1. Japandroids-Celebration Rock
There's nothing about this record I should like. It's ugly, it's loud, there aren't any orchestrations (there must always be orchestrations!), and there are about a dozen other bands that sound exactly like Japandroids. Not to mention, most of the lyrics are incredibly trite. But I fell in love with this record anyway, most likely due to "The House That Heaven Built." I really can't explain why I like this album so much but along with Bloom and Break It Yourself, it was the one I listened to the most this year.
Favorite Tracks: The House That Heaven Built, Fire's Highway, Younger Us
2. Grizzly Bear-Shields
(I was prepared to list this as #1 until I saw Japandroids live. Just know that Shields was the most perfect record released in 2012, it just didn't mean as much to me as Celebration Rock.)
It took me a long time to acknowledge Veckatimist as a good record. I still don't love it as much as a lot of people do. I wasn't expecting much from Shields but decided to give it a chance anyway. Well, once I heard "Speak in Rounds," I was in love. This record is perfect. The orchestrations are brilliant (the guitar in "Sleeping Ute," the piano on "A Simple Answer," and the cello on "Half Gate," the percussion on "What's Wrong" just to name a few examples), the songwriting is on point, and Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen have never sounded better. In fact, I absolutely fell in love with Rossen's voice this year. Every track on this record is superb. Every little bit of sound that comprises these ten songs is beautifully composed and presented.
Favorite Tracks: Speak in Rounds, A Simple Answer, What's Wrong
3 Beach House-Bloom
What is left to say about Beach House, really? Bloom, like Teen Dream, is a perfect record. Beach House just write and record perfect pop songs. In 2012, they presented us with ten more.
Favorite Tracks: Myth, Wishes, Troublemaker
4. Fiona Apple-The Idle Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw...
This is the first Fiona Apple record I enjoyed (and I sadly can't say I've gotten into her other records yet, although I do respect them) and I think it's because it happened to be released around the same time I was going through some crazy relationship emotions. What I needed at that time was a woman singing songs like "Daredevil" and "Werewolf" and "Anything We Want." I was using Fiona's voice and lyrics to reflect my own feelings so of course I would fall in love with this record. I mean, find me a record with better lyrics that was released this year. You can't, right?
Favorite Tracks: Anything We Want, Daredevil, Werewolf
5. Andrew Bird -Break It Yourself/Hands of Glory
I know, you're shocked this is listed so low, and honestly, I was prepared for this record to be my album of the year. Well, sometime around June, I put this record aside and really only revisited it after I saw Bird live in December. It's a strong record, don't get me wrong, and I adore it. He wrote some incredibly strong melodies for it, it's just well, it's not Noble Beast. I know, I did have a whole post about not comparing records but it is going to be tough for anything by anyone to top Noble Beast. It is my favorite record of all time, and it was a life changer. If I had never heard Noble Beast, I would probably love Break It Yourself more. There are a lot of standout tracks but to be honest, I am not fond of Bird's new-found desire to include his band in everything he does. I can find a dozen or so alt-country dudes who play the guitar and play boring songs. Andrew is better than that, and we all listen to him because of his brilliant violin-playing. Less guitars, more loops next time, Birdman.
Favorite Tracks: Orpheo Looks Back, Danse Caribe, Desperation Breeds...
6. Animal Collective-Centipede Hz
For real, let's stop the backlash against this record. It's a good record. It plays even better live.
Favorite Tracks: Today's Supernatural, Moonjock, Anamita
Sometimes a band can just put out a strong collection of tracks, no frills, no bells and whistles, just pure well-done songwriting. That is what Algiers is. An incredibly enjoyable, addicting, compelling record. And how could you not love this band?
Favorite Tracks: Splitter, Sinner in the Sea, Hush
8. Dirty Projectors-Swing Lo Magellan
Do you remember the 2:09 mark of "Useful Chamber" on Bitte Orca? It was the moment when I knew that record was special. It took me a long, long time to come around to that release but eventually it was clear that the hype was absolutely correct. Well, I didn't have to wait too long to realize Swing Lo Magellan was a great record; the moment hit me around 2:25 of "Offspring Are Blank," the first track of the album.
I mean, we all need to agree that not only is Dave Longstreth a great songwriter and guitarist but that he has a great, great singing voice and he is one of the best frontmen around. Longstreth's brilliance is really what makes this record so special.
Favorite Tracks: About To Die, Gun Has No Trigger, Offspring Are Blank
It's a fun record that you can dance to, and Caroline Polachek has a wonderful voice. It's just really well done pop music.
Favorite Tracks: Take It Out on Me, Cool As a Fire, Sidewalk Safari
10. Mumford and Sons-Babel
Yes, Babel. Judge and mock all you want. I know Mumford and Sons are basically a terrible band. I know they've written one song twenty times, I get that. I still really enjoyed this record, and I found myself listening to songs ten times in a row before I moved onto the next one. (I admit, my enjoyment of this record may have stemmed from the fact it made a really good soundtrack to the A Song of Ice and Fire series.)
Favorite Tracks: Hopeless Wanderer, Ghosts That We Knew, Below My Feet
Titus Andronicus-Local Business
Bat for Lashes-The Haunted Man
Maps & Atlases-Beware and Be Grateful
David Byrne and St. Vincent-Love This Giant
First Aid Kit-The Lion's Roar
Father John Misty-Fear Fun
Most Disappointing Records:
The Walkmen-Heaven (I was disappointed at how much I didn't like this one after loving Lisbon.)
Sharon Van Etten-Tramps (I just don't get the hype.)
Overall, 2012 was a disappointing year for records. Compared to 2011 and 2010 where there were so many fantastic releases, I had to scrounge up ten albums I really, really liked. Oh, well, 2013 is gonna be all about The National anyway.