• Category Archives Top 50 Albums of 2012
  • Top 50 Albums of 2012: 41-50

    50.  CRYSTAL CASTLES- III

    Crystal cAstles_III

    Buy (III) – Crystal Castles
    Buy (III)Amazon

    Punk rock as gothed-up synth pop.  The Castles release their third album at the height of EDM (electronic dance music) and are bleaker and weirder than ever.  The synth licks are catchy at their root but the spooky, filtered vocals sound like a foreign language and help create dramatic tension that makes this the perfect mood music for the end of the world.

    Buy Plague – (III)
    Buy PlagueAmazon

    Buy Sad Eyes – (III)
    Buy Sad EyesAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    49.  EL-P- CANCER FOR CURE
    El-P_Cancer For Cure

    Buy Cancer 4 Cure – EL-P
    Buy Cancer 4 Cure [Explicit]Amazon

    El-P, former head honcho of Def Jux Records, delivers probably his best of three solo records so far. “Cancer For Cure” also contains one of the rap singles of the year in “The Full Retard” (a play on a joke from the movie “Tropic Thunder”). El-P is one of the most influential and best producers of the rap underground (or mainstream for that matter). Like his previous albums, “Cancer For Cure” stays tense and paranoid throughout but
    El-P edits the music down better this time leaving a more satisfying listen. He teemed with fellow underground star Killer Mike to produce the even better “R.A.P. Music”, which dropped the exact same month. 2012 was El-P’s best year in a long while.

    Buy The Full Retard – Cancer 4 Cure
    Buy The Full Retard [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy &Drones Over Bklyn – Cancer 4 Cure
    Buy Drones Over Bklyn [Explicit]Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    48.  SHARON VAN ETTEN- TRAMP
    Sharon Van Etten_Tramp

    Buy Tramp – Sharon Van Etten
    Buy Tramp [+Digital Booklet]Amazon

    “Tramp” is a classic breakup album but one where the protagonist ultimately ended up better off, getting out of relationship where she was unappreciated, demeaned and borderline abused. Her third and most high profile album, produced by fellow Brooklynite Aaron Dessner of the National and also including famous friends like Zach Condon of Beirut and singer Julia Holter. Though the album lags a bit in the middle standout tracks like “Serpents”, “Give Up” and “We Are Fine” rise far above any mediocrity and brings to mind other balls out, confessional female singer-songwriters like Cat Power, PJ Harvey & Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses.

    Buy Give Out – Tramp
    Buy Give OutAmazon

    Buy Serpents – Tramp
    Buy SerpentsAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    47.  THE XX- COEXIST
    The XX_Coexist

    Buy Coexist – The xx
    Buy CoexistAmazon

    009 was a big year for indie-rock. Instant classics were released by Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors & Grizzly Bear but the surprise of the year was the xx, who came out of nowhere to release their now classic self-titled debut. “Coexist” has disappointed many people this year, and to be fair it does sound like a more minor companion piece to the debut, but ultimately I’d say the group has successfully avoided the sophomore jinx. Tracks like “Angels”, “Tides” and especially “Unchained” are some of the group’s best so far, and there are no true duds on the album. There are less hooks and the overall tone is more hushed and even more minimalist. Despite the backlash I believe this is an album whose quality will reveal itself in the long run when its allowed to stand out from under the shadow of their debut.

    Buy Chained – Coexist
    Buy Chained

    Buy Angels – Coexist
    Buy AngelsAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    46.  TANLINES- MIXED EMOTIONS
    Tanlines_Mixed Emotions

    Buy Mixed Emotions (Bonus Track Version) – Tanlines
    Buy Mixed Emotions (Amazon Exclusive Version)Amazon

    Tanlines are a bit of a darkhorse for me this year. They come a little bit later to the crowd and come out with a very nice mixture of Balearic pop and chillwave a couple of years too late. For that reason they stand mostly alone rather than lumped together with other bands in a scene, but “Mixed Emotions” is pure fun. The music is light & airy, both club ready and radio ready. If anything stops the albums is its lack of a true anthem but catchy tracks like “All Of Me”, “Rain Delay” and “Brothers” allow Tanlines to fit right in between modern day dance pop groups like Cut Copy and Tough Alliance and more chilled out, atmospheric bands like Toro Y Moi & Washed Out.

    Buy All of Me – Mixed Emotions (Bonus Track Version)
    Buy All Of MeAmazon

    Buy Rain Delay – Mixed Emotions (Bonus Track Version)
    Buy Rain DelayAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    45.  PERFUME GENIUS- PUT YOUR BACK N2 IT

    Perfume Genius_Put Your Back N2 It

    Buy Put Your Back N 2 It (Bonus Track Version) – Perfume Genius
    Buy Put Your Back N 2 It (Amazon Exclusive Version)Amazon

    The 2nd album by Perfume Genius, the stage name for Michael Hadreas, a gay, early 30-something from Seattle, is both gorgeous and heartbreaking. His music reminds me of a more stripped down Sufjan Stevens or a less operatic Antony Hegarty. Like Anthony this stuff doesn’t exactly get the party started. Hadreas addresses the darker sides of the human condition, like suicide, molestation, addiction & pedophilia poetically and compassionately. He is a very bold and daring artist and extremely necessary at a time when the resistance against formerly repressed people finally gaining their human rights is so strong.

    Buy Put Your Back N2 It – Put Your Back N 2 It (Bonus Track Version)
    Buy Put Your Back N2 ItAmazon

    Buy Hood – Put Your Back N 2 It (Bonus Track Version)
    Buy HoodAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    44.  SCHOOLBOY Q- HABITS & CONTRADICTIONS
    Schoolboy Q_Habits & Contradictions

    Buy Habits & Contradictions – Schoolboy Q
    Buy Habits & Contradictions [Explicit]Amazon

    Schoolboy Q is part of the white hot L.A. Black Hippy collective, whose most popular members also include Kendrick Lamar & Ab-Soul.  “Habits & Contradictions” came out last January and it took me awhile to love it.  Like so many rap albums it’s a bit too long, but the handful of highlights make it impossible to keep off of this list.  Schoolboy Q straddles the line between the intelligent, conscious rap ala Native Tongues, and the immature, knucklehead rap of so many current mainstream rappers.  Tracks like “Hands On the Wheel”, “Blessed” and “There He Go” are some of the best raps cuts of the year and make this a very worthy listen, especially for a debut.

    Buy Hands On the Wheel (feat. A$ap Rocky) – Habits & Contradictions
    Buy Hands On the Wheel (feat. a$Ap Rocky) [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy There He Go – Habits & Contradictions
    Buy There He Go [Explicit]Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    43.  NAS- LIFE IS GOOD
    Nas_Life Is Good

    Buy Life Is Good (Deluxe Version) – Nas
    Buy Life Is Good (Deluxe Version) [Explicit]Amazon

    In 1994 Nas, probably one of the best pure rappers ever, released “Illmatic”, his debut & one of best and most loved albums ever. He has been unable to come close since then, despite releasing some classic tracks and very good albums. While “Life Is Good” still doesn’t come close to “Illmatics” in quality it can sit alongside albums like “It Was Written”, “Stillmatic” and “God’s Son” as one of the better albums of his hit and miss career. Nas focuses here on the aftermath of his divorce from fellow recording star Kelis and other mature subjects like dealing with the contradictions of fatherhood vs. rap fame and its consequences. (Daughters). Unlike so many other Nas albums there are no absolute clunkers on “Life Is Good” and tracks like “A Queens Story” and “Accident Murderers” (Feat. Rick Ross) as well as “Nasty” (on the deluxe version only and featuring some of Nas’s best pure rapping) are some of the best tracks of his career.

