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Time marches on.  Happy Holidays, everybody.

25. Bob Dylan – Tempest

“Duquesne Whistle” is the best song of 2012 that I laughed at upon first listen.  The opening bars sound like some fogeyish variety-hour bullshit, but then the snare kicks in and the song picks up with two-chord electric guitar accents, and it’s clear that Bob is continuing his streak of post-millennial knockout albums.  He could never sing, so his shot voice isn’t an issue, and his lyrics carry as much weight as they ever have:  “It’s soon after midnight, and my day has just begun.”  Just a gorgeous album.

24. High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

Middle-aged fat guys making metal sound like the grizzled warrior that it is.

23. Glen Hansard – Rhythm And Repose

This album isn’t as good as I wanted it to be, but that’s alright.  It basically means that it isn’t as good as both Swell Season albums, but those albums didn’t have “High Hope” or “The Storm, It’s Coming” either, so all is forgiven.

22. Pig Destroyer – Book Burner

Pig Destroyer:  putting every wannabe macabre “poet” to shame since 1997.

21. Swans – The Seer

I don’t see the classic album that everyone else does, but it’s impossible to deny that this album is a huge musical achievement.

20. Taylor Swift – Red

Another Taylor Swift album, another few months of neckbeards and pop-punk warriors saying her music is shit and deriding her for the amount of men she dates.  Actually listen to Red and you’ll find that, as usual, it’s overlong but filled to the brim with goodness.  Working with songwriters again means that there’s a little bit of pandering to the current pop climate here, but none of it feels cheap like the way it does when lesser artists do it.  Her conviction and spirit are still present, especially in the songs that she wrote by herself.  Thematically and lyrically, the album seems a little bit shallower than Speak Now, but there are great leaps and bounds present musically.  Listen to the gradual layering of “State of Grace,” which houses one of her best choruses, and the extended bridge of “All Too Well” with its drums reminiscent of something by Florence and the Machine (who have some of the most dynamic drum parts in music).  In fact, the drums on this album are great throughout, along with pretty much every other instrument on an album full of songs that morph and shift and end up as something different than what they started out as.  I challenge you to find that in another pop star that’s reached her level of superstardom.

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

The queen returns and melts my heart all over again.  This album was a balm to me after the harsh disappointment of Regina Spektor’s awful release this year.

18. The Tallest Man On Earth – There’s No Leaving Now

I guess one day Kristian Matsson will run out of ways to make the acoustic guitar sound like the most vital and fresh instrument ever made, but it doesn’t seem like it will happen any time soon.

17. John K. Samson – Provincial

I listened to this album when it first came out and was basically disappointed that it wasn’t a new Weakerthans album.  When I revisited it later in the year, I discovered a profoundly tender record that has songs good enough to stand with the best of Samson’s band’s.  ”The Last And” is so evocative in its imagery that it almost makes me as sad as the story of Virtute.  Almost.

16. Mount Eerie – Ocean Roar

Probably the most exciting album I listened to this year.  Phil Elverum can do things with folk music that will make your hair stand on end.

15. Murder By Death - Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon

Murder By Death have never really received the credit that they deserve.  Their music is poured straight onto wax from a flask, scratchy and bitter and pulsing with life.  Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon is a campfire album, not in a bullshit sing-a-long way, but in that it seems specifically constructed to be played outside on the banks of a river, the audience standing in the water and illuminated, just barely, by the firelight.

14. Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes

According to Craig Finn, this album was his quest to prove that he’s a genuine songwriter, not just the guy from The Hold Steady who talks over rock music, and there are some fantastic songs here.  There has always been a supreme tenderness in Finn’s lyrics, and it’s even clearer on this album, with his voice so prominent in the mix.  “Apollo Baby” and “Western Pier” hit highs that most acoustic songs aren’t capable of touching.  There is a beautiful stasis to his singing that might be lulling were his words not so full of the sort of precision and wisdom that almost make you want to believe in God.

13. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself

Another throwback from Andrew Bird, in which he wrings even more great music out of times long past.  This album feels more quaint than his previous releases, less often resorting to modern flourishes.  It makes for a more confident record.  The companion EP Hands Of Glory is not to be missed either.

12. Gaza – No Absolutes In Human Suffering

Richard M. Nixon had a phrase he liked to use in lieu of “brass tacks”:  “nut-cutting.”  Gaza is a band that is all about nut-cutting.  They have probably the lowest tolerance for bullshit of any active band right now.   Their music is pure truth, the way it should be told:  deafening, suffocating, and so fucking invasive that it can’t possibly be ignored.

11. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah!  Don’t Bend!  Ascend!

This brought back all the same feelings I got the first times I listened to Godspeed’s other albums, and that’s all I could ask of it, given that those were some of the most powerful moments of my life.  Their music finds its home in revolutions, in muzzle flashes, in tank treads, but also in abandoned munitions factories and the grass that sprouts through their concrete.

10. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city

I haven’t been so entranced by an album in quite a while.  By the time I reached the end of “Compton,” I felt like I’d just finished a great novel.  A landmark of storytelling.

9. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

I really hated American Slang, so it took me quite a while to get around to listening to this album.  I almost didn’t even bother, but I’m glad that I did.  Everything that I came to love about this band when I heard The ’59 Sound is back and then some.  I wish that I could say more about this album and why it merits such a high spot on the list, but really it’s just that every song is infinitely listenable and the album as a whole never seems to get old.

8. Two Gallants – The Bloom And The Blight

“Halcyon Days” is one of the most ridiculously fucking good openers that I’ve ever heard, but it says something about this album that my favorite song is “Willie,” a short and sweet Americana song that ekes a lot of emotion out of lyrics that don’t really say much.  There is a cadence to the song – and the album as a whole – that compels you to listen more closely, and at a louder volume.

7. mewithoutYou – Ten Stories

I think a lot about just how hard it is to be somebody in the world we’ve made for ourselves, how hard it’s always been to be somebody.  If you want to create, somebody’s already created all that you could dream up.  If you want a better job, somebody’s already taken the position.  The band signed posters to go along with the deluxe edition of this album, each member writing a short, unique message.  On mine, Aaron wrote, “Because of who you are.”  I’d be full of shit if I said I knew exactly what he meant when he wrote it.  But I think I know now who I am, and who I am is nobody.  It’s exactly who I should be.  He’s been saying it for years – “You’re not you, you’re everyone else,” “I do not exist, only You exist” (which is a religious line, sure, but like most of mewithoutYou’s material it can be interpreted irreligiously as pointing out the worthlessness of self in the face of loving others), “the ‘I’ is an unintelligible lie” – but now I actually hear him.  If I sometimes wonder if everything I know about the world is untrue, then I suppose I’ve also got to wonder why that has to be a bad thing, and when I’ll open my eyes to see it.

6. The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth

What you find in Transcendental Youth aren’t answers to any big questions, but instead questions to a bunch of answers that never meant anything before but now seem exceedingly important, like what happens to lonely people when you never see them again? And what do you see in the stars if you let the dots connect themselves? These things – some of them – are things you perhaps never wanted to know, or feel like you shouldn’t know. It all seems like too much for one mind – for your mind – weighed down already by things you tell yourself are trivial but that also never let you rest. As the horns and drums and piano fade away, you think, maybe, that you know some things that you didn’t set out to know, but you know them, and anything is better than the ceaseless thinking and wondering that make up your days, even if it is just the knowledge of what it means to be hurt, and what it means to be healed.

5. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

There is something about this album that I can’t quite put my finger on.  It’s full, top to bottom, of amazing songs, but that doesn’t explain why I feel so full of affection for the world and its people when I listen to it.  This year, at times, has seemed particularly dark for America.  The worst of its citizens were the loudest, spewing hate and lies with no regard for others.  I guess that’s how it’s always been.  This album, without trying to make any sweeping social or political statements, makes me feel like it doesn’t have to be that way, like things could change.  Ocean says that people are afraid of things that don’t merit fear, and even though this album is really just a journey to find love, it also feels like the first blow landed on the body of hate that sometimes blots out the world’s all-too-dim light.

