Ah, yes. The annual compilation of my favorite albums of the year has arrived. And that leads me to an important disclaimer (as always): Obviously, this list only includes albums I listened to this year. Which means it’s a limited list. There was a lot of wonderful music released in 2012, and I listened to only a fraction of it. Particularly, I’m aware this list is probably missing some great metal, country and bluegrass albums. But it’s also impossible to get to everything. So, do yourself a favor and keep exploring. I know I will.
If you’d like to add your list (or otherwise start a debate with me), feel free to add your comments to this post.
Also, two other items of note: Listen to me talk with KUAF’s (that’s 91.3 FM) Kyle Kellams today (Dec. 31) at noon and 7 p.m. on the Ozarks at Large program. We’ll discuss these albums. Or, click the link after each individual entry to listen to a song by the artist in question. You’ll need the Spotify program to listen to those tracks.
10) “Animal Joy” by Shearwater — The piano-driven melodies of Shearwater might be slow to build, but build they do. Ex-Okkervil River member Jonathan Meiburg’s gorgeous rock ballads pick up where previous works left off. While perhaps never reaching the heights of previous works such as 2008’s “Rook,” “Animal Joy,” despite the title’s assertion, never reaches bliss. It’s a sometimes sad, sometimes outright depressing album.
9) “Attack on Memory” by Cloud Nothings — Summoning the spirit of forerunners such as Sonic Youth, the noise rock leanings of Cloud Nothings comes as something both urgent and worthy of loud volumes on car stereos. The Cleveland-based band carries a hard edge, but songs such as “Our Plans” carry insightful underpinnings, too.
8) “The Carpenter” by The Avett Brothers — A return to their previous folk rock form after a brief departure on their previous recording, “I and Love and You,” the brother-duo-plus-friends band from North Carolina offer some wonderful melodies on “The Carpenter,” particularly on the song “Live and Die.” Some of the tracks, such as “Paul Newman Vs. The Demons,” fall flat, but the scope of the work holds up with previous releases.
7) “Boys and Girls” by Alabama Shakes — Brittany Howard, lead vocalist of Alabama Shakes, is a force of nature. But even beyond Howard, the Shakes boast infectious songs of love and lust of the straight ahead, rock ’n’ roll variety. Borrowing heavily from Creedence Clearwater Revival and other acts in the southern rock vein, the Shakes’ album spent a lot of time in my play queue this year.
6) “Generals” by Mynabirds — A rambunctious, wild, call-to-arms audio assault, Mynabirds’ “Generals” stomps out a collection of sometimes tribal, sometimes folk, almost always political songs. Essentially the one-woman project of former Bright Eyes sidewoman Laura Burhenn, “Generals” charts a growth in depth and maturity that exceeds that of the group’s previous release.
5) “Blunderbuss” by Jack White — Speaking of rambunctious, Jack White (formerly of The White Stripes) may best define the term rock star. He wears the badge well on “Blunderbuss,” his solo debut. It’s somewhat reminiscent of his work with former projects such as The Stripes and Raconteurs. Here’s what you need to know: Jack White writes a mean hook, and he plays a monster guitar. That’s plenty.
4) “The Lumineers” by The Lumineers — Of all the records released this year, I spent more time listening to the self-titled collection by The Lumineers than any other. Filled with a radio-friendly set of quirky (but never cloying) tracks, especially the smash “Ho Hey,” The Lumineers maintain a friendly demeanor throughout. They were recently nominated for a couple Grammys and they likely have more accolades on the way.
3) “Gossamer” by Passion Pit — An equally flamboyant and dance-happy record as the band’s previous work, “Manners,” Passion Pit’s “Gossamer” treads similar territory as it delves into mania and, well, passion. Coupled with lead singer Michael Angelakos announcing he suffers from bipolar disorder shortly before the record’s release, “Gossamer” makes sense as a record comfortable with both the highest highs and lowest lows. Perhaps it’s a little bit more on the manic side, but that’s probably the point — it gets you dancing.
2) “Celebration Rock” by Japandroids — I suppose any record that begins and ends with the sounds of fireworks should be a party rock affair. That’s the gist of “Celebration Rock,” the second full-length record from Japandroids. “Celebration Rock” is a cause for a party itself.
1) “Lonerism” by Tame Impala — Imagine some of the Beatles’ weirdest and wildest psychedelic jams, maybe something from the “Sgt. Pepper’s” era. That’s the baseline comparison for Tame Impala’s finer moments on “Lonerism,” the Australian band’s second album. That’s not to attempt to make equals of the two — the elders win on all marks. But when Tame Impala get rolling on songs such as “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and “Elephant,” the legendary band from Liverpool will be the first comparison to come to mind. Tame Impala succeeds at creating a mood and a colorful, infectious blend of nuanced, world-weary rock.
Honorable Mentions(in no particular order): Bat For Lashes’ “The Haunted Man,” Twin Shadow’s “Confess,” Beach House’s “Bloom,” Of Monsters and Men’s “My Head is an Animal”