    Buy A Queens Story – Life Is Good (Deluxe Version)
    Buy A Queens Story [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Accident Murderers (feat. Rick Ross) – Life Is Good (Deluxe Version)
    Buy Accident Murderers [Explicit]Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    42.  METZ- METZ
    Metz_Metz

    Buy Metz – Metz
    Buy MetzAmazon

    Metz are hardcore thrashers from Toronto whose pummeling music belies that dirty little secret than these guys can really play.  The music may be simplistic on its face but repeat listening reveals subtle time changes and lots of great ideas.  The adrenaline never lets up.  Not for the faint of heart!

    Buy Wet Blanket – Metz
    Buy Wet Blanket

    Buy Wasted – Metz
    Buy WastedAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    41.  WILD NOTHING- NOCTURNE
    Wild Nothing_Nocturne

    Buy Nocturne – Wild Nothing
    Buy NocturneAmazon

    After a promising debut of dorm room produced laptop dream pop, Va. Tech Hokie alumnus Jack Tatum ups the ante on his second full length album “Nocturne”. The songs are equally well crafted as on “Gemini” and the higher production value to me makes for a more consistent album and satisfying listen. Tatum’s vocals are brought to the front bringing the focus on his lovelorn lyrics rather than the lo-fi production of the first album. This is another eighties inspired record and can be listened to alongside chillwave as well as more upbeat new-New Wave like Twin Shadow.

    Buy Shadow

    Buy Only Heather – Nocturne
    Buy Only HeatherAmazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2012: 31-40

    40. MACKLEMORE & LEWIS- HEIST
    Macklemore & Lewis_The Heist

    Buy The Heist (Deluxe Edition) – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
    Buy The Heist [Deluxe Edition] [Explicit] [+digital booklet]Amazon

    It’s a nod to our current niche-driven culture that a white rapper from Seattle who I had never even heard of can come on the scene and sell huge numbers, debuting on the billboard charts at #2. Though many have still not heard of him, Macklemore has been plugging away since 2000 and had obviously built up quite a large cult of fans- he currently has a #1 radio hit with his lead single “Thrift Shop”, but many people still don’t know who the hell he is. Macklemore is thoughtful, earnest, open and direct with his lyrics, fitting in our age of over sharing- though he might appear corny or self-righteous to some. He tackles subjects such as racism, homophobia, addiction & materialism head on, appealing to people with open-minded sensibilities. If you like rap but have had enough of its often violent, misogynistic and homophobic subject matter, “Heist” just may be a light in your tunnel of darkness. The ace in Macklemore’s sleeve is Ryan Lewis whose inventive production dabbles in many different styles, keeping “Heist” inventive and varied while somehow maintaining a cohesive flow throughout.

    Buy Jimmy Iovine (feat. Ab-Soul) – The Heist (Deluxe Edition)
    Buy Jimmy Iovine (feat. Ab-Soul) [Explicit]

    Buy White Walls (feat. ScHoolboy Q & Hollis) – The Heist (Deluxe Edition)
    Buy White Walls (feat. ScHoolboy Q, Hollis) [Explicit]Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    39.  BAT FOR LASHES- THE HAUNTED MAN
    Bat For Lashes_The Haunted Man

    Buy The Haunted Man – Bat for Lashes
    Buy The Haunted ManAmazon

    English chanteuse releases challenging third album, carrying the torch of like-minded forebears such as Kate Bush and Tori Amos. “The Haunted Man” reveals itself upon multiple listens and standout track “Laura” is one of the best and beautiful cuts of the year, period!

    Buy Laura – The Haunted Man
    Buy LauraAmazon

    Buy Oh Yeah – The Haunted Man
    Buy Oh YeahAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    38.  SLEIGH BELLS- REIGN OF TERROR
    Sleigh Bells_Reign of TError

    Buy Reign of Terror – Sleigh Bells
    Buy Reign of TerrorAmazon

    For a still relatively unknown indie band, Sleigh Bells has already received their fair share of hate. Their abrasive noise-pop is a turn-off for some and their style of music, like TV On the Radio, makes them vulnerable to bad mixing while playing live. Before even releasing their first single Sleigh Bells was a CMJ festival favorite and heavily hyped by the blogs. Their music can appear gimmicky on the surface- a former metal dude playing gargantuan guitar riffs, behind heavy synths and southern rap beats while a gorgeous front woman coos in a light & airy hyper feminine voice. Their sound is utterly unique but they still had flash in the pan written all over them. Well after two albums here they stay. “Reign Of Terror” may not quite reach the quality of their debut but it’s pretty damn good in its own right. Check out tracks like “End of the Line”, “Demons” and “Comeback Kid”. If you can’t handle it maybe it’s because you’re too old 😉

    Buy Comeback Kid – Reign of Terror
    Buy Comeback KidAmazon

    BuyEnd of the Line – Reign of Terror
    Buy &End of the LineAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    37.  THE ALABAMA SHAKES- BOYS & GIRLS
    Alabama Shakes_Boys & Girls

    Buy Boys & Girls – Alabama Shakes
    Buy Boys & GirlsAmazon

    A bit like Janis Joplin fronting a southern rock band. Alabama Shakes garnered plenty of hype as a ‘return to real rock’ band and their debut doesn’t disappoint. Lead singer/guitarist and chief songwriter Brittany Howard is quite a belter and clearly the star of the group. “Boys & Girls” starts with four nearly note perfect songs, namely track #1 and lead single “Hold On”. Though things cool down a bit after the beginning of the album there are no total misses. Hopefully the band will deliver even more the next time out. Any fan of the White Stripes, Black Keys, Black Crowes, Stones or Faces should totallu dig these guys- balls out rock n’ roll!

    Buy Hold On – Boys & Girls
    Buy Hold OnAmazon

    Buy I Found You – Boys & Girls
    Buy I Found YouAmazon

     

     

     

     

    36. DINOSAUR JR.- I BET ON SKY
    Dinosaur Jr._I Bet On Sky

    Buy I Bet On Sky – Dinosaur Jr.
    Buy I Bet On Sky [+digital booklet]Amazon

    “I Bet On Sky” is Dinosaur Jr.’s 3rd straight great reunion album- equaling in length and bettering in quality bassist/sometime vocalist’s Lou Barlow’s original stint with the band in the 80’s. Who would have guessed that these guys would still have so much in them after all these years. All three reunion records stand up to any other albums throughout the legendary indie band’s career. Everything you already like about Dinosaur Jr. is still there on “I Bet On Sky”- well-worn slacker vocals by singer J. Mascis with an awesome falsetto when he really wants to turn it up a notch. Some of the nastiest guitar solos in indie-rock history- no doubt inspired by the likes of Bob Mould and Neil Young and a couple of choice cuts sung by Barlow to break things up a bit. There are a few tweaks here though- gone are any really abrasive, atonal nods to their early punk days. The songs are a bit tighter with some acoustic, psychedelia and funk thrown in for good measure. Tracks like lead single “Watch the Corners”, “Pierce the Morning Rain” & “See It On Your Side” are some of the band’s best yet.

