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21-12: 21 Top Records that Made my 2012

December 18, 2012

It has been a fantastic year of music.  Here are the records that truly made a difference to me – lots of great guitar rock, critical beats, beautiful harmonies, and smooth grooves.  I’ll add just a quick note about each one, but with all of the digital possibilities out there, I’ll recommend you check them all out.  (You’ll pardon my for not taking the time to add links to all right now – I’ll try to add those as an update!)


  • Until the Quiet Comes – Flying Lotus
    • Electronic bliss with turbulent grooves and surprises around every corner. Another look at the future of music with jazzy, irregular drumbeats and solid bass lines.
  • Shields – Grizzly Bear
    • The record I heard most in record stores this year, and every time I heard it I was re-excited about how great this guitar rock + harmonies + wonderful instrumentation and textures works.
  • Kill for Love – Chromatics
    • The very reason to make sure you are hip to Soundcloud – so much music from this band available to listen to right now.  Put this on and it’s like putting on a great mixtape of beautiful rock landscapes, dark electronic pop, and post-punk passion.
  • Lonerism – Tame Impala
    • A re-invention of psychedelia, indie bedroom-recorded rock and spacey experimentation resulted in an instant pay-off from this much-anticipated record.
  • Blak and Blu – Gary Clark, Jr.
    • The record that took me most by surprise.  Despite the “new Hendrix” tag that gets foisted onto him regularly, Clark always brings the noise with the right amount of blues and funk in ways unexpected.  Check out his Daytrotter gig.
  • Off! – Off!
    • At thirty dirty minutes, it speeds by and you forget its not 1979 and you’re not hearing the birth of punk.
  • Blunderbuss – Jack White
    • You can feel the music lover in everything Jack White does, including performing on this tour with two different (and separately gendered) bands, jamming out his trademark memorable songs, every one of which works for a complete record.
  • Researching the Blues – Redd Kross
    • Passion-filled hooky songs and a fantastic return to (and push beyond) their stellar form from 15 years ago.  Sweet power pop with a punch.
  • Loma Vista – Family of the Year
    • Sing-along harmonies and feel-good grooves, and probably the nicest band to talk with after their crowd-pleasing Empty Bottle set
  • Twins; Slaughterhouse; Hair – Ty Segall; Ty Segall Band; Ty Segall & White Fence
    • A remarkable trio of noisy rock albums, all overflowing with memorable tunes that need that old “play loud” sticker in 128-point font – and need I mention his killer Pitchfork set?
  • Maraqopa – Damien Jurado
    • Busy arrangements and lush production from a singer with a mile-long resume rooted in punk
  • Cancer 4 Cure – El-P
    • Hip-hop in ways you never thought of before – critical futuristic beats with lyrical rap from the producer and label CEO
  • Open Your Heart – The Men
    • I loved this record from first listen.  Intelligent diverse combination of post-punk Krautrock shoegaze psych drone party energy.
  • Celebration Rock – Japandroids
    • Power garage rock of fun and celebration, and a killer set at Pitchfork
  • Channel Orange – Frank Ocean
    • Brilliant R&B record with expressive original voice in the defining record of the year
  • Home Again – Michael Kiwanuka
    • The best of Van Morrison revitalized and acoustic folk-rock blues, topped off by a standout performance at Lollapalooza
  • An Awesome Wave – alt-J
    • Beautifully crafted, highly original tunes with folk, dub, and pop influences
  • The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy – Nada Surf
    • Masters of catchy tunes you feel familiar with and are ready to re-listen to right away
  • Between the Times and the Tides – Lee Ranaldo
    • The guitarist from one of my favorite bands, Sonic Youth, put together this full-bodied mix of rock guitar sounds
  • Radar Eyes – Radar Eyes
    • Huge melodies, distortion-driven guitar, psychedelic rock love
  • Luxury Problems – Andy Stott
    • As excited as I was about the re-release of Massive Attack’s Blue Lines, this blend of minimalism and deep bass vibes sucks in your attention and is endlessly rewarding
One Comment leave one →
  1. Adam permalink
    December 28, 2012 11:30 pm

    Moo Goo X, a great set of albums (and new music to search out as well) as always. My best of list also included Nada Surf, Jack White, The Men, Grizzly Bear and Michael Kiwaukuna. Japandroids was my AOTY and took me and my senses by storm. Robin Hilton described it as the feeling of wanting to drive a camaro fast down a mountain. The LPs I use to come down from that tremendous disc include 2 you left out: Of Monsters and Men (a 2011 Icelandic release but 2012 stateside) and the lush Norah Jones / Dangermouse Little Broken Hearts.

    I can’t wait to seek out all of Ty Segall and Tame Impala. You’re right, a great year in music and I am dizzy over all of the options. Great list, keep up the reviews.

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