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Pop ‘stache’s Favorite Albums of 2012

written by: on December 20, 2012

30. Now, Now – Threads

Perhaps it’s something about the name change, but Now, Now’s 2012 certainly seems like a surprising success story for a Minneapolis dark-pop trio that are still figuring themselves out. But Threads is exactly the record to thrust them further into the spotlight – alternately moody, ethereal and Transatlanticism-y. With a middle section to die for, Threads is a powerful, consistent statement from an indie band only beginning to realize their potential, capable of producing singles (“Oh. Hi.” and “Thread”) as well as keepsake album pieces (“The Pull” and “Dead Oaks”). Do not sleep on Now, Now. They’re only going upwards, provided they don’t change their name again. -Tyler Remmert


29. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

If anyone thinks that time and change have mellowed rap music, they didn’t hear Killer Mike’s El-P produced record that dropped this year.  I haven’t heard anyone this anyone angry since Ice Cube on NWA’s Straight Outta Compton and his solo record AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted.  “Real G-shit, you gotta show respect,” as the kick-off cut, “Killer Beast” posits.  There must be a reason his dope’s so flow, to paraphrase Killer Mike, but all I can hear is his cup running over with anger, intelligence and pounding beats.  This is one for those who missed gangsta rap the first time or those from back in the day that feel like the chronic influence of Snoop Dogg’s pack mellowed out things way too much.  When he argues on “Reagan” that the late president was actually the reincarnation of the devil, and that the war on drugs was actually way to reimplement slavery, the claim is chilling, and the voice credible.  This isn’t rap music; it’s R.A.P. music, which in Killer Mike’s terms, stands for “Rebellious African People.”  In a word, it’s powerful. -Craig Bechtel


28. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes

When a perfectly honed ear for seventies pop and a perfectly insane mind meet, you might get Mature Themes. And yet, no madman is a madman without the observer claiming to be sane. And no madman is quite Ariel Pink. In a parallel universe, the shimmering, cascading guitars of “Only In My Dreams” was the anthem of 1976. “Kinski Assasin” could be a long lost Strawberry Alarm Clock track. Gripe about Rock bands these days all you will, Pink has got it. And if lines like, “The bad breath of a cross-eyed goat/Eating children for a Monday morning,” (“Schnitzel Boogie”) don’t tickle, you can blur your mind of the words and hear a phenomenal melody. At turns triumphant and shadowy, earnest and lovelorn (see: “Baby”), the beauty of Mature Themes is that it keeps you convinced you’re just as mad as it. You like it and you don’t even get it. Even Pink, who appeared in numerous interviews surrounding the release, doesn’t seem to know entirely what he’s created. In one appearance he claimed wanting to make the worst possible album, something universally despised. We may never know his methods, but we can sure as hell enjoy their fruits. -Taylor Cowan


27. Joyce Manor – Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired

The sophomore slump is a rock ‘n’ roll legend that, when you really get down to it, is mostly bullshit. Although Joyce Manor’s second LP wasn’t nearly as good as Self-Titled – a record that I felt was perfect then and is still perfect now – Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired is a necessary departure in almost every way. The fast-paced numbers are more abrasive than catchy, the slow songs are weirder and more obtuse, and the acoustic songs are utterly lo-fi. This record functions as a challenge to the band and to its fan base on almost every level. Not only was the band able to pull it off, but fans shouldn’t run from the fact that this is Joyce Manor’s Bivouac, but instead of 10-minute noise-rock suites it’s 40-second songs clouded in ambient noise and production flares. The album shows a desire to grow and a fear of complacency that is evident in the music, lyrics, and even the album title. -David Anthony


26. Death Grips – The Money Store

Few people would argue that Death Grips are fucking angry, and perhaps hip-hop’s most vitriol-fueled act. Sure, there are the shocking lyrics that put them into the realm of Odd Future, but the key difference is that Death Grips has the talent and point-of-view to back it up. The lyrics are violent, the delivery is  aggressive, and the music is the audible equivalent of a knife fight. It’s rare that something this uncompromising and unrelenting finds ways to build genuine hooks amid that kind of chaos, but that’s the beauty of The Money Store – it reels you in slowly, making the shocking and off-putting commonplace. It’s been a long while since hip-hop has had a truly scary figure getting recognized for their madness, but it’s exactly what the genre needs and what more young artists need to pay mind to. -David Anthony


25. Jack White – Blunderbuss

What more does the wildy talented Jack White have to prove? We’re well aware he can hold down a rock duo for more than 10 years (surmounting a divorce), form new bands out of thin air, whip up super groups and collaborate with artists from all walks of life. Blunderbuss, White’s solo debut, is an interesting commitment for him. The solo project only further affirms that he’s a tough man to define, a loose canon. “Love Interruption,” the first single released, sets the stage for the rest of the album: a juxtaposition for White’s deep catalog of work. Whereas drums and heavy guitar riffs were copious in the past, White draws strength from the piano and vocal harmonies in Blunderbuss. It’s not to say White is growing softer or losing his edge. As is evidenced with “Sixteen Saltines” and “I’m Shakin’,” he still rocks some serious roll. -Alex Peak


24. Animal Collective – Centipede Hz

Centipede hurts only those who aren’t willing to hear outside of the box. Sure, Merriweather Post Pavilion left impossibly big shoes to fill, but what does a smart group do after such a huge hit? Change the formula completely. Centipede Hz can’t be compared to Merriweather, but it was inevitable that it would be. It’s been treated unfairly by fans and critics alike for not sounding like the simple, sweet pop glory that gained them thousands of new fans. Centipede is a gritty, noisy album – AC has never sounded so much like a rock band – but its hooks are sneaky good. They’ll be in your head by the time you go for spin #2, they’ll be on your tongue by #3. Is this the King of Limbs of this year? I don’t think so. It’s a better album, and the group still shows tremendous upside. Take it or leave it, Animal Collective doesn’t care either way, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice with the latter. -Chris Favata


23. Hot Chip – In Our Heads

Hot Chip blends the perfect concoction of love-ridden disco tunes laden with an electronic base and falsetto vocals. Since their inception in 2000, the British clan has released five studio albums, all of which are meant to encourage a heavy dose of dancing. In Our Heads boasts a similar tone to their previous albums – a few low-key ballads and a couple highly infectious tunes. “Night and Day” was the first single off In Our Heads with a bouncy manner similar to the band’s break out “Over and Over” off The Warning. In a music world where “bass dropping” is the only thing to catch someone’s hear, Hot Chip offers a sigh of relief to fans of textured electronic beats that are just as dance-worthy – although you may need a little more rhythm. -Kim Manning

22. Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes

Once in a while an album comes along with therapeutic abilities, and Flying Lotus is no stranger to musical wellness. His style is electronically ambiguous, providing paths to mental places through lo-fi valleys and trip-hop streams. This year’s relatively subdued Until the Quiet Comes can guide the systematic thinking listener to new methods of organization, ones in which chaos is embraced and contained rather than harsh or spilling. The journey of Until practices conceptual realization through each track separately. “Tiny Tortures” shows me the uncertain dreams of a man’s mental jungle, but it might show you something different. That individual experience is the exceptional beauty of FlyLo’s album, insisting that we see something within each song- what exactly that is matters much less. -Adrienne Thomas


21. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself

Miasmic, beatific and quixotic—Break It Yourself keeps Andrew Bird on the scene through an invincible eleven-year career. In more than one way, Bird is like a fine Syrah; not only does he get impossibly better with age, his gripping, tannic darkness gives way to incredibly nuanced sweet elegance. There is a barebones, glimmering poppy quality to Break It Yourself: The feeling of a living, breathing recording. The album was pressed in a western Illinois barnhouse on an eight track recorder—what’s most shocking about that isn’t the sound but the breathtaking musical talent of his now-familiar cohorts Martin Dosh, Jerry Ylvisaker and Mike Lewis. Style is the unmistakable mark of mastery and while each of Bird’s releases breaks new ground—Break It Yourself is no exception—they seem to emerge from the same universe. With the bouncy “Near Death Experience Experience” he penned perhaps the year’s most dismally joyous line, “We’ll dance like cancer survivors, like the prognosis was that you should have died”. The mesmerizing “Hole in the Ocean Floor” with its lulling pizzicato strings is pure submarine transcendence. Just as worthy an effort is the collection of B-Sides Hands of Glory, carrying with it the wind and insect noises of the lands where it was pressed.