    Buy Watch the Corners – I Bet On Sky
    Buy Watch the CornersAmazon

    Buy See It On Your Side – I Bet On Sky
    Buy See It On Your SideAmazon

     

     

     

     

    35.  THEE SATISFACTION- AWE NATURALE
    Theesatisfaction_Awe Naturale

    Buy awE naturalE – THEESatisfaction
    Buy Awe NaturaleAmazon

    TheeSatisfaction was first heard on follow Seattle native Shabazz Palace’s mindblowing 2011 rap record “Black Up”. They are a feminist experimental hip-hop duo with free associative rhymes and song structure, politically conscious rapping and jazzy grooves nodding backwards to early 90’s rap like Tribe and Digable Planets and nodding forward to a space age future. Nearly every song is under three minutes with many under two making the album play almost like a series of vignettes. They constantly question the status quo while keeping their vibes positive throughout. The perfect music for the Age of Aquarius? These guys hopefully won’t stay too far under the radar for long.

    Buy God – awE naturalE
    Buy GodAmazon

    Buy Earthseed – awE naturalE
    Buy EarthseedAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    34.  ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI- MATURE THEMES
    Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti_Mature Themes

    Buy Mature Themes – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
    Buy Mature ThemesAmazon

    Los Angeles’s freakiest weirdo and hero to chillwavers everywhere releases his follow up to “Before Today”, which finally put him on the map above the deep underground in 2009. Rather than trying to capitalize on “Today’s success and going more mainstream, Pink opts to make an album more warped and weird than its predecessor. “Mature Themes” is an apt title as the album is sex obsessed with titles like “Pink Slime”, “Symphony of the Nymph” & “Schnitzel Boogie”. The album’s best two songs- single “Only In My Dreams” and “Baby” (a cover of a late 70’s radio hit by cheese meisters Donnie & Joe Emerson) do what Pink does so well- take adult contemporary or outdated sounds and re-appropriate them for the modern era using lo-fi production and lots of different sound effects. If 70’s post-punk groups like Suicide and Devo embraced rather than rejected the AM radio hits of the day they have have sounded like Ariel Pink. “Mature Themes” is not quite as jaw dropping an album as “Before Today” and doesn’t have a cut as crazy great as “Round and Round” (though “Dreams” comes close) it’s still a highly recommended listen.

    Buy Only In My Dreams – Mature Themes
    Buy Only In My DreamsAmazon

    Buy Baby – Mature Themes
    Buy BabyAmazon

     

     

     

     

    33.  MAC DEMARCO- 2
    Mac Demarco_2

    Buy 2 – Mac Demarco
    Buy 2Amazon

    First full length album from this goofy eccentric twenty-something Canadian (“1” was an EP). The music on “2” is hooky, loose & spare- a nasty slide riff propels “Cooking Up Something Good”, which ends up being about this father manufacturing drugs in their basement. “Ode To Viceroy” is about DeMarco’s love for an ultra cheap cigarette brand. DeMarco comes off as a playful and inventive slacker. His simplicity and the barebones production belie an artist with real talent. Though the album sounds too cheap to be radio friendly there are hooks galore and DeMarco knows his way around a thought provoking couplet. “2” is only 30 minutes long and leaves you wanting more. He is an artist to watch.

    Buy Cooking Up Something Good – 2
    Buy Cooking Up Something GoodAmazon

    Buy Ode To Viceroy – 2
    Buy Ode To ViceroyAmazon

     

     

     

     

    32. TWIN SHADOW- CONFESS
    Twin Shadow_Confess

    Buy Confess – Twin Shadow
    Buy ConfessAmazon

    If you can’t get enough of the eighties whether you lived through them or not, you must check out Twin Shadow. “Confess” is the 2nd album by Twin Shadow, who is the nom de plume of George Lewis, Jr., a young, talented, African-American playing new wave to the indie rock crowd. Lewis paints himself as a love ‘em and leave ‘em seductive lothario who will steal your girlfriend. He may come across as a jerk, and the front cover doesn’t help, but like his debut “Forget”, “Confess” is catchy as hell, impeccably produced and contains some truly awesome songs. “Run Your Heart”, “Five Seconds” and “Golden Light” are the true standouts here, but the whole album flows nicely.

    Buy Run My Heart – Confess
    Buy Run My HeartAmazon

    Buy Five Seconds – Confess
    Buy Five SecondsAmazon

     

     

     

     

    31.  FLYING LOTUS- UNTIL THE QUIET COMES

    Flying Lotus_Until the Quiet Comes 

    Buy Until the Quiet Comes – Flying Lotus
    Buy Until The Quiet ComesAmazon

    Flying Lotus has more in common with jazz than pop or rock music and “Until the Quiet Comes” is a less accessible album than his previous, the most excellent “Cosmogramma”.  Most of the tracks on “Quiet” are instrumental and are not meant to be listened to piecemeal.  Anyone who laments the absence of the bugged out jazz fusion of 70’s era Miles Davis or groups like Weather Report and wonder who has filled its niche should check our Flying Lotus immediately.  Maybe not surprisingly Alice Coltrane (John Coltrane’s wife) is actually his grandmother.  Though jazz purists may be disappointed by the lack of so called “real instruments”, I bet those ghosts of Coltrane & Davis, among others, approve.



  • Top 50 Albums of 2012: 21-30

    30.  SPIRITUALIZED- SWEET HEART, SWEET LIGHT
    Spiritualized_Sweet Heart, Sweet Light

    Buy Sweet Heart Sweet Light – Spiritualized
    Buy Sweet Heart Sweet LightAmazon

    If you already like Spiritualized you’ll love this album. Spiritualized has been doing the same thing, really, really well for a very long time- they mix gospel & blues with strings and psychedelic feedback to create one of the best mixtures of dissonance and beauty since the Velvet Underground. The subjects are fast living, drugs, sin, self-loathing, God, redemption & death. After a small dip in quality during the beginning and into the middle of the last decade, Spiritualized and their leader J Spaceman are again on a roll- 2008’s “Songs in A&E” was a return to form and “Sweet Heart” is arguably better, highlighted by its epic centerpiece “Hey Jane”, one of the best stone cold jams in their entire discography.

    Buy Hey Jane – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
    Buy Hey JaneAmazon

    Buy Headin’ for the Top Now – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
    Buy Headin’ For The Top NowAmazon

     

     

     

     

    29.  DR. JOHN- LOCKED DOWN
    Dr. John_Locked Down

    Buy Locked Down – Dr. John
    Buy Locked DownAmazon

    A year ago if you would have told me that the best oldster album of 2012 would be made by Dr. John, I would have found that pretty hard to imagine. Though the good Dr. has never really stopped recording, he hasn’t really felt all that relevant since the early 70’s- albums like “Gumbo” and his fantastic debut “Gris Gris” are the only of is to really ever be called “great”. Red Hot producer Dan Auerbach (singer/guitarist of the Black Keys) asked to produce “Locked Down” and really does a phenomenal job. He captures the Dr. John sound of voodoo psychedelic Cajun swamp blues and gives it a slight update for the new century. Auerbach plays guitar (very effectively) throughout the record and amazingly, the 71 year old John’s voice shows no wear & tear. This is true groove music and hopefully this opens up a legendary but still somewhat underappreciated artist to a whole new generation.

