I know it’s been like two months since the last post! Life’s been pretty hectic but now it’s time to unveil all the top stuff from 2012. The last year on Earth for some of us. Well I’m just kidding but it was an interesting year for music ranging from the awful new music we got to hear from awful acts like Kesha and other dreadful pop acts. It also was the time when an anti-American Korean became a pop sensation with a song that Americans didn’t even understand. For all we know “Gangam Style” could have been nothing but pure hate for America. Anyway I digress and needless to say both Psy and dubstep and the rest of what today’s modern youth enjoys musically will sadly not be making an appearance on these lists. Without further ado here is the list for 2012.
20. Nocturne by Wild Nothing
It’s a shoegaze kind of year it seems. As time goes on people run out of ideas for music so shoegaze makes it’s return. Wild Nothing crafts a nice sensible album that starts off with the softer sounding “Shadow” and moves into a more electronic sound with “Midnight Song.” The mixture of electronic sounds and the muffled vocals that take a back seat are ever present here on this record. The title track’s opening riff sounds like a Cure track as did the first song…wait does that mean they are heavily influenced by the Brit rockers? “Nocturne” sounds like an American version of the Cure and I love the Cure but this track just reeks (and not necessarily in a bad way) of the sound they used to have. The guitars that are mixed in with heavy electronic sounds and the mixture of male and female vocals. “Paradise” sounds like a mixture of Depeche Mode and the Cure rolled into one with eerie sounding vocals and the soft and at times heavier sounding electronical instrumentation.
Songs of Note: “Paradise”, “Nocturne”, “Midnight Song”
19. The Sound of the Life of the Mind by Ben Folds Five
After 13 years the gang is back and it’s a welcome sound. Folds’ solo career was more mellow than aggressive sounding indie-pop that the threesome had perfected. Folds even worked with Nick Hornby on the last album that was hit or miss depending on your take. Opening your album with a track like “Erase Me” that features Folds reaching higher octaves as he progresses and an aggressive sound that just leaves a chorus stuck in your head. Ben Folds Five is back. With a vengeance. “Sky High” is a different sounding track compared to the rest of the album, also note it wasn’t written by Folds but it still sounds well interesting. “On Being Frank” is a track about Frank Sinatra and it seems Folds has a knack for writing songs from other perspectives (see “Fred Jones, Pt 2”). The mixture of slower moving tracks and faster paced anthems is a nice pace but it feels a bit odd. The title track is a great anthem song for the rebellious youth with lyrics provided by Hornby as it’s a leftover from the previous Folds album. I like it, I really do, but it doesn’t feel like a song, a problem Folds had with Hornby’s lyrics on the last record. “Draw A Crowd” features some of Folds’ typical humor, “If you can’t draw a crowd/Draw dicks on the wall!” and I love that song. “Do It Anyway” is one of the later tracks on the record that has that pop vibe but the closer “Thank Your For Breaking My Heart” could be a foreshadowing of this being the last record they do together?
Songs of Note: “Draw a Crowd”, “Erase Me”, “Do It Anyway”
18. Something by Chairlift
The Bronx duo returns with the follow up to their iTunes friendly first album. Opening track “Sidewalk Safari” features eerie sounding synths and other strange sounding instrumentation. Mix that in with the female lead vocals and it sounds like it could rival Depeche Mode in terms of creepy electronic rock. Just subtract the goth and you have Chairlift. The band opened for Phoenix on their last tour and they have it, and by it I mean a nice sound. “Wrong Opinion” starts with the quick paced yet soft synths then the drum beat kicks in with the vocals to create a soothing 1980’s esque track. Add in the random chimes throughout and you have something Robert Smith might call his female soulmate. “I Belong in Your Arms” starts with a nice beat mix in with the faster vocals and you got another throwback classic. “Cool as a Fire” features vocals as the main feature of this song and the vocals soar with the eerie accompaniment it just sounds like a nice night time track. “Frigid Spring” might be one of the few songs to feature strings on the record and it’s not an unwelcome or even a welcome sound, but it just doesn’t sound right nor does it sound wrong. As the roaring drum closes out on “Guilty as Charged” one things damn this is a nice album from 1985, but when you look at the date it says 2012.
Songs of Note: “Sidewalk Safari”, “I Belong In Your Arms”, “Guilty as Charged”
17. Port of Morrow by the Shins
It’s been years since James Mercer made an album as the Shins. Broken Bells had their time last year but Mercer comes back as one of the only original members and puts out a great album. From the beginning (“The Rifle’s Spire”) straight down to the very end (“Port of Morrow”) this ten track record is one of the highlights of 2012. With “It’s Only Life” and “For a Fool” being some of the stronger lyrical tracks on the record. But who can forget the insanely catchy “Simple Song?” Overall Mercer and co craft a dreamy pop of an indie album.
