Yeah, I totally forgot to do one of these lists this time around. Blame the similar feature I was working on over at Silicon Sasquatch.
As it turns out, I actually did put together a top-ten list of albums from 2012 as well as a companion set of honorable mentions and other albums I really liked. I’m not gonna spend a whole lot of time on this post since we’re already pretty deep into a year with plenty of great music — I’m looking at you, STRFKR/James Blake/The Knife/The National/Daft Punk. Instead, I’ll just run through my top ten and leave you with a few other albums I’d recommend checking out.
10. Sera Cahoone – Deer Creek Canyon
It’s not the kind of album I would’ve gone searching for, but I’m so glad I found it. I’d never heard of Sera Cahoone, but the singer-songwriter’s indie-country sound and soulful lyrics grabbed me — it’s infinitely listenable.
Notable tracks: Deer Creek Canyon, Nervous Wreck
9. Grizzly Bear – Shields
Grizzly Bear isn’t always one of my favorite bands, but the group’s perfectionist attention to detail is on full display in Shields. Excellent start-to-finish, this album demonstrates the full gamut of the band’s abilities.
Notable tracks: Sleeping Ute, Yet Again
8. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Notable tracks: Serpents, Warsaw
7. Stars – The North
I don’t know what it is about this band. Stars treads a strange line between synth-pop and indie rock that’s doused in nostalgic lyrics and wistful sentiments. The resulting sound is one of my favorites, though, and The North might be Stars’ best album since 2004′s definitive Set Yourself on Fire.
Noteworthy tracks: The North, Through the Mines, Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It
6. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
This album is a screaming, sweating cry of defiance. Celebration Rock is exactly what the name implies — a too-brief eight tracks of driving rock that loops effortlessly. In a year of brilliant music, there’s no album I had more fun with than this one.
Noteworthy tracks: The Nights of Wine and Roses, Fire’s Highway, Evil’s Sway, The House that Heaven Built
5. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
Noteworthy tracks: The Lion’s Roar, Emmylou, King of the World
4. Chromatics – Kill for Love
Noteworthy tracks: Into the Black (Neil Young cover), Kill for Love, Lady, The River
3. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
Hell yes, this album.
Noteworthy tracks: Wasted Days, Stay Useless, Fall In
2. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Sheer brilliance in songwriting, instrumentation and performance. The chemistry between frontman Dave Longstreth’s clean, plaintive voice and the potent backing harmonies is what sells this album for me.
Noteworthy tracks: About to Die, Just from Chevron, Gun Has No Trigger
1. 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
I wasn’t a Fiona Apple fan before this album. That was a mistake. Apple is clearly a prodigious songwriter and performer, and everything about this album stands as testament to her bold, personal music.
When I put this list together Dirty Projectors and Fiona Apple were neck-and-neck for best album, but I gave the nod to Fiona Apple simply because of how dumbfounded I am every time I listen to it. It’s nothing but brilliant songwriting, instrumentation and performances.
Noteworthy tracks: Every Single Night, Daredevil, Werewolf, Left Alone
- The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
- Patrick Watson – Adventures In Your Own Backyard
- DIIV – Oshin
- Purity Ring – Shrines
- Cat Power – Sun
- Metric – Synthetica
- Tame Impala – Lonerism
- Dan Deacon – Americana
- Hospitality – Hospitality
- The Shins – Port of Morrow
- The Walkmen – Heaven