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It’s been a wonderful year and I don’t know how to even talk about it in a way that isn’t neurotically structured around lists. Here are my informal reasons behind my favourite things. Merry Christmas!

Albums

25

Zammuto


Another wonderful tongue-in-cheek cut and paste job by the wonderful Books craftsman.  Zammuto is jollily demented, electronic music never short of fun and never over-stretching its ideas. Nick Zammuto has always had a knack for modulating the outreaches into something we can all get down to, and from this outing that almost feels like the point of his new project.

24

The Welcome Wagon

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

Direct songs from Christian to God, but it’s not like the word can’t translate.

23

Bill Fay

Life Is People


What’s so satisfying about listening to Fay’s album is how it doesn’t dispel the mythic rock history surrounding it. His first solo record in forty years, after being chewed out by an industry that took its liberty to take up every musician and then dump them, is a spectacle of sorts, something of a comeback overwrought with the emotion of being able to make music again. It fully deserves the story that comes with it, although  really what’s best about Life is People is in the acoustics, emptying rooms and lighting them up. Fay’s piano-playing, in particular, needs little else but the space around it, as heard in his masterful cover of Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.”

22

Japandroids

Celebration Rock


A free pass to drink and smoke until you don’t want to anymore. If you get the chance to see this band live, take it. If they disappoint you, go again. Things can change.

21

Laurel Halo

Quarantine


For me, Laurel Halo’s ‘Quarantine’ is a sequel to ‘ISAM’, perhaps not in the motivations of those behind the records or even in sound, but in what it did for me this year: it was a cut-up, disorientating mash-up of different ways of making electronica, put back together sounding the synthetic masterpiece it is. I said last year that I wanted to own ‘ISAM’ on record but worried I’d get weird glances and disturb all my housemates- it took me a year to finally pick it up. Let’s hope Laurel Halo gets her dues quicker.

20

El-P

Cancer 4 Cure


He’s had an amazing year, but his own album comes from a dark, dark place. But El-P always punches up at the end, and let’s not forget that sublime finale to “Drones Over BKLYN.” He’s doing it.

19

Fiona Apple

The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do


Apple’s record runs like creaky clockwork from start to finish, and even in its purest moments, like the startling “Werewolf,” it laments too much to crystallise. ‘Idler Wheel’ definitely has a learning curve- separating the song’s sound from its intention- but its creaks enveloped me as the year went on.

18

Jimmy Cliff

Rebirth


Good lay on the floor with a hundred trains and changes ahead of you delay music. I imagine even better to dance to. Only time will tell.

17

Death Grips

The Money Store


‘The Money Store’,  Reaction: “listening to the money store for the first time expect warped tweeted reactions / get got is brilliant and sublime, the fever is not / blackjack is kind of boring my mind trailed off because i don’t deal well with musical confrontation / these little chorus lines on hustle bones are the exact kind of thing i start dancing my shoulders weirdly to / i think i own the casio keyboard these guys used / god death grips is fantastic why was i so snooty / i imagine my inner conflict about whether or not to like music that talks about bad things will get to me when i look up the lyrics / but the money store is a chilling thrill ride for now / the money store is an arbitrary 4.5/5” [sic]

16

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!


A part of me feels really queasy about getting new music from a band as formative of my music taste as Godspeed. It’s more heart-wrenching than heart-breaking, which is a good thing, and so I don’t feel the same way I do about this as say, every Robert Pollard solo album and the three new GBV records that ripped me to shreds when they shouldn’t have.  But there’s something about this band that feels monumentally stuck in my own history for me, as I imagine is how a lot of their young fans feel: remember hearing “Storm,” for the first time? (Aside: Remember hearing post-rock for the first time?!?!?!?) Thankfully what Allelujah! does is amend those feelings, update them for a present spectacle: it’s not that it sounds like a Godspeed record because it’s “political”- and a lot of people will tell you that, even though the only lines that jump out are ambiguous and hectic- it’s that it evokes the giant of your record collection or musical past, and so as I wisely blasted this out for the first time it felt like a fitting experience, and a valuable reason to have this band back in my present.

15

Grimes

Visions


Really? ‘Visions’ is like an illusion, sounding and appearing so full of life, and never letting up on being the abstract pop album it aspires to be.  I don’t know how to talk about Grimes. Her music floors me.

14

State Faults

Desolate Peaks


Rekindled my love of tempermental skramz; did one better by being an immersing, tightly structured record that had the lyric “don’t cry for me, I’m already dead.” There’s a line in Othello about a drinker…

13

The Mountain Goats

Transcendental Youth


This was my first experience with The Mountain Goats, and it latched onto me knowingly, the conglomerate of my brasher folk favourites and the night-time Baroque sensibilities of ‘Illinois’; when I tried to explain it, I explained it as Andrew Jackson Jihad meets Sufjan, and I still think that has its place. Whatever the case, Darnelle’s lyrics are at their best when at loss for a definition of himself: “I am just a broken machine/ and I do things that I don’t really mean.”