Songs of Note: “It’s Only Life”, “Bait and Switch”, “The Rifle’s Spire”
16. Four by Bloc Party
Bloc returns for another album after a long absence and it’s all around solid. From intense alternative sounds to the somber indie rock tunes Bloc churns out track after track after track on this, their fourth studio album. “So He Begins to Lie” is a passive aggressive track that leads into the exceedingly aggressive (and semi-From First to Last Sounding) “3×3.” The single “Octopus” has that typical Bloc Party sound that fans love and grew up with, the fast and seemingly intense guitar riffs and rapid drumming mixed in with fast paced vocals builds on a solid track and album. Stand out track for me is the slower more emotional sounding “V.A.L.I.S.”
Songs of Note: “VALIS”, “So He Begins to Lie”, “Octopus”
15. Blunderbuss by Jack White
One of the more busier men in modern music Mr. White has continued to make quality music on a year by year basis. A few years ago we got the final White Stripes record, we got some new tunes in the form of the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather. Now we get a solo record. A mixture of rock, blues, jazz as well as folk White mixes in the usual rockish guitar riffs with at times nonsensical lyrics, at least to us. Opening track “Missing Pieces” feels like it could fit on a White Stripes record, all that’s missing is the drumming from the ex wife. “Sixteen Saltines” is another classic White Stripes track that seemingly never got done. Fast paced and White’s high pitched vocals mixed in all together to form a cohesive track that will either weird you out or entertain you. “Freedom at 21” is another one of the stronger tracks both lyrically and instrumentally. The title track, “Blunderbuss” as well as “Hypocritical Kiss” feels like your typical White songs but it’s after these tracks that it seemingly drops off from fantastic album to not so fantastic album. Also “Love Interruption” is easily one of the best songs of the year.
Songs of Note: “Sixteen Saltines”, “Freedom at 21”, “Love Interruption”, “Blunderbuss”
14. Ghoststory by School of Seven Bells
The third record from the band features some interesting mixtures of pop, electronic and straight up indie tracks. The opening track showcases the front woman’s vocals. “The Night” highlights how solid the vocals are. It’s also the first album in which the band drops from a trio as one of the sisters left the group and now it’s a duo. You can see the shoegaze sound in it as well especially in later songs like the lengthy yet drum and synth oriented “Low Times.” Thought the record is only nine tracks it still clocks in at an impressive forty five minutes. “Love Play” as well as “Lafaye” display some of the more electronic sounds from the band.
Songs of Note: “The Night”, “Low Times”, “Love Play”
13. The Haunted Man by Bat for Lashes
Following up the last album back in 2009 Natasha Khan returns with a more personal record here with her third record. Opening track “Lillies” is a haunting melody in which she plays her vocals the right way so it sounds like a ghost is in your attic. “All Your Gold” is more like one of her older tunes that features an interesting background beat that sounds almost…well not American. “Horses of the Sun” continues that unique sound from Khan that we don’t expect from her, no electronic beats, more natural instrumentation mixed in with a drum beat that feels like it might be semi-tribal. “Oh Yeah” features more electronic beats that we have heard throughout the beginning of the album. Overall though she crafts another solid record for the world to hear.
Songs of Note: “All Your Gold”, “Horses of the Sun”
12. Some Nights by Fun.
An incredible pop sensation that took the nation that is “We Are Young” was and is an amazing track but the rest of the album is what stands out. “Some Nights” the title track features incredible range from lead vocalist as well as some introspective lyrics. ”Carry On”, “Why Am I The One” and “It Gets Better” all feature incredible pop instrumentation with catchy hooks that can stay stuck in your head for days. I know for a fact “We Are Young” remained in my head all day at work even with “Lovesong” by Selina Gomez was playing.
Songs of Note: “Some Nights”, “We Are Young”, “Why Am I The One?”, “It Gets Better”
11. Attack on Memory by Cloud Nothings
The Cloud Nothings prove that not all indie rock has to be sensitive or even soft. The aggressive tracks form an intense mixture of pop and hard rock. “Stay Useless” continually repeats the lines “I need time to stay usless/I need time to stop moving” and who could forget the angst ridden “No Future/No Past.” The shredding on “Wasted Days” helps make an eight and a half minute long song not feel so long after all. The big downside to this record is that at times it feels way too short but the aggressive nature of it all is still something that stands out.
