This list has been in the making since February when I started keeping a Top Ten that was updated weekly. One album held the top spot from the day we started until August. The album that replaced it ended up remaining in the top spot for the duration. There have been some changes in the order throughout the year, but nothing too shocking. The biggest surprise is Hurray For The Riff Raff who started out in the high teens and ended up sneaking higher and higher, even cracking the top ten! 2012 was a fun year for music. I’m sad to see it go (I’m guessing we’ll see the next Star Wars installment before we get another record from Fiona Apple). As always I’m hopeful that next year will bring bigger and better!
22. Lawrence Arabia-The Sparrow
18. Cody ChesnuTT-Landed On A Hundred
17. Japandroids-Celebration Rock
10. The Mountain Goats-Transcendental Youth
I’ve kept a revolving top 25 since February. It reflects what I think are the best 25 records released this year at any given time. All the year-end hubbub has been much more manageable and less stressful. Still, what about the other albums whose only crime is that they aren’t quite up to the level of those I’ve included on that list? I’ve expanded it out to 50 to give a better idea of the music that made me happy in 2012. (where applicable I have included a link to my original review)
50. The Shams Band-Cold City
49. Killer Mike-R.A.P. Music
48. Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray-We’re From Here
47. Hoots & Hellmouth-Salt
44. Of Montreal-Paralytic Stalks
43. The Wooden Sky-Every Child A Daughter, Every Sun A Moon
42. Scissor Sisters-Magic Hour
41. Emily Wells-Mama
39. California Wives-Art History
38. Islands-A Sleep And A Forgetting
37. Oh! My Blackbird-Dare Me
36. El-P-Cancer 4 Cure
35. Jason Myles Goss-Radio Dial
33. Yellow Ostrich-Strange Land
32. Big Boi-Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumours
31. Chromatics-Kill For Love
30. The Great American Novel-Kissing
29. The Men-Open Your Heart
28. Flying Lotus-Until The Quiet Comes
27. The Congregation-Right Now Everything
26. Bhi Bhiman-Bhiman
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with my old friend Patrick Tape-Fleming about the best albums Bob Dylan has put out. I don’t remember the genesis of the conversation, but basically he was saying someone had mentioned a record that he didn’t even consider in Dylan’s top ten. That got me thinking about how your top ten Dylan albums says way more about you than it does about Dylan. In the end we decided that you can’t really fault anyone because they’re all good in their own way (yes, even Empire Burlesque). As today is Bobby’s 71st birthday, I figured I would share my list with you and then if you feel like it you can put yours in the comments section, or up on Facebook and we can discuss them. Keep in mind I am not saying that these are absolutely the best, just the ones I think are best. Read more…
Each year I like to just vent a little bit about some things that have disappointed me over the last year. Nothing major. Just some things I need to get off my chest before the calendar turns to 2012.
10. Wilco-The Whole Love
I feel kinda bad putting this album on my list of disappointments after the series of shows Wilco just put on, but here we are. With great power comes great responsibility, and with Wilco, it also comes with expectation. If they hadn’t put out Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born, this album wouldn’t have left me so unsatisfied. Knowing the quality of songs the band can put together, The Whole Love just left me wondering what went wrong.
9. No good songs coming out of the Occupy movement
With the number of musicians hanging out around the protests and playing little sets here and there, you would think eventually someone would write a really great song about it. We all know the one thing they’re missing is a song that they can all get behind. Where is our generation’s Dylan to write a new version of “The Times They Are A-Changin’?” The only good thing I’ve heard so far is a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” by Ghost Pal.
8. 2011-Five years since the last Justin Timberlake record
Some guys think they’re too cool to love Timberlake. Not me. I’m unapologetic in letting people know what a talented dude he is. The fact that it’s been five years and he’s still firmly in the zeitgeist of American pop culture is testament to that. He’s said that if he’s never moved to make another album he won’t. And he’s on with that. Well guess what, I’m not. Make a freaking record already!
Every year I think, this is it. This is the year they get it right. And every year I’m left to go over it again and again. What happened? Where did Perry make a wrong turn? Fact is, they’re never going to please everyone. They had Beirut, Arcade Fire, The Strokes. My real complaint is the timing. How do you make Titus Andronicus play at noon on a Sunday? Are you serious?
6. Das Racist
They’re at the pizza hut. They’re at the taco bell. They’re at the combination pizza hut and taco bell. If I had heard this song and didn’t already know the duo, I would assume they were talking about where they work. The fact that Jim DeRogatis AND Greg Kot included these imbeciles on their top ten albums lists is proof of how out of touch music critics really are.
5. Nicki Minaj’s success
I’m just baffled by it. If someone could explain it, please do. My brother thinks she’s hot, so I’m guessing that has something to do with her popularity.
Hey, do you think we’ll have to wait two weeks to hear another goddam Katy Perry song? I doubt it! Jesus Christ! Does Ryan Murphy owe Perry a blood debt or something? Clear Channel watched an episode of Glee and they were like “What’s with all the Katy Perry music?”
