No doubt, 2012 was a great year for music (unsurprisingly) and a year that was oddly not as dominated by the popular market as much as in years past ("Gangnam Style" aside) So now that the year is just about wrapped up, I thought share some thoughts on 10 albums and 25 songs that I feel were the best 2012 had to offer.
10. "WIXIW" - Liars
An album that surprised me in its complexity. Cryptic yet oddly poetic lyrics blended with an eclectic and electronic style that sounded like "Kid A" if it had been written by TV On the Radio. While it might not have spoken as loudly as some of the year's other releases, it certainly had volumes to say of its own accord.
9. "Gossamer" - Passion Pit
Happy songs about sad things. The irony of the album characterized it, but it did not define it. Passion Pit's super bouncy second album instead turned out to be a message of perseverance despite overwhelming circumstances which is something that an election-obsessed and economically weird America definitely needed this year.
8. "Dark Roots of Earth" - Testament
Solid thrash metal albums have been hard to come by the past few years as old giants like Metallica and Megadeth have faltered and new bands seem uninterested in what is quite possibly metal's finest hour, but Testament took things back to the roots (pun intended) with this release. Smoldering riffs, honestly-delivered (if not slightly paranoid) lyrics, and genius solos occupied the entire hour of this album, and not a single moment disappointed. Easily the best in metal.
7. "Give Us Rest [Or a Requiem Mass in C (The Happiest of All Keys)] - David Crowder Band
The farewell album the of Waco, TX based David Crowder Band might not be the cohesive statement found in "Church Music" or "A Collision" but it is definitely the most adventurous project the band has put out in their decade-long career. Lyrically, it features more of the spiritual depth that fans have come to expect from the band, but where the album really shone was in its musical-experimentation jumping from bluegrass to pop to progressive metal with ease and kicking tail with all of it.
6. "Port of Morrow" - The Shins
The Shins have a knack for delivering stellar indie pop and 2012 was no exception as their 4th album continued much in the same vein as the past 3 while managing to add in a few new elements to keep long term fans interested as well as attract a new audience. It might not be groundbreaking stuff, but it's most definitely still as good as it was back on "Oh, Inverted World"
5. "Traveler" - Trey Anastasio
Truly a left-field hit for me, this new solo album from the Phish frontman and guitarist was not a release I thought I'd latch onto so tightly (especially considering my passive indifference for his jam band), but nonetheless, Anastasio's "Traveler" did just that with a brilliantly successful mix of catchy hooks and an intricate sense of detail. It's concise length also provided for easy repeat listens making it my most-played album of the year.
4. "Break It Yourself/Hands of Glory" - Andrew Bird
Bird released two albums this year and has recently released them together in one package (which seems like merit enough to call them the same product for the sake of this list) The first, "Break It Yourself" was a magnum opus of sorts as Bird experimented with odd techniques in song structure, tone, and lyrical composition which was consistently engaging if not a bit exhausting. The second, "Hands of Glory" was a much more brief rootsy collection of 5 originals and 3 covers which really showcased Bird's ability and conviction for his craft. Together they simply added up to this: An honestly-delivered and beautifully-crafted statement on the nature of life and of the spirit.
3. "Postales" - Gaby Moreno
Another left-field hit for me this year was Guatemalan singer Gaby Moreno's "Postales". Essentially a Latin-flavored Amy Winehouse, Moreno put power back into singing with a set of pipes that'd make even the best of singers just a bit envious. Add to that the fact that it was all delivered unapologetically in her native language of Spanish and you have one of the biggest outliers of the year, and good lord does it succeed.
2. "151a" - The debut full length (if you can really call an LP this brief a full length) of a one of a kind artist. Kishi Bashi has an impeccable sense of melody and an innate attention to detail that is sure to impress even the most hardened indie fan. Add to that a quasi-innocent lyrical style like that of Arcade Fire and you have a recipe for one of the most exciting debuts of the 21st century
1. "Allelujah! Don't Bend, Ascend" - Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Canadian musical collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor reconvened in 2010 for touring and thus we all knew a new album would soon be on the way. 2 years later, here it is: a grand, experimental post-rock statement with layers upon layers of detail and crafting all about Whatever It Means To You, the Listener. To me, it was a moving and bold statement about the nature of war in the Middle East, but to you it could mean something entirely different but equally as valid and meaningful. That is its beauty and that is why it is my top album of 2012.
Top 25 Tracks of 2012 (In No Particular Order)
In the sense of fairness, all tracks shall be numbered as 7.
7. "We Drift Like Worried Fire" - Godspeed You! Black Emperor
7. "Atticus, In the Desert" - Kishi Bashi
7. "Land of Nod" - Trey Anastasio
7. "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas" - Gaby Moreno
7. "Danse Carribe" - Andrew Bird
7. "Bait and Switch" - The Shins
7. "Sequence 1-7" - David Crowder Band
7. "A Day In the Death" - Testament
7. "Love is Greed" - Passion Pit
7. "The Exact Color of Doubt" - Liars
7. "Bad Religion" - Frank Ocean
7. "Freedom At 21" - Jack White
7. "Good Morning" - Norah Jones
7. "Elephant" - Tame Impala
7. "Season In Hell" - Dum Dum Girls
7. "The Once and Future Carpenter" - The Avett Brothers
7. "Divide And Conquer" - Shadows Fall
7. "When My Train Pulls In" - Gary Clark Jr.
7. "I Ain't The Same" - Alabama Shakes
7. "Halfway There" - Soundgarden
7. "Quasar" - Smashing Pumpkins
7. "Reunion" - The xx
7. "See It On Your Side" - Dinosaur Jr.
7. "Save Me" - Muse
7. "How Do You Ruin Me?" - Black Prairie
So there you have it! The very best of 2012 in music as told by me! No apologies; it's been a great year.