12

Tindersticks

The Something Rain


For maudlin days and the personification of your annoyingly dim desk light.

11

John Talabot

ƒIN


My favourite memory of this year is singing along to the hook in “Destiny” as an entire crowd of dance enthusiasts gradually came to know my obnoxiousness.

10

Menomena

Moms


Menomena have never written a record like ‘Moms’, which isn’t to say it’s one more earnest, or more simple, than what came before- less pragmatic, maybe, and less obsessed with the democracy that surrounded Knopf’s Deeler software. What ‘Moms’ really seems to be is more of shared experience than Menomena ever was as the straight-up democracy, and it shows in every corner of the record, right down to the liner notes, in which the fathers of Seim and Harris are photographed together in one of the most bizarre family portraits you’ll ever see. As a song-writing duo, Menomena seem more in step than ever, writing pop bulletins with more pulsing underneath them than ever. “Plumage” is easily the song of the year. But “One Horse,” so cinematic it could usher in a genre of ambient western, is where Menomena hits its artistic stride.

9

Converge

All We Love We Leave Behind


It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get into a Converge record, so what this record does best is refresh my memory of what I saw in this band in Jane Doe and You Fail Me: it’s a brutally fast record at times, but more meditatively written stuff than Axe To Fall- everything falls into place beautifully.  Excuse me while I apply for a place in the PM’s cabinet as Secretary of Metalcore.

8

John K. Samson

Provincial


The difference between a John K. Samson record and a Weakerthans record is that on Provincial a folk song can be footnoted with HTML code and Call of Duty, days wasted on Grand Theft Auto and online petitions. A winter log cabin setting can be evoked through the story of a day hard at work on computer programming. Samson’s landscape is more 21st century equivalent here and songs have this guilty crossover with life that almost sounds as if its been neglected through years of Weakerthans songs that dealt with the less tangible act of human hesitation. As if it wasn’t enough for Samson to write songs about hockey players now, he petitions them through song like his own slice of song aid, making reality go as far as it can in the eyes of Canada’s greatest songwriter. ‘Provincial’ is beautiful, and worthy to exist on its own, because it shows a side of Samson that is at one time sillier and at another very, very foreboding indeed.

7

Animal Collective

Centipede HZ


Me and AnCo are never breaking up again, I promise you that much.

6

The Tallest Man On Earth

There’s No Leaving Now


Kristen Mattson could release the same album a hundred times and we would all have a different favourite- that is his joy, really. When you have a discussion with someone about this record they’ll have a different lyric to jump out at them, and really ‘There’s No Leaving Now’ plays its greatest strength when it wraps the complicated rural mysticism of Mattson’s more heady lyrics around a little, simple aphorism: there’s no leaving now, you always treat me like a stranger, thrown in just for me. These are the lines we’ll cherish forever.

5

Angel Haze

Classick


Only six songs, none of them hers, and only a mixtape (yeah, I cheated. And what?). There’s even a moment where Haze, her honesty shining through like it’s an accident, refrains from singing high notes in “Bitch Bad” because it’s not what ‘Classick’ is about. Haze’s raps are so powerful it’s impossible not to see this as completely her own record, one built as a place for her own personal catharsis and a forum to lash out against what exactly is wrong with the genre Haze hasn’t got love or time for: she may be a declaration of hip-hop having nothing left to respect, but her mixtape makes for an exhilarating contradiction. “Bitch Bad,” “Doo Wop” and “Gossip Folks” all turn their source material on its head. Perfect.

4

Grizzly Bear

Shields


Everyone probably expected this, I didn’t; Grizzly Bear have swept past me for four solid years, but on stage they came whole in front of me. I’ve said a lot of things about this record so it’s probably best I don’t say anymore: it’s pretty.

3

Craig Finn

Clear Heart Full Eyes

‘Clear Heart Full Eyes’ is a religious album, in a lot of ways. Its characters are in a constant fight with Jesus wherever he turns up: the beach, for Jury Duty, at the side of a bar, or in your baseball team. They look skyward for something tangible, because on the ground they’re messy, overflowing people. In a way ‘Clear Heart’ links together more than any of the Hold Steady’s records; all of Finn’s wandering fools stare up, once more, into the sky, and use it in their own grand way.

