Below are my 30 favorite albums of 2012, arranged in descending order. The list has changed quite a bit from my midyear rankings, with new albums entering the list from the second half of the year and old albums from the first half jumping around.
As always, my favorite track from each album is embedded below together with a short write-up of why I have loved that album. (The write-ups get progressively longer as we get close to the top rankings)
This will be my last blog post for the year. See you next year in mid-January for all the upcoming new releases coming out! Anyways, on to the list!
30. alt-J – An Awesome Wave
29. Allo’ Darlin – Europe
28. Polica – Give You The Ghost
27. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
26. Exitmusic – Passage
25. Taken By Trees – Other Worlds
24. Delicate Steve – Positive Force
23. Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man
22. Metric – Synthetica
21. Beach House – Bloom
20. Cat Power – Sun
19. Titus Andronicus – Local Business
There’s no way they can top the epic-ness that is 2010’s The Monitor, so Patrick Stickles and his Jersey boys didn’t even try. Instead they decided to go leaner and just have fun. Works for us, although we miss the beard.
18. Julia Holter – Ekstasis
17. Purity Ring – Shrines
16. Sigur Ros – Valtari
15. Angel Olsen – Halfway Home
A new voice for female singer-songwriters in the mold of Joni Mitchell and Joanna Newsom. There is so much sadness and mourning in Olsen’s voice that it never fails to move you no matter what she sings
14. Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is An Animal
13. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
12. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself
11. Stars – The North
The lovelorn Canadian veterans return to form by focusing on the fuzzy synths and yearning romanticism that made them great. Compares very favorably to 2004’s Set Yourself On Fire, the best album in their catalog.
10. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Well, after naming your album Celebration Rock, you better live up to the name. And Japandroids did – fireworks and all (the album literally starts and ends with fireworks). This IS the summer record of 2012 and The House That Heaven Built IS your summer jam of 2012. Oh oh oh oh indeed!
09. The Lumineers – The Lumineers
The Lumineers are this year’s aw-shucks earnest folk-pop band that crossed over big-time to the mainstream. Even more amazing is that the Denver trio made a better Mumford album this year than Mumford & Sons. They were so good, I didn’t mind sharing it with everyone else.
08. Chromatics – Kill For Love
The best soundtrack album that you’ll hear this year that wasn’t a soundtrack. Kill For Love from Johnny Jewel and his Italians Do It Better compatriots has everything you want from a good movie soundtrack – fast cars, dangerous femme fatales, and a coolness factor that borders on epic. This is the Ryan Gosling of records released this year.
07. Chairlift – Something
There’s nothing complicated about why Chairlift‘s sophomore album is so good. The secret for Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly’s success is their willful embrace for 80s dance-beats and an unabashed love for fun. Plus, have you seen all of the amazing music videos they created for the record, including this choose-your-own-adventure style video?
06. The Walkmen – Heaven
The Walkmen are like fine wine – they only get better with age. And so is their newest record. The more you play and listen to it, the better and greater it gets. Thirties with kids and still willing to rock – we can only hope to have it so good.
05. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Sharon Van Etten takes the MASSSIVE leap forward in her third album – from unassuming singer-songwriter to unquestioned stage master. Tramp is a sonically fuller and deeper record – one that demands to be listened to as a whole, each song building upon the previous one, working toward a holistic and truly satisfying conclusion.
04. Grimes – Visions
Exploding onto the scene with her visionary approach to music, Claire Boucher is this year’s unquestionable best new artist and has the best song of the year in the utterly amazing Oblivion. If this is the future of pop music, I am very, very excited. And slightly afraid.
03. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Despite their love for the complex, Dave Longstreth and his Dirty Projectors have decided to go back to basics for their newest record. The result is not only the most cohesive and complete album of the year, but more importantly, it’s the Dirty Projector’s most intimate and approachable record to date – more than enough to make you want to discover their brilliant, extensive library.
02. Passion Pit – Gossamer
The first half of the album continues where Manners left off – a brilliant, climax-inducing, falsetto-driven, retro-filled electro-pop record , which in of itself is amazing already. However, it is the second half where the album truly shines. It takes you through the mind and psyche of Michael Angelakos as he battled through his bipolar disorder, depression, and suicide attempts. You were there with Angelakos as he begs for forgiveness and assures himself that it is not his fault. If the whole album is like the second half, it would have come very, very close to dislodging the top album in the list. A life-changing record.
01. 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
The Idler Wheel… in its basic form, is bare-bones and wholly un-commercial. But the thing is, this record is bigger than that. It is the wholesale vision of what a Fiona Apple album is and THAT is important. The songs – they dig you and claw you and gnaw through your bones. It becomes personal, because it is personal – for you, from Fiona. And that’s what makes it great. The best one this year. There’s nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key. Fiona Apple , you slayed my soul again.