Let me start things off with an apology.
I have done a pretty awful job of staying up to date on new music throughout 2012. I believe I gave a somewhat similar disclaimer in 2011, but this year I’ve been even less diligent. So here are the albums that found their way to me throughout the year (or that I scrambled to listen to and love in the last few weeks of 2012).
10. Beach House – Bloom
This is actually the fourth album from the Baltimore-based “dream pop” (according to Wikipedia) duo who pretty much burst onto my radar with 2010’s Sub Pop debut Teen Dream. Their latest brings more, umm, dreamy vocals and synthesizer to the otherwise indie-sounding riffs. It may be more of the same, but if you liked Teen Dream, you’ll like this one too.
9. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Though this Vancouver rock-duo’s 2009 debut Post-Nothing didn’t quite make my list that year, I have enjoyed it quite a bit since and the band’s follow-up is more of the same fun-loving, energetic, indie-thrash. These guys may not be the kind of band you yearn to listen to on repeat, but they’ve got a cool sound and should continue to put out solid albums.
8. Sigur Ros – Valtari
Winning the award for 2012’s best album to go to sleep to (a coveted award in my book), the latest aural sensory experience from the prolific Icelandic band is another journey over craggy glaciers and volcanoes in a high speed helicopter. I want to drift off to dreamland just thinking about it.
7. Passion Pit – Gossamer
While I recognize their stuff isn’t for everyone (I like dudes with high voices, okay?), anyone who was into their first album (#6 on my 2009 Top 10) will have to admit they’ve produced a pretty decent sophomore follow-up. Oddly, their single “Take A Walk” is the least like the first album, but the rest of the album delivers the same dancey-indie rock found on Manner.
6. Soundgarden – King Animal
Soundgarden releasing a new studio album this year is a pretty big fucking deal! So why isn’t it higher on my list? Frankly it just came out too late. I haven’t got to spend enough time with it yet to really determine where it ranks in the discography of my all-time favorite band. I can say it sure doesn’t sound like the Seattle rockers took over 15 years between Down on the Upside and King Animal with songs like “A Thousand Days Before” sounding straight out of the 90s. They haven’t missed a step on stage either (as I was lucky enough to learn twice in 2011). Next up for me is King Animal Tour at the Wiltern in February. I better get to listenin’ before then.
5. Bloc Party – Four
It has been a steep downward slide for these Brit rockers since their 2005 Silent Alarm topped many best-of lists (it’s still in my regular rotation). Their next couple albums were disappointments which lead to a four-year hiatus. But 2012 has found a rejuvenated Bloc Party and a much improved (albeit unimaginatively named) fourth album on a new label and produced by Alex Newport who made his name producing At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta. What resulted might not have quite the raw energy of Silent Alarm, but it’s certainly got the mature licks of a band that’s telling the world they aren’t about to just fade away forever.
4. Metric – Synthetica
It’s been a good year for Toronto-rockers Metric with the release of their fifth album and a partnership with David Cronenberg and Howard Shore that saw the band record a number of songs for the film Cosmopolis. Synthetica picks up where Fantasies (#7 on my 2009 Top 10) left off, with the same single-style driving electro-rock hits. The A-side is a bit stronger than the B with tracks “Speed The Collapse” and “Breathing Underwater” showcasing the band at their best.
3. Tame Impala – Lonerism
It was only last year (well, 2011) at Coachella that I discovered this Perth band and I’ve listened to the shit out of their 2010 psychedelic-rock release Innerspeaker since. So it’s no surprise that their much praised follow-up makes it to a prime spot on my list. I’m happy to say they’ve only improved live since 2011 with their November Fonda Theater show at the very top of the best shows I saw in 2012. Don’t miss them if you get the chance.
2. John Mayer – Born and Raised
Okay, now you see why I said unapologetic up top. Fuck it. I like John Mayer. And frankly his albums have pretty much always been great examples of contemporary guitar-based rock and roll (okay, I didn’t love 2009’s Battle Studies, but Continuum was a masterpiece). Yes, his celebrity will probably always overshadow his musical notoriety, but that aside, the man is a brilliant song writer and Born and Raised barely puts a note down wrong.
1. Hot Chip – In Our Heads
I don’t know if you could have two albums more different than my number one and two picks, but in the end I had to go with Brit-electro-rockers Hot Chip’s latest because of how excellently it represents music in 2012. These guys have picked up LCD Soundsystem‘s flag and are running with it full speed (oh and Cut Copy didn’t put out an album this year). Hot Chip’s music is just so much fun — and that’s what gets me to keeping going back and playing the album over and over. It is frankly impossible to listen to the retro-inspired dance/electro/pop/rock anthem “Motion Sickness” and not dance along. Don’t believe me? Go try it right now. I’ll see you next year.
Honorable mentions go to Frank Ocean‘s channel ORANGE (well “Pyramids” at least), Grizzly Bear‘s Shields, and Keane‘s Strangeland, which, like their last album, had two amazingly good songs (“You Are Young” and “Sovereign Light Cafe”) and a whole bunch of mediocre ones.
Aight folks. Your turn. What’d I miss?