Friday, December 07, 2012

Elad's Favorite Albums of 2012

Checking out Sterogum's list of their favorite records of the year reminded me that I enjoy putting these lists together. It's becoming increasingly difficult to make a decision on ranking, though, because there is so much great music being produced today. So, I'll just put forward my list with some words and video to back it up.

10 - Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory
       I like to call these guys post-grunge, but their moody atmosphere might lend itself to New York borough-style hardcore or New York City-style indie rock and then (just when you think you have a handle on their sound), they throw in a indie-pop song ("Fall In") that could have been written by Peter Bjorn and John. They're all over the place, yet their 8-song LP really makes an impression.

9 - Chairlift - Something
     This duo is kind of intoxicating. I love the sounds they choose (see opener: "Sidewalk Safari") Lead singer Caroline Polachek has a smooth and sensual delivery while multi-instrumentalist Patrick Wimberly takes his musical inspiration from all over the globe. So, yeah, they're kinda like Beach House (who also released a good, but underwhelming record this year) but much pop-ier and way funkier. I can dig it.

8 -  Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits
      This supergroup made of superstars from Spoon and Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs sound very much like you'd imagine a band would coming from their background. Yet it's still surprising. This is classic indie rock in that it fluctatues with every track. Mostly upbeat, they lay down a smooth downtempo beast of a song in "Shivers" towards the end, but it's the Handsome Furs-esque "For Your Heart" that really wins mine.

7 - Grizzly Bear - Shields
     I shamefully admit that I haven't listened to Grizzly Bear that much over the years. I kind of threw them in with some of the more experminetal bands in the indie sphere. But then satellite radio allowed me to actually hear everything I wanted to and songs like "Yet Again" and "A Simple Answer" bore themselves into mind and didn't let go. Nobody ever told me these guys were like Radiohead, but that's the feeling I get when listening to them, like there's so many layers underneath the surface.

6 - Passion Pit - Gossamer
     This album doesn't seem to be getting the love and appreciation it deserves. It doesn't eclipse the band's stellar first record, but it is totally captivating album full of sounds I never heard before. Lead singer Michael Angelakos's delivery is so earnest and heartful, you can't help but goosebumps if you're actually paying attention to the lyrics. But then if you're just driving or walking or doing chores, these upbeat electronic songs truly take you away.

5 - The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth
     The band's 100th record (j/k) may very well be one of their best, which is saying a lot. I love the thematic connection between the songs and the characters. Recent records have almost exploded with all the musical ideas and ambition. Here, John Darnelle and Co. scale it all back and let the music find its own way to dive in your heart.

4 - Andrew Bird - Break it Yourself
    I thought this album would be much higher on my personal list since it is SO good and I feel blessed that I was able to see him perform some of these songs live recently. The epic finale, "Holes in the Ocean Floor" took on a brand new meaning after I saw him perform. There are the usual flourishes of genius in this record (too many to count), but for me the mark of the best music is that which touches me emotionally. And here, unlike some of Bird's recent records, I only felt some of the songs, not all of them.

3 - Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
     When I first heard the latest Dirty Projectors, I thought it would easily be at the top of my list. It's a succinct slice of musical inspiration that can cements this band as one of the best of this generation. For me, the power of these songs comes through every time I listen to them. The variety, the desire to try something new ("Unto Ceaser" , "About to Die") and then settle back to something old (the jangly rock of the title track) is what makes Dirty Projectors so interesting.

2 - Tame Impala - Lonerism
    I only downloaded this fantastic record recently but the amount of times I've listened to makes me confident I'm putting it in the right position in this list. I loved the previous record but felt the smoke-tinted haze and pyshicdelica often became too much. Here, they hit the exact right spot every single time. Songs like "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" and "Elephant" are instant classics that will be played in dorm rooms for the rest of eternity. Mark my words.

1- DIIV - Oshin
    Anyone who has been in my car in 2012 will not be surprised by this choice. This album is insanely addicting. Every note gets into your head, but not in a bad way. First time you listen to it, you would be forgiven for thinking it's an all instrumental jam-fest. Listen again and you start to hear how proficient the guitarists are. Listen again: "Oh wait, there's the vocals." What is he saying? It doesn't matter. This album makes me feel good. That's why it's at the top of my list.

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