Earlier today on air, I said something along the lines of "if you've been putting off anything that you gotta take care of in 2012, now is.... probably the time to make it happen" and that very much applies to my own top 10 list. I've been sitting on it and fidgeting for a few weeks, re-arranging, double checking, seeing if I'd missed anything, and even now im still not sure what the exact order is worth, but I feel pretty good about sending these 10 records out into the world as a snap shot of what I really enjoyed this year.
#10 Holy Other - "Held"
Ironically, this spot may have been the toughest to fill. With a myriad of records all trying to squeak their way into the final draft and ultimately landing in what I guess you could call the "honorable mentions" category, this one makes the cut for a few reasons. Firstly, it's just great and I dare you to put it on and not get swept up in the sensuality and icy-ness of it. Secondly, Tri-angle records are one of the most consistent labels out there right now and this also somewhat represents the other releases they put out this year that I enjoyed as well (WIFE, AlunaGeorge). And lastly, it's a great snapshot of a genre that emerged this year that I couldn't be more stoked on. Pitched vocals, spacey, glitched, trap beats, ominous ambience, I don't know what we're calling it, but I like it a whole lot better than witch house.
#9Grizzly Bear - Shields
Look, I'm the first to admit I was a late bloomer when it comes to these guys. But catching their show at The Paramount this year, I was absolutely floored. Not only will itgo down as my #1 performance of the year, but the songs themselves just blew me away, and it seemed every time I really loved one, I'd turn to my girlfriend and ask, "what is this?" She'd reply it was off Shields, and the rest is history. The bassline at the end of "Sun In Your Eyes" alone, carries a better performance than most whole albums that came out this year. The spectrum of instrumentation and arrangement accross the record is simply stunning, only to be outdone by fluttering dynamics and songwriting twists and turns that are seemingly impossible to come across these days.
#8 Daughn Gibson - All Hell
It's safe to say there isn't anything out there quite like Daughn GIbson. His bastardization of country/americana by way of beats and samples, by all rights, shouldn't work. And yet it comes out as if it wasn't even aware the combination was strange. Like a bumblebee has no idea it's wings are too small, it chugs along, dark and consistant, like a locomotive. Don't expect gramps to dig it, but certainly appreciate how the splicing of samples oddly enough signals the most familiar ground to the country genre, which pays its dues anually in homage to where it came from and hasn't strayed far since.
#7 Chromatics - "Kill For Love"
91 minutes, the run time of an average film. Also, of the ever delayed, worth the wait, "Kill For Love" out via Italians Do It Better. Hailing from portland, Chromatics crafted a record born to be played while you wander city streets on a fridged night, optimistic or completely devastated, it's strangely applicable either way, +5 points if you do it while wearing a leather jacket. In a musical landscape where the 80's have been mined to death by band after act after artist attempting to pass off their bedroom computer as a throwback synth, band leader Johnny Jewel proved on this release as well as a slew of mixes he put out this year, that there isn't room for imitation, only authenticity.
#6 Andy Stott - Luxury Problems
Perhaps the best thing to say about this record is as little as possible. After all, it seems to be the essence of the album. EDM is a word that encompasses many things, but certainly not this brand of bizarre, minimal, darkly twisted House that hits it's stride when it breaks down in the softest of ways. Packing an overtly ominous tone with menacing subtlty, and around the edges a touch of industrial coldness, Andy Stott has constructed an album that feels like an avalanche. Quiet, deadly, and capable of sucking the oxygen right out of the room. Maybe don't play this one at your next get together.
#5 Father John Misty - Fear Fun
Josh Tillman proved this go around that he isn't just another former Fleet Fox. He got out from behind the kit, finally made a record that encompassed his personality rather than just what he had burried inside of him. And emerged absolutely victorious in writing a beautiful record that reaks with honesty, spite, smarts, and listenability. It's the sort of thing your parents might approve of you listening to while your coolest of friends also might give you props for having on the turntable when they come over. Maybe it's just another northwest thing, maybe not, but for an album penned in Los Angeles there's a lot of Washington in it and an even lot more of everythwere else.
#4 Beach House - Bloom
If I could ever actually remember what my dreams sound like, I can only imagine they'd be soundtracked by Beach House. If Bloom was a food it would be soft and cream filled, light and delicious, smooth and consistent. Are there bad songs on this album? Maybe hiding somewhere between the cracks of it's 10 perfect tracks which flow effortlessly from one to the next. My only qualm perhaps being that the brilliant "Wild" deserved to be first out of the gate, but that would be to insult the majestic preface that is "Myth" so I guess taking it as is will just have to do. Meant for both the sunniest and grayest of days, this is one I'll wear down the grooves on.
#3 The XX - Coexist
If 2012 was the year that less was more, The XX lead the charge by stripping away their already bare bones affair to the bleakest and sparsest of sounds and emotions. Straying from the bouncy pop that was hidden away on their first reocrd, Coexist is cold and honest, and feels like the morning after a break up. Heartbroken, honest, longing and striking, each track is a conversation we've had with ourselves, with lovers, with people we spent a night with and then never again. Coexist is a snapshot of inner dialog set to precise surgical production by Jamie XX. The soundtrack to your most emotional moments while removing itself enough for context. A mirror.
#2 Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
What does "classic" mean? When does an album become "classic"? Is it based on cultural impact? Inescapable hits? Giant productions? Somthing else that remains entirely unquantifiable? I've listened to many albums over the last few years that may garner the title in years to come, but Kendricks is the first I've seen to garner the universal title from press across the industry. While I'm not here to tell you if it's a classic or not, I will tell you it packs a narrative, consistency, and innovative production and flair like I haven't heard since Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP (which, laugh it up, was absolutely a classic). Listening to GKMC, simply put, feels like a day in the life, it feels beyond real. It's not reading the book, it's not seeing the movie, it's riding shotgun in Kendricks head. There's highs, there's lows, but in and out it's all beyond true, and even if it isn't, double kudos cuz I believe it.
#1 Purity Ring - Shrines
Writing about Purity Ring is one of my least favorite things to do on this blog. Since first coming across Ungirthed/Loftcires last year, I've struggled to do their sound justice with words. Waiting with baited breath as they rolled out each new track preceding the announcement of this album . And from it's first notes, Shrines takes hold and sucks you into a universe of it's own. Tumbling down a hole propelled by swelling synths and the soft consitsant pricks of high hats across your eardrums, James' voice calls out and softly takes your hand, guiding you through the forest of a storybook record that feels instantly familiar and new on both your first and fiftieth listens. And as you make your way, you''ll find the album reads like a collection of nursery rhymes. Not to say it is by any means simple, but neither were the messages hidden in the fables we were raised on. Much like the voluptuous apple gifted to Snow White, Shrines is simply irresistable on the surface, with a far more sinister venom lurking underneath.