Songs of Note: “Wasted Days”, “No Future/No Past”, “Stay Useless”
10. Reign of Terror by Sleigh Bells
With their debut sounding like nothing but noise that was recorded there was a lot to tweak if you didn’t like the first album. Needless to say with the singer actually doing the writing this time Sleigh Bells comes off with a noise-pop album that is quite an even balance on both noise and pop. Tracks like “Crush” and “Comeback Kid” feature heavy sounding guitar riffs with heartfelt and personal lyrics. The punk influences can be seen even in the opening track “True Shred Guitar” which seems like a dare to other musicians to make more shredding guitar riffs as the duo continues to rip off some insane riffs with deep lyrics. From the super aggressive ”Leader of the Pack” to a less angst ridden “Road to Hell” the duo construct a solid album.
Songs of Note: “Road to Hell”, “Comeback Kid”, “Crush”
09. Beacon by Two Door Cinema Club
TDCC’s debut album made it high on my top list of albums from 2010 and they will probably be back this year. A more mature sound with a new real boy drumming TDCC comes back with a more emotional and lyrical album. “Next Year” and “Handshake” start off with a slower (for the band at least) sound but still feature catchy choruses and beats. “Pyramid” is a nice simple sounding track and is a prime example of the band ditching the synth style of sound for a more rock based sound. Single “Sleep Alone” is most likely the best track on the record with a chorus that stays stuck in your head for hours if not days.
Songs of Note: “Sleep Alone”. “Next Year”, “Handshake”, “Spring”
08. The Only Place by Best Coast
The follow up is much better than the original. I’m not kidding. Lead singer Bethany Consentino said this was more of an emo album, but not in that sense. Tracks that are lyrically about drinking, spending money and having sex fill an album of dreamy California rock that capture the vibe of the west coast. Most of the tracks feature a nice fast paced guitar with rather nicely timed rhythm and vocals while several feature a nice melodic tempo that sounds more like a sunset over the beach. The vocals are much more crips and clearer than on some of the earlier tracks on early EPs. “Why I Cry” is a great single and as I mentioned earlier last year when she said it was more of an “emo” album it is noticable in the fact that there is more emotions in it than what we would have expected.
Songs of Note: “Why I Cry”, “The Only Place”, “Better Girl”, “How They Want Me To Be”
07. My Head is An Animal by Of Monsters and Men
This is cheating. I know. The album technically came out in 2011. In Europe. But here it came out this year. January to be exact. The opening track “Dirty Paws” is a nice folkish song that tells a fantasy tale but it’s a nice track. The second line in the song is where the name of the album comes from. Of course we have the super mega hit “Little Talks” but this song is almost a total different sound from the rest of the record. With it’s very radio friendly sound the rest of the record takes a more folkish sound. “King and the Lionheart” as well as “Numb Bears” both have very folkish and slow sounding toe tapping beats. “Sloom” is a lyrical track that features a nice sound to it. The mixture of male and female vocals help make this band, while not sounding like a new sound but it makes it still a pleasant sound. And yes you can throw around all your Fleet Foxes similarities all day long, there are some songs that sound that way.
Songs of Note: “Little Talks”, “Sloom”, “Numb Bears”, “Dirty Paws”
06. Tiger Talk by Yukon Blonde
Canadian indie rockers Yukon Blonde debut on this list for the first time with their second record. Tiger Talk is a rich album of indie tracks that feature more of a radio friendly sound but at the same time they have a great sound. Opening track “My Girl” is a love song that doesn’t sound like a love song. It’s got the catchy twee kind of sound to it that is catchy and poppy but at the same time the vocals are a bit more gruff than we would see on a twee record. The catchiness of the track is another positive. “Radio” follows it all up with the once again catchy tune. Featuring fast paced guitar riffs and steady drumming and vocals that move just as fast as the rest of the track make “Radio” one of the more intellectual tracks, mainly with how much more complex it sounds lyrically against the background, but it clearly isn’t. “Stairway” is a California-surfer rock sounding song. It sounds like something that might go with Best Coast or something along those lines in terms of sound. The chorus of “I hear you callin’ out!” mixed in with the dreamy guitars make this a nice tune to just unwind to. “Oregon Shores” is a nice slower paced song that asks the question of “what does it mean to fall in love?” and it sticks with that question the entire time. “Six Dead Tigers” is another one of the strong tunes and the mixture of faster sound and slower sound works. This is the track with the most well crafted lyrics on the record.
Songs of Note: “Radio”, “Stairway”, “Six Dead Tigers”
05. Gossamer by Passion Pit
A few years ago Passion Pit burst onto the scene with their debut LP and EP. They kind of fell out of playlists and disappeared. Now they are back after a summer record it probably dropped off a lot of lists, not to mention with their super poppy top 40 hit “Take a Walk.” But once we get past all of that we get a genius blend of pop and electronic and indie music and that is what Gossamer is at it’s core. “Take a Walk” is my favorite track on the record just simply for it’s catchy beat and the chorus is so simple. But it’s the verses that really stand out here. It tells a story and that is what most people don’t follow. “I’ll Be Alright” features that crazy opening that can only be done on a computer or at least I think, it is not something we’ll hear on mainstream radio. The fast pace on the track and high pitched vocals are trademark Passion Pit. “Constant Conversations” is a slower track in the beginning of the record that mixes in the softer melodies and slowed down high pitched vocals. The record soars into it’s end with thunderous closers “It’s Not My Fault I’m Happy” and “Where We Belong” and it’s here that I see that Passion Pit is truly more than a top 40 band.
