It’s been a great year for music. I had a hard time putting this list together because (unlike, say, last year) I had a lot of great music to choose from, thus the massive list of honorable mentions at the bottom. All links go to Spotify.
10. Earlimart, System Preferences
Subtle, folky, melodic.
9. Sleeping Bag, Women of Your Life
Slacker power pop.
8. Guided by Voices, Class Clown Spots A UFO
If you’d told me a few years ago I’d have a GBV album on a best-of list in 2012, I’d have been really puzzled. But this is a great GBV album, right up there with some of their best like Under The Bushes, Under The Stars. Filled with pop gems and weirdness.
7. The xx, Coexist
In September, I said I doubted I’d hear a better album than this one all year. But after repeated listens, turns out it I might have overstated the case. It’s still a good album—the sound of late-night longing for a relationship long gone—but not as good as their debut a few years ago.
6. The Mountain Goats, Transcendental Youth
When I first heard this album, I was sure The Weakerthans had put out another album, but no, it was The Mountain Goats.
5. Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra, Theatre is Evil
The indie P!nk, this albums contains some of the best pop songs of the year. “Do It With a Rock Star” has the best sarcasm of the year (“Do you really want to go back home/check your messages and charge your phone?”).
4. David Byrne & St. Vincent, Love This Giant
David Byrne and horns. Pretty much says it all. Another experiment that works.
3. Divine Fits, A Thing Called Divine Fits
Catchy, almost-danceable, slinky. Like the best of Spoon.
2. Regina Spektor, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
While everyone was talking about Fiona Apple (the other weird girl with a piano), whose album left me cold, I was enjoying this album’s tuneful songs.
1. Sharon Van Etten, Tramp
She had me at the lyric, “You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city…or why I’ll have to leave.” This was the album I kept putting on all year, and I assume many years to come. Personal, heartbreaking, tough.
Honorable Mentions: Princeton, “Remembrance of Things to Come;” Yukon Blonde, “Tiger Talk;” Beach House, “Bloom;” Japandroids, “Celebration Rock;” Yellow Ostrich, “Strange Land;” Andrew Bird, “Break It Yourself;” The Ting Tings, “Sounds From Nowheresville;” Jaill, “Traps;” Bob Mould, “Silver Age;” Tilly And The Wall, “Heavy Mood;” Little Comets, “Life is Elsewhere;” Firewater, “International Orange!” Lord Huron, “Lonesome Dreams;” The Shins, “Port of Morrow;” and The Crookes, “Hold Fast.”
Super-special honorable mention to Beck for Song Reader. I can’t really put it on the best albums list because it’s only sheet music, but I’m loving the interpretations I’m hearing from it. And it’s just such a brilliant idea. An album for the Age of YouTube. It’s definitely the most daring idea of the year, and I expect when the songs are all in, it’ll make an appearance on my best of the decade wrap-up in 2019, seven years hence.
See also my picks for: