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Pop ‘stache’s Favorite Albums of 2012

written by: on December 20, 2012

10. Purity Ring – Shrines

Purity Ring was one of the most hyped bands coming into 2012, riding the wave of a new musical trend – the fusion of R&B, hip hop, shoegaze, and synth-driven indie pop – and two fantastic singles. The stark contrast in singer Megan James’ angelic vocals, her romantically gothic lyrics and Corin Rodick’s intricate hip hop/trap inspired beats instantly grabs your attention and evokes a feeling of entrancement. When the masses are cheerfully singing along to lyrics like “Cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you,” it is clear there are more forces at work than just good fortune. -TomCrawford


9. The Walkmen – Heaven:

Over the past ten years, through listening to The Walkmen’s seven albums released, we have witnessed a group of men mature both in life and music. Heaven, arguably the band’s best album to date, explores and even celebrates themes like fatherhood, mature love and stability – definitely not your dad’s rock & roll. In this exploration, the group comfortably pushes the boundaries of its sound and genre, integrating elements of folk, blues and doo-wop into its beloved jangly rock. In a way, Heaven celebrates the long career and hard work of a band that probably deserves a lot more recognition for the music it has made. -Tom Crawford


8. Japandroids – Celebration Rock

2011 was a worryingly quiet year for Japandroids, so the fact that they made one of 2012’s best albums comes more as a relief than a surprise. Less densely layered than Post-Nothing, the relatively muted guitars on Celebration Rock still feel like a sack of wrenches to the gut. Singer Brian King’s narrator isn’t where he wants to be – “don’t we have anything to live for?” he spits at the sky. But Celebration Rock is about embracing the journey, potholes and all, because the destination might come too late. Included: heaven, hell, dreams, drinks, “sexual red” (whatever that is) and, in the set’s darkest cut, a white-knuckled cover of the Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy” that should give hormone-driven punks a favorite new old band. -Alex Bahler


7. Tame Impala – Lonerism

Tame Impala are likely to be written off by some as pointless late 60s psychedelic rehashers.  At first their second LP, Lonerism, does sound as though it could have been pulled out of a time capsule from 1968 – something in between the second disc of The Beatles’ The White Album and The Zombies’ Odyssey & Oracle. However, to chalk them up to cheap imitators would be wrong.  There is something to be said for emulation versus imitation.  Sure, Lonerism is an unmistakable homage to 60s psychedelia, but frontman Kevin Parker was propelled by production guru and founder of Mercury Rev, David Fridmann, to create a modern masterpiece.  With Lonerism, Tame Impala has produced the most compelling neo-psych pop experiment since The Olivia Tremor Control’s awesome Dusk at Cubist Castle. -Evan Brown


6. Beach House – Bloom

The Baltimore duo’s fantastic Teen Dream album was a tough act to follow, and if they didn’t quite equal the majesty and ambiance of that exquisite release, they came pretty close with Bloom.  Alto/organist Victoria Legrand and guitarist/keyboardist Alex Scally somehow have found the nexus of Portishead and The Velvet Underground and Nico, with heaving waves of keyboards that sparkle with whitecaps furnished by minimalist electric guitar.  Just as Teen Dream presented a challenge, so did Bloom; the challenge was to find the best tracks, as they all seemed to blend together like a galaxy of shimmering stars.  Although the record is again co-produced with Chris Coady (Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Blonde Redhead), Bloom differentiates itself from its predecessor by opening up its sound; whereas before the sound was insular and claustrophobic, here there’s an open, natural landscape surrounding the songs. -Craig Bechtel


5. Frank Ocean- channel ORANGE

2012 saw its share of fresh indie hits and extra-dimensional hip hop, experimental rhythms and new voices. Each new artist is a gift to the ears of listeners worldwide. Although sifting for sounds to restart our vibrating palates takes time and dedication, discoveries along the way are precisely what we listen for. Frank Ocean’s debut LP channel ORANGE surprised most of us with its unprecedented boldness and musical detail from the heart. From Ocean’s stunning falsetto in “Thinkin Bout You” to the patient charisma of “Bad Religion”- and all reinvigorating R&B styles in-between- channel ORANGE is a candle-lit masterpiece that deserves every bit of praise it receives. -Adrienne Thomas


4. Grizzly Bear – Shields

Grizzly Bear has always been on my radar, most apparently after the major success of Veckatimest, but it wasn’t until the release of Shields that I began to look at the efforts of Edward Droste, Daniel Rosson & Co. a little closer. I’m a sucker for multi-dimensional tunes, and Shields struck a chord reminiscent of the epic nature of Helplessness Blues. Opening track “Sleeping Ute” welcomes listeners into an experimental folk album that almost seems unfitting after the grand success of “Two Weeks.” But this album is a new species of grand – twinkling guitar licks and circling vocals are whimsical in tracks like “A Simple Answer.” The density of Shields puts this album at the top of my list of the band’s efforts. -Kim Manning


3. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city

Though it’s not as walkable as NYC or Chicago, frequently, I like to leave the car behind and walk around the streets of Los Angeles at night, with my headphones acting as my invisibility cloak. Just a few, short weeks ago, on one of these occasions, the sound coming through my cloak could be traced back to a place only a few miles Southeast, but a world away. In a land where movies come from, the most beautiful portrait of L.A. was being painted by Compton’s Kendrick Lamar. As good kid, m.A.A.d city played on like the Oscar-winning movie it could be, I was able to see through the smog, across the ’10’ to a place where few people like me ever venture. I was also listening to the best piece of hip-hop since MBDTF, ‘Ya Bish!’ (And, “Back Seat Freestyle is RIDICULOUS! OMG.) -Matt Wink


2. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

20-year-old Dylan Baldi has a wildly atypical success story. After achieving some internet fame with songs he recorded from his parents’ basement in 2009, Baldi recruited a few band members to support his then-solo project Cloud Nothings and nabbed Chicago hit-maker Steve Albini to produce their first studio album. Released in January to stunning critical acclaim, Attack on Memory is a 33-minute blast of neo-grunge vitriol that provides a stark contrast to Baldi’s earlier recordings of fuzzy emo-pop. The first track, “No Future/No Past,” sounds like an ode to disenfranchised slackers that Kurt Cobain might have penned from his own dark and dirty basement in the early 1990s. “Wasted Days,” a sing-along for the self-loathing, crescendos and crashes over one wrenchingly repeated lyric: “I thought I would be more than this!” Attack on Memory batters the senses at every turn, resulting in a lo-fi sonic quake of devastating brilliance. -Leah Pickett


1. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…

Confession: it’s really uncomfortable for me to listen to The Idler Wheel. Every time I give any of the tracks even a cursory listen, I can feel my muscles tighten and I start to shrink inward to avoid the discomfort – it’s the feeling of being so close to someone as you watch them break. Many artist seek to bring you that close. Some succeed. But no one gets as close as Fiona Apple. Nothing feels more aflame, tangible, devastating and flat out gorgeous than The Idler Wheel. And at last, when you think you can’t take anymore of Apple’s voice, dizzyingly brilliant as it is, and the record finishes… How much of a wonder it is to look back on The Idler Wheel, and appreciate it as a wounded, near perfect work of art. -Tyler Remmert