Okay. Here we go! The official Top Ten Records of 2012 list! Let’s dive right in…
- Metric – “Synthetica”
I was shocked at how much I liked this. I had heard the single and enjoyed it, but didn’t explore any further until I was in my local record shop (Vintage Vinyl) and they played the whole record. It got about three songs in and I knew I had to take it home with me. And on a personal note–it’s been kind of a rough year, and “Breathing Underwater” is proof that God allows you to find music right when you need it. (Plus, Lou Reed does a guest vocal on one of the songs…so that’s pretty awesome.)
- Bob Mould – “Silver Age”
The former Husker Du and Sugar front-man steps up to prove that you can still BRING IT after the age of 50…just in case any of you doubted it. Bob’s solo career has been a touch hit-and-miss, but this record is all “hit.” The single (“The Descent”) is worth the price of the album by itself. It’s a great record that hits you with both fists from the first moment…it was a CLOSE struggle between this and Metric for the top spot, and Metric only won because they’re something I wouldn’t have expected to enjoy that I genuinely loved. Bob wasn’t ever going to surprise me…he was just always bound to make me happy.
- Foxy Shazam – “The Church of Rock and Roll”
Holy shit. Go buy this record. NOW. Stop reading this and go buy this record. If you were ever a Queen fan and/or love loud, stupid, bombastic, crazy-assed rock and roll, you owe it to yourself. Songs that are somehow catchy even before you’ve heard them and an attitude you can’t help but get lost in. If I had been introduced to this record a little sooner, it might have overpowered the top two and taken the number one spot…and in a year or two when I look back, I might feel like moving it up there.
- Aimee Mann – “Charmer”
I don’t have a lot to say about this one. It’s an Aimee Mann record. No more and no less. And that always deserves a Top 5 spot. This one married her “Fucking Smilers” sound to her earlier work really well, and it’s a standout in her catalog. It’d be hard to knock “The Forgotten Arm” off of its perch as my favorite Aimee Mann record, but this one has its moments that come close.
- Alabama Shakes – “Boys & Girls”
I was shocked to find this record at the number five spot on my list…and that’s because up until about September or October, it was at number ONE. Any of my Top 5 (and most of the Top 10) deserve to be the #1 record of the year in ANY OTHER YEAR. I was almost sad to see this one move down the list…but in a year this stellar, #5 is nothing to sneeze at. Soulful and old-school sounds mix with catchy hooks and a wonderful singing voice to produce a great, great album with no weak points.
- Rush – “Clockwork Angels”
Rush are back with a VENGEANCE on this record. It’s a full-on concept album, though you don’t necessarily need to understand the plot to love the songs. Though I’m weary of musicians who feel the need to state their strong aversion to the concept of “God” so sternly (hello Neil Peart), there’s no denying that the music is brilliant, and even some of the points I don’t agree with are elegantly made.
- …and You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – “Lost Songs”
Glad to hear ToD back to their “Source Tags and Codes” roots with a stripped down, gritty, post-hardcore, loud, noisy, dissonant release. Some real gems here. I could’ve used a slightly louder vocal mix, but in all, it’s a great, strong release that keeps finding its way back into my player.
- Leonard Cohen – “Old Ideas”
I am SO glad to have a new Leonard Cohen record. I knew this one would be on the list as early as January, I think. Cohen hasn’t lost a step. In fact, he seems to have gained a few new ones. This is both vintage Leonard, but also feels fresh and relevant. A really beautiful listen, especially with a glass of red wine, and the lights low.
- Jay Gonzalez – “Mess of Happiness”
Jay plays keyboards (and apparently guitars now, since John Neff buggered off!) for one of my favorite bands–Drive-By Truckers. This is absolutely NOTHING like that. This is a dude who is unafraid to wear his Beatles and Cheap Trick influences on his sleeve. If you were wondering why you never hear anyone producing the kind of stuff you’d think of as “AM Gold” anymore, pick this record up. He wrote you some AM GOLD. Really great release.
- Billy Talent – “Dead Silence”
Nice to have a full-on punk band on this list this year. Billy Talent have lost a little bit of their screechy boisterousness…but the songs are still there, and this is probably their strongest release since their first record. Catchy, but it sounds like they’re pissed off about that. Genius.
If it were allowed to go to Fifteen, I’d have also included:
- Bruce Springsteen – “Wrecking Ball”
Bummed that this didn’t make the Top 10. Great Springsteen release, and definitely deserves your attention.
- Rufus Wainwright – “Out of the Game”
Excellent release, but just not QUITE in the Top 10. Lovely song he wrote for his kid on there…
- Mumford & Sons – “Babel”
Really strong record. In some ways, maybe more accessible than their first. Mumford and Sons delivered something that is unmistakably THEM (in fact, some songs COULD be mistaken for having been on the first record), but it also feels like they’re maturing in the genre.
- OFF! – “OFF!”
Most of the songs are about 30 seconds long. I don’t think there are any over a minute. A punk rock shot to the face to start your day. Or afternoon. Or evening. Whatever’s your poison.
- Corrosion of Conformity – “Corrosion of Conformity”
Doomy and gloomy, and melodic, and great. Good metal that people who don’t like metal might still like–despite the so-so production quality (though I think that’s part of the charm).
Additional Honorable Mentions:
- Patterson Hood – “Heat Lightening Rumbles in the Distance”
- Mark Lanegan Band – “Blues Funeral” – Really great and was in the top ten for several months.
- Bro. Stephen – “Baptist Girls” – Not for everybody. Kinda dull…but I liked it.
- Willie Nelson – “Heroes” – Ineligible because of the volume of cover songs…but you HAVE to hear Willie duet with Snoop Dogg on “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”
- Antony and the Johnsons – “Cut the World” – Ineligible because it’s a live record…but it’s the best live record of the year, and it’s wonderful, and I almost broke that rule and put it on the top ten list anyway.
- Reverend Horton Heat – “25 to Life” – Retrospective/Live record/DVD. Good starting point if you’re looking for one.
- Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – “Live in Alabama” – Ineligible because it’s a live record, but it’s a really GOOD live record.
- Frank Turner – “Last Minutes and Lost Memories” – Compilation and Live DVD from the Wembley performance he did this year. Worth it for the concert alone, and a great jumping-on point for new fans.
- Heartless Bastards – “Arrow” – It was on the Top 10 for months. A little too long and a little too repetitive to stand up against the others…but still a great listen.
- Sharon Van Ettan – “Tramp” – There are some REALLY beautiful songs on this record, but again, it just didn’t QUITE make the cut.
- Beach Boys – “That’s Why God Made the Radio” – Mainly not making the top 10 because of the fallout that has come up in recent months…but maybe that should be overlooked. It’s still a good record.
- Shooter Jennings – “Family Man” – Best country record he’s done in a long time…but I find the “White Trash” thing to be so off-putting that I don’t care about the rest of the record very much. He’s one of those guys that the more he opens his mouth, the less I like him (seems to be a recurring theme among the country music progeny–looking at YOU Hank III). Still though…strong music.
- Mike Cooley – “The Fool on Every Corner” – Live and solo, the Stroker Ace brings you new takes on old favorites. A lot of fun and a relaxing listen. I like it a lot.
…and that was 2012! Hope you enjoyed it, and hope you go out and buy the stuff you haven’t heard of, especially if they’re smaller artists who need the support. And shop LOCAL. Your local record store is better than Best Buy, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble combined.