    Buy Getaway – Locked Down
    Buy GetawayAmazon

    Buy Locked Down – Locked Down
    Buy Locked DownAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    28.  CHROMATICS- KILL FOR LOVE
    Chromatics_Kill for Love

    Buy Kill for Love – Chromatics
    Buy Kill for LoveAmazon

    Beautiful & intricate Italo-disco, which sounds like a perfect mixture between synth-pop, EDM & ambient chill out music.  Almost a third of the tracks are instrumentals or near instrumentals and the double album is well over 2 hours long.  “Kill for Love” is Chromatics 2nd full length and will no doubt increase the group’s profile as well as their record label, Italians Do It Better, stable of like-minded artists.  There are hooks and earworms scattered throughout “Kill for Love” but the ultra slow tempos of tracks like “Lady”, “Back from the Grave” and especially the title cut make should be radio hits ultimately less immediate but even more pleasurably on subsequent listens.  What New Order may have sounded like if they got their start in the early oughts rather than the early eighties.

    Buy Kill for Love – Kill for Love
    *Track not available via Amazon

    Buy Lady – Kill for Love
    *Track not available via Amazon
     

     

    27.  DIVINE FITS- A THING CALLED DIVINE FITS
    Divine Fits_A Thing Called Divine Fits

    Buy A Thing Called Divine Fits – Divine Fits
    Buy A Thing Called Divine FitsAmazon

    Divine Fits is a supergroup or sorts which includes Spoon frontman Britt Daniel & Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs co-frontman Dan Boeckner as well as the drummer for the New Bomb Turks and a keyboardist, formerly unknown but playing a prominent role. Daniel and Boeckner split the vocals and songwriting duties and Wolf Parade and especially Spoon certainly come to mind depending on who is singing. Though they may not be reinventing the wheel Divine Fits is a very worthwhile endeavor and apparently not a mere vanity project. They toured all through last year and have plans to release more albums in the future. Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs are broken up and though Spoon continues to record great stuff on a staggeringly consistent level, Divine Fits stands right alongside it and the presence of Boeckner along with the heavy use of keyboards make them nowhere near redundant. There isn’t a weak track on this album and a handful of great tracks like “Flaggin’ a Ride”, “Baby Get Worse”, “My Love Is Real” and my personal favorite “Shivers” (a cover- though I don’t know the original) push the album from good to very, very good.

    Buy Shivers – A Thing Called Divine Fits
    Buy ShiversAmazon

    Buy Flaggin a Ride – A Thing Called Divine Fits
    Buy Flaggin a RideAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    26.  THE WALKMEN- HEAVEN
    The Walkmen_Heaven

    Buy Heaven – The Walkmen
    Buy HeavenAmazon

    Like Spoon above, New York City’s the Walkmen have been churning out really good albums for over a decade now. “Heaven” could be their best offering since 2004’s breakout “Bows + Arrows”. Moving toward their mid 30’s, “Heaven’s” primary subject is actually domestic bliss which sounds almost revolutionary coming from such an angsty band during our current contentious times. At least half of the tracks on “Heaven” are mellower than much of the band’s former output and it took me some time to fully warm up to the album. While at first they made the album drag a bit, after subsequent listens they help highlight the album’s handful of standouts. Both “Heartbreaker” and the title cut are already two of my favorite Walkmen cuts and “Love Is Luck”, “We Can’t Be Beat” and “Song for Leigh” aren’t far behind. Drummer Matt Barrick is a master behind the kit and one of the best unknown drummers in indie-rock and vocalist Hamilton Leithauser again leaves everything on the table with every note. The Walkmen have pretty quietly produced quite a discography. If you don’t know them already “Heaven” is as good a place to start as anywhere else.

    Buy Heartbreaker – Heaven
    Buy HeartbreakerAmazon

    Buy Heaven – Heaven
    Buy Heaven – SingleAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    25.  GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR- ALLELUJAH! DON’T BEND! ASCEND!
    Godspeed You Black Emperor_Allelujah

    Buy Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
    Buy Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!Amazon

    Classical music as a rock opera for the apocalypse.  I’m not sure I’ve seen an album cover in awhile that perfectly matches the music found within.  Godspeed are a legendary underground Canadian collective who have been on hiatus for the good part of a decade.  “Allelujah” was another pleasant surprise after the band recently reformed for touring purposes.  And unlike so many rock groups their new material matches the quality of the original.  The nearly 60 minute album is only made up of 4 “songs”.  The two main tracks are both 20+ minutes and the other two mainly mainly fill in as effective window dressing in between.

    Buy Mladic – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
    Buy MladicAmazon

    Buy We Drift Like Worried Fire – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
    Buy We Drift Like Worried FireAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    24.  DIIV- OSHIN
    Diiv_Oshin

    Buy Oshin (Bonus Track Version) – DIIV
    Buy OshinAmazon

    DIIV is vibe music. They aren’t quite surf music or shoegaze though they’re related to both and they certainly have nothing in common with jam bands. These guys are all about a distinct sound. Their songs can run somewhat together and several of them are fully instrumental. They are guitar centric but they guitar playing is mellow and jangly- like the New Jersey band Real Estate but with more feedback and with the vocals laden with reverb and pushed pretty far back in the mix. DIIV’s sound evokes nature- particularly water. It’s a summertime album meant for chillin’ out over partying. Each song builds on the next one and contributes to the overall flow. Great debut!

    Buy How Long Have You Known? – Oshin (Bonus Track Version)
    Buy How Long Have You KnownAmazon

    Buy Doused – Oshin (Bonus Track Version)
    BuyDousedAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    23.  HOT CHIP- IN OUR HEADS
    Hot Chip_In Our Heads

    Buy In Our Heads – Hot Chip
    Buy In Our HeadsAmazon

    At this point these Brits are probably being docked points for consistency. “In Our Heads” is their fifth proper album and 5th straight damn good one (though I haven’t actually heard their debut- I’m going off of what I’ve heard). “In Our Heads”, like the Walkmen above, is a mature album. The members of Hot Chip our fathers and family mend and their lyrics find them addressing religion, devotion & commitment. Luckily the bands sense of humor and playfulness is still very much in tact and “In Our Heads” is a blast to listen to from start to finish. With tracks like “Motion Sickness”, “How Do You Do”” and “Flutes”, Hot Chip has quietly become the most consistently great electronic dance band since probably New Order in the 80’s. Not bad for a gaggle of pasty looking Brits.

