Top 15 Albums of 2012 – The Beerbrarian Guest Post


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.
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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.
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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.
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12) Lee Fields & The Expressions – Faithful Man: Pretend it’s 1972. Things were simpler then.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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5) Japandroids – Celebration Rock: Two smart guys do loud and dumb. Transcendentally dumb.
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4) Tame Impala – Lonerism: The psych freakout of the year. Wayne Coyne, take a memo.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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The Top 15 Albums of 2012


Pre- (r)amble: It’s time for another year-end list. With some exceptions, 2012 was a “down year” for new music. Maybe I’m just old and cranky (I’m 35 –right around the age most people stop caring about new music), but looking at the bands and styles that people were into this year I can’t help but worry about where music is going and if I’ll still relate to it in a meaningful way for much longer. Hopefully things will get better soon, but until that happens I’m shortening my year-end list down to 15 from the usual 20 because there just weren’t 20 albums in 2012 that deserve that kind of praise. As always, keep in mind that these lists are pretty dumb and just a snapshot of what I think about these albums as of right now, so take it all with a grain of salt. Enjoy.

1. Disappears – Pre Language (Kranky)

Brilliant third album from this Chicago group, which now features Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth on drums. Their dark, repetitive grooves never sounded so good. Full review: https://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/disappears-2012-reviews/

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2. Swans – The Seer (Young God)

A crazy-ass double-album that challenges (and rewards) the listener like nobody else did in 2012. It made everything else seem lightweight by comparison.

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3. The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project – The Journey Is Long (Glitterhouse)

Using the deceased Gun Club singer’s previously unheard works-in-progress as a springboard, an A-Team of rock vets (Nick Cave, Mark Lanegan, The Jim Jones Revue, various members of The Bad Seeds…etc.) come up with a winning compilation of rock gems and haunted blues. Full review: https://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/jeffrey-lee-pierce-sessions/

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4. The Walkmen – Heaven (Fat Possum)

This is what all the new-millennium New York bands should sound like in 2012. Mature, elegant, and full of emotional song-craft. Full review: https://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/walkmen-2012-reviews/

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5. Lee Fields and The Expressions – Faithful Man (Truth & Soul)

Old school soul dripping in sweat and raw energy. Why can’t more people make music like this? Full review: https://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/lee-fields-and-the-expressions/

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6. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Aufheben (A Records)

I had given up on them, but they won me back with Aufheben which mixes their old psychedelic swagger and some new tricks. Full review: https://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/brian-jonestown-massacre-2012-reviews/

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7. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart, Sweet Light (Double Six)

You know what you’re getting with a Spiritualized album, but Sweet Heart, Sweet Light delivers their best batch of “drugs vs. jesus songs” in a long time.

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8. Guided By Voices – Class Clown Spots a UFO (Fire)

The best of three Guided By Voices albums to come out this year, and their most enjoyable since 2001’s Isolation Drills. Full review: https://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/guided-by-voices-2012-reviews/

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9. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse (In The Red)

Ty Segall also released three albums in 2012, and while the other two were merely OK, Slaughterhouse shredded with an aggressive mix of punk, metal and garage rock.

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10. Melody’s Echo Chamber – Melody’s Echo Chamber (Fat Possum)

People were really into Tame Impala’s Lonerism, but I prefer this album’s coupling of French singer Melody Prochet with Kevin Parker’s production and musical backing. If you liked Asobi Seksu’s Citrus or Blonde Redhead’s 23 then this is the album for you.

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11. Black Moth Super Rainbow – Cobra Juicy (Self-Released)

It follows the template laid out on 2007’s Dandelion Gum, but it’s a great template so who cares? LSD-twisted psychedelic pop overload that can get people dancing and freak them out the same time.

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12. Tindersticks – The Something Rain (Constellation)

Yet another strong album of low-key, dark cinematic noir from this British band. Easily the best album ever to open with a nine-minute spoken-word song.

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13. The Sights – Left Over Right (HRM)

The best straight ahead rock record of the year, whatever that means. Full review: https://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/sights-2012-reviews/

14. Mark Lanegan – Blues Funeral (4AD)

The addition of keyboards and drum machines is jarring at first, but nobody does the doom’n’gloom stuff as well as Lanegan.

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15. Quakers – Quakers (Stones Throw)

There were a few albums I considered putting in this slot (sorry Divine Fits and Mission of Burma) but this forty-one song global survey of hip-hop gets the nod because it had “Fitta Happier”, perhaps the best rap song in a decade, if not longer. Full review: https://midnighttosix.wordpress.com/category/2012-reviews/quakers/

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