2012 brought us a very solid year for music. A couple of debuts on this list, a couple of artists that have never appeared and a few that continue to make my list (what can I say, I’m a fan no matter what). But this year belonged to Fiona Apple in my opinion. Eagerly anticipated by me and everyone, it has been on consistent playlist since its release earlier in the year. If you haven’t heard it, listen to it. If you didn’t like it, well, I don’t know what to say. Scroll down for Travis and Ellie’s picks. Many thanks to them.
1) Fiona Apple- The Idler Wheel…
One of 2012’s most anticipated albums this record ignites from the very first track. It’s been a couple of years since Fiona graced us with music. We better not have to wait much longer for the follow up to this. Her best to date.
2) Grimes- Visions
Claire Boucher (aka Grimes) releases her 3rd disc in 2012 and finally hits the mainstream. Every track hits you over the head with it’s originality. She came very close to having the #1 album and #1 song of the year.
3) Grizzly Bear- Shields
Every album they make continues to surprise me. I like to think if I made music I could fit in to the Grizzly Bear sound. I then listen to the album again and realize there’s no fucking way. Mature, heartfelt and personal. There’s a strong case that they’re one of the best bands in America right now. Read the cover story that was in New York magazine and you’ll like them even more.
4) Japandroids- Celebration Rock
Vancouver’s rockinest band around (I don’t know many others). This album has been on constant play since it came out.
5) Beach House- Bloom
Beach House is the reason you fall in love with voices, words and with music in general. The 2 members gel so well together it’s astounding. They topped 2010 with Teen Dream. This is just as good (2012 was a better year as a whole however).
6) Cat Power- Sun
2012 brought us the return of not only Fiona Apple but Chan (Cat Power) Marshall as well. And I never thought the 2 were similar but they both can wow us with their voices, ignite us with their presence and astound us with their durability.
7) Cloud Nothings- Attack On Memory
To be honest, I was never a fan previously but this Steve Albini produced record just kicked my ass from the second it came out. And yes, that’s a good thing.
8) Sharon Van Etten- Tramp
Another artist that I was unfamiliar with until 2012. I will be forever.
9) Django Django- s/t
The highest charting debut disc on the list. Well produced electro-pop at its finest. Well done newcomers.
10) Windy & Carl- We Will Always Be
Beautiful ambient sounds from the experimental Michigan band.
11) Chairlift- Something
Chairlift really hit the indie scene with this sophomore disc. Highly regarded in the Brooklyn music scene the band has a tough task besting this record.
12) The Walkmen- Heaven
Ten plus years in, this band can still rock harder as good as any other. A band that I have grown old with from its beginnings as ‘Jonathan Fire*Eater’, I’m ecstatic that they keep making great record after great record.
13) Chromatics- Kill For Love
Dizzying post punk from this band that has been kicking around the indie music scene for a number of years.
14) Frank Ocean- Channel Orange
I’m sure by now you’ve all heard of Frank Ocean. After last year’s amazing mixtape, ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ he has hit the mainstream running. Hitting the top of most music site’s best of list, he released the most personal of letters to the world and the world ate him up. Exactly the type of artist we need leading us. His words ignited chatter all over the hip-hop world and the world is better for it.
15) Jessie Ware- Devotion
There are times when you hear a sound of an artist singing and can sense every emotion coming out of them. Personal and dreamy, Jessie Ware is one of those artists.
16) Alabama Shakes- Boys and Girls
After a successful gig playing last year’s CMJ, the Athens, Alabama band released their debut earlier this year. Good ol’ fashioned rock and roll. They do an outstanding job at taking the most oversaturated genre in music and bring an originality (think classic) that is much needed.
17) The Men- Open Your Heart
Post-hardcore noise rock from Brooklyn. Need I say more?
18) Purity Ring- Shrines
Easily the hardest to describe band that I heard this year. Synthpop, ethereal, indietronica? Great beats, with an echoing voice.
19) The xx- Coexist
It must be hard to create one of the best debut albums in recent memory and have to follow it up. I’m not saying that Coexist is better then the first album but it should get more attention. Fine, it’s not as loud and haunting but it is so beautifully made that it just feels, different. Is that a bad thing these days?
20) The Weeknd- Trilogy
Ok, I cheated a little with this one. Technically the albums that make up Trilogy came out last year but this “3 albums in one” disc was released last year. Plus, I’m still trying to get everyone into The Weeknd. If you’re not yet then I give up.
21) Kendrick Lamar- good kid, M.A.A.D. city
25-year old Compton rapper strikes it big with his major label debut. This album has hit all the year end best of charts as well. Associated with my other favorite rap act of 2012, ‘Schoolboy Q’.
22) Tame Impala- Lonerism
The Australian band’s second album is even better than the first. Borrowing sounds that the Beatles perfected in their career this is neo-psychedelic rock at its finest.
23) Animal Collective- Centipede Hz
Some people were disappointed by the follow up to Merriweather Post Pavillion (arguably the album of the decade) but this is still a solid disc and the boys are still the most talented musicians working today.
24) Actress – RIP
Darren J. Cunningham is the artist known as Actress. He makes killer electronic music that makes you want to dance your ass off.
25) Twin Shadow- Confess
The second album from Twin Shadow. More shoegaze for the world.
26) Crystal Castles- 3
Intense and loud from the 3rd disc by Crystal Castles. Just the way we like it.
27) Baroness- Yellow & Green
Thom recommended this metal album to me. Beautifully crafted, this is the new face of metal in the 21st century.
28) Pinback- Information Retrieved
I always thought this band was surely underrated. This is their first disc in 5 years. I hope we don’t have to wait this long again.
29) Sleigh Bells- Reign of Terror
Similar comments to The xx, how do you top an album that just kicked your ass over and over? Well, you can’t. Just go out and try and kick the same ass and hope everyone likes it. I did.
30) ScHoolboy Q- Habits and Contradictions
The independent hip-hop world has been outstanding the past 2 years. Everyone is making a mix tape and then following up with killer albums (see Frank Ocean last year) and ScHoolboy Q is another to that list.
31) DIIV- Oshin
32) Bat for Lashes- The Haunted Man
33) La Sera- Sees the light
34) Tanlines- Mixed Emotions
35) Best Coast- The Only Place
36) The Big Pink- Future This
37) Catcall- The Warmest Place
38) Perfume Genius- put your back n 2 it
39) Dinosaur Jr- I Bet on Sky
40) Dirty Projectors- Swing Lo Magellan
41) Frankie Rose- Interstellar
42) Friends- Manifest
43) Polica- Give You the Ghost
44) Spiritualized- Sweet heart, Sweet light
45) The Tallest Man on Earth- There’s No Leaving Now
46) Yellow Ostrich- Strange Land
47) Howler- America Give Up
48) Jens Lekman- I Know What Love Isn’t
49) Hospitality- Hospitality
50) Haim- Forever ep
Travis G’s picks:
1. Lana Del Ray – Born To Die (The Paradise Edition)
Definitely my most played album of the year. Say what you want about Lana (Lizzie Grant) but the girl has talent, beauty, style, and presence. Yes, she can’t sing live, but what current female “singer” can (excluding Beyonce and the the rest of the female artists below.) The album is produced to a “T”! Every song is so well done they could be a single. Her videos for Born to Die, National Anthem, and Ride are mini movies in themselves, with cinematography that out shines pretty much any music video made this year.
The Rick Rubin produced tune “Ride”, my favorite track, features an orchestral instrumentation, digitized percussion and a rock-band backing. A formula heavily found on the album. There something about Lana’s lyrics, that were co-written by “Video Games” writer Justin Parker, and the pacing/ strength of her vocals that remind me of The Killers’s, Brandon Flowers. Shot in Las Vegas, mashed up with Lana’s poetic voice over, the ten minute video for “Ride” is one of the best things to come from the blossoming star.
2. Marina + The Diamonds – Electra Heart
The sophomore album of Welsh singer/ song writer Marina Lambrini Diamandis, A.K.A., Marina And The Diamonds, shows the range and growth for the artist. Every song was written or co written by Marina and produced by some of the biggest names in the business: Dr. Luke, Cirkut, Diplo, Greg Kurstin, Rick Nowels, and Stargate.
I had the chance of seeing her in concert recently and was surprised at how the girl can sing. She took a hold of the crowd and belted out her hits. The Dr. Luke, Cirkut, and Diplo produced song “Lies” was my favorite performance and one of the best tracks on the album. (insert lots of head bobbing)
3. Jessie Ware – Devotion
With impressive comparisons being thrown her way like: Sade, Aaliyah, Alicia Keys, Annie Lennox and so on, Jessie proves her skills as soulful new artist on the scene. Her videos are often simplistic, think Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares to You, and focused on the talent: Her voice. Expect to hear more from Jessie in the future, she’s only getting started.
