A hell of a lot happened to me in 2012, and it was the first year that was actually better than the previous year since 2009. Musically my favorites are dominated by guitar-heavy rock and electronic stuff (a lot of it fairly minimal), which is an interesting dipole. I didn’t get into a whole lot of rap or folky stuff this year either.
I’m not going to bother with any “honorable mention” albums this year, although I do want to say something about a couple. First, The Seer by Swans. I’m still not even sure if I like the album, and furthermore I don’t even know that “album” is the best word to describe it. It is an experience. When listening to The Seer you will leave this world, enter the world of Swans, and remain there for damn near two hours (!). This, I think, makes it successful whether or not the listener ends up liking it. Next, Kendrick Lamar. His album is fantastic, and I really wish more rappers would try to put together cohesive statements like this. Also, best use of skits ever. Some people (I’m looking at you Pitchfork) said it’s the best rap album of the last 10 years though. That’s just a bunch of gibberish … motherfuckers act like they forgot about ‘Ye. It’s not the kind of album I can just put on and enjoy so far; it really requires me to set aside time so I can pay attention, which is why it’s not on this list.
With that out of the way, here are my top 25 albums for this year, with associated commentary when I have something pithy to say.
25. Burial – Kindred (EP)
- If he releases an EP like this every year then I don’t even think I’d need a real sequel to Untrue.
- This is basically a mix of hair metal and classic rock, and it really works. There are some serious grooves here.
- Everybody that listens to (or makes) “adult contemporary” music should be forced to listen to this to hear it done correctly.
- Jesus please be my bullet and gun. Shoot all the sinners down, every one. Kill all my demons, and that would be fine. But I would be reloading all the time.
- Action Bronson is ridiculous. Every rap is about food, drugs, and/or sex, but he does it with such creativity and frequent hilarity that he gets a pass for his often wildly inappropriate lyrics.
- 10 songs in 19 minutes. This is straight up punk rock: high-energy, catchy, and fun.
- If this had been album-length with the same quality it would have definitely been top-5.
- I hadn’t ever listened to Godspeed much before this year, but this is great meditative instrumental rock. I’m looking forward to exploring their catalog.
- Another veteran band I hadn’t listened to much before this year. With polished production, brilliant musicianship, and a lot of catchy hooks, this has become one of my favorite hardcore records and basically what I would point to as the epitome of modern hardcore.
- I included Purity Ring on my list of favorite albums last year (at #6) based on what I heard at their live shows, which was the material from this album. They would have been #7 this year, but I’m not officially including them on the list.
- This duo, aside from putting on a pretty spectacular live show, are for me the most dependable electronic act around. I basically love just about everything they do, and their newest LP is no exception.
- Simple electronic music is created in such vast quantities that it takes something pretty special to stand out. Everything about this album is just so right.
- Chromatics play perfect nighttime driving music.
- I certainly wouldn’t have thought my favorite new artist this year would play extended, ponderous metal ballads. I’m seriously entertained by the fact that the vinyl release is a double-LP with just 5 songs.
- This was pretty close to being my favorite album this year, and a year with two rock albums this good is a great year indeed.
- Ah, Japandroids. Post-Nothing was my 2nd favorite album of 2009 (behind the XX), so this was one of my most-anticipated releases for the year. Unlike the XX’s Coexist, which is probably my biggest disappointment of the year, Japandroids delivered a sequel that not only lived up to my expectations but actually exceeded them. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for great rock songs, and these guys are one of the only .
- This was my favorite song of the year. It’s. Just. So. Good. I can’t say I ever really liked Usher before, but he basically gets a lifetime pass for this. Also Diplo, but he’s already got several such passes.
- I’m an emperor, wanna see me in my new clothes? Favorite rap lyric this year.
- This owes a serious debt to the Knife (as does Purity Ring), but it’s still awesome and I’m really looking forward to their LP.
- This is the most “normal” song from The Money Store. Also the only one I could really get into. I guess I’m not weird enough, but this song is still awesome.
- I don’t know how, but Blawan makes weird work on a regular basis.
- I wasn’t nearly as fond of The Haunted Man as I was of Two Suns, but these songs were standouts.
- Perhaps the reason I couldn’t get into Channel Orange as much as everybody else is because this track set the bar too high for the rest of the album.
- Aside from having an insane video, this song brings me hope that MIA can bring back the quality of her first two releases. Perhaps my most-anticipated LP of 2013.
- I think this actually came out in 2011, but I didn’t hear it until after the video came out this year. And OMG what a video.
- Hey, look! More Diplo!
- I’m so bout it bout it I might roll up in a tank. I think he could probably afford one too.
- Vintage White Stripes rock, which is always a good thing.
- Just listening to his rapid-fire delivery makes me short of breath.
- Sorry Jibbs, but this beat is bananas. And it has a tuba. You have no tuba, and now you have no bananas.
- I! Drink! Cheap! Beer! So! What! Fuck! You!
24. Royal Thunder – CVI
23. Jessie Ware – Devotion
22. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
21. Action Bronson & Party Supplies – Blue Chips
20. Angel Haze – Reservations
19. Horseback – Half Blood
18. White Lung – Sorry
17. Blondes – Blondes
16. Primitive Weapons – The Shadow Gallery
15. Dum Dum Girls – End of Daze (EP)
14. Whirr – Pipe Dreams
13. Passion Pit – Gossamer
12. El-P – Cancer for Cure
11. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
10. Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
09. How to Dress Well – Total Loss
08. Baroness – Yellow & Green
07. Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
06.5. Purity Ring – Shrines
06. Crystal Castles – III
05. John Talabot – ƒin
04. Chromatics – Kill for Love
03. Pallbearer – Sorrow & Extinction
02. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
01. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Some songs that I particularly enjoyed this year (that aren’t on any of the above albums):
Usher – Climax
Le1f – Wut
Kate Boy – Northern Lights
Death Grips – I’ve Seen Footage
Blawan – Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage
Bat For Lashes – All Your Gold, Laura
Frank Ocean – Thinkin Bout You
MIA – Bad Girls
Diplo & Nicky Da B – Express Yourself
Major Lazer – Get Free
A$AP Rocky – Goldie
Jack White – Sixteen Saltines
Homeboy Sandman – The Carpenter
TNGHT – Higher Ground
Fidlar – Cheap Beer
I’m just gonna go ahead and put this out there: Call Me Maybe is a good song. So, that’s on the internet now.