4. Titus Andronicus - Local Business

Okay, I want to tell you guys a story.  Titus Andronicus played at Fest 11 this year, and we were positioned to the side of the stage in a fairly unpopulated area.  I was, of course, rocking out because one of my favorite bands was on the stage (the same stage on which Bomb the Music Industry!, Laura Stevenson and the Cans, and Andrew Jackson Jihad had just played, and on which Frank Turner would play immediately following Titus, so you can imagine my excitement), doing the typical things one does at shows – screaming along, pumping my fist, banging my head.  And there were these two guys to my left who were dressed – I am not kidding – in jeans, pea coats, and scarves, even though this was on a hot night in Gainesville fucking Florida, in a tiny, smoke-filled venue.  They were just standing there, not moving any part of their bodies to the music, and at one point I saw them pointing at me and laughing and generally being smug, probably during “A More Perfect Union” when the crowd and I were at our most hectic.

Let me tell you, I’ve never seen two people pose harder than them.  I’m sure they hated Local Business, and would probably tell you they have reservations about the band’s other two albums as well, because one can’t be seen unabashedly enjoying something or else they might actually reveal something genuine about themselves!  If Patrick Stickles is a Jesus-figure in the indie world, then those two guys and their ilk are the pharisees, the “whited sepulchers,” outwardly coifed but inwardly rotting.  People like them are the reason that this is such a fucking good album.  The Monitor’s anthems become Local Business’s anti-anthems – “I’m going insane!”, “Food fight!”, “Hot deuce!”, “I am the electric man,” et al.  Those songs don’t mean shit, but it doesn’t matter.  Because nothing matters.

Rock perpetually on.

3. Ghost Mice - All We Got Is Each Other

Ghost Mice continue the grand tradition of folk punk, and we as listeners come one step closer to discerning why we actually like this genre of music in which nobody can really sing and where subtle language is given two middle fingers.  Or maybe we’re already there:  maybe it’s because of all the things we could point to as negatives.  Life is an out-of-tune, blunt mess, and we expect impossible, hidden depths from people and are disappointed when they can’t offer them.  Sometimes it’s nice to hear simple, naked honesty, even when all that honesty can offer is pain.

2. Patrick Wolf – Sundark and Riverlight

I didn’t expect this album of re-imaginings to be as good as it is, but I’ve got to kick myself for not having faith in Patrick.  These songs are a testament to his indomitable spirit as an artist, each one more gorgeous than the last, and in a few cases, they’re better than the originals.

1. The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past

This is the Great American Album, and it should be placed in a vault so that when we inevitably fuck up and kill ourselves off, someone 10,000 years from now will pick up this album and feel what I feel when I hear it, which is a heartache so deep that I can almost listen to it throbbing, and they’ll wonder what America was like when this album was made, and they’ll know that nostalgia is just a cruel longing for something impossible to reach, yet they won’t want to stop searching for it.





mynameischan
12.15.12
adam downer gave the menzingers a 2.5 so you know it's good

Xenophanes
12.15.12
The Magic Position on Sundark and Riverlight blows the original away.

Jash
12.15.12
Who are you?

zxlkho
12.15.12
who the fuck is this asshole

Kris.
12.15.12
dickriding so hard great list

when i saw titus there was a dude directly in front of me who looked exactly like dave mustaine and he and his girlfriend were like just standing there making out and it made me want to beat the fuck out of him because i hate dave mustaine

Xenophanes
12.15.12
I saw 24 last week and was incredibly let down

JumpTheF**kUp
12.15.12
just reminds me of all of the music i still haven't listened to this year

Douglas
12.15.12
Really awesome list chan man

Satellite
12.15.12
fuck yeah chan awesome list

i've been hailing 1 as the aoty for months and it's nice to see it get some recognition from a staffer

