Here are my favorite albums released in 2012, for your consideration:
20. Tame Impala – Lonerism
The Australian psych-rockers brought it on this follow up to 2010’s Innerspeaker. The album is hazy without being blurred, and blends classic rock riffs with more modern synth-and-echo textures. Spin the highlight, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”, below:
19. All Eyes – Shelf Life
Like the northern metropolis from which this band hails, All Eyes’ debut feels wintry: teeming with brave motion through a dark and frigid landscape, with the hope of warm firesides to guide one through the icy streets. Listen to the Minneapolis quartet’s “Warning Signs” below:
18. Damien Jurado – Maraqopa
Damien Jurado is one of the greatest songwriters out there right now. Maraqopa continues in his tradition of intensely genuine, lovingly-crafted songs with just enough texture behind the guitar and vocal base to complement, rather than detract from, the inherent beauty in them.
Enjoy Jurado’s “Musuem of Flight” here.
17. The Rest – Seesaw
The story behind this record’s release is both harrowing and inspiring. To put a long-story very short, The Rest had nearly finished this album when a hardware glitch caused countless hours of their work to disappear. After at least a year of thinking it was lost forever, they were able to extract the recordings from the hard disk. The finished product is Seesaw, and it is an orchestrally-minded piece of shoegazing rock n’ roll. It is a magnificent opus, and the clear vinyl pressing (of which I have copy) is worth getting.
16. Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
On Tramp, Sharon Van Etten’s beautiful melodies glide across modest compositions that allow the vocals to take center-stage. And rightfully so, as her voice is hauntingly majestic throughout this album.
Listen to the single, “Serpents”, here.
15. Cheers Elephant – Like Wind Blows Fire
This Philadelphia group has created an upbeat, catchy yet intelligent collection of songs in this album. For fans of Miniature Tigers, Throw Me The Statue, Dr. Dog, and so on. Stream/download their album from Bandcamp below:
14. The Walkmen – Heaven
The Walkmen never fail me. Following up the fantastic Lisbon, this album feels raw and improvisational, yet it displays a carefully cultivated sound by a band who have had many years to craft their own splendid little niche.
Listen to “Heartbreaker” below:
13. Delta Spirit – Delta Spirit
The first Delta Spirit song I heard came from the computer speakers of a co-worker when I interned at Secretly Canadian records in 2010. Their sound caught my ear enough to inquire about the band, remember their name and go home and buy the album. The song was “Bushwick Blues” – easily one of my all-time favorite songs to date. Delta Spirit’s latest, self-titled album finds the band continuing their own powerful concoction of folk and rock and pop that pours like a finely aged whiskey.
Enjoy “Tear It Up” from Delta Spirit:
12. The Shins – Port of Morrow
The countless fans of Chutes Too Narrow or Wincing the Night Away surely expected big things from The Shins on their first album in 5 years. And at least to this listener, all expectations were met in this masterfully executed collection. The albums starts off with several walloping single-worthy tunes, and when the band does turn down the metronome, it does so with such grace and beauty that this only adds to the splendor.
Here’s one of my favorites, “September”:
11. Sigur Ros – Valtari
Now that Sigur Ros’ frontman, Jónsi Birgisson, has found an outlet in his solo project for the flurrying celebratory sounds that helped drive the band’s dazzling 2008 release Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, this new album takes a step back, verging on pure ambience as melody and harmonic textures take the lead with little to no percussive and rhythmic backing for support. It feels like a calm after a storm, a coming down or a floating away. It is heartbreakingly beautiful.
While it is best experienced as a whole, you can listen to “Ekki mukk” below: