In no particular order. So many this year!
As A Spotify Playlist »
If I had to pick 10, they’d be Midlake, Rachel Zeffira, Savages, Emika, Jon Hopkins, Janelle Monae, Disclosure, Rhian Sheehan, Locust and Minilogue
Rock and Metal
- Midlake – Antiphon [Bella Union] By far my favorite rock/psych record of the year
- Palms – Palms [Ipecac] – My annual guilty “Sounds like Filter/Deftones/Alt-Metal” choice, with the added bonus of it being made up of members of ISIS with Chino Moreno on vocals
- Device – Device [Warner] (Dave Draiman from Disturbed and Geno from Filter do nu-metal)
- Bring Me The Horizon – Sempternal [Sony/Epitaph] – Yes i know their last record made them kind of a joke, but I’m really digging this one.
- Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast [Abstract Dragon/Vagrant] – Their best in awhile
- Mogwai – Les Revenants [Sub Pop] – I’ve never been a huge fan of these guys, but this album may have turned me around
Pop and Folk
- Rachel Zeffira – The Deserters [Paper Bag Records] – Lovely Tori-ish Dream/Chamber Pop. Just so so good.
- Savages – Silence Yourself [Matador] – Plenty has been written about this record. For me it brings up good Siouxsie/Catherine Wheel-ish memories
- Rudimental – Home [Warner UK] / Disclosure – Settle [Island] / Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune [EMI Australia] – These three seemed to scratch the same itch for me. Dancey-housey-80sy but not dumb.
- The Mavericks – In Time [Sanctuary] – I will never not love Raul Malo’s voice, and I’m happy they’re back.
- Caitlin Canty – Golden Hour [self-released] – Classic intimate girl-with-guitar coffeeshop stuff. She has a project with Peter Bradley Adams called Down Like Silver which I love, too.
- Joseph Tawadros (with Bela Fleck, Richard Bona, James Tawadros) – Chameleons of the White Shadow [self-released] – Bluegrass and so much more
- Soft Location – Fools [self-released] – Kinda Kate Bush-y
Electronic and Shoegaze
- Emika – DVA [Ninja Tune] – LOVE this / Maya Jane Coles – Comfort [I/AM/ME] – Another pair of albums that feel similar to me. They’re both dark electronica, though Emika is more explicitly gothy and MJC has more of a trip-hop edge (and a track with Tricky on guest vocals).
- Locust – You’ll be Safe Forever [Mego] Dark and IDMy but with a distinctly warm, organic crunch
- Jon Hopkins – Immunity [Domino] – Every album he’s released has been on my top 10. This beautiful, broken cinematic half-loud half-quiet masterpiece is his best yet
- Minilogue – Blomma [Cocoon] – One disc of FSOL-y/Underworldy proggy dance music (with LONG tracks), One disc of epic slow chillout stuff. Each apparently improvised and recorded in a single take. Delicious
- Sigur Ros – Kveikur [XL] – A welcome return to form, after the meanderings of the last two. Also closer to Jonsi’s solo stuff than most of their other works.
- Joseph Trapanese – TRON: Uprising [Disney] – Obviously not as stellar as the Daft Punk Tron:Legacy score, but a fulfilling followup.
- C2C – Tetra [Mercury] The first album from the turntablist and DMC winners reminds me a lot of people like Soulwax, The Avalanches and Basement Jaxx
- Minilogue – Endlessness EP – More long tracks with lovely samples that are never tiring
- Olafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter [Mercury Classics/Decca]
- Rhian Sheehan – Stories from Elsewhere [Darla] – This one wins my ‘epic cinematic ambient/post-rock with strings’ award that i usually give to Hammock (their release this year was disappointing to me)
- Message to Bears – Maps
- Ben Lukas Boysen – Gravity [Ad Noiseam] – Also known as industrial noisemaker Hecq. Gurgly dark underwater stuff.
- Main – Ablation [Editions Mego] – Creepiest ambient I’ve heard in awhile and a welcome return for Mr. Hampson
Hip-Hop and R&B and Jazz
- Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady [Bad Boy/Atlantic] – Leaves her first record (which I was not impressed by) in the dust
- Oddisee – The Beauty In All [Mello Music]
- Talib Kweli – Prisoner of Conscious
- Eldar Djangirov Trio – Breakthrough [Motema]
OK, as usual, going through everyone else’s lists has broadened the scope of what I needed to listen to, and I just know I’m gonna find something I wish I would’ve been able to swap in, but here’s my top 10 as well as a bunch of albums that almost made it for whatever reason. A lot of great stuff this year (though not that many new artist discoveries for me).
Top 10 (in no particular order)
- Kishi Bashi – 151a (The Arts & Crafts / Polyphonic Spree album I actually liked)
- El-P – Cancer4Cure (Better than the Killer Mike album by far I think…then again i dont like southern rap)
- Hammock – Departure Songs (Epic, orchestral, so beautiful it hurts to listen to.)
