|2012: First Half|
My top 25 albums of the year so far. Order is liable to change by the end of rthe year, but this is how I'm feeling 6 months in.
|25|| ||First Aid Kit|
The Lion's Roar
Oh, these girls. So young and beautiful, and so so talented. (And Swedish! so that's
a plus). Their debut was a bit shaky, but they really hit their stride here. The album
sags a bit in the second half, ("To a Poet" is particularly grueling) but in general,
this is a beautiful folk-pop record. "Emmylou" is definitely one of the best songs of
the year, just about as close to perfect as a song can be. This is like honey for the
This is one of those records you should just listen to for yourself. Really intriguing
textures and melodies, consistently engaging. This is without a doubt my favorite
thing Halo has been involved with, and I hope she keeps this trend going.
|23|| ||Larkin Grimm|
Did any of you hear this? How many of you even know her? It's a shame if that
number is even remotely low, because this is one special woman. Larkin Grimm
has been putting out incredible record after incredible record, and this one is no
different. A bit more relaxed than usual, she sounds right at home in these
woodwind and harp occupied songs. That voice, those words, those hooks - it's all
here. Not quite as good as her masterpiece, 2006's The Last Tree, but do yourself a
favor and lend your ear to Soul Retrieval.
Not Your Kind of People
Maybe it's just the nostalgia, but I really liked Garbage's so-called "comeback"
album. It sounds like it could have fit between Version 2.0 and Beautifulgarbage in
their discography and for the most part it nails their target sound. Shirley Manson,
one of my favorite figures in rock music, does not disappoint. "Beloved Freak"
notwithstanding, this is a solid set of songs. And it's better than Bleed Like Me, so,
hey, there's that!
A mini-album, to be sure, but a hell of a mini-album at that. Austria's Anja Plaschg
deserves more credit than she has received. Narrow present striking contrasts
between dooming, foreboding epics ("Vater") and impossibly pretty and delicate
ballads ("Lost", "Wonder"). A moving listen. And that voice!
|20||Lost in the Trees|
A Church That Fits Our Needs
This is a gem. I had never heard of this band before this was released and I
listened on a whim. I was awestruck. This is a story of a astounding, austere
beauty, and profoundly heartbreaking (though, oddly, optimistic) songwriting. I
only read the backstory after hearing, but it does enhance the listening. Find this
Still rather anonymous and quiet, Burial makes electronic music interesting again.
he always revives my interest in the genre when it is growing most thin. His dubby,
trance-like beats and pulses sound amazing in headphones and on speakers, and it
maintains its intrigue over the elongated runningtimes.
Break it Yourself
An Andrew Bird album is always good news. He is one of the most reliable sources
of good old indie-rock, and a brilliant violinist ("Hole in the Ocean Floor" is a
masterpiece). I will always be excited when he releases something. This isn't his
best, but it's up there.
This one took me a while. I couldn't bare listening to her voice most of the time,
and I found her whole "post-internet" claim to be, honestly, rather offputting. Over
time I warmed up to her though, and found her music to be rather enjoyable. Her
voice is nimble and quite impressive at times, and when she gets all soft and sultry
on "Skin", I realize just how talented this woman can be.
Here's a band to watch. Jana Hunter has been making good music for a while, but
Lower Dens' debut kind of slipped by me. I didn't get into it. With Nootropics the
band returns with full force, creating droning alternative rock tracks for Hunter's
husky voice to slide along. She sounds a bit like Beach House's Victoria Legrand,
but not distractingly so. "Nova Anthem" is probably her best performance to date,
and it is a shining moment.
I suspect this one slipped under the radar for most people. Seek it out! It's a very
dark, bleak, spare record adorned with just Wagner's guitar and her voice, and the
result is stark and beautiful.
Master of My Make-Believe
Similar to Sigur Ros, people seemed upset with the long-awaited return of
Santigold. I, for one, loved it. Is it as good as her debut? Not quite. But is it still an
awesome piece of music? For sure! I like the more subterranean beats and the
Caribbean-influenced instrumentation, and it is definitely more focused than her
debut. It didn't jive with some, but I am surely not in that crowd.
A peculiar album. It sounds very DIY while also sounding very professional and
extremely well thought-out. Holter's delicate voice flits in and out of her ambient
pop constructions and it makes for a lush, lovely listen. For proof, just slap on
some heads phones and listen to "Boy in the Moon."
In Our Heads
Without a doubt their best LP yet, this is definitely worthy of being on many "Best of
2012" lists. Really groovy, and goes a lot deeper than most of their previous stuff.
Their sense of humor is still here (see: "Night & Day") but they also let their sweet
side shine, and it pays off in dividends.
I don't care what people say, I really liked Valtari! It seems like a natural direction
to me, after the more buoyant textures of Takk... and Med Sud i Eyrum (as well as
Jonsi's more upbeat solo record). Beautiful, long, drawn out, ghostly, and
hypnotizing. A great record.
I did not ever think a Chairlift record would be a "top 10" record for me, but alas!
Their debut was charming but too haphazard to really stick, but their sophomore
release bests its predecessor in every way. Now a duo, Chairlift have really hit
their stride. Great beats, Caroline's lovely, slippery voice, and improved
songwriting make this my number 10.
|9|| ||Windy & Carl|
We Will Always Be
Another one I fear will get unfairly lost. Without a doubt the best drone record that
I have heard yet (with Motion Sickness of Time Travel trailing not too far behind) in
these past 6 months. I've been a fan for a while, but this is their best record in a
few years. Utterly staggering, and extremely relaxing without ever losing my
|8|| ||Jesca Hoop|
The House That Jack Built
Great Britain-based-via-California singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop has slowly been gathering steam. Her third album is by far her
best, and contains a multitude of energetic, inspired songwriting, along with a share of rather bizarre moments ("Ode to
Banksy"). The two acoustic ballads (the title track and "DNR") are the finest examples of her craft, dealing with very personal
events of loss and heartbreak revolving her father and his death. Her voice, lyrics, and melodies are at their knottiest -- and
Two of my favorite artists in music right now, both of the experimental northwest
movement that is ever-thriving. Jesy Fortino and Liz Harris have joined forces and
produced a very subtle, eery, but ultimately radiantly transportive record. They
work so well together, and I hope for a sequel.
|6||Sharon van Etten|
Yes, this is a confessional singer-songwriter album. It's hard to stick out in that
realm. But van Etten does. She's a wonderful lyricist with a great knack for sticky
melodies. One of the best of the genre in the past couple years.
I think I am in the minority here. Plenty of people "like" Light Asylum, but there
seemed to be a general disappointment with their first full-length LP. I loved it.
Good grooves, memorable hooks, and the truly unique, entrancing voice of
|4|| ||The Tallest Man on Earth|
There's No Leaving Now
Another one of the most consistent people in music, TTMOE has issued an album of
delicate, intricate, and moving country-tinged folk songs. I'll definitely be
remembering the devastating "On Every Page" for a long time.
First impression: OK, just like Teen Dream. Second impression: IDGAF. This band
has at this point utterly perfected their sound, and these songs are just as good if
not better than the ones on their previous albums. Victoria's songwriting has really
strengthened over the years.
Put Your Back N 2 It
A small record that I fear will get lost in the shuffle come year-end list making, but
one that I think is truly special and deserving of this placement. A set of spare and
heartbreaking songs. It's so pretty, too!
The Idler Wheel...
I expected to like this, but I did not expect to love it. Potentially her best album,
proving 7 years is worth the wait. So unique, interesting, challenging, and beautiful.
Her lyrics are top-notch and the bare but not spare instrumentation is brilliant. "Left
Alone" is arguably her best song ever.