Saturday, January 12, 2013

Closing the book on 2012 (favorites)

2012 was a year. There was music in it. I listened to hundreds of albums and liked probably half of what I heard. I found a handful of albums that felt truly special to me, that either instantly or over time came to mean a lot to me – albums that I played and replayed in cars, houses, rooms, outdoors and inside my ears, that I sang along to, that I thought about, dissected and daydreamed about in quiet moments. And I enjoyed a lot of other albums that I’d be a fool to overanalyze or overpraise.

Near the end of the year, hastened by the music-critics’ end-of-year season (which, like the Christmas shopping season seems to move earlier every year), I spent way too much mental energy organizing and re-judging my favorites of 2012. I did it to such an extent that I bored myself on the effort before we had even reached the last day of the year.

Now it’s 2013 and I’m ready to move on to the new, but not before indulging my compulsion to put somewhere in electronic stone my list of favorite albums from the year. This is presented without comments; they all cry out for an indepth explanation, especially the ones that readers might say “huh?” about. But too many words have been spent on 2012 by now. So talk to me about the why if you will, and I’ll happily engage you about it. Or listen to the music and let yourself imagine what I might find of value in it. I’ve linked to videos or songs from these albums (a good album doesn't necessarily make for a good video, so for some of these you might prefer closing your eyes and just listening).

25 favorite albums of 2012
1. Allo Darlin' - Europe (Slumberland)
2. The Coup - Sorry to Bother You (Anti-)
3. Taylor Swift - Red (Big Machine)
4. Advance Base - A Shut-In's Prayer (Caldo Verde)
5. Cat Power - Sun (Matador)
6. The Black Swans - Occasion for Song (Misra)
7. Iris DeMent - Sing the Delta (Flariella)
8. The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth (Merge)
9. Yuichiro Fujimoto - Speaks Melodies (Audio Dregs)
10. Guided by Voices - The Bears for Lunch (GBV Inc.)
11. Landing - Landing (Geographic North)
12. Hallelujah the Hills - No One Knows What Happens Next (Discrete Pageantry)
13. Roc Marciano - Reloaded (Decon Inc.)
14. Tennis - Young and Old  (Fat Possum)
15. Peter Broderick - (Hush)
16. Windy and Carl - We Will Always Be (Kranky)
17. Apollo Brown and Guilty Simpson - Dice Game (Mello Music Group)
18. Dan Deacon - America (Domino)
19. Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream (RCA)
20. Bowerbirds - The Clearing (Dead Oceans)
21. Josephine Foster - Blood Rushing (Fire)
22. Grass Widow - Internal Logic (HLR)
23. Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Psychedelic Pill (Reprise)
24. First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar (Wichita)
25. Strand of Oaks - Dark Shores (self-released)


  1. Dave, I've heard really good things about The Bears for Lunch from GBV (possibly from you). Is it a lot different than Let's Go Eat the Factory? I liked that one despite some throwaway tracks. I haven't heard a lot of these, so I'm going to have to check out the songs pretty soon.

    I'm glad to see that you're doing this blog, despite your reservations on the format. I think it's going to be great!

    1. Thanks, Dan. I think all three of the 2012 GBV albums are pretty different from each other in a way. While all have their moments that try pretty hard to repeat 'classic' GBV styles, 'Bears' somehow seems most loose and casual about it, not as mannered.

      I liked 'Factory' because it was a somewhat awkward (in a good way) move in a new direction at times; the second one ('Class Clown Spots a UFO') seemed most repetitive of the past to me, and not necessarily repeating the best parts of the past. It's the most "Rock" of the three, but in that kind of clunky "aren't we really rocking now?" way that can rub me the wrong way. (Though most other people I know seemed to like it best of the three, it's my least favorite.)

      By the third album they just seemed most comfortable in their own skin as a reformed band. It's the most fun, the most varied, while still very in touch with their past. It makes me excited for what's next.