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Friday, December 28, 2012

My Top 50 Albums of 2012 (31-50)

Each year this list seems to get bigger and bigger. Last year I ranked 40 albums, 30 the year before, 20 the year before that, and 10 the first time I felt the need to put virtual pen to virtual paper to make an end of year list. Next year someone needs keep me in check and make sure I don't go up to 60. But with that being said, 2012 was a fantastic year for music. I keep thinking I ought to be able to move some of the albums on this list further up but then I see what's above them and realize how I put them there in the first place.

I mentioned it last year, but this list is really nothing more than a snapshot in time of my personal tastes. This thing has been changing over the last couple weeks and I'm guessing if I remade the list a week or two from now it would be different then too. In regards to the albums in today's post, they could probably be rearranged in almost any order and I wouldn't have too much problem with that. For whatever reason they didn't get pushed into the top 30, but there is some really good music in here. So without further ado, here's the first installment of my favorite albums of the year list. Enjoy!

50) Yellow Ostrich - Strange Land

Yellow Ostrich is a New York (by way of Appleton, Wisconsin) based indie rock band with some electronic elements. "Marathon Runner" is a definite highlight from this album.

49) Elliott Brood - Days Into Years

Elliott Brood is a Canadian alt-country group. Technically this album was released in Canada last year, but it didn't come across my radar until it was re-released this year, so I'm counting it. "If I Get Old" and "Northern Air" are my two favorite tracks.

48) Dr. John - Locked Down

My music knowledge ego took a bit of a hit when I didn't know who Dr. John was before listening to this record. He's 72 years old and a member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but somehow he had slipped under my radar. Regardless, he put out a really solid rock / funk / blues / etc record. I didn't discover this record till recently, but "Revolution" and "Getaway" are early favorite tracks.

47) Admiral Fallow - Tree Bursts In Snow

Admiral Fallow are a Scottish indie rock group. They join Frightened Rabbit, Meursault, and others in what is a really strong group of indie rock bands out of Scotland. "The Paper Trench" and "Guest of the Government" were two of my favorite tracks.

46) Bahamas - Barchords

Bahamas is the recording name of Finnish-Canadian musician Afie Jurvanen. I'm not really too sure how to describe his music which combines rock, folk, and pop elements. "Okay Alright I'm Alive" was one of my most played songs all year. For whatever reason I seem to enjoy individual tracks more than the album as a whole, but there are plenty of those tracks to enjoy.

45) Rocky Votolato - Television of Saints

Seattle based singer-songwriter Rocky Votolato has been churning out music since the mid nineties and he rarely misfires. Suicide Medicine is still one of my all-time favorite albums, but if you've enjoyed his last few albums, you'll enjoy this one (which he financed through Kickstarter) as well. "Little Spring" is a good track to introduce yourself to if you don't know Rocky Votolato.

44) Ben Kweller - Go Fly A Kite

Ben Kweller isn't quite as old as Rocky Votolato, but he's been making music for about as long (aided by recording an album with Radish at the age of 13). I still have a soft spot for his 2009 country album "Changing Horses", but his latest is more in line with his career before that. There are several catchy power-pop songs to enjoy like "Full Circle" and "Jealous Girl".

43) Japandroids - Celebration Rock

This album by Canadian indie rockers Japandroids took me a while to come around to, but consider me converted now. This strays a bit from what I usually listen to, but the anthemic chorus of "The House That Heaven Built" is just too much to resist.

42) The Water - Scandals And Animals

This is not the easiest band to Google. I forget where I heard about the band, but they are a post-rock duo from Baltimore similar in style to Explosions in the Sky (or at least to me and my limited post-rock knowledge). Their album can be downloaded from Bandcamp for only $5, or you can pick up a post-rock cover of "Auld Lang Syne" for free off their Elf Storage EP. I mean you have to be at least a little curious to hear that, right?

41) Passion Pit - Gossamer

Passion Pit didn't disappoint with their follow-up to Manners. The first several tracks are my favorites, so I suggest starting there.

40) Sea of Bees - Orangefarben

Like Bahamas, Sea of Bees is a single person disguised by a band's name. I just discovered her album pretty recently after it popped up on another end of year list, but there is something infectious about her sunny sounding indie folk.

39) Port St. Willow - Holiday

This self released album is very reminiscent of fellow New York indie rockers The Antlers. Both artists make music that is best consumed album by album. While a song or two may stick out as particularly exceptional, the whole album flows together so well and creates a musical haven perfect for crawling into and losing yourself in for an hour or so at a time.

38) JD McPherson - Signs & Signifiers

JD McPherson has his roots in punk rock, but Signs & Signifiers shows him making an amazing transition to 50s style rock and roll. You could put many songs on this album amidst a mix from the 50s and few would notice a difference. "North Side Gal," "Scandalous," and "Scratching Circles" are three excellent tracks to start with.

37) Two Door Cinema Club - Beacon

Two Door Cinema Club are an Irish indie rock band that I somehow hadn't really listened to much. Their music is pretty danceable, which makes it easy to get into right away. The lead single "Sleep Alone" hooked me right away.

36) Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

Sharon Van Etten melds folk and rock elements along with fantastic lyrics. "Serpents" is my favorite track, featuring the line "you enjoy sucking on dreams" that gets me every time. I've seen this album much higher on other year end lists, and if I had listened to it a bit more, it may have ended up much higher on mine too.

35) Walk The Moon - Walk The Moon

I saw them at Sasquatch and its hard to deny the energy and excitement in their music. "Anna Sun" may just be the catchiest song released this year. I'm frankly kind of surprised it didn't cross over as more of a mainstream hit.

34) Benjamin Gibbard - Former Lives

Death Cab For Cutie was one of the first bands I ever fell in love with. I'm pretty sure I listened to "Transatlanticism" more than was healthy over my first couple years of undergrad. Because of that, the band and Ben Gibbard will always have a special in my heart. Regardless, I enjoyed his first full-length album released under his own name. "Teardrop Window" and "Lily" are two of my favorite tracks.

33) Jack White - Blunderbuss

Jack White and The White Stripes are both well known by now. I never really listened to The White Stripes much, but after listening to Jack White's solo debut a few times, I think I may have to go back and check them out a bit more. Jack White clearly knows all kinds of rock.

32) The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten

New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem have put out another solid album of Springsteen-esque rock. The lead single "45" is my favorite track from the album, but if you aren't familiar with the band, do yourself a favor and go listen to their album "The '59 Sound."

31) Kelly Hogan - I Like To Keep Myself In Pain

Where to start with Kelly Hogan. She is another new discovery to me (within the past month or two), but her voice, which is a bit reminiscent of Neko Case, was the first thing to draw me into her music. Apparently she has actually worked as Neko Case's backup singer, so maybe that's not too surprising. For this album, she asked other musicians to write songs for the album. There are tracks written by Vic Chesnutt, Andrew Bird, M. Ward, and Stephen Merritt of Magnetic Fields. Additionally, she picked up an impressive group of studio musicians including Booker T. Jones and a drummer who has worked with Ray Charles and Paul McCartney. The end result is a pretty wonderful record that has somehow flown mostly under the radar (at least as far as I can tell).

I'll be back with #16-30 tomorrow. Until then, here are ten of my favorite songs from the albums revealed today.

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