    Buy Motion Sickness – In Our Heads
    Buy Motion SicknessAmazon

    Buy How Do You Do? – In Our Heads
    Buy How Do You Do?Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    22.  DIRTY PROJECTORS- SWING LO MAGELLAN
    Dirty Projectors_Swing Lo Magellan

    Buy Swing Lo Magellan – Dirty Projectors
    Buy Swing Lo MagellanAmazon

    “Swing Lo Magellan” was a true grower for me in 2012. My first few listens I was at least mildly disappointed. The album’s predecessor, “Bitte Orca” was my introduction to the band and one of my 40 or so favorite albums of the whole decade. While I still don’t think “Magellan” matches “Bitte Orca’s” magic, it’s a pretty fine album in its own right. The Projectors sound is downright quirky and can be very polarizing to some- singer Dave Longstreth’s falsetto can be a turn off to some and the band members stretch themselves musically- playing notes and time signatures just because they can. The female harmonies still soar and sound almost otherwordly. That all said “Magellan” is really a far more accessible album than their previous two. If you still can’t get into these guys now it will probably never happen. Tracks like “The Gun Has No Trigger”, “Offspring Are Blank” and “Dance For You” are incredible cuts and the rest of the album stands up enough to make it anything but a letdown for me.

    Buy Gun Has No Trigger – Swing Lo Magellan
    Buy Gun Has No TriggerAmazon

    Buy Offspring Are Blank – Swing Lo Magellan
    Buy Offspring Are BlankAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    21.  ANIMAL COLLECTIVE- CENTIPEDE HZ
    Animal Collective_Centipeade Hz

    Buy Centipede Hz – Animal Collective
    Buy Centipede HzAmazon

    I think “Centipede HZ” is likely the most underrated album of the year. It has been all but trashed by most critics and longtime fans. Following up the instant classic “Merriweather Post Pavilion” was certainly a tall order and “Centipede” is definitely the lesser album. Though there are a few clunkers on it, I hear at least five great cuts and a few other damn good ones. “Centipede” is slightly less accessible than “MPP”, but still much more listenable than much of the band’s (still sometimes great) earlier, more experimental stuff. So maybe “Centipede” is really half a great record but put on tracks like “Father Time”, “Moonjock”, Applesauce” and “Today’s Supernatural” or listen to the great 2012 non-album single cut “Honeycomb” and realize these guys are still in a very fertile period. They’ve seemed to find a signature sound but they tweak it enough- song to song never mind album to album- to keep things very interesting.

    Buy Father Time – Centipede Hz
    Buy Father TimeAmazon

    Buy Applesauce – Centipede Hz
    Buy ApplesauceAmazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2012: 11-20

    20.  THE SHINS- PORT OF MORROW
    The Shins_Port Of Morrow

    Buy Port of Morrow – The Shins
    Buy Port Of MorrowAmazon

    With the release of “Port Of Morrow” the Shins are now four for four and have quietly become one of the best bands of the last decade +. While their 3rd & 4th albums don’t match the first two, there’s much to love here. There is a five year gap between “Port Of Morrow” and the Shins last album, 2007’s “Wincing the Night Away”. In between Shins head honcho James Mercer effectively broke up the band and starting a new collaboration with Danger Mouse called Broken Bells. You could be forgiven for thinking the Shins would never record again, at least effectively. Like Billy Corgan with the Smashing Pumpkins, the Shins are now Mercer and a cast of musical and studio collaborators, but the sound of the group has not changed all that much. It’s still equal parts lush, orchestral music inspired by the Beach Boys and 70’s inspired power pop ala Big Star and Badfinger. Lead single “Simple Song” is a power pop masterpiece and one of my favorite songs of the year. “For a Fool”, “September” and “It’s Only Life” are other winners.

    Buy Simple Song – Port of Morrow
    Buy Simple SongAmazon

    Buy It’s Only Life – Port of Morrow
    Buy It’s Only LifeAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    19.  JACK WHITE- BLUNDERBUSS
    Jack White_Blunderbuss

    Buy Blunderbuss – Jack White
    Buy BlunderbussAmazon

    It seems strange that this is Jack White’s first actual solo album. He has been constantly working and collaborating since starting the band he became famous in- the White Stripes. While White’s screeching vocals and unhinged guitar wailing put his stamp on any music he has his hands in, going solo does seem to free him up to stretch himself musically more than even before. “Blunderbuss” is both slightly more subdued and more varied than any of his other projects, though tracks like the lead single “Sixteen Saltines” & “Weep Themselves to Sleep” crank as hard as any of his best garage rock tunes. Opener “Missing Pieces”, 2nd single “Freedom at 21” and “Love Interruption” are other album standouts. I can find at least a few tracks to love on every album White has ever done, but “Blunderbuss” may just be the best White album since 2003’s “Elephant”. It’s always fun to see where this restless and intensely creative artist will go next.

    Buy Sixteen Saltines – Blunderbuss
    Buy Sixteen SaltinesAmazon

    Buy Missing Pieces – Blunderbuss
    Buy Missing PiecesAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    18.  CHAIRLIFT- SOMETHING
    Chairlift_Something

    Buy Something – Chairlift
    Buy SomethingAmazon

    2nd full length album by Brooklyn based electro pop duo who mine 80’s synth-pop for inspiration. Chairlift was actually a trio on their list album which garnered an Apple-ad hit in the great track “Bruises” but not a whole lot else. “Something” is a big artistic leap forward for the group. Caroline Polachek handles all of the vocals which can be both heartbreaking and ethereal. She can sound like a slightly more subdued Florence + the Machine. Though several tracks can come off a bit cloying, the standouts tracks are some of the best synth pop songs you’ll hear all year. Especially “I Belong In Your Arms” shines, but also “Met Before”, “Sidewalk Surfari”, “Frigid Spring” & “Amanaemonesia”. If you like Robyn or Class Actress check these guys out- this stuff would be all over the radio in a cooler world.

    Buy I Belong In Your Arms – Something
    Buy I Belong In Your ArmsAmazon

    Buy Met Before – Something
    Buy Met BeforeAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    17.  GRIMES- VISIONS
    Grimes_Visions

    Buy Visions – Grimes
    Buy Visions (Bonus Track Version)Amazon

    “Visions” is the debut album and breakthrough for blog superstar Grimes, a one woman art project featuring the talented and eccentric Claire Boucher. Though still pretty unknown by the mainstream, Grimes is large as can be in her own niche. Her music is experimental pop which has much in common with pop singers with an indie bent like Robyn, Solange, Annie or even Rihanna, but also with the more outre’ witchhouse scene featuring groups like Crystal Castles, Salem, Fever Ray & the Knife. Her chirpy vocals are off putting to some people, but I think they further add to her originality. She is D.I.Y. to a T but you could also imagine some of these tracks actually getting radio play- namely “Oblivion” (Pitchfork’s #1 song of the year) and “Genesis”. My bet is that Grimes goes on to do even bigger things in the future.

    Buy Oblivion – Visions
    Buy OblivionAmazon

    Buy Genesis – Visions
    Buy GenesisAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    16.  PURITY RING- SHRINES
    Purity Ring_Shrines

    Buy Shrines – Purity Ring
    Buy ShrinesAmazon

    After three great singles in 2011, male/female duo synth pop blog fave finally releases their debut album and it’s anything but a disappointment. All three singles are included, as well as great 2012 single “Fineshrine”. Those four tracks are good enough to make the album shine on its own, and the first few times I heard the album the rest of the tracks sounded like nice window dressing, but repeat listens make the other tracks stand out more as well. Purity Ring sound like a more radio friendly version of icy, experimental synth groups like the Knife or Crystal Castles. Though most of the tracks can stand alone as great singles, while listening to the album as a whole, there are only subtle variances between each song. The album flows nicely and is less than 40 minutes. As soon as it ends you want to press play again.

