been written about a LOT this year so there's not much else to say except that Jack White who should have worn out his welcome a long time ago, keeps making really good music.

12) Divine Fits - A Thing Called The Divine Fits
Oooh! Indie rock supergroup with members of Spoon, Wolf Parade, and the New Bomb Turks (remember them?!) make a really good, really catchy album.

11) King Tuff - King Tuff
Vermont native makes an album of garage rock, distortion-heavy indie rock, that tries to channel glam rock and tries to bring people back to the age of T.Rex when people danced to guitar rock. Plus he sings songs about hanging out alone and getting stoned. Fun stuff.

10) Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky
You know, I get this rep that I don't like old people. Not true! It's just like anything else: depends on the person. J. Mascis just turned 47 this year and put out an album that rocks, and it's great. So, there you go.

9) White Rabbits - Milk Famous
This might be weird to notice but the White Rabbits have one of the best percussion...sections(?) I'm not sure what you call it, but when I saw them live they had more than one drummer with a bunch of different types of drums and man it sounded so great.

8) The Evens - The Odds
Speaking of old people, Ian MacKaye might be even older than J. Mascis, so there. That being said, Ian Mackaye and Amy Farina put out their best album yet of minimalist....I dunno, indie rock?

7) The Future Of The Left - The Plot Against Common Sense
The sarcastic, funny,  noisy band that is trying to fill in the void left by The Jesus Lizard.

6) Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
I am super glad that Frank Ocean has become the most successful member of the Odd Future crew because he deserves it. Soulful R&B delivered from outer space that sidesteps every major radio trend to create something truly unique in the neo-soul game.

5) Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
Killer Mike comes with his Southern-fried, anti-everything point-of-view and wall-of-sound production from El-P and it ends up working really well.

4) Action Bronson - Blue Chips
To me this is the better of the two mix tapes (I think here were just two) Action Bronson dropped in 2012. This is the one where the beats are tighter, and Bronson's rhymes are as good as they always are. It's always funny that someone that sounds like Ghostace and looks like me brings back some of that old-school NYC flavor. He's about to drop his major label debut and I can't be more excited for more from him.

3) ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Lost Songs
I'm not sure of Trail of Dead will ever again reach the rarified heights of Source Tags and Codes but this is the album that has come closest. I'll go out on a limb and say that it might be their best album since Source Tags. Maybe the lead singer should go off and live in Cambodia more often and then keep coming back to the States with albums this good and this strong.

2) Titus Andronicus - Local Business
Bearded Clash fans from New Jersey make an awesome and misanthropic noise.

1) Japandroids - Celebration Rock
These things always  take me by surprise, but I was surprised at how popular these guys became this year. Just two best friends from Vancouver making a big noise with an album that barely lasts 35 minutes. I mean I was surprised when I went to see them and they were sold out. Oh, If you ever have the chance to see them live I can't recommend it more highly, their live show is great, especially considering there is only two of them. It's fun to see and hear two BFF's rocking out. And to think they were close to calling it quits after their last album.

Honorable Mentions:

The Alchemist-Vodka & Ayahuasca
KA-Grief Pedigree
Men-Open Your Heart
Tragedy-Darker Days Ahead
The Coup-Sorry To Bother You
The XX-Coexist
Nude Beach-Nude Beach II
Royal Headache-Royal Headache
  Oddisee-People Hear What They See
Alabama Shakes-Boys and Girls
Himanshu-Nehru Jackets
Big Boi-Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors


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