Clif’s top ten list for 2012 with twenty others receiving honorable mention:
10. Cat Meat – Cat Meat
We previewed Cat Meat’s self-titled debut as a Friday Free Feature on November 9, and it’s been in constant rotation between my iPod and car stereo. A complex, experimental alt. country/folk album that claims influences such as Wilco, Sparklehorse and Califone; the classic psychedelic experimenalist, Captain Beefheart; and the legendary bluesmen Mississippi John Hurt and Blind Willie McTell. When you listen, they’re all there in subtle drips, drabs and dollops. Get yer free download here.
“Prosthetic Wing” [mp3]
9. Menomena – Moms
Your band releases its darkest album, then subsequently loses a founding member. What do you do? Re-evaluate and move forward. The name of the album is a subtle tribute to the moms of Justin Harris and Danny Seim. Harris was raised by a single mother, and Seim lost his mother in 1994. Compared to its predecessor, the tracks on Moms are brighter in composition, but the lyrics explore the good and bad of family relationships. Credit Harris and Seim for continuing to push boundaries and maintaining their place among the elite in American music.
8. Goat – World Music
Released in August, I didn’t peep this album until mid-November. It’s been in regular rotation ever since. This Swedish outfit combines influences of early heavy metal, funk, and afro-jazz, and plays like an all night party. It’s all in the rhythm, and there’s plenty to go around. Their website on Blogspot is worth checking for a laugh.
“Let It Bleed”
7. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse
Ty Segall did his best Robert Pollard impersonation, and Slaughterhouse won out. Twins and Hair (a collaboration with Tim Presley of White Fence) are solid albums, but Slaughterhouse unleashed a full on assault, and is Segall’s heaviest album of the year. If Nirvana had two paths after Incesticide, Segall found the one left untrodden.
“I Bought My Eyes”
6. Cat Power – Sun
Chan Marshall found her mojo by completely revamping her sound. On Sun, Marshall eschews her traditional blues and folk arrangements, while embracing elements of electro-pop and post-rock. Sun is a gateway album, one that reinvigorated a career and opened so many possibilities for Chan Marshall’s future.
5. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
Seven years and we get this… Lyrically playful and psychologically painful, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do leaves Apple splayed and open for all to see. It’s a challenging album that demands attention, and one that I’ve spent bouts with at night alone with headphones whilst the family sleeps. The use of found noise and Apple’s integration of jazz form contribute to her most complete album to date.
4. Tame Impala – Lonerism
Lonerism stands out because of its attention to detail and production quality. Masterful neo-psychedelic rock that’s compared to some of the Sgt. Pepper’s/Magical Mystery tour gems produced by The Beatles. Yet, it’s the technical merits of the album that allows it to avoid the ‘d’ word (c’mon, you know it).
“Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”
3. Grizzly Bear – Shields
In any other year, this album would be my favorite. Its beauty is found in the depth and intricacies of the compositions and layering and balance of the vocals (the vocals!!!). This approach works well in framing accessible, ‘pop’ tracks (i.e., “Sleeping Ute”, “Speak in Rounds”, and “Yet Again”), and long form, deep cuts such as “A Simple Answer” and the epic, “Sun in Your Eyes.” Following the behemoth, Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear can now claim to be the standard bearers for American indie rock.
“Yet Again” performed on The Greene Space
2. Pond – Beard, Wives, Denim
This may be a ‘side project’ for some members of Tame Impala, but it’s a compelling release. Grittier and more off the cuff than Lonerism, one gets the feeling of being in the recording studio with the band on this release. The tape rolls before and after songs, appearing to be a ‘one-off’ type of recording. It’s a biting rock album. You want a 1-2 punch? listen to “Moth Wings” and “Leisure Pony” back-to-back. It’s a serious shot that occurs late in the album; there’s very little let up throughout it. Beard, Wives, Denim goes 12 rounds before signing off with a sweet sayonara, “Moreno’s Blend.”
1. Django Django – Django Django
This album infected me somewhere in the middle of the year. It’s stuck with me ever since. My children, who like it all right, politely asked in August, “Dad, can we listen to something other than Django Django?” So I had to sneak doses of the album on my iPod, in my office, and on the elliptical machine (with which I badly need to reacquaint myself). Dark humor drives the lyrics of sounds that blend elements of new wave, surf rock, psychedelia, space rock, and folk. If you follow Django Django on twitter or facebook, you’ll see that the band enjoys an eclectic range of artists and this comes through on their debut. Their musical genetics are steeped in rock’s history, yet they willingly blaze an offbeat trail of their own.
(20 more faves—in alphabetical order)
- Baroness – Yellow & Green
- Beach House – Bloom
- David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant
- Johnno Casson – Window Shopping
- Chromatics – Kill for Love
- Dan Deacon – America
- Deerhoof – Breakup Song
- Father John Misty – Fear Fun
- godspeed you! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
- Hiva Oa – The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss
- Japandroids – Celebration Rock
- Damien Jurado – Maraqopa
- Bob Mould – Silver Age
- Kishi Bashi – 151a
- Beth Orton – Sugaring Season
- Shearwater – Animal Joy
- Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
- Sigur Ros – Valtari
- The Shins – Port of Morrow
- Wild Nothing – Nocturne
Happy New Year!