Captain North
12.15.12
Good stuff Channing. Whoo 1. I'm not even American and I still experience that bizarre tug of nostalgia

Satellite
12.15.12
"adam downer gave the menzingers a 2.5 so you know it's good"

okay well this says it all

chambered49
12.15.12
glad someone finally sees the light on local business

MO
12.15.12
Nice, good shit Chan

zxlkho
12.15.12
but srsly good list except pig destroyer

Aids
12.15.12
you rule chan, although the low placing of Provincial chafes my dick

AtavanHalen
12.15.12
fantastic list

Aids
12.15.12
write-up for Local Business is sweet, I wish I could seen em pose hard

Irving
12.15.12
I've only listened to five of these. I make a poor Channing Freeman. I guess I'm not even a nobody then. Haha.

Sleaper
12.15.12
1 and 4.. fuck yes.

Jom
12.15.12
Sweet photographs -- nice blog you got here, too!

AtavanHalen
12.15.12
jombomb

Spare
12.15.12
agree @ fiona apple/regina spektor comments

Spare
12.15.12
sup chan

DaveyBoy
12.15.12
Nice blog Chan. You always ind great photos.

In a sense I think you descipton - specifically the referencing of "America(n)" - of 'On the Impossible Past' backs up my assertion in it's review that "...it could be argued that limiting their tales to such a setting may have an adverse effect on international and/or younger listeners being able to empathize".

toxin.
12.15.12
Great blog. you need to contribute more, man

tom79
12.15.12
Great list Chan. Saw the Menzingers the other night, was pretty drunk and told Greg that On the Impossible Past is the greatest album I've heard in a long time and said they had to play Gates and Time Tables. And as usual they played an amazing show. Also I didn't even know about the Finn or Two Gallants albums, will have to check those out.

Captain North
12.15.12
But Davey, it's the opposite that's true. I know for me, I'm 20 and Australian, but the idea of the past they present is so completely a part of our heritage and culture, the deepest nostalgia is still there

elephantREVOLUTION
12.15.12
solid list

Uranium
12.15.12
two gallants was solid

Uranium
12.15.12
#supersolid

auberginedreams
12.15.12
good kid, m.A.A.d city is really overrated to me, i just don't get the hype. it's no better than any other of the thousands of hip-hop albums that tell the same story of growing up on the streets or whatever.

Uranium
12.15.12
ya, i dont feel his voice at all and the few songs i heard were nothing great lyrically

HSThomas
12.15.12
Not looking forward to how much this list will be copied.

Eclecticist
12.15.12
Yep, solid list!

DaveyBoy
12.15.12
Tom - of the Captain North variety - I get what you mean & agree to some point, but I don't hear any lyrics referencing family bbqs on 40 degree days with flys buzzing around everywhere. This nostalgia is fairly distinctly American... & just by stating what the album meant to him, Chan has practically inadvertently backed up this claim.

"...the idea of the past they present is so completely a part of OUR heritage and culture..." I dare you to suggest that to any Aussie over the age of 40. I believe the words "sceptic tanks" would be a common retort!

AtavanHalen
12.15.12
penny wong vs champ kind

dadwank

Deviant.
12.15.12
Your bold use of color moves me Chan. But seriously, great list and post

taxidermist
12.15.12
"good kid, m.A.A.d city is really overrated to me, i just don't get the hype. it's no better than any other of the thousands of hip-hop albums that tell the same story of growing up on the streets or whatever."

good kid, m.A.A.d city doesn't just tell a story about growing up on the streets. It's more than that. It shows how someone like Kendrick, raised in Compton, a city that basically birthed 'gangsta' rap, was able to break from that 'product of your own environment' mold. He had a dream and pursued it. Went through a lot of shit that the youth in the 'ghetto' of California endure. The album overall just flows very well and the lyrics/skits bring it all together to make it a great fucking story. Like Chan said, you get the feeling that you just finished a novel, or watched a movie. It's deserving of all the hype in my opinion.

taxidermist
12.15.12
Also, great list Chan.

