HA! Bet you didn’t expect a year-end list already! Well, that’s because it’s still for 2012. I kinda fell off the wagon towards the end of last year, but I wanted to do my list anyways, for posterity’s sake!
Crystal Castles (III)
The Top 10 Albums of 2012
The word ‘sublime’ doesn’t even begin to describe. The minimalist designs of this London three-piece are best experienced with a solid pair of headphones because the fun is hearing just how not-empty an empty sound can be. Conversely, their live show is supposed to be absolutely amazing.
Freelance Whales has perfected the art of restraint. The textures they weave are incredibly rich, and intricately constructed, but never to the point of becoming overwhelming or garish. It is an exercise in balance that is quite rewarding for the determined listener. Has my favorite slow-builder of the year, the celestial ‘Red Star’.
8: Happy To You
[full review] Proof that the Miike Snow was more than a passing phase, the follow-up to 2009’s self-titled album proves to be every bit as listenable, yet markedly more sonically diverse. ‘They gave us their machines / they tried, but they won’t save us’ is probably my favorite lyric of 2012.
7: A Thing Called Divine Fits
In exchange for a Wolf Parade hiatus, we got Dan Boeckner teaming up with Britt Daniel of Spoon and some other big names to round out a thing called ‘Divine Fits’. You can hear all the different inputs listening to the album, but the mortar-like binding of the pervasive New Wave sound of it all holds it together. Supergroups are usually a gamble, but Divine Fits proved itself a deft move on behalf of all involved.
6: Battle Born
A solid entry from a band that will forever have a hold on my teenaged-heart. While lacking an endless stash of radio singles found in past records, a surprising number of high points keeps the band relevant. Pounding ballads on love and lust? Check. Epic ode to perseverance? Check. Obligatory tearjerker? Check. Killers record ready for launch.
5: Animal Joy
[full review] Alternating between a dark, swaggering brood, and resounding, ascending four-on-the-floor musical freight trains, every inch is hand-crafted. Brilliant vocals coupled to thoughtful lyrics make for an invigorating listen.
4: My Head Is An Animal
-Of Monsters and Men
[full review] Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking ‘Little Talks’ and ‘Mountain Sound’ are all OM&M have to offer. Nothing could be further from the truth. With huge ensemble-oriented compositions many tracks convey a sense of scope so massive you need the quieter moments just to keep your balance. A final plus, is the consistency of songwriting through all 12 tracks, which is never a guarantee on an album of this length.
-School of Seven Bells
[full review] A vocal performance that effortlessly shifts from an ethereal wisp into sharp corporeal admonishments sets the bar quite high for this New York duo. Taking place on a evolving soundscape of quiet corners and thrilling pursuits, Ghostory possesses a unique narrative quality that makes each and every constituent track better than it would have otherwise been on its own.
[full review] What else is there left to say about Metric? The veteran Canadian outfit knows exactly what they’re doing. Building on the massive success that was Fantasies, the newest effort probes a little deeper in a little darker sandbox. Even still, there remain the soft, tender moments whose sentimentality defines Metric as one of the most earnest groups making music today. They don’t hold anything back, and the music is all the better for it.
1: The North
[full review] I have always felt bad for Stars, as their absolutely stunning 2007 album In Our Bedroom After The War got edged out that year by what has since proven to be possibly my favorite album of all time. This year, Amy Milan, Torquil Campbell, and the rest of those beautiful people finally get their due. The North is a sterling collection of songs at face value. More impressive is they have taken everything that didn’t work on The Five Ghosts and done away with it. Here, the pacing and emotional balance of the tracklist are nearly flawless, with each track serving a precise purpose and executing it perfectly.
The big, fun songs, work well with the quiet, tender moments which occur inbetween, making for record that begs to be played again just as soon as it finished. I am happy to oblige.
Better late than never, right? As I wrote this up, I wished I’d had time to do writeups on the the albums that made the Top-10 but I hadn’t gotten to yet. There were only a couple, so hopefully I can fill in the gaps in the next few weeks. [Ed. Note (09/09/17): So much for that…]
Back to Year End Lists.