    Buy Fineshrine – Shrines
    Buy FineshrineAmazon

    Buy Ungirthed – Shrines
    Buy UngirthedAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    15.  THE MEN- OPEN YOUR HEART
    The Men_Open Your Heart

    Buy Open Your Heart – The Men
    Buy Open Your HeartAmazon

    The Men fit right in with the last few years of aggressive punk rock & hardcore like Iceage, Fucked Up & Metz or the more hard-hitting indie rock of Japandroids and Cloud Nothings. “Open Your Heart” is their 2nd album in less than a year and is far more varied and accessible than their pummeling debut “Leave Home”. Nearly half of the songs are instrumentals and the Men play around with both country & krautrock. Every track brings its pleasures but the more straight forward punkish songs like the title cut, album opener “Turn It Around” & “Animal” are my favorites. This album is a blast from start to finish.

    Buy Open Your Heart – Open Your Heart
    Buy Open Your HeartAmazon

    Buy Turn It Around – Open Your Heart
    Buy Turn It AroundAmazon

     

     
    14.  FRANKIE ROSE- INTERSTELLAR
    Frankie Rose_Interstellar

    Buy Interstellar – Frankie Rose
    Buy InterstellarAmazon

    Frankie Rose is probably my highest rated fairly still under the radar release this year. She’s been kicking around New York City’s lo-fi garage band scene playing drums/guitars and singing in Dum Dum Girls, Crystal Stilts & Vivian Girls- all known better than her as a solo artist. She did release her debit as Frankie Rose & the Knockouts but changed course in a big way on “Interstellar”, her second album. She takes her cue from late 80’s early 90’s groups like Stereolab & the Cure- groups with densely layered synths and lush arrangements. Like the Cure her songs come off like either bouncy New Wave or gorgeous and shimmering. Rose’s voice is as light as air and meshes perfectly with the music.

    Buy Night Swim – Interstellar
    Buy Night SwimAmazon

    Buy Interstellar – Interstellar
    Buy InterstellarAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    13.  FATHER JOHN MISTY- FEAR FUN
    Father John Misty_Fear Fun

    Buy Fear Fun (Bonus Track Version) – Father John Misty
    Buy Fear FunAmazon

    Father John Misty is the pseudonym of former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman who moved down from Seattle to Los Angeles’s legendary Laurel Canyon. Like all of the Foxes Tillman is a wonderful singer and harmonizer and with “Fear Fun”, his re-imagines himself as the torch bearer of the early seventies singer songwriter folk rock Canyon scene. While the singing and playing on the album is beautiful and earnest- you can hear the ghost of Nick Drake all over the album and Tillman lists him as one of his biggest influences- the lyrics are upbeat and playful. The allusions to drugs, drink & sex are plentiful. It’s like the dude is hanging out with Harry Nilsson and David Crosby. So much music is such a bummer these days, even when it’s great. It’s a breath of fresh air listening to something so spaced out and celebratory.

    Buy Nancy from Now On – Fear Fun (Bonus Track Version)
    Buy Nancy From Now OnAmazon

    Buy Funtimes in Babylon – Fear Fun (Bonus Track Version)
    Buy Funtimes in BabylonAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    12. JESSIE WARE- DEVOTION
    Jessie Ware_Devotion

    *Album not available via iTunes
    Buy DevotionAmazon

    “Devotion” is the debut album by understated British songstress than brings to mind sexy but subtle R&B like Sade or even modern R&B-based indie rock of the xx. Ware had mostly been a background vocalist in previous years and she never saw herself taking the lead. But after standout performances on lead vocals on EDM artists like SBTRKT and Joker, she decided to dip her toes in the water. “Devotion” plays as a sleek, downtempo modern soul album. This is not your teenagers’ radio made R&B. It’s adult oriented fare, sultry bedroom music- filling the same niche as “Avalon” by Roxy Music and the above mentioned Sade. Ware absolutely shines as a vocalist and each track is well written and produced. The production is split by 3 producers so some of the tracks have a deep bass music feel, some are hookier and others are more dance floor ready giving the album some nice variances. “Devotion” is my debut album of the year.

    *Track not available via iTunes
    Buy Sweet Talk

    *Track not available via iTunes or Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    11.  GRIZZLY BEAR- SHIELDS
    Grizzly Bear_Shields

    Buy Shields – Grizzly Bear
    Buy ShieldsAmazon

    Grizzly Bear are a musicians’ band. They mostly forgo hooks and catchy singles in favor of intricate, heavily textured tracks. They are one of the most orchestral groups in indie-rock. Their detractors often describe them as sleepy or boring and it’s honestly a bit surprising that they have quietly become one of the biggest bands in the indie world. “Shields” is the 4th full length album by the four piece from Brooklyn. Its predecessor “Veckatimest” was their commercial breakthough and in my opinion, their best album. I’m not sure “Shields” better it, but it comes close. Tracks “Yet Again”, “Sleeping Ute”, “Speak In Rounds” and the stunning, epic 7 minute closer “Sun In Your Eyes” stand alongside any other track in their catalog. Grizzly Bear seem to be getting better as musicians and compositionally more complex with each album and in their case that’s a good thing.

    Buy Sun In Your Eyes – Shields
    Buy Sun In Your EyesAmazon

    Buy Yet Again – Shields
    Buy Yet AgainAmazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2012: 1-10

    10.  PASSION PIT- GOSSAMER

    Passion Pit_Gossamer

    Buy Gossamer – Passion Pit
    Buy GossamerAmazon

    Boston’s Passion Pit makes hard driving synth-pop that is somehow weird, inventive, gooey & poppy all at once. Singer Michael Angelakos’s high pitched vocals make him sound like a lost Bee Gee. Their musical hooks are wildly inventive but packed so tightly within their songs that the band never sounds over the heads of their audience. Lead single “Take a Walk” was already a big hit last year and 2nd single “Carried Away” is primed to follow. “It’s Alright” is another standout that is one of the band’s best songs. I think “Gossamer” is the equal to the band’s first album “Manners” which placed #7 of my top ten of 2009. If you don’t dig too deeply “Gossamer” founds like a fun, indie pop album. But listen a bit closer and you can hear that singer Michael Angelakos is working through some dark shit. He is bipolar and in his songs he addresses substance abuse, suicide and financial troubles. Some of the best music ever made has been a combination of dark and happy music and Passion Pit is no exception. In a weaker year this album is a likely top five.