DaveyBoy
12.15.12
"Like Chan said, you get the feeling that you just finished a novel, or watched a movie"

Yeah, after I listened to it, I could swear I had just watched 'Boyz 'N The Hood'. In fact, I think it was the exact same script.

taxidermist
12.15.12
RICKYYYYYYYY

clercqie
12.15.12
"The Monitor’s anthems become Local Business’s anti-anthems – “I’m going insane!”, “Food fight!”, “Hot deuce!”, “I am the electric man,” et al. Those songs don’t mean shit, but it doesn’t matter. Because nothing matters."

Fuck yeah!

taylormemer
12.15.12
Say Chan, was every pic greyscale again (like last time), or did you process some of these?

Really, really excellent list, and write up. Need more of you around. Cheers

tombits
12.15.12
nice one channing

Sanders
12.15.12
Glad to see 23 on here, more people need to check that out. Bird of Sorrow and High Hope are fantastic. He's class live too:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kntpAS_k1WI

auberginedreams
12.15.12
"It shows how someone like Kendrick, raised in Compton, a city that basically birthed 'gangsta' rap, was able to break from that 'product of your own environment' mold. He had a dream and pursued it. Went through a lot of shit that the youth in the 'ghetto' of California endure."

yeah but that's like every rap album ever.

taxidermist
12.15.12
I'd have to disagree. A huge percentage of rap albums you hear like to just brag about materialistic shit (weed, bitches, money, etc.) and glorify the 'gangsta' lifestyle. This doesn't do either (except Backseat Freestyle, but that's part of the story, a young Kendrick busting out some rhymes with the homies). Idk, I guess I can just kinda relate to a lot of the shit on the album based off of my life experiences in Cali. Different strokes for different folks though. Cheers :)

sonicrocker
12.15.12
i like about 2 of these albums but i love you chan we need you back

STOP SHOUTING!
12.15.12
happy that someone else rates that Gaslight Anthem album.

bungy
12.15.12
someone tell me where I've seen that Mountain Goats write-up before

WeepingBanana
12.15.12
cool

mynameischan
12.15.12
ya bungy i was working against the deadline i chose and got lazy and just pasted the last paragraph from my review

Hep Kat
12.15.12
happy holidays 2 u 2 channing

mynameischan
12.15.12
happy hanukkah

klap
12.15.12
great blog channing. this reminded me that state of grace is one of my favorite songs this year even though i didn't like Red as much as you.

fish.
12.15.12
"In a sense I think you descipton - specifically the referencing of "America(n)" - of 'On the Impossible Past' backs up my assertion in it's review that "...it could be argued that limiting their tales to such a setting may have an adverse effect on international and/or younger listeners being able to empathize". "
I've heard the same said about The Gaslight Anthem and it could be true, cos I've never understood the hype for the 59 sound. Then again, I know a lot of people here who love that band.

iSkane
12.15.12
Holy fuck, that story of when you saw Titus? Seriously, that's probably the greatest line up I've ever heard in my life.

iSkane
12.15.12
But great list.

Electric City
12.15.12
on the impossible past is so bad and local business is ehh too. luckily japandroids became rock band of my life again this year

Hep Kat
12.15.12
chan some things you should check out that downer would prolly hate:

old flings- spite
arms aloft- sawdust city
aspiga- every last piece
sundials- when i couldn't breath
glass lungs- how to deal with feeling alone
abilities- south jersey's frozen
the taxpayers- god forgive these bastards...

mynameischan
12.15.12
downer stop posing you wouldn't know rock music if it came up to you and gave you ok computer on vinyl

ShadowRemains
12.15.12
fuck off aubergine

15 is really good

sniper
12.15.12
"These songs are a testament to his indomitable spirit"


lol

fish.
12.15.12
Murder By Death sound interesting. And that picture is cute. Will listen

fish.
12.15.12
I like the whole idea of using gig photos instead of album covers btw

Captain North
12.16.12
Davey, I do know what you mean, but I meant that American image is so invasively part of popular culture that the nostalgia sticks regardless. Plus, it's the fact that it's fake nostalgia that makes it such an interesting occurrence to me. Obviously older generation Aussies won't agree, but then this nostalgia isn't aimed at people who actually lived through the era.

