I love lists, it might even be my preferred method of reading really. I might finally get around to reading Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov if it was in the form of a list. This also happens to be the most list-worthy time of year. Basically if you want to countdown the best lists, or the best lists from years past, I don’t really care I’ll read it. A few days back I put up a list of the ten best comedy albums of the year. This is basically the same thing, however it won’t come with a cute picture of our Internaut logo with a Santa hat. This isn’t just a list of the best music of the year to buy (which it is) it’s also a list of the best music of the year period. (It’s redundant to say period followed by a period but I did it period.)
I thought that 2011 was an unbelievable music year that would be nearly impossible to match in 2012 or any other year for that matter. 2011 saw some of the best albums by LAKE, Angelo Spencer, Mirah and Thao, Bryan John Appleby, The Cave Singers, The Curious Mystery, and so many others. I naively believed that they would all have to top their 2011 releases, and totally discounted the possibility of any newcomers to make 2012 better. As it turns out the best albums of 2012 came from newcomers.
What I’m about to is can probably be crumpled up and throw away as soon as I say it, “2012 will be long remembered as a landmark year in music.” Ignore the fact that I would have said the same thing about 2011. If I feel comfortable at all making that statement it’s because 2012 had debut albums from some bands who will be making waves in the music scene for years and years to come.
While I love lists I personally don’t believe in numbered lists. Even if I tried I couldn’t accurately gauge who was best and who was only 10th best. Every album on this list was not only a great 2012 release, it was a great all-time release. So here they are in no particular order.
Deep Sea Diver – History Speaks
I’m going to go out on a limb, a sturdy limb, but a limb nonetheless, and say that Deep Sea Diver is the best band in Seattle. History Speaks, follows on the success of DSD’s 2009 EP New Caves. I love this album so much that I don’t really even know what to write here. Every song is expertly crafted indie rock, from fast paced danceable pop, to hard edged rock, to moody ballads, History Speaks is about as perfect an album as you’ll ever find. And coincidentally front woman Jessica Dobson was a guest on the Secretly-Important Podcast.
Father John Misty – Fear Fun
Ninety years from now list-makers will place Fear Fun as one of the defining records of the 21st Century. The brain child of former Fleet Foxes drummer and the artist formally known as J. Tillman, Father John Misty appears as a non-alter ego persona for Tillman. Every song on this album is a sing along, and every song is beautiful, fun, quirky, and perfect. At one moment Tillman is channeling Harry Nilsson while the other he’s taking right from the Beatles playbook. This Album is just too good.
Solid Home Life
These first three albums all make my list for best albums of all time, and at some point my wife literally ordered me to play something else. Solid Home Life was born out of a collaboration of Lindsay Schief (formally of LAKE) and Greg Olin (Graves). You will never find a more sweet and lovely album. I’ve spent countless hours singing along to these soft folky songs by myself and with my daughter. It’s a shame that more people don’t or won’t really know about this album because it’s so gentle and honest that you can’t not like it. Lindsay was also a guest on the Secretly-Important podcast.
Lemolo – Kaleidoscope
My love affair with Lemolo and this album was like a whirlwind, one minute I’d never heard of them, the next minute I was sitting in a coffee shop gushing to them about how much I loved this album. The Kaleidoscope fluctuates between dark and moody almost eerie tones and light and almost uber-pop. Every note feels right, and once you’ve heard it you turn right around and start it over again. Just four albums into this list, and my all time list is looking full. Meagan and Kendra were also guests on the Secretly-Important podcast.
Damien Jurado – Maraqopa
Having been around the PNW for years and establishing himself as an elder statesmen of the music scene I wouldn’t expect this album to be as fresh and beautiful as it is. I would be wrong because Maraqopa shows a wonderful growth in Jurado’s work. This album mixes genre’s all over the place, but Jurado puts a focus on the folk-rock he’s known for with blues and it’s magical. You’ll find this album on a lot of other lists and it’s no surprise, it belongs there.
Ana Tijoux – La Bala
I can’t help it, Ana’s my musical crush. Her previous album 1977 was spectacular, but not to be outdone by herself La Bala rises to the occasion and offers up a new listening experience. If you don’t know Ana then you should be aware that she’s a quick rhyming Spanish speaking Chilean Hip Hop artist. I don’t have a clue what she’s saying but it just feels right. La Bala features a number of guest artists and at times departs from the quick raps and exhibits her beautiful singing voice which was underused on 1977.
The The The Thunder – All At Once
Even after this album was recorded TTTT had never played All At Once as a full band, that would come later. You can’t hear that little tidbit in the music but it does make it all the more impressive doesn’t it? I see this album as the love child of Lou Reed and the Talking Heads. That combination right there should be enough to make any list right? Well, TTTT succeed with flying colors here, churning out an incredible album that easily could have sounded disjointed. Once again 3/4 of the band was featured in the Secretly-Important podcast.
Lonesome Shack – City Man
City Man begins like all Lonesome Shack albums, with the dropping of a glass bottle, and it’s basically the best thing ever. The moment I heard the clanking glass beer bottle I knew that everything that preceded was going to be incredible, and it was. LS expands their minimalist haunted boogie blues duo to include bass and sax. The album was recorded live at Cafe Racer (two months before the tragic shootings) and is dedicated to the victims and their families. Lonesome Shack is one of the most pure extensions of blues that you’ll hear just about anywhere. There’s a Lonesome Shack interview coming in January on the Secretly-Important podcast.
Ruby Fray – Pith
Last year K-Records released a single of the Christmas song Namiot, and the first thought that went through my head was, “I need a solo album by Emily Beanblossom.” Here it is. It’s technically not a solo album as the usual suspects around the K office lend their talents to the album. At times Pith is weird and quirky, at others she seems to be channeling Carol King or Fleetwood Mac. I had high expectations for this album and they were totally exceeded. Pith is all over the place in terms of genre, but what it all has in common is Beanblossom’s incredible voice.
Karl Blau – Songles
There’s isn’t another single PNW artist who I simply don’t understand why they aren’t a household name. Karl has made some of the most interesting, unique, risky, and flat out amazing music. What’s unique is that he can present you with ten new songs and each one is like looking at a blank canvas, they can be anything and go anywhere. Songles is ten songs, low-fi indie meets Karl’s amazing ability to spin gold from kelp. At first listen you might not get Songles, but I urge you to give it a second try, once you do I promise you’ll find that it’s really amazing. No surprise here but Karl has also been featured on the Secretly-Important podcast.
I only gave myself ten slots here to talk about my favorite albums of 2012, so naturally there were many that were left off. Honorable mention goes to Chain and the Gang – In Cool Blood, The Soft Hills – The Bird is Coming Down to Earth, THEESatisfaction – awE naturalE and many, many others. It just so happens that these were the albums that I listened to the most, the ones that inspired me everyday, and that reminded me why I was still in the PNW.
If you’ve got a music fan on your shopping list (and who doesn’t) any of these albums are a perfect gift. If you’re worried about name recognition, just think about how awesome it will be to introduce someone to something new that they’ll love forever.
***** 2012 was not only a great year for some amazing full length albums, it also featured some incredible EP’s and singles. My next list will feature my favorite (not full-length) music. That music is just as good as this here. *****