Songs of Note: “Take a Walk”, “I’ll Be Alright”, “It’s Not My Fault I’m Happy”
04. Time Capsules II by Oberhofer
It seems that the top of this list is going to be dominated by new artists, and artists that feature more of an electronicy kind of sound. Oberhofer jumped onto the scene with the single “ooOoo.” Opening track “HEART” features a brooding piano or keyboard mixed with Brad Oberhofer’s deep brooding vocals and it comes out to being a very personal and deep sounding track. “Landline” seemingly harkens back to the days where people used to call each other on lanline phones as the chorus seemingly implies. The poppy sounding guitar riffs mixed in with the fast paced drum beat make this a very catchy song indeed. “Away FRM U” starts off with that slow guitar but slowly adds in chimes and the vocals that seemingly feel like a continuation of the last track. It’s a bit slower but once again it’s got that poppy twee pop sound that I enjoy. “Cruisin’ FDR” is another one of those faster paced tracks that have a nice beat to it. But the closer “Homebro” is a slower paced track that shows off once more the deeper and more personal side of Oberhofer. Needless to say I look forward to hearing more.
Songs of Note: “HEART”, “Landline”, “Homebro”, “ooooOooooo”
03. Mixed Emotions by Tanlines
The debut from the duo is an impressive mixture of electronic beats and synths mixed with guitar and deep vocals. Opening track “Brothers” features a drum and a beat line that finds you bobbing along, one that could be a song for a generation but let’s not get that deep. “All of Me” features that nice sound that you might find on a Cut Copy record and it’s welcome on this debut. Some of the tracks freature that 1980’s electronic sound or even going as far as seemingly influenced by Brit rockers The Cure and the Smiths. On top of it all the way the album is crafted you would think that Tanlines have done multiple records but in reality this is the first and it shows great poise.
Songs of Note: “All of Me”, “Green Grass”, “Not the Same”, “Brothers”
02. Endless Flowers by the Crocodiles
A mixture of heavier sounding indie rock and softer shredding the debut from Crocodiles is a solid effort. The opening track “Endless Flowers” has the catchiness that can be stuck in your head for days. “No More Black Clouds For Dee Dee” shows that indie rockers can still craft some of the more impressive lyrics in modern music. “Electric Death Song” is another catchy melody that the freshmen rockers have crafted. As a whole you get this vibe that the band has made a mixture of surfer type rock with modern indie styles. “My Surfing Lucifer” and “Hung Up On A Flower” both feature lengthy instrumental solos that find you bobbing along.
Songs of Note: “Endless Flowers”, “Bubblegum Trash”, “Electric Death Song”, “My Surfing Lucifer”
01. Former Lives by Benjamin Gibbard
Just something about this album puts it at number one. It’s not because Gibbard is my favorite musician in my favorite band but he crafts a well written and well paced folkish solo record. From the opening riffs on “Shepard’s Bush Lullaby” to the final coos on “I’m Building a Fire” Gibbard crafts a series of songs that seemingly feel like at times dejected Death Cab For Cutie Songs and that’s alright by me.
Songs of Note: “Teardrop Windows”, “Dream Song”, “Bigger Than Love”, “Lady Adelaide”
There was a lot of bands that I wanted to include, so instead of making this a lengthy fifty album list I’ll just include some of the others down here. Hospitality, Hot Chip, Purity Ring all came really close to cracking the top twenty with their latest records. Circa Survive almost became the first progressive band to make this list with their latest. Metric’s latest would have been in the top 30 if not a tad bit higher. Andrew Bird’s two records this year would have made the cut, well at least one. Minus the Bear would have been 25 or something near that range as Infinity Overhead was fantastic and a great sign of growth from them. Maps and Atlases was a hard to find record so there wasn’t too much time between compiling this list and putting it on WordPress to listen to it as much. Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple get some love for their latest albums. Some more bands I just heard about this year that might make the cut in the future, Grimes, Bear in Heaven, Frankie Rose, as well as Toro Y Moi (see him on next year’s already). The Tallest Man on Earth and Shearwater just missed the mark. The Sheepdogs latest also failed to make this top 20. How about Mumford and Sons? And Beach House? So much music but hey there is always the top songs of the year eh?