Home / General / And the Album of the Year is…

And the Album of the Year is…


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.)

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  • Njorl

    Are there still albums?

    • gocart mozart


  • Seth

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

    • Seitz

      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

        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

          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.

          • I second Keep on Lying’s greatness (and the album as a whole is excellent).

  • Seitz
  • 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.

    • A year spent listening to Sonic Youth is a year well spent.

    • todd.

      Undun is really good.

    • Kurzleg

      Is Undun the best post-“Signals” or just best of 2012?

    • BobS

      Undun would get my vote, with Blunderbuss a close second. The Roots would also get my vote as one of the best live performers of this or any other year.
      I just picked up used cd copies of Here Come the Warm Jets & Taking Tiger Mountain that I’ve really been enjoying. I have 35 year old vinyl copies that have basically just been scenery for awhile due to my lack of a functional turntable.

    • BobS

      I knew I’d forget something- I also liked Means of Deliverance by Bill Laswell quite a lot.

  • 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.

    • Whatever hipster.

      • It’s true. I’d like to respond, but I need to go trim my thin beard and readjust my assymetrical hair.

    • Been planning to get into that Swans album, but it’s pretty intimidating.

      • justin

        In more ways than one. Worth the investment though.

      • Quicksand

        Doooo it.

        I wouldn’t count it among their very best from the 80s/90s, but it’s quite good, and I’m happy to get any new Swans at all.

        Saw them in SF this year. Gira still has it, and the band is formidable.

    • Seitz

      I didn’t really do a ranking of my favorites this year so much as I just broke them into Tiers, but that Lotus Plaza album is just barely outside of the top tier. It’s a really great album.

    • Uncle Ebeneezer

      +1 for Andrew Bird. Though I haven’t listened to the new album as much as I’d like, all of his stuff is pretty great. Especially for long drives with great (or no) scenery.

      Not sure if they are from this year, but Alabama Shakes and Band of Skulls both had albums that I played the shit out of.

      • Richard

        Alabama Shakes is from this year. Good record but, based on their EP from a couple years ago, I was expecting a little better. Needed a few more uptempo songs

        • Uncle Ebeneezer

          Yeah I can see that, though I actually got sold on the mellow Finally Found You-type songs. I totally overdid that album though and after about a month I never wanted to hear it again. Well, not never, but you know, totally burnt out on it.

        • laura

          I thought it was a snoozathon.

  • Richard

    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.

    • The Leonard Cohen album is great. Guy just keeps getting funnier, more accessible and more profound the older he gets. Also, still a great live act.

      • Richard

        Fully agree. Saw him a month ago and the show was amazing (especially for a 78 year old).

        • My sisters flew to Denver to see him last month, and they reported that he was phenomenal live.

          • Richard

            Its worth a trip to Denver. He’s that good live.

        • Joseph Slater

          Saw him in Detroit recently, and he was great.

    • Richard

      And my runner ups would include Moot Davis, John Boutte, Dr. John, Gaslight Anthem, Dr. Michael White, Dave Ferrato, Beach Boys, Luke Winslow-King, Alabama Shakes, Justin Townes Earle, Jason Heath, Old Crow Medicine Show, Marty Stuart and Carolina Chocolate Drops

  • Cols714

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

  • psh

    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.

    • psh

      Oops. I meant Lonerism by Tame Impala. Innerspeaker is their first record.

  • rea

    The obvious choice . . .

    • howard


      • Western Dave


  • CZHA

    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!

  • Uncle Ebeneezer

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

    • john

      black dice – mr impossible
      The Swans – The Seer
      Talk Normal – sunshine
      liars – wixiw
      burial – kindred ep
      death grips – money store
      Tom Carter/Bardo Pond – 4/23/03
      The Intelligence – Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me
      Ty Segall/White Fence – Hair
      Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes
      Clinic – Free Reign
      the future of the left = the plot against common sense

      • john

        didn’t mean this as a reply…stupid computer

      • Colin

        I’d inexplicably forgotten about both Liars and Flying Lotus. Excellent picks.

        • john

          That Liars is a real grower.

  • rickhavoc

    Bob Mould’s Silver Age has some moments.

  • gocart mozart

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

  • Andrew

    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.

  • 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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yebo5ILBMC0

    *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.

  • Chad

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

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    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

  • Joseph Slater

    No love for Lana Del Ray?

  • 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.”

  • Leeds man

    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.

  • Bill Murray

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

  • Scott Lemieux

    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.

  • Dude

    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

  • howard

    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

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

      • howard

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

      • howard

        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

          Oh, excellent — both tremendous critics.

        • Scott Lemieux

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

          • Howard

            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

            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.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Thanks for alerting me so I could get it out of the spam file!

  • Mitch
  • todd.

    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.

    • todd.

      Oh yeah, I wasn’t that impressed by the Jack White album, either.

      I did really like this Neutral Milk Hotel mash-up album, though.

      Taste, I haz it.

      • DClaynigtgoat


        • todd.

          Pft. Wish I was that cool.

  • Andrew

    Fathery John Misty – Fear Fun

    First Aid Kit – Lion’s Roar

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

    • Andrew


  • Jonas

    Stars “The North” is excellent

  • JB2

    Kendrick Lamar
    Jack White
    Cloud Nothings

  • Anonymous

    F*cked Up – David comes to life

    • Bas-O-Matic

      That’s last year, Good album, though, if you can get past the lead singers vocals

  • Western Dave

    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.

  • CaptBackslap

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

  • hylen

    Led Zeppelin IV

  • laura

    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

  • DClaynigtgoat

    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”.

  • DClaynigtgoat


  • swoof

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

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

  • bradP

    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.

    • bradP

      Although, listening through the Japandroids album for the first time, it is pretty good.

  • John

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

    Menomena – Moms

  • Bas-O-Matic

    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

  • rm

    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.

  • rm

    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.

  • slimslowslider

    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

  • Shaff

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

  • JB2

    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.

  • 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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