I must admit my Muffin friends, I had a harder time than usual coming up with a year-end list this time. There was a LOT of good music that was put out in the ’12 (does anyone even say that? Like, “Man, I haven’t been back there since ‘twelve.” I don’t think they do. Oh well, f*ck the police.) and my obsessive listening habits took me to all ends of the musical spectrum. I’ll keep it short and sweet for you as I know you want to get to the jams on the ASAP, so without further ado, my favorite albums from 2012 (in reverse order):
p.s. Here’s a Spotify playlist with all these albums on it for your listening pleasure
10. Purity Ring – Shrines (Spotify link)
This album made the list solely because of its amazingly weird song titles. But even beyond the song titles Purity Ring brought the world an album dripping in digital bytes and beats, and I for one was not complaining. Plus, did you hear the collabo they did with Danny Brown?? Instant. Party. Starter.
9. Beach House – Bloom (Spotify link)
I do a lot of subway commuting (I don’t mean that I go back and forth from Subway a lot, though I have been known to partake in the occasional $5 footlong), and this album defined my daily morning commute for 2012. Dreamy yet substantive at the same time – it’s what I’ve now to come expect from a Beach House record and they have yet to disappoint.
8. Grizzly Bear – Shields (Spotify link)
Ed Droste can do no wrong in my book and this year he’s the author of one my favorite lyrics of the 2012 – the opening to ‘Speak in Rounds’ is genius in its simplicity when Droste states that ‘If I draw you upside down, I can let go.” I love that line. The album itself is a pleasure to listen to, and best enjoyed as a singular offering rather than a smorgasbord of sanitized singles. Bonus points for Ed Droste being an absolute baller on Instagram – for reals, you should follow him.
7. alt-J – An Awesome Wave (Spotify link)
Frank already covered the genre-bending skills of the Mercury Prize winning alt-J and their fantastic debut, An Awesome Wave, and he’s absolutely right – they are all over the place and it is fantastic. I had the (fitz)pleasure of seeing alt-J in the Spring at a Mercury Lounge and it was amazing to see a band on the verge. The room was tiny, the record was yet to come out Stateside, but everyone knew all the words and you could tell that something very special was happening there. Fast forward a few months and these guys blew up like nobody’s biz and will be returning to NYC to play a MUCH bigger room at Terminal 5. Well deserved guys, well deserved indeed.
6. Nas – Life is Good (Spotify link)
In a genre where longevity is as rare as a good Gucci Mane verse, Nasir Jones AKA God’s Son dropped his 10th solo album in his 18 year career. Recorded after his divorce, the album finds Mr. Jones getting his grown man on – rapping about the relationship with his daughter, reflecting on the ghosts of relationships past, waxing philosophical over silky jazz beats, to name a few. That’s not to say that God’s Son has lost his edge, ‘Accident Murderers’ and single ‘The Don’ find him sharp as ever. I mean, dude can rap for days. One of the greatest rappers to do it delivers, again.
5. Yeasayer – Fragrant World (Spotify link)
Yeasayer are so deliciously weird and I love it. Continuing down the electro-path they paved with Odd Blood, the Yeasayer boys put together 11 songs of digital pscyh jams that got heavy, heavy rotation in the Train Station. One thing I really like about this band is their ability to shift from the weird to the incredibly endearing and heartfelt – songs such as ‘Longevity’ (my most played song of the year I believe) and ‘Glass of the Microscope’ really stuck with me for both their musical and lyrical content. Plus, if you’re dropping jams about Henrietta Lacks…well, who can hate on that?
4. TNGHT – TNGHT EP (Spotify link)
Yeah it’s an EP not an album, but I don’t care – these are five of the best/craziest/loudest songs I heard all year. Hudson Mohawke and Lunice joined forces to create some of the gulliest music I have heard in a long, long time. This EP would have made my Top 10 regardless, but I will admit that it crept into the Top 5 on the strength of the ABSOLUTELY BATSHIT INSANE show they put on recently – my eardrums are seriously still recovering. It’s hip-hop but not really. It’s electo music, but not really. It’s just mean to be played loud, that’s all I know.
3. Diiv – Oshin (Spotify link)
This album could not be more different than my previous selection – I find something so comforting in the hazy, atmospheric sounds of Diiv. What began as a ‘let’s-just-put-this-on-in-the-background-and-not -really-pay-attention-to-it’ album for me turned into a daily listen throughout the course of the year. It’s not slow to the point where it’s boring and it’s not too crazy to the point where it’s abrasive – to me it’s a perfect album to listen to any time of the day no matter what mood strikes. Sure it’s a little Beach House-y meets Joy Division…..but how is that not a fantastic thing? Mostly instrumentals, but again, that’s not a bad thing as one track seamlessly flows into the other like one long, amazing song.
2. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory (Spotify link)
I have been debating for days about whether this album would be in my #1 or #2 spot (I take this very seriously) – I still don’t know if I made the right decision, but ultimately that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Cloud Nothings underwent a major aesthetic makeover since their 2011 album and put out a noisey piece of brilliance in 2012. I must admit, I generally don’t listen to a lot of music that skews this side of heavier, but I was addicted to this album from day one. The guitars across the album, but most especially in ‘Wasted Days’, sound so urgent and abrasive, and you can’t help but believe frontman Dylan Baldi when he screams ‘I thought I would be more than this.’ I saw Cloud Nothings play Glasslands in the beginning of the year and it was amazing and sweaty and loud and crowded and static-y and feedback-y – basically the album, personified. The band jumps a little genre-wise, favoring The Strokes on ‘Stay Useless’ and ‘Our Plans’, but again, I’m not complaining. 8 songs of pure energy that I will enjoy for a long time to come.
1. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (Spotify link)
What can I say about this album that I didn’t already say in this opus I wrote a few weeks back? A simply stunning major label debut by one of the smartest rappers to emerge in the last few years. The album is exhausting, it’s immersive, it’s brilliant and it’s everything that has been missing from the newcomers to hip-hop as of late. Sit down and really listen and you’ll be transported into a vivid world of storytelling backed by the lush work of an array of producers. Is this an album or a movie? It’s hard to tell sometimes, the visuals are so strong as told from Kendrick’s point of view. I don’t need to write any more words to tell you how absolutely incredible this album is – just throw on your finest pair of headphones, crank up the volume and let Kendrik Lamar guide you through m.A.A.d. city. It’ll be a ride you won’t soon forget.