    Buy Take a Walk – Gossamer
    Buy Take A WalkAmazon

    Buy Carried Away – Gossamer
    Buy Carried AwayAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    9.  BEACH HOUSE- BLOOM
    Beach House_Bloom

    Buy Bloom – Beach House
    Buy BloomAmazon

    Like Grizzly Bear, it was very difficult to predict Beach House’s ascendance to near the top of the indie ladder. I’ve liked them since their first album and they have maintained a signature sound. They make slow, lush, gorgeous & sad music that sounds like the end of summer- post Labor Day, after everyone has left for the season. Their sound hasn’t changed much in four albums, but it has gotten bigger and bolder, the songwriting tighter and the band better. They have steadily improved with each album and after a Bdog top ten with “Teen Dream” in 2010 I have to at least move the band up one space to number nine. Every one of Beach House’s albums has a few stellar tracks. “Bloom” is filled with them. There isn’t a weak one in the bunch and most are outstanding. “Myth”, “Wild”, “Lazuli” and “Troublemaker” in particular are some of the band’s very best. Though every track on the album can be heard on its own merit, “Bloom” is an album with great flow and is best heard as a whole. Beauty and sadness and who said artist development is dead!

    Buy Wild – Bloom
    Buy WildAmazon

    Buy Myth – Bloom
    Buy MythAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    8.  FIONA APPLE- THE IDLER WHEEL…
    Fiona Apple_The Idler Wheel

    Buy The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Deluxe Version) – Fiona Apple
    Buy The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever DoAmazon

    Fiona’s first album in seven years was an instant critical smash and is one of the top reviewed albums this year but it honestly took me awhile to get it. Apple has not been a singles artist since her first album in 1996, but “The Idler Wheel…” is more challenging than any of her previous work. The production on the album is absolutely barebones- often only Apple’s husky voice, her piano and her touring drummer Charlie Drayton’s clattering percussion. There is both a noticeable lack of melody and of choruses in most of the songs but the stark music puts the focus on Apple’s biting and incisive lyrics and her wonderful voice- which aches with authenticity and sincerity. Apple’s lack of self promotion while at the same time, being unafraid to wear her heart on her sleeve makes her and her music and nice antidote to our current age of oversharing and phony apologies. The more you listen to these songs, the more they stick. A unique and great album.

    Buy Anything We Want – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Deluxe Version)
    Buy Anything We WantAmazon

    Buy Every Single Night – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Deluxe Version)
    Buy Every Single NightAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    7.   MIGUEL- KALEIDOSCOPE DREAM
    Miguel_Kaleidoscope Dream

    Buy Kaleidoscope Dream – Miguel
    Buy Kaleidoscope Dream [Explicit]Amazon

    Miguel had previously released a critically acclaimed and commercially successful album and had a #1 hit “Adorn” off of the above album earlier in 2012 but I had somehow slept on his until this past Fall.  Upon receiving “Kaleidoscope Dream” I was blown away on first listen.  Miguel is obviously influenced by the currently hot alternative R&B of artists like Frank Ocean & The Weeknd, but he is no mere copycat.  The happily married man oozes kinky sex without coming off as a lascivious scumbag.  This is Prince for the new millennium and if this was released in a weaker music year it would easily have a shot at my top 3.  There isn’t a weak track on the album.

    Buy Do You … – Kaleidoscope Dream
    Buy Do You…Amazon

    Buy Use Me – Kaleidoscope Dream
    Buy Use MeAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    6.  KENDRICK LAMAR- GOOD KID, M.A.A.D. CITY
    Kendrick Lamar_Good Kid- M.A.A.D. City

    Buy good kid, m.A.A.d city (Deluxe) – Kendrick Lamar
    Buy good kid, m.A.A.d city [Explicit]Amazon

    After a pretty excellent mixed tape last year, Kendrick Lamar is now being hailed as the savior of rap. He hails from Compton which certainly has its share of history in the rap world. Unlike the more nihilistic music of N.W.A. & Dr. Dre & Snoop, Lamar comes from a more thoughtful place. He doesn’t sugarcoat while commenting on his community and usually seems to take a critical eye while examining his life and the world around him. Upon release “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” experienced both huge critical success and big sales numbers. He has a big radio hit with the excellent “Swimming Pool (Drank)” and his album plays out in story form. The beats on “Good Kid” can alternate between bass rattling and soul groove music. It’s quite a tribute how good this year in music has been that this didn’t crack my top five. It’s already being hailed as a classic and proof that mainstream hip hop isn’t dead.

    Buy Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe – good kid, m.A.A.d city (Deluxe)
    Buy Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Swimming Pools (Drank) [Extended Version] – good kid, m.A.A.d city (Deluxe)
    Buy Swimming Pools (Drank) [Explicit]Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    5.  CLOUD NOTHINGS- ATTACK ON MEMORY
    Cloud Nothings_Attack On Memory

    Buy Attack On Memory – Cloud Nothings
    Buy Attack On MemoryAmazon

    This album came out last January and made my winter far more bearable. It was a very early candidate for album of the year and if not for the emergence of a few more amazing albums it probably had a great shot. Cloud Nothings is helmed by Clevelander Dylan Baldi, who is barely in his twenties. Their first two albums were lo-fi bedroom pop. Baldi & co switched gears considerably for “Attack On Memory” and made a straight up kickass indie-rock record in the grand tradition of late 80’s early 90’s Sub Pop. Nearly every track on the album is straight up great, my faves being “Cut You”, the 8 + minute “Wasted Days” which seems to go by in a flash & “Stay Useless”- my personal anthem of the year. A perfect song for a 40 year old Dad who doesn’t have enough time in the day to accomplish everything he wants. If you’re pissed that indie-rock has gone too soft in recent years “Attack On Memory” is the perfect antidote.

    Buy Stay Useless – Attack On Memory
    Buy Stay UselessAmazon

    Buy Wasted Days – Attack On Memory
    Buy Wasted DaysAmazon
     

     

     

     

     

    4.  KILLER MIKE- R.A.P. MUSIC
    Killer Mike_R.A.P. Music

    Buy R.A.P. Music – Killer Mike
    Buy R.A.P. Music [Explicit] [+digital booklet]Amazon

    Though it was neck and neck with Kendrick Lamar, Atlanta’s Killer Mike made my rap album of the year with “R.A.P. Music”. Produced by, and released the same day as NYC indie-rap star El-P, it’s clear that these two vets are a perfect fit. Killer Mike has been part of the underground rap scene for a good part of the last decade. He’s had high profile guest spots on Outkast tracks, a series of mixtapes and has released at least a pair of classics already with “A.D.I.D.A.S.” and “That’s Life”, but has never released a great album until now. Nearly every cut is great & and the relatively short running time always leave you wanting more. The beats are alternately slammin’ and groovin; and Mike’s biting lyrics makes it clear that he can always rap intelligently about the world’s social ills, racism, American history and sexual politics and anything else that gets him going. He’s equal parts anger and empathy while never failing to point the finger at him own community’s failings as well. Here’s hoping that this is a jumping off point for Killer Mike rather than an anomaly- he clearly still has much to say and contribute.

