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And the Album of the Year is…

[ 97 ] December 11, 2012 |

not Wrecking Ball. So what is it? My curiosity isn’t merely idle either — I’m headed home in a week and need some company on incredibly long drives across a lot of Texas nothing.

(Comments with links to videos or performances are encouraged.)


Comments (97)

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  1. Njorl says:

    Are there still albums?

  2. Seth says:

    My favorites were In Our Heads by Hot Chip, Celebration Rock by Japandroids, Channel Orange by Frank Ocean, and that Fiona Apple record.

    • Seitz says:

      Japandroids is great. Here’s my list without links in no particular order (the one with links is awaiting moderation):

      Tame Impala – Lonerism
      Melody’s Echo Chamber – Self titled
      Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
      The Walkmen – Heaven
      Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light

      • Cols714 says:

        I’ve been trying to get into the Tame Impala recorde because I really liked their first one, but it just isn’t sticking.

        • Seitz says:

          I think it works better as a whole album. I loved the first album, but I think Kevin Parker just took it to a whole new level on this one. Took me five or six listens to really love it. Going Backwards, Keep on Lying, and Elephant all back to back is really the sweet spot.

          He also produced that Melody’s Echo Chamber album, which is very Stereolabby.

  3. Djur says:

    Defining the music year as December ’11 through November ’12, I think the best album I’ve heard this year was The Roots’ Undun. Close runner up (and #1 if December ’11 is omitted) is Mission of Burma’s Unsound.

    Haven’t listened to a ton of new releases this year, though. Been listening to lots of Roxy Music and Brian Eno and Sonic Youth.

  4. Colin says:

    I know this is going to come off as painfully hipster (though I’m not one), but [in no particular order]…

    The Seer by Swans, Fiona Apple’s Idler Wheel, Andrew Bird’s Break it Yourself, Sharon Van Etten’s Tramp, and Lotus Plaza’s Spooky Action at a Distance.

  5. Richard says:

    Here’s my top ten

    1. JD McPherson -Signs and Signifiers. Post modern retro rocks and roll. Rocks like nobody’s business

    2. Bruce – Wrecking Ball.

    3. Mark Knopfler – Privateer. At his most rootsy with incredible harp by Kim Wilson

    4. Kin – Rodney Crowell/Mary Karr. Collaboration between Crowell and memoirist Karr with vocals by Crowell, Lee Ann Rimes, Norah Jones, Kristofferson, Emmylou, Vince Gill, Lucinda Williams. Best lyrics of the year.

    5. Jon Cleary – Occapella. British born but New Orleans based pianist and singer does great versions of Allan Toussaint songs.

    6. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas

    7. Graham Parker and the Rumour – Three Chords Good. He’s back and as good as ever.

    8. Bob Dylan – Tempest

    9. Dwight Yoakam – Three Pears. More rock than traditional country. Great comeback record.

    10. Treme – Music from the HBO Series, Volume 2. Great collection of music from the underrated series. Just a sampling of the incredible music found in New Orleans today.

  6. Cols714 says:

    Cloud Nothings, Attach on Memory
    Beach House, Bloom
    Grizzly Bear, Shields
    Spiritualized, Sweet Heart Sweet Light
    The XX, Coexist

  7. psh says:

    How about Whokill by Tuneyards? That may technically have released in 2011, but Merrill Garbus is fearless and magnetizing. I was also just turned on to Innerspeaker by Tame Impala.

  8. CZHA says:

    Add David Byrne and St. Vincent’s Love This Giant and Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s Psychedelic Pill.

    There are lots of good sounds in the suggestions in the comments above.

    Have a great trip!

  9. Uncle Ebeneezer says:

    Oh yeah and Brad Mehldau’s Ode (original tunes) and Where Do I Start (all covers) were both pretty awesome jazz albums.

  10. rickhavoc says:

    Bob Mould’s Silver Age has some moments.

  11. gocart mozart says:

    You failed to specify which year so I’ll say “Greetings From Asbury Park”

  12. Andrew says:

    Channel Orange by Frank Ocean, no contest. Here he is performing the album’s best song live on Jimmy Fallon. No one’s suggested Swing Lo Megellan by Dirty Projectors or Local Business by Titus Andronicus yet, so I’ll throw those out there too.

  13. 'stina says:

    I take this opportunity to bring attention to Caravan Palace, for those that aren’t into electroswing.

    Panic came out in March, and it’s outstanding. My husband and I went to London two weeks ago on a delayed honeymoon to see Caravan Palace at the Koko Theater.* PHENOMENAL performance, and they hinted at an American tour next summer.

    Someone put the whole album on Youtube here.