- Ryan Teague – Field Drawings (on the filmic side of post-rock electronica. Beautiful uses of unusual instruments similar to how Thomas Newman does in things like Shawshank Redemption and American Beauty)
- School of Seven Bells – Ghostory (Let’s just forget Disconnect from Desire ever happened. Integrates more Secret Machines sounds. Like an old Siouxsie record featuring Liz Fraser)
- Matthew Perryman Jones – Land of the Living (My favorite guitar/piano rock record of the year. Reminds me a lot of Will Owsley with a grander scope (string section, etc)
- Emeli Sande – Our Version Of Events (My favorite pure pop album this year. “Suitcase” makes the room go all dusty.)
- Duke Special – Oh Pioneer (Cabaretish art-rock with pop instincts. So so good.)
- Susanna Hoffs – Someday (I love this record so so so much. A fabulous collection of jangly power-pop songs from my second favorite modern female singer/songwriter.)
- Sun Kil Moon – Among The Leaves
- Shearwater – Animal Joy (This and the Sun Kil Moon album feel like the defeated and the pumped-up versions of the same band. The SKM continues to channel Nick Drake-on-downers in the best way, though it ends on a more Red House Painters rockin-ish note)
Runners-up (in no particular order):
- John Talabot – Fin (Like a 2012 sequel to Future Sound of London’s “Lifeforms”)
- Elenowen – EP (Admittely I have a huge weakness for guy + girl + guitar lush acoustic folk-pop… see: The Weepies, Ida, last years Down Like Silver. This is this years entry in that line, and it adds piano.)
- Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral (I really like it, but its kind of annoying to listen to all in one sitting. Worth it for “Harborview Hospital” alone)
- Mike Wexler- Dispossession (Nice dreamy swirly guitars, Slowdive-style. Thanks to Courtney Smith for the recommendation)
- Keith Kenniff – Branches (Lovely soundtrack for a film that doesn’t exist. Plays like a demo reel for directors like Tim Burton and also indie darlings. The songs themselves are beautiful, i’m just not sure it holds up as a cohesive album more than a set of songs that convey a particular mood)
- Eva Abraham – Cold Light (Best country/folk album i heard this year…if only i liked country more…)
- Milo Greene – s/t (Lots of great songs and sounds…I like it a lot, i just dont LOVE it. Maybe the next one.)
- Plan B – iLL Manors (I like this one like I like the first album by The Streets. Dystopic British electronic-backed hiphop ftw)
- Of Monsters And Men – My Head Is An Animal (Fits squarely in the “I enjoy it while its on but I can’t remember any songs once its off” camp, like Florence and the Machine. Music for VW commercials.)
- Geographer – Myth (My favorite Dance-Rock album of the year.)
- Steve Hogarth & Richard Barbieri – Not The Weapon But The Hand (sophistipop at its finest. Just missed the list because it can get a little same-y)
- Caravan Palace – Panic (The most clever record I listened to this year. Swinghouse = always good times. I’m interested to see what the breakout artist/album will be of this trend of sampling the 30s now that the 70s have pretty much been tapped)
- fun. – Some Nights (The most…er…fun record I listened to in 2012. Suffers from overexposure, but also led me to rediscover the Queen catalog. I have a feeling this is going to stay on my iPod, though I will be skipping We Are Young and Some Nights.)
- Die Antwoord – Ten$ion (This years Fat Of The Land. Listened incessantly when it came out, haven’t really listened since)
- Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream (best mainstream R&B i heard this year)
- Solar Fields – Random Friday (Great psy-ish ambient trance in the vein of old Juno Reactor. Ultimae Recordings has become one of my favorites.
Wouldve made the list except they are compilations:
- David Sylvian – A Victim Of Stars 1982-2012 (a brilliant collection of one of the kings of elegant, elegiac sophisticated pop)
- Four Tet – Pink (For “Locked” alone…)
Favorite remix of 2012:
- Four Tet – Vessel (Jon Hopkins Mix)
Suzanne Vega’s voice is a warm hug on a cold winter’s evening. It wraps around you and holds you, while her lyrics never quite let you forget the chill just outside the window.
This is one of my favorite albums of all time. Singles (the ubiquitous “Tom’s Diner” and “Luka”) aside, it is full of warmly-produced slices of life, full of old New York references and small moments.
Great for when you’re feeling low or lonely and want comfort but not necessarily cheeriness.
All I wanted from the new Hammock album was something that hurts to listen to, in the best possible way. Post-rock, emotional buildups, NOT just reverby guitar with repetitive loud cymbal hits like so much wanky post-rock these days). They added a string section and expanded their sound so much.
I’ve had to turn it off several times because it hits my heart too much.
RIYL emotions. Ok ok. M83, Helios, film scores, early Sigur Ros.
M83’s “Saturdays=Youth” is one of my favorite albums of all time.
I was pretty disappointed with his followup Hurry Up We’re Dreaming. It’s too long, and doesn’t quite capture the magic.
Trentemoller’s remix of Midnight City is better than the rest of the album.
Turn it up.