Swing Lo Magellan
Every review I saw of this album seemed to be prefaced with: "It isn't Bitte Orca." Fair, but unfortunate.
Nootropics is beautifully murky and atmospheric, yet surprisingly understated - perhaps even to a fault. It didn't grab me, but it grew on me.
Break It Yourself
He's as talented and likable as ever, but I still feel as if he's dancing around the edges of something more focused.
Bear in Heaven
I Love You, It's Cool
Bear in Heaven are firmly within their comfort zone, which might be both a blessing and a curse. I Love You, It's Cool was a very good album, and I wanted it to be higher on my list, but nothing about it surprised me.
The Henry Clay People
Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives
With all of the buzz over Japandroids this year, I was shocked that The Henry Clay People didn't get more attention. As one of the most authentic and hardest working acts out there, they deserve better, espcially when they put out a record as good as this one was.
A very solid album from a very good band, but I worry that they're painting themselves into a corner.
Matricidal Sons of Bitches
I'll stick with the much more listenable Solos, but in a year filled with safe, derivative, risk-averse releases, I'm thankful for Friedberger's defiant originality, and will look forward to whatever's next from him.
Half Way Home
An understated little gem of an album. Olsen somehow combines risk-taking with restraint and makes it look easy.
Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Rich with vulnerability and stark, honest emotion, Sweet Heart Sweet Light was about as affecting as music got in 2012.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
No truer words may have been written on We Listen For You in 2012 than the time Zach teamed up with Kenny Bloggins to call this album a "musical mindfuck."
Lee Fields & The Expressions
As refreshing as a cold can of your favorite soda on a hot day.
The Tallest Man on Earth
There's No Leaving Now
I don't believe that Kristian Matsson can do wrong. Why he isn't a bigger deal is beyond me.
At just $12, the gorgeously simple Baptist Girls might just be the vinyl steal of the year.
Sharon Van Etten
Epic was a tough act to follow, but Van Etten pulled it off; in the process, she cements her place as one of the best songwriters we've got going.
Dan Deacon is firmly within his comfort zone - luckily, that's exactly where we want him.
If you like Deerhoof, then I don't need to tell you how good Breakup Song is. If you don't like Deerhoof, then please allow Breakup Song to help you reconsider.
Accessible ambiance and cerebral songwriting added up to one of the most unexpected and enjoyable albums of 2012.
David Byrne & St. Vincent
Love This Giant
All of the truths you’ve heard about this album are lies. People seemed less interested in giving it a fair chance than they were in cracking “David Byrne just wanted to fuck St. Vincent” jokes. Such a shame – Love This Giant was one of the year’s best.
All of the lies you’ve heard about this album are true. It’s as good as most people think, maybe better.
I’ve been unabashedly supporting these guys since being introduced to their music a few years ago, and since moving to Louisville last March, I’ve become good friends with them, too. So maybe I’m biased. But damned if their sophomore release isn’t one of the tightest and most satisfying things I listened to all year.
Joy and Better Days
With a voice that roars like a cozy fire, Hip Hatchet sings of stories and memories and moments, stripping them down to acoustic simplicity and letting them shine for what they are. There’s “good,” there's "great," and then there’s “special,” and Hip Hatchet is a rare special talent.
Fresh, inventive, and intricate, few bands impressed me in 2012 the way Conveyor did with their self-titled release. If I’m in a good mood, this is the perfect album to listen to. If I’m in a bad mood, this album puts me into a good mood.
There are stories and sentiments woven throughout Mr. M, gorgeous, ghostly secrets haunting each song. You might hear a plaintive guitar lick or perhaps a shaky breath from Kurt Wagner, and in the moment, catch an implicit glimpse of something else, something more. Then, the album moves forward. It’s easily one of the most artful listens of the year.
Every time I spin this album I hear something new. It’s an exhausting listen - dark, dense, and demanding in every way - but there isn't a single needless moment throughout all of it, and that's saying something, considering just how many "moments" frontman Kevin Barnes crafts within the album's boundaries. Paralytic Stalks is focused schizophrenia, concentrated chaos, a frenetic yet meaningful look into meaninglessness. I'm not sure that I would call it my favorite album of the year, but it is, in my opinion, the most accomplished - the best.
HONORABLE MENTION: Grizzly Bear - Shields, Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas, Scott Walker - Bish Bosch, The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth, Mount Eerie - Clear Moon/Ocean Roar