    But this is my favorite cut from the album:

    *My husband djed the after-party. Plug for his soundcloud here if you find yourself intrigued with electroswing and want to hear more. There are two mixes up right now for download.

  14. Chad says:

    good kid, m.A.A.d. City, Blunderbuss, channel Orange, R.A.P. Music, Celebration Rock, and Four

  15. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    Some of these have already been mentioned but (in no particular order) my favorite albums to come out this year:

    Channel Orange by Frank Ocean
    The Idler Wheel… by Fiona Apple
    Bend Beyond by Woods
    Blunderbuss by Jack White
    What We Saw From the Cheap Seats by Regina Spektor
    Cancer 4 Cure by El-P

  16. Joseph Slater says:

    No love for Lana Del Ray?

  17. Ben Helford says:

    I’m hardly ever able to buy new albums, so I don’t feel qualify to find which is the best one. However, I loved Edward Sharp & the Magnetic Zeros new album “Here.”

  18. Leeds man says:

    Driving across Texas and restricting yourself to this year’s music? Are you fucking crazy? A well-tempered mix of Bach, Miles Davis and Stevie Ray Vaughan is called for.

  19. Bill Murray says:

    I would choose “In the Pit of the Stomach” by We Were Promised Jetpacks

  20. Scott Lemieux says:

    Putting together an iTunbes playlist with the hope that I;ll actually do a top 10 this year, but I’d say The Idler Wheel Etc. Etc. is the frontrunner right now.

  21. Dude says:

    Heartless Bastards- Arrow
    Dr Dog- Be The Void
    Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself
    River City Tanlines- Coast to Coast
    Sun Kil Moon- Amongst the Leaves

  22. howard says:

    the two jazz albums that came out this year that i’d recommend to non-jazz fans are hank jones and charlie haden’s superb investigation of spirituals, “come sunday,” (which follows on their 1995 cd along similar lines, “steal away”) and vijay iyer’s superb investigation of, well, everything, “accelerando.”

    from a jazz perspective, there’s a few albums i haven’t caught up with yet but my choice is ravi coltrane’s “spirit fiction” (yes, he’s john and alice’s son).

    from a pop perspective, i’ll second both frank ocean and the xx from my more limited listening.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      I need some jazz tips before I can compile any kind of list, so thanks!

      • howard says:

        More to come when i’m not typing on a phone, but those 3 are a good start.

      • howard says:

        Scott, the next 5 i was going to recommend are all on either ratliff’s or chinen’s just published top 10s in the times, so just go there!

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Oh, excellent — both tremendous critics.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          BTW, already appreciate the tip on Accelerando — fantastic stuff. Are his previous records equally good?

          • Howard says:

            finally back in front of a keyboard after a business trip.

            let’s begin with iyer: he’s been a contender from the start but he’s in his prime now, and yes, accelerando is his best (here’s nate chinen’s original review), by a slim margin over his previous (and previous best), historicity.

            more broadly, iyer has three generational peers as a jazz pianist. the best, insofar as “best” means something, is jason moran; moran’s best is his 2010 release ten, but as you know, i often recommend a “starter” cd for an unfamiliar jazz artist (assuming you don’t know moran, maybe you do?), and in his case i’d say modernistic, where he covers both james p. johnson and afrika bambaatas or cassandra wilson’s loverly, where he plays the sideman role on a set of standards, are great places to start.

            the other two of that generation are brad mehldau (who really knocked me out when i saw him live for the first time in 2011) and ethan iverson of the bad plus (and to bring things full circle regarding my recent comments on lee konitz, here’s a nice interview that iverson conducted with konitz a few years ago.

            to return to 2012, yes, chinen and ratliff are both excellent – probably the two best jazz critics currently working – and not only did they both have iyer and coltrane on their lists, but the 5 i mentioned earlier today that i would have futher overlapped were the berne, virelles, terry, truesdale, and okazaki, while i haven’t yet heard either the pelt or the kikuchi (with paul motian on drums).

            my last two to fill out a jazz ten for 2012 off what i have heard are russ losing’s drum music (the compositions of paul motian) and michael formanek’s small places

          • howard says:

            scott, i just wrote up a lengthy comment complete with a bunch of links, but it appears to have been swallowed up and i don’t have the energy to redo (but you may want to check in case it’s just being held for moderation or something!).

            the one thing i’ll repeat is that yes, this is iyer’s best, by a small margin over his previous and previous best, “historicity.” Here’s the nate chinen review when it came out.

  23. todd. says:

    Killer Mike. Kendrick Lamar.

    Was disappointed in the new XX, Andrew Bird albums.

    Turns out I didn’t listen to much new music this year.

  24. Andrew says:

    Fathery John Misty – Fear Fun

    First Aid Kit – Lion’s Roar

    Bonus points for shooting the video where Gram Parsons was cremated.