4. Lemonade – Diver
From chilled out tracks like Infinite Style, Neptune; mid tempo songs like Softkiss, Ice Water, and full on alternative dance track Big Changes; Diver has something to offer for the hipster inside us all. The best part of 2012’s Diver is that somehow all ten tracks cohesively blend together. Grab a Pabst, your skinny jeans, a couple of friends, and a disco ball.
5. No Doubt – Push and Shove
No Doubt’s sixth studio album, Push and Shove, came out over ten years after the previous Rock Steady. To me the album comes across as all grown up and verging on one note. The anthem tracks Settle Down, Push & Shove, and Looking Hot help pep up the mainly adult contemporary effort. Could it be that every song was co written by Gwen, Tony, and Tom? Or that all eleven tracks were produced by Mark “Spike” Stent?
Luckily I guess I’ve age with the band as I enjoy pretty much every track on this album. Not to mention that Gwen Stefani happens to be the coolest chick in the business.
The sinfully stylish, banned for Native American racism, Looking Hot video:
6. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Trouble
Orlando Higginbottom: DJ, artist, producer … Music teacher? You might not get music Teacher from listen to Trouble, a mainly electronic dance album, but you will get excited. Know for his crazy costumes and electro beats TEED (short for Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs) knows how to get the party started.
A few months back after purchasing a ticket to one TEED’s NYC shows I was slightly worried. Would it just be a awkward, tall, skinny guy from the UK pushing play on his Mac book Pro? Absolutely not.
7. Kimbra – Vows
She may be best known for the female vocals in Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”, but it’s her solo efforts where the 22-year old New Zealand beauty shines. Her album, described as indie pop/ soul/ jazz, debuting at number 14 on the billboard charts. When you see Kimbra live, she proves not to need the auto tune that so many of her fellow young artist rely for their existence.
Check out this amazing live version of “Settle Down”:
8. Dragonette – Bodyparts
One of my favorite bands from up north, Canada to be exact, released their third studio album this year. Bodyparts is jammed packed with electro anthems and synth heavy ballads. The band wrote and produced most of the tracks on the album theirs selves. Turn it on and crank it up for a good time!
9. Niki & The Dove – Instinct
Young Stevie Nicks on acid. That’s how I describe Swedish vocalist Malin Dahlström, of Niki & The Dove. Falling somewhere in the indie electronic music, Instinct delivers dance beats, power ballads, and something fresh to the genre.
10. St. Lucia – St. Lucia EP
Brooklyn-based electro pop group St. Lucia has one of my favorite sounds of the year. The EP ranges from the romantic “Closer Than This” to the chilled “All Eyes On You.” Be sure to check out the non-EP hipster dance track they released this year: “September.”
Guilty Pleasure 2012: Carley Rae Jaspen – Kiss
Listen … Maybe?
Party Album Of The Year: Calvin Harris – 18 Months
Harris’ 18 Months has produced a slew of hits this year: “Bounce (Feat. Kelis)”, “Feel So Close”, “We Found Love (Feat. Rihanna)”, “Sweet Nothing (Feat. Florence Welch)”, “Let’s Go (Feat. Ne-Yo)”, and “I Need Your Love (Feat. Ellie Goulding).” From his debut in 2007 Harris has consistently been one of my top 5 favorite DJ/ Producer/ Artist.
1. Kendrick Lamar, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City: A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar”
– Favorite Track- “Money Trees”
2. Frank Ocean, “Channel ORANGE”
– Favorite Track: “Pink Matter”
3. Japandroids, “Celebration Rock”
– Favorite Track: “Adrenaline Nightshift”
4. Alt-J, “An Awesome Wave”
– Favorite Track: “Tessellate”
5. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, “Mautre Themes”
– Favorite Track: “Symphony of the Nymph”
6. Grimes, “Visions”
– Favorite Song: “Vowels = Space and Time”
7. Tame Impala, “Lonerism”
– Favorite Track: “Music to Walk Home By”
8. Dirty Projectors, “Swing Lo Magellan”
– Favorite Track: “About to Die”
9. Wild Nothing, “Nocturne”
– Favorite Track: “Through the Grass”
10. The Oh Sees, “Putrifiers II”
– Favorite Track: “Lupine Dominus”