    Buy Anywhere But Here (feat. Emily Panic) – R.A.P. Music
    Buy Anywhere But Here (feat. Emily Panic) [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Untitled (feat. Scar) – R.A.P. Music
    Buy Untitled (feat. Scar) [Explicit]Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    3.  JAPANDROIDS- CELEBRATION ROCK
    Japandroids_Celebration Rock

    Buy Celebration Rock – Japandroids
    Buy Celebration RockAmazon

    “Celebration Rock” is some of the most fun I’ve had with music in a long time.  It’s Vancouver-based Japandroids 2nd full length album and though the duo is nearing their late 20’s they really nail the feeling of being in your early 20’s for me.  “Remember that night you were already in bed, said f@#k it got up to drink with me instead,” is a quote from their 2010 single “Younger Us” (included on “Celebration Rock”) and to me just nails that feeling perfectly.  Both everything and nothing is at stake.  You’re stick between the end of an era and the start of a new one- revelry, reckless abandon, both uncertaintainty and carefree.  It’s my favorite rock song of the new decade and only one of many great tracks on “Celebration Rock”.  Though the Droids take some cues from punk & hardcore music, this album is a straight ahead balls out rock record more than anything else.  Not blues based like the Black Keys but ROCK.  To re-use a phrasethat has already pretty much been beaten into the ground- This band could be your life!

    Buy Younger Us – Celebration Rock
    Buy Younger UsAmazon

    Buy The House That Heaven Built – Celebration Rock
    Buy The House That Heaven BuiltAmazon
     

     

     

     

     

    2.  FRANK OCEAN- CHANNEL ORANGE
    Frank Ocean_Channel Orange

    Buy Channel ORANGE – Frank Ocean
    Buy Channel Orange [Explicit]Amazon

    I feel like putting “Channel Orange” as a co-number one.  I waffled back and forth many times and had it at #1 for most of the past 6 months.  It is BY FAR the best reviewed album of the year and is clearly dominating the critics’ top ten lists this year and for good reason.  Frank Ocean is an incredible writer and beautiful R&B singer who has hip hop roots and runs with the L.A.’s polarizing Odd Future gang.  In a great couple of years for R&B, “Channel Orange” is the most interesting R&B album to come along in ages.  Ocean weaves a finely detailed narrative in his songs and like the best writers, gives us valuable insight into our present human condition by showing and not telling.  Musically he’s all over the map touching on hip hop,, funk, straight up soul, indie-rock, psychedelia bringing to mind nothing more than Prince during the “Sign O the Times” era.  For people calling this guy overhyped I say listen more closely.  “Channel Orange” is packed with classic jams and I hear more than a handful of potential singles.  This dude is a major talent and his daring and thougtful way of addressing his sexuality makes him all the more interesting.  The rap and Hip Hop world has run embarrassingly behind when it comes to tolerance and by coming out Ocean has become a lightning rod for social change within his community- and that is a great thing.

    Buy Super Rich Kids – Channel ORANGE
    Buy Super Rich Kids [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Pyramids – Channel ORANGE
    Buy Pyramids [Explicit]Amazon
     

     

     

     

     

    1. TAME IMPALA- LONERISM
    Tame Impala_Lonerismtame tame tametaasljasilhhistt

    Buy Lonerism – Tame Impala
    Buy LonerismAmazon

    And at #1 we have an Australian psych-rock group, which somehow brings reminders of Revolver-era Beatles, the heavier era’s of Pink Floyd and the Beach Boys, the early 70’s prog groups and early metal, while creating something unique and modern sounding at the same time.  2010’s “Innerspeaker” was the group’s debut and breakthrough album and “Lonerism” takes the band to the stratosphere.  Singer and band leader Kevin Parker sounds much like John Lennon and “Lonerism” sounds as if the Beatles recorded “Revolver” in 2012 with Lennon as the only singer/songwriter.  Unlike so many of today’s retro sounding band Tama Impala doesn’t ape the sounds of yesterday so much as the feel of that music.  They use today’s technology to make the music fresh again.  The whole band boasts sick musical chops and can both knuckle down with tremendous, hooky riffs and stretch out for lengthy jams.  This is a headphones album meant for people who love musicianship but “Lonerism” has an incredible stable of songs as well.  On the first few listens, the album flows together as a bugged out psychedelic freak show, but the songs distinguish themselves individually on repeat listens.  I can’t say enough about this band and this album.  Hope you dig them too.

    Buy Feels Like We Only Go Backwards – Lonerism
    Buy Feels Like We Only Go BackwardsAmazon

    Buy Elephant – Lonerism
    BuyElephantAmazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2012: 5 EP’s & Honorable Mentions

    5 BEST EP’S

     

     

     

    BURIAL- KINDRED EP
    Burial_Kindred EP

    Buy Kindred – Burial

    Buy Kindred EPAmazon

    Epic and spooky EDM that sounds like the London fog. This EP is Burial’s most expansive set yet; a plethora of ideas are explored within each of the three tracks.

    Buy Ashtray Wasp – Kindred
    *Track not available via Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    DUM DUM GIRLS- END OF DAZE EP
    Dum Dum Girls_End of Daze EP

    Buy End of Daze – EP – Dum Dum Girls
    Buy End of DazeAmazon

    Excellent set of girl group pop sung over shoegaze haze. Like the Jesus & Mary Chain but sung by actual women. EP’s are probably the perfect format for this burgeoning band.

    Buy Lord Knows – End of Daze – EP
    Buy Lord KnowsAmazon

     

     

     

     

    ICONA POP- ICONIC EP
    Icona Pop_Iconic EP

    Buy Iconic – EP – Icona Pop
    Buy Iconic EPAmazon

    2nd EP by Swedish electro pop duo which starts off with maybe the most obnoxiously fun songs of the year in “I Love It” featuring the young & talented Charli XCX.

    Buy I Love It (feat. Charli XCX) – Iconic – EP
    Buy I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)Amazon

     

     

     

     

    A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS- ONWARDS TO THE WALL EP
    A Place To Bury Strangers_Onwards To the Wall EP

    Buy Onwards to the Wall – EP – A Place to Bury Strangers
    Buy Onwards To The Wall [+Digital Booklet]Amazon

    Decent screeching set of feedback music that is done better by groups like the Black Angels. Included here mostly to round out a “top five” and would have likely been bumped in favor of acts like Azealia Banks or AlunaGeorge if I had their full EP’s.

    Buy I Lost You – Onwards to the Wall – EP
    Buy I Lost YouAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    TNGHT- TNGHT EP
    TNGHT_TNGHT EP

    Buy TNGHT – EP – TNGHT
    Buy TnghtAmazon 

    Fantastic set of instrumental bass music heavily influenced by hip hop. Each track is booming and succinct and works on its ow n merit.

    Buy Bugg’n – TNGHT – EP
    Buy Bugg’nAmazon

     

     

     

    10 2012 ALBUM HONORABLE MENTIONS

     

    BEAR IN HEAVEN- I LOVE YOU, IT’S COOL

    CAT POWER- SUN

    CONVERGE- ALL WE LOVE WE LEAVE BEHIND

    DEATH GRIPS- THE MONEY STORE

    FRESH & ONLYS- LONG SLOW DANCE

    GOTYE- MAKING MIRRORS   *RELEASED INTL IN 2011

    JENS LEKMAN- I KNOW WHAT LOVE ISN’T

    BOB MOULD- SILVER AGE

    PORCELAIN RAFT- STRANGE WEEKEND

    LOGAN VENDERLIC- LOGAN VENDERLIC