3. Beastie Boys-Hot Sauce Commitee, pt 2
I reviewed this when it came out, and honestly I regret ever even listening to it. When To The 5 Boroughs came out, it was a return of sorts. More like a swan song written as a love letter to New York City. To continue beyond that, and worse yet for people to pretend its good, is criminal. Mike D, Ad Rock, and MCA have gone from the bratty punks America loves to hate, to husband and fathers who drop their kids off at school in hybrid SUV’s. Your time has passed. Hang it up.
2. Watch The Throne
The hype surrounding this album built it up so much that if Jay-Z and Kanye didn’t deliver the greatest album of all time, it would be a failure. When it came out people jumped on board immediately and started calling it the greatest rap collaboration ever. And there I was, off on the sidelines, listening to “Otis” and shaking my head. Surely we weren’t hearing the same record. They put together some good songs, don’t get me wrong. “Murder To Excellence,” “Niggas In Paris.” I can get down with those songs. But as a whole it felt flat to me. Too much typical bragadoccio and not enough reality.
1. Jack White working with Insane Clown Posse
I don’t really feel like I need to write anything about this. It came as a shock to us all when it was announced that Jack White had teamed up with Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. That the song is about licking ass was just more fuel for the flame. What has the world come to when one of the most interesting characters in rock music is teaming up with two guys best known for drinking Faygo and creating the term “juggalo?” Hopefully this was a lark for White and not something he plans on ever doing again.
I won’t bore you with any bs that doesn’t need to be here. If you want to read full thoughts on any of these albums, fee free to check out my reviews (by clicking on the album name). Let’s just get right into the good stuff.
10. Lupe Fiasco-Lasers: Maybe it’s because most people had already heard this record by the time it dropped back in March, but I feel like this album more than any other has been forgotten when it comes to year-end list making. I think the fact that a lot of the songs were written back in 2008 and 2009 just shows how smart a guy Lupe is, and how three years later his rhymes still seem fresh because America is still dealing with the same issues.
9. The Antlers-Burst Apart: How do you follow up an album like Hospice? What do you do when you’ve already put out a record some call the best of the last decade? If you’re The Antlers, you prove that it’s possible to do better. This album is a milestone for the band, because it shows that they can do anything.
8. Okkervil River-I Am Very Far: Initially I really wasn’t a fan of this record. I think I’ve listened to Stage Names too many times to accept anything else. After a while, though, I started to appreciate this album for what it is. Trippy, beautiful, and one of the best written records in a year filled with them. It doesn’t hurt that when they’re performed live, the songs on this record are epic.
7. Fort Frances-The Atlas: Yeah, you’ve maybe heard me mention this album here before. There is something to be said for a record that you can listen to a million times and never tire of. “White Roses” should have been near the top of my Top 30 Tracks this year, but this spot made it ineligible. Word is they’re trying to record the follow up sometime this year and I can’t wait.
6. The Decemberists-The King Is Dead: upon it’s release in January, I deemed this album the best of the year. It didn’t quite make it, but it is a helluva record. Not quite on par with The Hazards Of Love, but honestly what is?
5. Smith Westerns-Dye It Blonde: Chicago’s own kids who hate being referred to as kids. They certainly play like grown-ass men. This album also came out in January, and it was perfect to warm up some of those cold winter days. As it turns out, it’s also perfect for summer, spring, and fall.
4. Portugal. The Man-In The Mountain In The Cloud: I had never seriously listened to Portugal. The Man before this record, an I feel like an idiot. I don’t think I can name a song off it that isn’t great. “Sleep Forever” is my favorite, but they’re all gold.
3. The Poison Control Center-Stranger Ballet: Three albums in, and PCC has found the secret formula-write good songs and play them balls to the wall. “A Thousand Colors” and “Torpedoes On Tuesday” are both fantastic, but when they slow it down on the killer ballad “Terminal,” the whole thing comes together in a whole new way.
2. Girls-Father, Son, Holy Ghost: If you liked Girls first release, Album, you will love this. Everything here is kicked up a notch in quality. Chris Owens vocals are more beautiful and haunting, there are gospel elements, and amazing production.
1. Sons Of An Illustrious Father-One Body: I may be the only person who has this at number one, but that’s only because most of you haven’t heard it yet. Five band members. Four of whom can sing. They recorded this album in a freezing cold barn with producer Oliver Ignatius. It isn’t a Christian album, but there are definitely some spiritual overtones going on.
2011 was a much better year than most would say. While most magazines and big time online publications are bending to the corporations that fill their coffers, putting the likes of Adele and Lady Gaga on their best-of lists, crazy numbers of indie bands were putting out amazing, under heard records. Next time you’re looking for new music, don’t turn on your radio. Head over to your local record store and ask the clerks what they’re listening to.