2

Ghost Mice

All We Got Is Each Other

I’m fairly sure ‘All We Got Is Each Other’ will stay with me forever. I never tire of it, because it never stops being frank with me. I never stop playing it because it never loses any of its importance; Chris Clavin’s lyrics are as personal as they come, yes, but even in this heartwrenching open letter to his long-gone best friend,  he seems to siren song as hard as Andrew Jackson Jihad would. Here, he says, was a lost cause, because you assumed it as such. In the liner notes for ‘All We Got’, Clavin notes that if you have a friend with mental health problems all you can do is be there for them, even though you will never understand. ‘All We Got’ is a beautiful testament to that, and to friendship, and proves, to me, that there’s nothing more powerful in the world than a folk-punk album that’s straight with itself.

In its last breath, ‘All We Got’ is an album rejoicing in the community it spends its whole lifespan searching for. “All Punks Got,” written by the subject of the album herself, is so significant in a way I can imagine going long beyond this album. Its gang vocals are a rare indulgence for Ghost Mice, so strictly an acoustic duo, but they pile the point on heavy: life needs others, and so did Clavin’s friend. I can imagine this little song being covered a hundred times over in the punk community- “all we got is, all punks got is eachother” is as simple and mutually understood a lyric as it comes, and it cuts through one of the saddest albums I’ve heard to give the year its most defiant moment.

1

Jessie Ware

Devotion


I  honestly don’t know what to say about ‘Devotion’. It has a funny outlook on love, for sure, one in which it’s all deep craters and getaways, a love that’s always pulsing. It’s one that’s highly idealsitic, maybe, in that this is a pop album, one compactly produced between Jessie Ware’s three colleagues, her voice layered in such a way that she’s chanting love missives from far away, saying forget it as she echoes off the walls on “Swan Song” or knowing it’s never enough on beat-up piano ballad “Taking In Water.” Because ‘Devotion’ is always epic, and always epic about love, but an album so completely resigned to its lousy hang-ups. Our very own Adam Downer saw it as an album of abusive relationships, and while Ware never neccessarily makes her characters sound bruised and defeated on ‘Devotion’, they never give love less than their all.

I love how distanced ‘Devotion’ can sound. It never becomes detached; Ware is never some far-off narrator, but these songs sound aware of the life sucks, yeah philosophy as much as they sound attached to the one. When I saw her live, Ware noted (aside from, you know, telling me she loved me), that “Wildest Moments” was written about someone she loved who drove her insane. Admittedly she was talking about a friend, but it speaks to ‘Devotion’ having a fascinating split personality: “we could be the greatest/ we could be the worst of all” is like a mission statement for the whole album, one that can’t be anymore gorgeous than it can ruinous. I like to think ‘Devotion’ will be held up as a classic of pop music in years to come, but right now I just know that twelve more songs about love can’t hurt. By which I mean, they totally can.

Others

My 2012 Playlist:

  1. Killer M.I.K.E – Reagan
  2. Grimes – Genesis
  3. Grizzly Bear – Gun-Shy
  4. Loops of Your Heart – Little You, You Should Develop
  5. John Talabot – When The Past was Present
  6. Lotus Plaza – Monoliths
  7. How To Dress Well – & It Was U
  8. Menomena – Plumage
  9. Tindersticks – This Fire Of Autumn
  10. mewithoutYou – All Circles
  11. Chromatics – Into The Black
  12. Cate le Bon – Ploughing Out Pts 1 & 2
  13. CityCop. – Bluebird
  14. Dustin Wong – Space Tunnel Graffiti
  15. Aesop Rock – ZZZ Top
  16. Maps & Atlases – Remote & Dark Years
  17. Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t

Favourite Live Shows This Year

  • P4K Fest Paris
  1. Animal Collective
  2. Japandroids
  3. Liars
  4. Tallest Man On Earth
  5. James Blake
  6. Chromatics
  7. Grizzly Bear
  8. Jessie Ware
  9. M83
  10. Robyn
  11. How To Dress Well
  12. Cloud Nothings
  13. John Talabot
  14. AlunaGeorge
  • Hop Farm
  1. Frightened Rabbit
  2. Peter Gabriel
  3. Damien Rice
  4. Tallest Man On Earth
  5. Lianne La Havas
  6. Ray Davies
  7. Patti Smith
  8. Jose Gonzalez
  9. Definitely not Bob Dylan
  • Leeds
  1. Menomena
  2. Maps & Atlases
  3. Frank Turner
  4. Little Comets
  5. Japandroids
  6. EMA
  7. Shabazz Palaces
  8. The general assumption that Boris will be excellent
  • London
  1. Sufjan!

Favourite articles about music written by geeky music fans I admire:

My non-2012 life:

  • Missy Elliott – Miss E… So Addictive
  • Exuma I
  • Neil Young – everything, because I’d only ever had After the Gold Rush and everything else is so wonderful except “Stupid Girl” which is the one bad song he has written.
  • THE FUTURE; that one new song by Blue Hawaii from their record primed for release next year. So excited.

Opinions on iTunes 11:

  • It’s okay.

People I expect to read this:

  • Adrian, maybe.