Cygnatti
12.16.12
20 is downright awesome

great list.

Aids
12.16.12
I like good kid... quite a bit, but do think it's kind of overrated. Not for the reasons aub stated cause he doesn't seem to know what he's talking about, but people are going a little /too/ crazy over it if you ask me. It is a fantastically well told story though, that's just not the most important thing for me in hip-hop.

Now please excuse me while I hyperbole all over the place about this Big Boi record got DAMN.

auberginedreams
12.16.12
"fuck off aubergine"

lol this guy.

SowingSeason
12.16.12
List is really good. Haven't heard that Menzingers album though...also, glad to see Ghost Mice, Kendrick Lamar, and mewithoutYou on here.

Activista anti-MTV
12.16.12
old favorites

Iluvatar
12.16.12
chan, it was like 50 degrees that night at the fest. so it wasnt warm.

Aids
12.16.12
yeah but you guys were also holding each other close, so it probably felt warmer than it was.

wabbit
12.16.12
Some gay choices with gay descriptions.


But mostly excellent choices with excellent write-ups.

mynameischan
12.17.12
50 degrees isn't cold you florida pussy

klap
12.17.12
hahaha what other term would you use to describe 50 degrees? temperate?

Satellite
12.17.12
mild

klap
12.17.12
if you have to wear a jacket its cold

Satellite
12.17.12
who has to wear a jacket in 50 degree weather?

klap
12.17.12
long-sleeves in general

MO
12.17.12
try zero you crazy fahrenheits

Satellite
12.17.12
you think yer better'n us?

Anthracks
12.17.12
predictable staff list

Satellite
12.17.12
fuck you. how are these predictable?

MO
12.17.12
not enough nile

mynameischan
12.17.12
ya 50 is the low end of mild. a jacket is nice to have but you don't need it, and certainly not scarves and a heavy pea coat

also it was warmer than 50 iluvatar is a girl

Captain North
12.17.12
50 is like... 10 degrees Celsius. That's pretty cold.

SiliconFields
12.17.12
Eh likely a good list, just seems like there's way too much folk music, and maybe that's your dig, but could use some variety of other genres (though I guess it's YOUR best of 2012 instead of THE best of 2012, so whatever)

Activista anti-MTV
12.17.12
north ftw wheres downer

NightmareCinema16
12.17.12
10 degrees celsius is warmer than 10 degrees fahrenheit.

mynameischan
12.18.12
there are 5 folk albums i guess but they are all pretty different from each other

Captain North
12.18.12
No shit nightmare

sportsboy
12.19.12
does the tnght record count as an album

also the menzingers #1? surprising. i thought it was a 3.5 at most. kendrick, japandroids, and frank were my favorites this year. death grips went hard too. where's the japandroids on this list?

AutoRock
12.20.12
Sure. Taylor Swift better than Swans.

Iluvatar
12.21.12
I looked that shit up nub and it was 53 with a wind chill of about 45 suck my nuts LIKE I KNOW YOU'D LIKE TO

Iluvatar
12.21.12
also never said it was cold, just denied it was "warm" like you stated. warm is 80+ degrees

WeepingBanana
12.21.12
fuckin Floridians

Iluvatar
12.21.12
get dunked

WeepingBanana
12.21.12
what does that even mean?

Iluvatar
12.21.12
who knows

WeepingBanana
12.21.12
don't call me shirley

Captain North
12.22.12
Where I live the temperature never ever drops below 0 degrees, so 10 for me is definitely cold.

NightmareCinema16
12.22.12
"No shit nightmare"

Was I being way too obvious? Or am I not being sarcastic enough?

Theelephantmusthang
12.24.12
only valid reviewer on this site.

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