I think a lot of us former music writers never really stop being music writers, sometimes I miss being able to recommend a bunch of albums every December for folks to check out (I do not miss CDs showing up in the mail however, and all those terrible people that work for media promotion companies e-mailing me relentlessly, ugh). So in the tradition of my former occupation, here’s my 20 or so favorite records released in 2012 (in no particular order)…
James Blake – James Blake
Ethereal, dreamy ambient synth pop with soulful and choppy vocals; I saw this called “post-dubstep” and couldn’t quite figure that out, it’s basically electro R&B.
La Dispute – Wildlife
Screamy, emotional hardcore punk-fucking-rock from some kids up in Michigan, has an angst and despair that echoes the zeitgeist.
The Twilight Singers – Dynamite Steps
Awesome 90’s-esque alt rock; Greg Dulli of Afghan Whigs’ newer project- man, this guy can play the lothario perfectly.
Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
Best hip-hop I’ve heard in years. Really. Sort of the African-American counterpart to La Dispute’s record- if they’re the disaffected, screwed up white kids, here’s Kendrick’s take on what the black kids are feeling.
Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972
One of the best ambient releases of recent years; broken, disheveled and messy- but strangely soothing and comforting.
Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens de colouer libres
Avant-garde free-jazz from the folks at Constellation Records, literally they’re all on here! Godspeed You! Black Emperor, et. al. It’s a concept record, too- basically drawing from Roberts’ ancestry and the effects of the slave trade and how it’s still felt today.
A Lazarus Soul – Through a Window in the Sunshine Room
Dreamy, minimal synth pop. These sad Dubliners really hit the mark perfectly, kind of like all that 80s Manchester stuff updated and re-recorded.
A Winged Victory for the Sullen – s/t
Stars of the Lid’s Adam Wiltzie’s new side project; it’s quite beautiful. Ambient with touches of Modern classical piano.
Destroyer – Kaputt
Really ebullient glammy pop bordering on disco, with a sophistication unlike those aforementioned musics.
Ketil Bjørnstad / Svante Henryson – Night Song
Really nice piano jazz; unexpectedly awesome- plays great in the small hours of the night.
Hezekiah Jones – Have You Seen Our New Fort?
Raphael Cutrufello’s sound matures into a fully-realized and hefty indie folk magnum opus.
Nicolas Jaar –Space is Only Noise
Minimal microhouse with French movie dialogue; infinitely interesting.
The Psychic Paramount – II
Messy, cathartic noise rock that viscerally attacks the senses.
The Kooks – Junk of the Heart
Wow, biggest surprise of the year, actually.
Six Organs of Admittance – Asleep on the Floodplain
Ben Chasny’s continued dominance in the field of psych-folk-drone on his like, what? 10th album? Jeez, Ben- slow down!
Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx – We’re New Here
Intelligent beats and music cradles Gil Scott-Heron’s legendary urban growl.
The Field – Looping State of Mind
So trippy it’s making my head spin. Drony-minimal-techy loops.
Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
One of the best “pure” pop releases this year, just weird enough to hold my attention all the way through.
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Really pretty instrumentation, sparkling melodies and lush harmonies. Gorgeous.
Cass McCombs – Wit’s End
This guy sneezes and great albums come out…
Please support these bands/artists by buying their records, and please support your small, local independent record shop this holiday season.
Buy vinyl if you can.