Sunday, December 23, 2012

Top Albums and Songs of 2012


I had a hard time filling the last few slots of my top ten albums this year. Not for a lack of good music - there was a lot of great music released this year. I liked quite a lot of it. But I want to fill my top 10 with music I LOVE. So here it is, my list of my favorite 10 albums this year, supplemented below by 5 songs I just had to include.

*I tried to make a playlist on Spotify and embed it here for your listening pleasure, but had lots of problems. Songs that I couldn't get to appear on the playlist have links.

I have a hard time believing that First Aid Kit's The Lion's Roar only came out earlier this year. I feel like it's been around forever, in a good way. For me it's an instant classic in the sense that it seems like the Swedish sisters' tunes have always been in my life. "Emmylou" may just be the love song of the year.

Music critic Ann Powers called Japandroids' Celebration Rock party music for 40-something dudes. Who cares? These 2 guys explode endless summer and eternal youth from their guitar and drums. With lines like, "let's get to France so we can French kiss some French girls," and fireworks bookending the album, Celebration Rock is joyous, pop-rock fun.

I came to Y La Bamba's Court the Storm and Field Music's Plumb not knowing anything about the bands. I actually still don't know much about them, except that they both made exceptional records this year in which individual songs take you on unexpected journeys, and albums contain whole sonic lifetimes.

Fiona Apple's  The Idler Wheel... and Beth Orton's Sugaring Season were both surprises for me this year, mostly because I'd never really connected with either singer before. But both of these albums drew me in with their quirky beauty. I returned to them again and again, each time hearing something new.

Best Coast made my top 10 list in 2010 with their debut album, Crazy for You. 2012's The Only Place continues their earlier sound, and honestly it might not have made my top 10 list this year if I hadn't been leaving LA behind this fall for a job in Texas. This album makes me want to wrap my arms around California, just like the bear on the album art. A sentimental favorite that makes me feel like I'm back there, even if I'm a thousand miles away. "Why would you live anywhere else?" indeed.

Outernational actually released two albums this year: the concept album, Todos Somos Illegales, and the EP, Future Rock. I've probably invited you to Outernational shows multiple times, and most of you have never come. 2013 has to be the year you change that! The band makes a righteous racket in the name of imagining the world we want to live in. Check them out on Bandcamp and read my blog post about them. They're your new favorite protest band.

Dinosaur Jr. I Bet on Sky: melodious crunch. Grinding lilt. I've always been a fan of the idea of Dinosaur Jr., if that makes sense. But this album grabbed me at a visceral level and wouldn't let go. Another sentimental favorite in a year of big change, going back to my previous life in Massachusetts.

The Coup's Sorry to Bother You was a late entry onto my list. I've been a fan ever since Party Music, but missed this when it came out earlier this year. Once I got my headphones on, though, I was hooked. If you like that Emma Goldman (mis)quote about dance and revolution, then this is the album for you. Shake your tailfeather to lyrics about overturning the education system and class war!

These standout songs all come from albums that I liked quite a lot, just not enough to make it into the top 10.

Spiritualized "Hey Jane" - My favorite song of the year. Just shy of 9 minutes long, it could go on forever as far as I'm concerned.

The Mynabirds "Generals" - "Get your black boots on" cuz The Mynabirds are leading the march towards the revolution!

Girl in a Coma "Smart" - Yes, they are making a Smiths reference, and yes, this is fun, smart pop by a trio of Texan women.

Death Grips "I've Seen Footage" - I wasn't in the know enough to get the leaked Death Grips album, No Love Deep Web this fall, so I've had to content myself with their album that came out earlier this year, The Money Store. Compelling duo makes visceral punk rap. Almost made my top 10 albums.

Kishi Bashi "Bright Whites" - I'm conflicted about adding this, now that the song is in a Windows commercial. But I do love it, so here it is.

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