Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best Music of 2012: Part 1

2012 was easily my most difficult year with regard to consuming new music. The obvious reason is it was the first year of my life that I was a parent for its entirety. Still, I managed to listen to a lot of quality new releases, and while my list is a little shorter than in past years, I feel pretty confident there's a lot of good stuff here.

I expanded this list from a top 10 to a top 50 in 2005, but it has dwindled in size ever since: to a top 40 from 2007-2008 and a top 33 from 2009-2011. This year, while I could have easily included 33 albums or more, I decided to cut it off where I felt the quality took a hit. While not as much a critical list as a nod to the music i really enjoyed in 2012, the records that just missed were solid, but not really worth recognizing, in my opinion. It turns out the cutoff was at a round number (30), but in the future, if it's 29 or 32, so be it.

30. Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
With an honorable mention to Tift Merritt, who missed this year's list, this is my female alt-country album of the year.

29. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
There are a lot of bands with significant contributions from women who rank much higher, but this ranks as my favorite album from a female solo artist this year.

28. Bloc Party - Four
While I certainly listen to a lot of older music from English artists, when it comes to modern stuff, not so much. This year, however, four U.K. bands—including these guys and three in the top ten—are represented on my list.

27. Damien Jurado - Maraqopa
Not exactly your average singer-songwriter, Jurado comes from a punk background and his songs, while occasionally dirge-like, sometimes find themselves meandering into brief, but meaningful, psychedelic guitar wankings kind of reminiscent of '70s British folk-rock.

26. Wild Nothing - Nocturne
This is the only album to make the list that wasn't featured in a Frequent Spins post this year. So, let's play the "name three bands they remind me of" game: Mojave 3, The Cure, Galaxie 500.

25. Sun Kil Moon - Among the Leaves
I'm no critic, and even if I were it wouldn't be my place to suggest what songs should or shouldn't have been included on an album. But, purely from a personal enjoyment standpoint, if this 74-minute album was edited down to my favorite 40 or so minutes, it might be top ten.

24. Carolina Chocolate Drops - Leaving Eden
I've been into old-timey music for longer than I've been obsessed with old-timey baseball players, but modern music heavily influenced by a 100+ year old genre isn't usually my thing. This three-piece string band, of course, is one of the exceptions.

23. Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn't
There's no "A Postcard to Nina" here, but this album actually lands one spot higher on my list than the album that contained that gem. However, Lekman is not even the highest ranking Swedish artist in this year's countdown.

22. Todd Snider - Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables
Singer-songwriter probably is less apt a description for Snider as for Jurado, but storyteller would probably fit the bill. Let's be clear, though. The stories are set to a rocking tone, and they're more than just a tad cynical as they delve into political and occasionally religious themes.

21. First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
This Swedish duo of sisters certainly has some country influences, but considering the numerous comparisons to Fleet Foxes, indie folk is probably more like it.

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