Electric City
12.06.12
Devotion! Robin you know how i feel about you so i wont say it here, just... you know

mynameischan
12.06.12
nice

mynameischan
12.06.12
VERY NICE

SowingSeason
12.06.12
Love all the extras at the end

SeaAnemone
12.06.12
*smiles

klap
12.06.12
beautiful writing fuck why'd you have to go first

danielito19
12.06.12
rad

Jom
12.06.12
Loved the bonus material at the end. Nice job!

Zettel
12.06.12
Excellent blog. Great reading.

tarkus
12.06.12
jimmy cliff holy fuck awesome

DaveyBoy
12.06.12
You guys are so gullible!

Like this is really Robin... There's capitalization FFS.

robin
12.06.12
yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees

Ire
12.06.12
wag article

Recspecs
12.06.12
Sweet

ThunderNeutral21
12.06.12
couple great records, quite a few lame/shit ones

3 was so disappointing i love the hold steady

Douglas
12.06.12
so much nice about this nice list

Satellite
12.06.12
pretty great list robin

like 5 of these made my top 25

Satellite
12.06.12
also holy shit craig finn has a fucking beer? why did nobody tell me this?

Deviant.
12.06.12
Robin list is Robin

Aids
12.06.12
Robin you are a fucking hero. never change.

thanks for the shout-out, but also for Okkervil River. I hope your journey into the mind of John Darnielle continues to be as rewarding as mine into the mind of Will Sheff.

"My favourite memory of this year is singing along to the hook in “Destiny” as an entire crowd of dance enthusiasts gradually came to know my obnoxiousness."

I wish I was there man, I wish I was there.

clercqie
12.06.12
"Opinions on iTunes 11:

It’s okay."

Lol

Also, I need to acquire this Craig Finn brew. Looks totally awesome. Wonderful list btw, love the descriptions.

Omaha
12.06.12
You're one of Sputnik's greatest writers, man. This was just awesome.

Irving
12.06.12
The world needs more Robin.

FelixCulpa
12.06.12
Swell list Robin, though I am surprised not to see mewithoutYou get a spot on your favorite albums.

Irving
12.06.12
"Anything Lindsay Zoladz has written this year."

This. She's so amazing.

NightmareCinema16
12.06.12
This makes my list look half smart.

robin
12.06.12
ohhhhhhhhhhhh burn

ThunderNeutral21
12.06.12
desolate peaks and shields suck hard

NightmareCinema16
12.06.12
I'll need some ice for that one XD

robin
12.06.12
ohhh

Tyrael
12.06.12
Great work Robin!

I really enjoyed reading this

Omaha
12.06.12
"The world needs more Robin."

Agreed. Fuck Batman!

elephantREVOLUTION
12.06.12
great list. i've only heard like half of these so i will be checking some of them out

Eko
12.07.12
cool list some stuff I agree with some not so much

AggravatedYeti
12.07.12
you're my hero.

ibringyoufire
12.07.12
What a cool list.

iswimfast
12.07.12
I like it when you use words.

TheFonz123
12.07.12
I feel I must say that you are my favorite writer on the site. I love reading the things you have to say, and I honestly wish you could review every album ever just so I could read it. nice list.

NightmareCinema16
12.07.12
I personally have enjoyed reading Irving's or Sowing's reviews right now; Robin's are also definately up there, though.

wacknizzle
12.07.12
Nice list. Some good stuff, some stuff I haven't heard that I'll have to check out.

Xenophanes
12.07.12
Wow thanks.....this won't be difficult to follow ; )

Minus The Flair
12.07.12
all this writing about music makes me want to get back into writing about music. so, yeah, inspirational.

Irving
12.07.12
Dude you should totally be writing more on here - above me are at least twenty people who wouldn't mind having your babies by the looks of it ahahahah,

robin
12.07.12
:3

NightmareCinema16
12.07.12
-_-?

klap
12.07.12
look robin it's not all bad

NightmareCinema16
12.07.12
I should probably refine my 2012 list before Christmas Break begins. So that work begins.

Adabelle
12.07.12
Great read

robin
12.08.12
it's not all bad indeed

Itwasthatwas
12.08.12
Enjoyable read, nice work

theacademy
12.08.12
butt robin

theacademy
12.08.12
hahahah

krig9412
12.09.12
Some awesome bands you got on this list. Love me some Death Grips and Mountain Goats

NightmareCinema16
12.09.12
Mountain Goats :D

fagnutzzz
12.09.12
YOU ALL FORGOT Save Us From The Archon

joshuatree
12.12.12
just got around to reading this, obviously a great list. gotta hear these jessie ware and angel haze people.

Irving
12.12.12
I've only heard six from your top 25, Robin =/

ALSO Y U NO HAVE LOVE DIS GIANT?!!?!

Jash
12.17.12
+10 points for Camus

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