  25. Jonas says:

    Stars “The North” is excellent

  26. JB2 says:

    Kendrick Lamar
    Jack White
    Cloud Nothings

  27. Anonymous says:

    F*cked Up – David comes to life

  28. Western Dave says:

    The album for driving across Texas from 2012 would clearly be Some Nights by Fun.. You can sing-a-long at the top your lungs to that sucker for hours and hours. When my students first had me listen to it, I thought rehashed Queen, but man, it grew on me.

  29. CaptBackslap says:

    Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
    Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music
    Beach House, Bloom (not recommended for long drives, though)

  30. hylen says:

    Led Zeppelin IV

  31. laura says:

    I liked:

    Blunderbuss (weird for me since I never liked the White Stripes)
    dEUS — Following Sea
    Brian Whelan — Decider
    Future of the Left — The Plot Against Common Sense
    John K Samson — Provincial

  32. DClaynigtgoat says:

    Seriously, most of these selections are from bands that don’t really have a certain sense of music. Checked out the Tame impala music that everyone here is raving back. Typical vocals/lyrics accompanied by piano licks that don’t require anyone to actually know how to play piano. This is the problem with modernity, anyone can just pick up an instrument and have a basic concept of music and how it works a impress a generation of easily impressed “children”.

  33. DClaynigtgoat says:


  34. swoof says:

    Metz – self-titled
    Baroness – Yellow & Green
    Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man
    Japandroids – Celebration Rock
    Lambchop – Mr. M

  35. Charles says:

    No answer except Japandroids – Celebration Rock is acceptable. It’s the best album of the year by a mile.

  36. bradP says:

    I went through Popmatters’ list and pop music has officially passed me by.

    The only album that’s really coming to mind that has made steady play would be The Divine Fits.

  37. John says:

    +1 on Japandroids, Father John Misty, Andrew Bird, and Swans. I’d just add:

    Menomena – Moms

  38. Bas-O-Matic says:

    1. Death Grips – Money Store. Alternative hip hop on meth. Lots of angry shouting. Fun to turn up and shuffle around like wounded zombie to.

    2. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange. Alternative R&B. Probably should be my number one. Excellent song writing and production. Somewhere in the vein of Prince for the adderall generation maybe?

    3. Beach House – Bloom Beach House has their formula. And they don’t stray from it. Nothing is going to surprise you on this album. Sort of Nico singing over 80’s post-punk like the Smiths or the Cure.

    4. Tame Impala – Lonerism. Basically retro psychedelia. Could be a new album by XTC released as The Dukes of the Stratosphear. Still a good album though.

    5. EL-P – Cancer 4 Cure EL-P also produced the Killer Mike album people mentioned above, and Killer Mike appears on this record as well. Both are good albums. I just (barely) like this one better.

    Honorable Mention
    Killer Mike R.A.P. Music

    Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid MAad City This is topping a lot of best of lists. Frankly I haven’t spent enough time with it to rank it higher.

    Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

    Japandroids – Celebration Rock

    Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls

    Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself

    Dr John – Locked Down

    From 2011, But I listened to them primarily in 2012

    Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler/The Dream.

    M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming

  39. rm says:

    I liked Iris DeMent, “Sing the Delta”

    and Carolina Chocolate Drops, “Leaving Eden”

    and the Dylan album is very good, much better than the last one and comparable to the previous decade of good albums

    links to videos or performances are encouraged
    Of course they are.

  40. rm says:

    I think Neil Young’s “Americana” was this year. It’s completely horrible and inspired. I really enjoy enduring it. It’s awful but I like it.

    I can’t possibly listen to his newest album or read his book because they both have the most ridiculously retro-hippie titles imaginable, and that’s very disappointing.

  41. slimslowslider says:

    my top five new releases in no order

    Spacin’ – Deep Thuds
    Goat – World Music
    Black Bananas – Rad Times Xpress
    Blues Control – Valley Tagent
    Pusha T – Fear of God 2

  42. Shaff says:

    Driving through Texas? Give Austin’s own, The Sword, a listen.

  43. JB2 says:

    Wow – totally forgot about Tramp from Sharon Van Etten. Put that up near the top. A great record.

    One problem is that it came out very early in the year; another is that the highs from Tramp didn’t quite match those of her last record. Also (and yes this is provincial) she couldn’t be bothered to appear in Detroit during her last tour.

  44. It’s gotta be one of these three; all of them are brilliant, and it’s hard to pick just one:

    Testament – Dark Roots of Earth
    Master – The New Elite
    Threshold – March of Progress

    If we’re going for lyrical sophistication, the obvious choice is Threshold… but man, Master and Testament still know how to throw down some riffs!

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