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2012.5...a Look At The Year's Best, Halfway Through

Since everyone else is doing it, here's 12 albums that have defined 2012 for me. In order sort of...
Ten Stories

"All Circles" is the kind of song that has restored my faith in modern lyricism...but the buck doesn't stop there. Ten Stories is packed with the kind of depth and quality songwriting that we've all come to expect from Aaron Weiss and company. "Elephant In The Dock" is another track that struck a chord with me, featuring the line "I don't know anything about truth, but I know falsehood when I see it and it looks like this whole world." Oh, and Hayley Williams' backup vocals add a nice touch on "Fox's Dream of the Log Flume." If this isn't Mewithoutyou's best work, then it is damn close.
2The Tallest Man On Earth
There's No Leaving Now

It's every bit as good as The Wild Hunt, which is a frightening prospect. "Bright Lanterns" is the kind of track that every acoustic songwriter wishes he could make, swaying in a tropical atmosphere that is every bit as raw as it is intimate. The whole album is slower than The Wild Hunt, but it's also fuller sounding, shedding light on a whole new dimension to Matsson's talent.
3Racing Heart
To Walk Beside That Ghost

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that this album will pass by widely unnoticed come December. Racing Heart isn't the kind of band that garners attention, but they do more than their share to obtain it. The music isn't flashy, opting for meekness and introspection instead. The vocalist channels his inner Thom Yorke with mesmerizing chants and hums, but also isn't afraid to belt out a chorus with Win Butler's charisma. "The War" is the track to hear from this album, slowly weaving through surprising tempo changes and lush, gorgeous atmospheres.
4Ghost Mice
All We Got Is Each Other

I remember being agitated upon first listen, but this album has grown on me to the point that I could never view it with anything less than complete adoration. It is unequivocally unique in just about every way, with humorous and meaningful lyrics that you simply won't find anywhere else. The story telling nature of the album adds to its intrigue, and along with the frantic pace and disregard for normalcy, you'll find 2012's most personalized record.
5Regina Spektor
What We Saw From The Cheap Seats

Okay so this isn't a classic...I'll be the first to admit that my initial rating was a wee bit overzealous. But that doesn't change the fact that this is a stupendously written album, down to every last string, piano key, and quirky vocal inflection. This album exemplifies what Spektor is all about, combining the smoothness of Far with the oddness of Soviet Kitsch. It may not be her best work overall, but it's as complete of an album as she's ever written, and that's saying enough to compel you to take 40 minutes out of your day to have your ears charmed right the fuck off.
6Farewell Republic
Burn The Boats

One of the best new acts in shoegaze/noise rock storms the scene with an epic debut. "Time Won't Mind" may already be the definitive song of their career, bellowing out a tremendously unforgettable ending that only took two minutes to build up to. If you want something a little off the wall, Burn The Boats should sit well with you.
Some Nights

Say what you will about the band's departure from purely bred pop, and criticize their blind venture into electro-pop and synthesized dance music. I'll be too busy swaying along to the soaring choruses, towering crescendos, and Queen-level epicness of tracks like "Some Nights" to worry about it. Enjoy the youthful energy of this album and remember what it's like to be young. An album of this nature - and with this much crossover potential - quite frankly comes along once in a blue moon.
8Of Monsters and Men
My Head Is An Animal

We all knew that this would be the newest indie rock group to be commercially exploited, but their sound is too damn accessible to be ignored by the masses. It's slick and it's sweet, perhaps too much at times...however, tracks such as "Little Talks", "Dirty Paws", "Mountain Sound" and "Lakehouse" are all good enough to be the "Little Lion Man" of 2012. It's easy to be turned off by their fast rise to fame, but the genuineness of their music makes them the kind of band you want to root for.
9Margot and the Nuclear So and So's
Rot Gut, Domestic

Unstable as they come, Rot Gut, Domestic is one of those albums that leaves you a little dazed afterwards. The album ventures through screams, shouts, reverb, and gentle acoustic passages. There's no rhyme or reason, this album is just Margot and The Nuclear So and So's rocking out and doing whatever the hell they want. As it happens, that's when they're at their best.
10Field Music

It's clunky and awkward, but it succeeds in spite of its mechanical nature. The music is so progressive that it seems to make changes to ideas before they are even fully fleshed out. At times it's frustrating, but the fluidity of the record makes you constantly eager to hear what's around the corner.
The Black Chord

It's throwback prog-rock at it's best, with plenty of metal influences. Astra offers influences ranging from Pink Floyd to King Crimson, and even though it was done before (and done better), there are very few modern bands that have managed to capture that iconic sound like Astra does on The Black Chord. It isn't the catchiest or most memorable album either - but what it lacks in tune sense it makes up for in technical proficiency, shredding, and crystal quality production.
12Norah Jones
Little Broken Hearts

If every song was as catchy as "Happy Pills", this would be even higher. But this is a solid album nonetheless, triumphing over invading fads such as Lana Del Rey's much hyped Born to Die. This won't top anyone's 2012 list, but it will make enough appearances to consider it one of the year's premier pop albums.
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