Some background: every year the proprietor of the blog and I trade top 10, or 15, or 20, or whatever lists. Then we argue and make fun of each other as if we could change the others’ mind. Here is my list (and here is his). If you like it, feel free to stop by my blog where I talk about libraries and beer, and occasionally post a link to a semi-relevant song. You can also follow me on twitter. If you don’t like it, as George Will says “Well…”
15) Titus Andronicus – Local Business: Basically yelling, sweaty barroom punk. About eating disorders.
14) Dinosaur, Jr. – I Bet on Sky: I mean, if all these other groups are going to pretend it’s 1993, may as well take the genuine article, this year’s winner of the “Yo La Tengo Aging Gracefully” Award.
13) Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city: An ambitious album that aspires to be something like a nuanced The Chronic that largely succeeds. Yet also a B+ album in a down year for rap that gets graded and fellated like an A. But either he’s got an A in him, or he’ll just be the next Lupe Fiasco.
12) Lee Fields & The Expressions – Faithful Man: Pretend it’s 1972. Things were simpler then.
11) Purity Ring – Shrines: Glitchy and processed yet organic and warm, goth yet whimsical, southern rap bounce with lily white (girl) vocals. Something like trip-hop for our times.
10) Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music: Nobody spit hotter fire in 2012. Double- and triple-time, crazy political without falling into the “conscious” trap.
9) Swans – The Seer: The second-best psych freakout of the year actually works as something like the flip side to Lonerism (see below). A demanding two hour-long bad trip that is somehow disturbing, uplifting, and revelatory.
8) Passion Pit – Gossamer: Pop music! With the help of Nico Mulhy you get something like Jonsi, the Polyphonic Spree, and ABBA in a blender. The lead singer is mentally ill, and the lyrics reflect that. I don’t know how much longer he’ll last. Better get in while the getting’s good.
7) The Amazing – Gentle Stream: Sax solos! Really. So pretty, so fragile… Did you know that this was released in Sweden in 2011, so it was in last year’s top 15, too? Well, now it’s a 2012 US release, and I like it more.
6) Frank Ocean – Channel Orange: I believe this is a first for a top ten list (since I wasn’t doing these in the 1970s), an actual R&B album, and perhaps the most interesting one since Shuggie Otis’ Inspiration Information at that.
5) Japandroids – Celebration Rock: Two smart guys do loud and dumb. Transcendentally dumb.
4) Tame Impala – Lonerism: The psych freakout of the year. Wayne Coyne, take a memo.
3) Beach House – Bloom: I note that Beach House traffics in bullshit. But it’s pretty bullshit. It’s good bullshit. They worked hard on this bullshit. And I threw parties in grad school.
2) Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!: It’s been eight years since the last album, but nobody’s done it better than them since. And nobody will. Welcome back.
1) Tamaryn – Tender New Signs: What I like so much about this album is that it traffics in the slow, languid atmospherics of Beach House’s Bloom, but with much less affect and mannerisms. Beach House is what you play at your tasteful grad student party, all academic bluster and Yellowtail Shiraz. Tender New Signs is for when most of the guests and bullshit have left and someone lights a joint.
Singles: Purity Ring – Fineshrine; Tame Impala – … Feels Like We Only Go Backwards; Grizzly Bear – Yet Again; Frank Ocean – Pyramids; Childish Gambino and Bun B – Trill OG; Angel Haze – New York; Quakers – Fitta Happier
Cheers: To Spotify, which allowed me to hear all these and more.
Jeers: To Spotify, which is probably killing the music industry (Please buy music if you like it!). To Sigur Ros, who would rather be pretty than good.