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Sowing's 2012

I deleted all 125 of my lists and am now archiving my favorite albums from each year of the previous decade. Just my way of trimming my profile and making it a bit leaner/meaner. List is straightforward; these are my 20 favorite releases from 2012.
20Taylor Swift
Red


I tore this a new one somewhat unfairly in my 2012 review. Sure, it's not as good as Fearless or Speak Now, and it can't make up its mind if it wants to be pop or country, but that doesn't mean the songs aren't good. Still not my favorite Swift release, but this really grew on me over the years.
19Farewell Republic
Burn the Boats


This band fell apart way too fast, and now they're defunct. However, this is still a bold and brilliant noise-rock/shoegaze-y debut. It covers a broad range of sounds and offers an interesting blend of distortion/heavy guitars and subtler beauty, such as classical pianos and uplifting choruses. Of the many no-name artists I staked my name to in 2012, this is the main one that continues to persevere. Still name-your-price/free on their bandcamp by the way: https://farewellrepublic.bandcamp.com/album/burn-the-boats
18Anberlin
Vital


I liked this a lot more in 2012 than I do now. "Self-Starter" and "Little Tyrants" kick this thing off amazingly, but the album is up-and-down overall, especially as you cross the midsection of the tracklist. Even if it's mid-tier Anberlin, that's better than most other bands.
17Papercranes
Three


I'll forever promote this artist. This isn't on the level of 2011's Let's Make Babies In The Woods, but the 3-EP collective (comprised of First Born, Middle Child, and Baby) still has some remarkable moments, namely the Middle Child EP, which amps up the guitars and overall energy while giving us 4 of Papercrane's best songs in a row.
16Godspeed You! Black Emperor
'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!


This is actually one of my least favorite GY!BE releases (Luciferian Towers being the only one I prefer even less), so the fact that they still rank top-20 for 2012 with a bad album by their standards says something about the band. "We Drift Like Worried Fire" is one of the best post-rock songs of all-time though, which is a big reason why this maintains relevance for me.
15Coheed and Cambria
The Afterman: Ascension


This is flawed, certainly. It's also not as good as other Coheed albums that came before it and arguably after it as well. I think the reason this stuck with me so much is that it followed up two very disappointing albums (No World For Tomorrow, Year of the Black Rainbow) and had moments of sheer brilliance (Domino the Destitute remains a top-3 Coheed track). To boot, it's consistently catchy. It's worth dusting off as a memory of when Coheed burst back into musical relevance.
14Regina Spektor
What We Saw from the Cheap Seats


I overrated this initially, but only slightly. It's not her best album (that honor goes to Soviet Kitsch), but this is still plenty weird and pretty enough to rank among her best efforts. "Ballad of a Politician" still gives me chills, and the sharp inhales that characterize "Open" are peak Spektor quirkiness.
13Deftones
Koi No Yokan


Oft-overlooked, this is damn close to belonging in the White Pony/Diamond Eyes conversation. It doesn't quite have the hooks to elevate it to that level, but everything else is on-point. This is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying, just as Deftones should be.
12Dirty Projectors
Swing Lo Magellan


This is my favorite Dirty Projectors album, and at the time, the sound was still pretty novel to me. This album is an ideal blend of weird experimenting and down to earth drums/acoustics. From the huge opening riffs on "Offspring Are Blank" to the tender romantic ballad of "Impregnable Question", the album hits more than it misses despite some pretty fervent and risky musical ventures.
11Tame Impala
Lonerism


After Innerspeaker, I liked the "idea" of Tame Impala's throwback rock more than I actually liked their music. Lonerism changed that. This record solidified and updated their sound, while smoothing out the production and increasing the dosage of hooks. This is like if the Beatles did more drugs and had even more swagger. Just incredible.
10The Tallest Man on Earth
There's No Leaving Now


Some will call this a blasphemous statement, but I think every album that Kristian Matsson released was better than what came before it - up to and including 2015's Dark Bird Is Home. So yeah, I prefer this to The Wild Hunt. I think his vocals are a little more tolerable here, and the acoustic atmospheres are a little bit warmer and more inviting.
9Converge
All We Love We Leave Behind


This is one of the last hardcore/metalcore albums that I remember being truly infatuated with. Over time I really got away from heavy music and into folk/indie, but I still cling to this. I think the songwriting here is more diverse than on Jane Doe (my other Converge favorite), the vocals are better in general, and the intensity is nearly the same. This is my favorite Converge album and one of my favorite metal/hardcore records ever.
8Silversun Pickups
Neck of the Woods


I'm a huge SSPU fan, and I owe it mostly to Neck of the Woods. Swoon was good, but it wasn't consistent enough to hold my interest. That's where this album blows all other SSPU efforts out of the water. There's nary an average song here, from the monumental riffs and chorus on "Skin Graph" to the creepy haunted house feel of "Bloody Mary" to the unprecedented electronic undercurrents that wash over many of the songs in the middle/later portion of the record. Any fan of Smashing Pumpkins-esque rock needs to get into this band, and I'd say this is their best release.
7The Antlers
Undersea


It may only be an EP, but this is arguably the peak of The Antlers' experimentation. It's like their answer to Thrice's Water disc. From Silberman's breathtaking croons to an entire ocean of electronic effects and flawless production, this is a must-hear release for any fan of the band or indie-rock in general.
6Tigers on Trains
Foundry


Brought to you by Mason Maggio and Christian Van Deurs (of The Republic of Wolves), Tigers on Trains represents their acoustic folk alter-ego. 2009's Grandfather was a classic record and a highwater mark for the project, and while this isn't quite as good, it's damn close. Whereas Grandfather was more mysterious and dark, this is prettier and more breathtaking. The strings throughout were a nice touch that Grandfather lacked. "In Atlas Cedars", "A Chain", and "Mont Ventoux" are still among the best indie-folk songs of the entire decade.
5Beach House
Bloom


This album holds tremendous personal meaning to me: it was not only my first dream-pop album, but "Myth" was my first dance with my wife, and "On the Sea" my second. This possesses a very picturesque, summer-starry-night atmosphere - it's a virtual planetarium. Easily the best Beach House album I don't care what anyone says.
4mewithoutYou
Ten Stories


Lyrics, lyrics, lyrics. If you didn't already know that mewithoutYou's primary draw is their incredible words, then you should listen to Ten Stories as an introduction. This is basically a course in philosophy set to beautiful indie-rock. It also never hurts that Hayley Williams' vocals are featured on the record.
3Yellowcard
Southern Air


2012 was a very tough and confusing year for me. I went through my worst breakup ever that winter and also started dating my wife the same summer, all while starting a new job - talk about a whirlwind. Southern Air was what anchored me through it all. Yellowcard always had a knack for releasing albums at key junctures in my life, and it just so happens that they dropped their best LP the same week that I started hanging out with the woman of my dreams. Those two events will forever be tied together now, and even if this pop-punk album is only #3 for 2012, it's #1 sentimentally.
2Kendrick Lamar
good kid, m.A.A.d city


In my opinion, the greatest hip-hop album of all time. As someone who generally does not listen to the genre, I'm sure I'm not qualified to have that opinion and that's fine. To me, this is the gold standard. I listened to this nonstop from the moment it was released, and it even inadvertently helped me relate to a lot of the adjudicated youth that I was teaching/mentoring at the time in Philly. Kendrick would go on to disappoint me with TPAB and Damn., but this remains an immovable force.
1Swans
The Seer


This album scared the shit out of me the first time I listened to it. I was not really into drone/ambient stuff, and the way that this blended those influences with post-rock, industrial metal, and dark indie-rock into a two hour, two disc spanning experience was overwhelming. I used to hate my hour-long commute to and from the city, but in retrospect, I never would have developed the appreciation I have for this without all those hours in the car listening to it. The more you immerse yourself in The Seer, the better and more frightening it becomes. I've never heard anything else like this in my entire life.
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