Favorited ex.fm Songs

Monday, December 31, 2012

My Top 50 Albums of 2012 (1-5)

We're finally down to my five favorite albums of 2012. As I mentioned in the first post, this was a great year for new music. If you missed my first three installments of the list here are the links: 31-50, 16-30, and 6-15. These five albums were ones that I just found myself listening to over and over again this year. Here are my top five of 2012:

5) M. Ward - A Wasteland Companion

I've probably written about M. Ward a dozen or so times since I started this blog. You can search his name in the upper left corner or look here if you want to verify that, but it has been a lot. On last.fm I listened to M. Ward more than twice as often as any other artist that year and that doesn't even take into account that this album was in my car CD player for about four straight months after it was released. That gives you the background for how I'm approaching this album. I was almost certainly going to love it as soon as the release was announced. Despite that, it took me a while to really warm up to the album. At first I liked it but didn't love it. However, the more I listened, the more it grew on me and now it is probably my second or third favorite of his records (with "Post-War" firmly entrenched as one of my 2 or 3 favorite records ever). If I had to pick a favorite track, it would probably be "The First Time I Ran Away", but unlike a lot of the albums ranked this high, there really isn't one or two tracks that stick out. The album flows from song to song with each step along the way a big part of what makes it so enjoyable.

4) Milo Greene - Milo Greene

Like Rilo Kiley, Milo Greene is a band masquerading as a person. I think I read somewhere that Milo Greene was a name they had invented as a fake PR person so that they seemed more professional before starting this band. Anyhow the band is a five member indie folk/indie pop group based out of Los Angeles. Four of the five members take turns sharing leading and backing vocal duties. In lesser hands that could harm the product, but as is you barely notice who is or isn't stepping forward at any one time. The harmonies present throughout each song are gorgeous. There are 13 tracks on the album, four of which are transitions between songs. Of the other 9, there isn't a dud in the bunch. "1957" is my favorite track, followed by "Cutty Love" and "Silent Way", but I'd be content recommending any of six other songs as well to someone wanting to hear what Milo Greene sounded like. This was the band's debut album and it kind of surprises me that the band hasn't gotten more notice from it.

3) Field Report - Field Report

Field Report is a band led by Chris Porterfield (an anagram of his last name). I wrote a good deal about Field Report when I first discovered them back in May. To rehash that a bit, back in 2006 Porterfield was in a band called DeYarmond Edison with Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), and three members of what became Megafaun. DeYarmond Edison seems to be the rare pre-super group like Park Ave. Since then, Porterfield recorded some things under the name Conrad Plymouth too. However, I was unfamiliar with him until hearing the Field Report demos back in May and being absolutely floored by them. The closest genre is probably folk, but that's too simple. It's more like hushed rock with folk influences. Porterfield's lyrics are a large part of what takes these songs from really good to great. He tells stories with his lyrics while still managing to make them sound like they fit the song just perfectly. I remember reading that the first track "Fergus Falls" is about a pregnant woman he saw with a boyfriend who seemed like kind of a jerk. "Taking Alcatraz," my favorite track from the album is about Richard Oakes, a Native American activist who led a group that took control of Alcatraz from 1969-1971. Some albums just seem to be made for particular places or times. I've found this album is the perfect album for a long Fall walk, something I have put to use several times.

2) Cold Specks - I Predict A Graceful Expulsion

I've been wrestling with the positions of these top two albums for a while, not fully deciding on an order until right now. Last night I planned to have this album number one, so maybe this should be considered something more like 1b. Cold Specks is the project of Al Spx, a Canadian based out of London. She describes her music as doom-soul. Allmusic describes it as a mix of "Southern soul, Tom Waits/Jeff Buckley inspired blues, and goth-tinged indie folk." The songs are usually pretty sparse sounding with percussion playing a big part. A good deal of other instruments contribute over that. Her voice though is something else. There is so much feeling and emotion that pours out of it as she sings. "Blank Maps" still manages to basically stop me in my tracks any time I hear it, and it may be my favorite song released this year. "Holland" and "Elephant Head" are two other standout tracks, but her voice is enough to make every song on the album something to pay attention to. This is Cold Specks' debut album and even more so than some of the other debuts on here, it'll be really exciting to see how she follows this album up. Based on this one and that voice of hers, I've got a lot of confidence that there is a lot of great music still to come from her in the future.













1) First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar

First Aid Kit are two Swedish sisters who make some of the best folk/country songs around at only 19 and 22 years old. Despite their age, through interviews and their songs you can tell that they have an immense appreciation for the artists that came before them. They first gained some attention back in 2008 when they posted a YouTube video of themselves covering Fleet Foxes' "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" out in the woods. The video (here) now has almost 3.5 million views and led to a performance of the song with Fleet Foxes. Their song "Emmylou" pays tribute to Emmylou Harris, June Carter, Gram Parsons, and Johnny Cash in what is one of my favorite songs of the year. The song "Blue" shows off their lyric writing abilities with painful lines like "The only man you ever loved / you thought was gonna marry you / died in a car accident when he was only 22 / Then you just decided love wasn't for you / And every year since then has proved it to be true." The album was produced by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes and features his fellow bandmate Conor Oberst on the last track, "King Of The World." The album was released in January, and I immediately fell in love with it. Sometimes having almost a year with new music coming out every week can make an album fade from consciousness a bit and lose some of its initial excitement, but I kept coming back to this one over and over and plan to continue doing so in the future.

It wouldn't be right to talk about all of these amazing albums without sharing them with you. Like the past three installments of my countdown, below is a way to stream songs from each of today's albums. And if you use Spotify, you can find a playlist with all of the albums I listed (minus I think two which weren't on there) in order for easy access by clicking here. I hope you enjoyed the countdown and possibly learned of a new band or two. I look forward to pouring over other best of lists in the next few days and taking a break from 2012 music to listen to some other things too.

Feel free to tell me what you think either in the comments or by email listed on the right hand side of the page. Which albums did I leave off that you would have included in your list? Does anybody else have a list of their favorites they'd like to share?

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